Our essential reading for the weekend is a new article by The Commune’s Dave Spencer which aims to draw some lessons from his decades of experience with far-left groups. It’s a little heavy on obscure and now obsolete sects, but at its core is a searing analysis of the problems of vanguardist parties and the Left’s methods of organising in general:
A key feature of the failed politics of the Left is its aping of the hierarchical and adversarial politics of the bourgeoisie. Without exception the parties and groups on the Left were and are bureaucratic. They conduct policy-making in a Machiavellian manner, doing deals behind the backs of the members. Internally their regimes are undemocratic and characterised by bullying and the use of personal abuse. Our politics has to be the opposite — open and democratic and comradely. This will not be easy because we are not used to it. We have to make a conscious effort.
This is not just a broadside against easy targets, however, but an attempt to highlight examples of where the Left has been effective in organising and how these efforts have been stifled and why. He contrasts the creative and effective developments initiated by grassroots working class members with the centralising tendencies of party leaderships, which too often moved to shut down activities that were not within their control. He first cites the Socialist Labour League (SLL) which, working through the Labour Party, organised social events for working class youngsters, a strategy initiated by young SLL members in Wigan that apparently met with some success:
The way the SLL achieved this was by getting University students to go into Council Estates to organise weekly discos and weekly meetings for the youth of the area. Delegates from the youth groups were then sent into their local constituency Labour Parties.