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May 1970: Hierarchy, the Socialist Revolution, and Problems of Strategy Printer Friendly Version

[Prefatory Note, April 2007: This was the first substantive essay I wrote after joining the radical movement in 1968. I see here many of the themes that would occupy me in the following years, and some also that I abandoned. This essay is probably of interest only (if at all) as a historical document coming out of the New Left, and not as a guide to contemporary revolutionary struggles. For that I suggest you consult my recent book, Getting Free. I have appended explanations of the acronymns used after the footnotes.]

Hierarchy, the Socialist Revolution,
and Problems of Strategy

James Herod, May 1970

  There is no more urgent task confronting the New Left in this country than the need to define and project (indeed invent and put into practice) a truly egalitarian, democratic form for the growing radical movement. We must begin to shape ourselves into a more coherent struggling force capable of defeating the Amerikan ruling class, and capable of creating a new society. The form that our movement takes is intimately linked therefore both to our analysis and strategy for bringing the monster down and to our image of the new order that we are trying to bring into being.

The Impasse over Strategy and Form

  But these are precisely the questions – strategies and forms for the continuing fight and visions of the future – that we have consistently neglected. In recent weeks we have reached a virtual impasse on these matters. This impasse has been painfully apparent at least since April 15. It was highlighted again in New Haven on May Day, and in Washington the following weekend.

  April 15 was in many ways a step forward. Rallies and marches were organized in cities throughout the country rather than in only one city. The speakers in many cities were predominantly radical. The focus was multi-issued, linking the war against the Vietnamese with repression at home. But something was clearly missing. In New York at least, 40,000 people marched routinely through the city streets, with scant enthusiasm, and then sat together for a few hours in the warm spring sun. It was good to be together; but people were keenly aware that this was not enough. Everyone seemed to be asking: where do we go from here?

  This same mood was even more apparent at the Black Panther support rallies in New Haven. New Haven was a step forward too. It was the first massive show of support in the movement for the Panthers. It was, hopefully, the beginning of a long overdue effort to build a massive anti-racist movement to stop the racist war that is escalating daily in this country. We must continue and strengthen this effort. Nevertheless, underneath the militant solidarity was a huge question: what do we do next? This is the question that was being addressed again and again in the speeches and in the workshops. How can we deliver on the resolves we have made? How can we in fact free Bobby Seale, Erika Huggins, and Black Panthers imprisoned across the country? Rallies and demonstrations are clearly insufficient, and trashing rates no better. It is not exactly intelligent to announce in public where you are going to assemble, stand by while thousands of troops surround you, and then go trashing through the streets breaking windows. That is a suicidal act.

  And then the fiasco of Washington May 9. Most movement people were reluctant to go to Washington in the first place. We had just concluded in New Haven that the struggle had to move beyond massive rallies, beyond petitioning. Most of us wanted to stay in our home cities to help spread the national student strike. But the Mobe called a rally in Washington, to ``show Nixon,'' and we went. That was the first mistake. The rest was more than a mistake, it was a disaster. Anything would have been better than what actually happened.

  Let me just mention two possibilities of what might have happened. First, if there had been a massive sit-in, until forcibly removed, in the streets surrounding the White House, that would have been something at least, a house arrest of the President by occupying the streets. But this never happened, except on a very small scale for a brief period in the streets north of Lafayette park. The CRV occupation of the Peace Corps offices helped to create the feeling of a liberated zone in the streets outside, but the idea never caught on in general. People could not seem to conceive of an alternative to attacking the cops and getting gassed or going home after the rally after milling around for a while in the deserted streets. Certainly one alternative was a massive prolonged occupation of the streets.

  Second, what if everyone had gone to Washington as a member of a group that had planned to do its own action, of whatever character. That is, if hundreds of actions, covering the whole range of tactics, had been taking place throughout the city all weekend, that would have been something else; but this did not happen either. Apparently we are too accustomed to taking cues from the central elite (the Mobe in this case), or else people are floating about in the movement as isolated individuals and are not joining together in groups in their own cities to plan and carry out political programs. Everyone expected a lot to happen in Washington, but no one, it seems, had planned to make it happen. Evidently, people thought the action had been planned for them and were looking for cues from somewhere or someone about what to do. When these cues were not forthcoming, or rather, when cues to do nothing but go home quietly were forthcoming, the whole endeavor crumbled in defeat. We were out foxed, co-opted, and contained.

  There is a lot to be learned from the recent Washington fiasco, however. First of all, any rally or demonstration in Washington, however militant its tone and rhetoric, remains in form a type of petition. We are merely asking or demanding the ruling class to change its mind, to alter a decision it has made which we disagree with. It is not an act designed to deny to the ruling class the decision-making power itself, and to return it to the people where it belongs. Moreover, the act of going to Washington projects a certain image of how the revolution will develop, one that I believe is totally false. It suggests an image of a victorious liberation army one day marching on Washington to take over control of the nation at the center of power. This is simply not going to happen. No one is going to storm Washington and capture control of the state, not in an industrialized capitalist society with its massive concentration of the means of violence and destruction. Even if it were possible it would not be desirable. Who wants the state anyway? What would we do with it? The aim is to smash and destroy the state, not capture it, and there are better ways of destroying it than marching on Washington.

  Finally, our going to Washington revealed our continuing susceptibility to centralized power even in our own movement, that is, to hierarchy, to authoritarian, bureaucratic structures. We did not have to heed the Mobe's call to rally in Washington, and having heeded it, we did not have to look to them for leadership. We might have obeyed our own gut instincts to do otherwise.

  The deeper roots of the Washington fiasco therefore lie, it seems to me, in the general problem of hierarchy and inequality in society and in the movement, and in our failure to project a truly egalitarian and democratic vision both of the course of the revolution and of the emerging new society, a vision which could find concrete embodiment in our movement itself, in the very forms within which we associate and work. In some ways however this is mostly a failure to become conscious of the practices we are in fact already engaging in. Our actual practices are far in advance of our articulation of them. The variety of collectives that have sprung up in the movement (LNS, ARG, the Liberated Guardian, Newsreel), and the dozens of small, autonomous, cohesive movement groups (CRV, NUC, Media Project, RYM, Women's Lib groups) are surely significant forms that deserve our careful attention. But since we are not fully aware of them, not having overcome yet the typically Amerikan suppression of the intellect, it is impossible for us to generalize our own experiences and communicate them to others.

The Need to Articulate Our Own Experiences and Trust Our Basic Instincts

  Thus the impasse we are in is probably an unnecessary one. If we would only articulate more carefully the lessons of our own experiences and learn to trust our most basic instincts perhaps a way out could be found. No instinct is more basic to every aspect of our movement than the deep hostility we all feel toward authority. We have been attacking structures of authority on all fronts, in the universities, in the army, at our workplaces, in the government, in our homes, in the movement itself, and in our personal relations. This profound hatred of hierarchy in all its forms is surely our strongest asset, the defining theme that pervades all our struggles, and the key, I believe, to the question of the form that the struggle and the emerging society should take. In particular, four areas of recent experience in the movement all raise the same central questions about hierarchy, domination, and inequality, and are worth examining in this light, namely: (a) our increasing exposure to the Cuban Revolution and the dilemmas we have encountered in trying to form some opinion about it; (2) the emerging power of the women's liberation movement; (3) our continuing conflict with the Trots on a wide range of issues; and (4) on a more local level, the recent walk-out at the Guardian.

The Question about Democracy in Cuba

  No other aspect of Cuban society has so perplexed U.S. radicals visiting there as the decision-making process in Cuba, that is, the structure of political power. The question of economic equality poses no problem because the basic material equality that has been achieved is immediately apparent. But the question of equality of political power (democracy) is more complex. What is immediately apparent even here however is that Cuba is more democratic by far than any Western capitalist society. This democracy is rooted in many aspects of Cuban society – in the deep sense of community, for example, that the Cuban people have generated; in the massive involvement and participation of everyone in building the new Cuba; in the very intimate relationship that exists between the people and their leaders; in the growing importance of moral incentives and voluntary work (and the phasing out of money) as foundations of the economy; in the selection of leaders by work and community groups from among their most highly respected colleagues; and in the influence of neighborhood associations and of a variety of mass organizations in national life. Nevertheless, after all this is said, the question still remains: is this enough? Is not the more or less permanent party leadership, even when freely elected by the people from among their most trusted colleagues, too susceptible to bureaucratic degeneration? This is no easy question. We do know however that every attempt so far to establish socialism has floundered on the obstacle posed by the tendency of bureaucratic elites to dominate the society more and more. We also know that Cuba's political structure does entail a centralized political party comprised, at its top, of the very men who initiated the war of liberation and led it to victory, and who continue now to occupy central positions of decision-making.

  There are good historical reasons for this of course. Guerrilla warfare, starting in rural areas, is about the only possible way to make a revolution against the overwhelming superiority of the imperialist forces in colonized territories. This necessarily involves a vanguard party. Moreover, these revolutions take place in an extremely hostile international environment. The danger of a counter-revolution by the imperialist countries is great. It is imperative, therefore, that the leaders continue to run a tight ship to protect the country from counter-revolution. Nevertheless, there are grave dangers inherent in this type of political structure, I'm afraid. This is not to say that the Cuban Revolution has been done in by a bureaucratic elite. Far from it. There are good indications that the bureaucracy problem will be licked in Cuba. But I do believe that it is a serious mistake to try to adopt this model in our country. The United States is not a colony; it is the bastion of the world capitalist system. The revolution here will take a very different form, and the danger of a counter-revolution from external forces will be minimal. There is a good chance of avoiding the bureaucratic elite problem altogether. Far better, it seems to me, to stick with the classical model of workers' control and workers' councils, federated at the regional, national, and international levels,* as projected by Marx, and most revolutionary socialists ever since.

The Concept of Workers Councils, Federated at the Local and National Levels

  It is on this matter of workers' control that I have questions about the structure of political power in Cuba. Workers' control of a sort is already a reality in Cuba. In many factories and farms there are no outside administrators appointed by the Ministries. That is, increasingly workers do elect their own managers and control the work processes within their workplaces, but only within the parameters set by the central economic planning board appointed by the Party. But workers' control over the central economic plan is obviously what is at issue here, and not merely workers' control over work processes in any individual plant. Some decisions must be taken centrally. Otherwise there cannot be a rationally designed economy to meet human needs. The question though is, who makes these central decisions?

  In the classic model, workers, who have occupied their workplaces and expropriated the expropriators, elect representatives from among their own ranks who serve on a rotating basis in a national congress where, together with other workers, a national economic plan is drawn up and agreed upon. This is the model, it seems to me, that can serve for an industrialized capitalist society. A revolution can only be made in the end by workers who are in a position to take control of the means of production. By its very nature such a process has to be massive, more or less spontaneous, probably also more or less simultaneous, and most important of all, totally decentralized. In this way the danger of the bureaucratic elite is licked at the outset, or more precisely, in the structure and process of the revolution itself, in its very form. If there has never been a centralized bureaucratic party to begin with, no one dominating the revolution and calling the shots, the ultimate success of the revolution in destroying exploitation of man by man and in establishing an egalitarian, democratic, and just society seems more assured. Moreover, this is a realistic image. The people must be armed and prepared to fight to defend their occupied workplaces against the military might of the ruling class, to be sure, but this is indeed possible. What is not possible is some liberation army marching on Washington.

  This says a lot about how we should begin to consciously shape our movement. First, we must develop the capacity for massive, decentralized actions; and this will be some trick. Also, we must develop revolutionary discipline; Cuba brought this home to us. This is urgently needed in our movement. But this discipline must be from the bottom up, not from the top down. In other words, discipline must emerge out of relatively small, cohesive, autonomous, and thoroughly egalitarian collectives (groups, parties, organizations), regardless of whether they are based on common residences, shared workplaces, or simply on voluntary associations. We must resist adamantly all attempts to impose discipline from above, from the center, by coordinators, vanguards, movement celebrities, organizers, or any other self-appointed so-called leaders. The end of that road is the degenerated bureaucratic State Socialism of the Soviet Union.

The Danger of the Bureaucratic Elite

  It must be noted of course that there has never been a successful socialist revolution in an industrialized capitalist society. The model we are talking about therefore is largely untested. Revolutions so far have occurred on the periphery of capitalism, in conditions of scarcity, in the colonized territories, in predominantly peasant societies, not at the industrialized center, not in the heartland of capitalism. This helps to account for the strong role assumed by the centralized party as the vanguard of rural peasant populations. But whatever the historical explanation of the matter, it is certainly a fact that most attempts to date to establish socialism have been initiated and led by elitist organizations or vanguard parties, even when combined with a people's war, and have degenerated rapidly or are in imminent danger of degenerating, into a structure of domination of some sort, usually a bureaucratic elite, but sometimes even a rejuvenated capitalist ruling class.

  Workers' councils did appear in all these struggles however; in the soviets of the early years of the Russian revolution; in the workers' councils of the revolutionary upsurges of 1918-1919 in Germany, Hungary, and Italy; in the Spanish Civil War of 1936; in the self-management movement in Algeria; in the worker-occupied sugar mills in Cuba; in the workers' councils of Yugoslavia. Most of these movements were short-lived or else were co-opted in one way or another. The most significant struggle against bureaucracy in recent times is undoubtedly the great cultural revolution in China, which was, most observers agree, an enormous attempt to root out an entrenched bureaucratic elite and renew the revolution nearly twenty years after its initial victory.

  It is safe to say that bureaucratic elitism is the major obstacle to the establishment of a just and humane society, second only to the vicious power of the capitalist ruling classes to defend and perpetuate their rotten system of domination and exploitation. It is clearly pointless to build a movement capable of bringing down a capitalist ruling class if domination and exploitation are continued in a new form after the revolution by a bureaucratic elite.

  This is why it is so important to get our heads straight now about the form our movement should take, before we get further into the struggle, or before we botch the opportunities that history will offer us. This is why it is important to build a decentralized, egalitarian, disciplined movement from the bottom up. This is why the massive decentralized take-over of the productive forces of society and the establishment of workers' collectives is the revolutionary act against which we must evaluate our current strategies and forms of association. The alternative to bureaucratic elitism is collective leadership, which, when its true meaning is fully grasped, is a beautiful and powerful ideal.

Intimidation, Centrally Dominant Males, Women, and Liberation

  It is not only in the political and economic structures of society at large that we confront domination and inequality. Patterns of domination and inequality also permeate deeply into our interpersonal relations, and thus into our very personalities. This is a fact that has been driven home in no uncertain terms by the determination of women to put a stop to the oppression of women by men. The same hierarchical structure that characterizes the general society, having been maintained by ruling classes for centuries on end, is reflected and reproduced even in the way a small group of people relate to each other voluntarily. At the center of the group are the centrally dominant males, and then come the less dominant males, and finally the women. The women are at the bottom of the heap, and they are dominated by all men. Less dominant men get stepped on constantly too, though to a lesser degree, by the heavies, who form the center of interaction, and in general control the direction of group processes. Every person in the hierarchy, or every man at least, has two sets of behavior, one for people below him in the status hierarchy and one for those above him. This dual behavior holds true even for the heavies, because there is always someone in the larger society whom they consider to be of higher status, to whom they defer. The competition among men for rank in this setup is especially vicious. It is no wonder that women feel relations among men are egregious.

  Intimidation ripples down this hierarchy in myriad forms, some subtle and some blatant. It is an appalling process to watch once you get onto it. Domination by the heavies is maintained for example by simply not listening to some people, by not even looking at them perhaps, by frowns, winces, and other gestures of approval or disapproval, by interrupting, by loud voices, or merely by verbosity.

  When the hierarchy in the group has not been imposed on it by outside forces like the corporation, army, or government (i.e., the ruling class), but has emerged from the group interaction itself, this matter is complicated by the tendency of group members to perceive the heavies not only as dominant but also as competent. Needless to say, this is a claim of dubious merit. Are the dominant males dominant because they are competent or competent because they are dominant? Whatever the case, it doesn't help the women much, or for that matter the subordinate men either. Low status is low status, regardless of the criteria upon which it is based. I argue that there are no justifiable criteria for low status, for inequality – not income, not sex, not race, not age, not physical appearance, not religion, not ethnicity, not nationality, not I.Q.

  The point is this: just as the revolution in society aims to destroy the political and economic system of the ruling class, and along with it domination, inequality, and exploitation, so also on the level of our personal lives the revolution aims to destroy a degrading pattern of relationships. This is the real meaning of the social or cultural revolution. Pot and rock music are not intrinsic to the cultural revolution at all; they hardly touch on it. What is intrinsic to the cultural revolution is a whole new mode of human relations, a thoroughly egalitarian mode of relations with no heavies; a way of life that literally blows your mind when you glimpse it. If human relations like that ever come to exist on any scale in the movement they will be immediately apparent to all who see them and will convey with clarity what we are all about.

  Movement groups are not structured directly by the ruling class. There are no trustee-appointed bosses in our groups. There is absolutely no reason why they should be hierarchical. Only force of habit and the vested interests of men keep them that way. The revolutionary power of the women's liberation movement to destroy this hierarchical structure is a development of great significance. Women in their own groups, I am told, are remarkably egalitarian. When they unite solidly to put an end to elites and inequality, egalitarian structures (and hence real liberation) become possible for us all, and the pattern for post-revolutionary society is set already in our own lives here and now.

The Walkout at the Guardian

  The walkout at the Guardian several weeks ago is an excellent case in point, which illustrates many of these concerns about inequality that we have been discussing. It is significant that the walkout originated in a revolt by the women working there. They were joined by others who objected also to the hierarchical structure of power at the Guardian, controlled at the top by two centrally dominant males. To struggle against domination and inequality is what revolutionary socialism is all about. Yet the Guardian elite characterized these people as ``assorted ultra-leftists, anarchists and other self-styled `revolutionaries','' arguing in effect that inequality and authority were justified at the Guardian because the paper served the revolutionary cause.

  I believe they are sadly mistaken. Inequality is never justified, let alone in a revolutionary organization. The Guardian claimed that the attempt by the Guardian workers to deal with the oppression in their own lives where they worked was out of order because the Guardian could not `'serve as a utopian model with the first task of liberating those who work within it'' as long as capitalism continued to exist in the larger society, and that previous attempts to do so had ``proved destructive of the primary end – the political and journalistic quality of what reaches the readers.'' This is a seriously perverted view of what the struggle is all about. It is certainly open to question whether a revolution achieved by means of hierarchical organizations, if that is at all possible in an industrialized society, even constitutes a genuine revolution. When would the Guardian cease being an oppressive place to work? After the revolution? Fat chance.

  The Guardian has not even learned yet the meaning of a foremost concept of the movement they claim to speak for, the concept of solidarity, a concept that catches the proper balance between supporting the struggles for liberation of other oppressed peoples and struggling for one's own liberation. The best way to support the Vietnamese war of liberation is to make a revolution here. The action at the Guardian was directly consistent with a winning strategy for doing exactly that. What happened there is what we want to happen eventually everywhere.

  Clearly, the action at the Guardian was way up front, and the collective being built by the Liberated Guardian should serve as a model for the rest of us. When the dirty work is shared equally by everyone, this is a giant advance already. When, in addition, jobs are rotated frequently, thus breaking down the rigid division of labor and allowing everyone to learn a variety of skills, leadership abilities are gradually diffused throughout the group, heavies are easily dispensed with, and the group develops a real capacity for collective action, while simultaneously achieving the fullest development of each individual.

The Concept of the Liberated Zone

  Moreover, the new social structure and the new human relations thus created – egalitarian, humane relations – point up the real meaning of the idea of a liberated zone. The idea of a liberated territory is in fact a sociological concept, not a geographical one. Even in Third World countries the Liberated Zones of guerrilla warfare are never wholly impervious to penetration by imperialist forces. The important thing is that new social structures have been created in those territories that are incompatible with imperialism. Short of destroying the populations comprising those structures, which is precisely the strategy being followed by the United States government in Indochina, the invader is powerless against them.

  It cannot be stressed too strongly that equality is incompatible with capitalism. Every victory for equality is a defeat for the capitalist ruling class. The ruling class thrives, by definition, on inequality in all spheres of life. Our revolution will be consummated when enough people occupy their workplaces and communities and stay there, refusing to allow the elites to dominate those spaces any longer and thus making possible the creation of egalitarian forms of life that meet human needs. Our strategy must be to create liberated zones whenever and wherever we can, and to whatever extent we can, beginning now with ourselves. This is the difference between strategies like rallies and demonstrations that aim only at consciousness raising and strategies that seek also to create new forms and build institutions that are incompatible with capitalism.

The Trots and the New Left

  The question of hierarchy is central to yet another aspect of our recent experience, namely, the continuing conflict between the Trots and the movement. It is ironical that the nickname Trots has been given to the SWP (Socialist Workers Party), the YSA (Young Socialist Alliance, the youth division of SWP), and the SMC (Student Mobilization Committee, a front organization for SWP and YSA) because although they are members of the Fourth International which was founded by Trotsky, they have reversed just about everything he ever stood for. About the only thing they still have in common with Trotsky is that they denounce the Soviet Union. I feel certain that if Trotsky were alive he would thoroughly disown the whole outfit. They have a tight-knit, hierarchical, centralized, vanguard party and are thorough going elitists. It is precisely on this matter that Trotsky opposed Lenin for years. Except for his stress on the permanent world revolution, nothing could be more central to Trotsky's thought than his insistence on the necessity for a thoroughly democratic, egalitarian, spontaneous, bottom-up proletarian revolution. But the Trots have a rather different image, and a very rigid one, of how the revolution will come about. A key element in their image is their own party. Essentially, their strategy involves recruiting more and more people into their party, which will form the vanguard of the revolution, while simultaneously expanding constantly the mass base of the party by lowest common denominator politics, especially the legal and peaceful mass rally, preferably with a lot of liberal speakers on the platform. SWP played a major role in organizing the platoon of Mobe Marshals on May 9th in Washington, encouraging people not to sit down in the streets, not to engage in any civil disobedience, and not to stay in the streets at all but to go home.

  This type of manipulation is quite typical of their approach to the movement in general. They constantly call for open conferences that will represent the movement, when actually they intend to pack the conference with their own people. This is hardly sincere, and may in fact be outright dishonest. Hundreds of people were totally alienated and left the recent SMC conference in Cleveland because of the way the conference was manipulated by the central elite.

  SWP and SMC, in alliance with the Moratorium, and joined by the Communist Party and a number of liberals, were the people who invited Lindsay to speak at the April 15th rally in New York, even when that meant that Afeni Shakur would not appear on the platform. They even criticized the Panthers for refusing to speak on the same platform with Lindsay, the man who has been putting Panthers in prison. Mind you, Lindsay did not have them over any barrel. He did not force himself on them. They invited him. The SWP idea of a coalition is one where you invite the ruling class to join it. Their idea of a coalition against fascism is one that includes the fascists. This grave error flows directly from their whole stance. As the vanguard party and the repository of revolutionary wisdom, they quite easily fall into paternalistic and condescending attitudes toward the masses of working people, eagerly making all sorts of deals with the ruling class under the guise of raising the consciousness of the people, of bringing them along, some of whom will be recruited into the party hierarchy, the rest merely being kept on tap, so to speak, to await the revolution. I have even felt on occasion, I am almost afraid to say, that the Trots try to use the movement against the war in Vietnam to build their own party.

  The root evil, I believe, under girding this whole insidious pattern, is hierarchy. They are elitists. There are elites within their own organization, and they regard their party as an elite relative to the general population. One indication, which almost everyone has noticed, of this elitist hierarchy is the unbelievable line that comes down from the Trots. It is truly remarkable for its consistency from person to person. The rigidity of this line is fantastic, especially in light of the enormous changes that are going on. Such a line grows out of a tight-knit, hierarchical organization, a frightened organization, concerned most of all with its own survival, and perhaps with good reason.

  I believe that this conflict with the Trots will be outgrown in the not too distant future. The movement, as it spreads across the country, will simply engulf them. They won't be able to grow fast enough to dominate it. But for now, the conflict is with us, especially in New York. Movement people and the Trots agree on the objectives, on the necessity for a socialist revolution, and on the necessity for a mass movement of working class people. What we disagree about is how you get there. This is no minor dispute either. If the Trot Line, by some freak chance, comes to predominate in the burgeoning radical movement, the revolution won't be worth a plug nickel, if it even happens.

The Function of Movement Groups or Parties

  I have not been arguing that there shouldn't be any parties. I have been arguing that there shouldn't be a single, centralized, vanguard party. We have a mysterious view of parties anyway, it seems to me. It is interesting that we all think of SWP as a party, but we would never think of CRV or NUC as parties. This is very strange. Moreover, it is probably mistaken. A party is not something mysterious. It is simply a group of people who join together and hammer out a political program, design a strategy for getting the program, and then do it, constantly evaluating successes and failures, and adjusting plans and strategies accordingly.

  In this sense movement groups have in fact been functioning as revolutionary political parties all along even though we don't call them that. They serve an indispensable function. They serve as a vehicle for accumulating and articulating the collective experience of the struggle. They serve as a crucible for testing theory against practice. Proof of this is seen in the fact that people active in movement groups seem to evolve politically much faster than loners. It should be a cardinal rule of the movement that no one floats around as an isolated revolutionary unattached to any collective endeavor.

  Moreover, this insight suggests what should become our main recommendation as more and more people come into the radical movement: get together with some friends and start a political action program. And in our attempts to influence non-movement people we should encourage them to organize themselves politically, even if only on the basis of voluntary association, but preferably along community lines, or best of all, at the factory or office. We can worry later, much later, about federating these structures on regional levels. It is only in this way, it seems to me, that our revolutionary movement can spread and build toward the day when the people of this country will appropriate the productive forces that are rightfully theirs.


This article was published in the Newsletter of the Committee of Returned Volunteers in June, 1970.

* This sentence did not express my real beliefs at that time. I had already arrived by then at a belief in direct democracy, not federation or representative democracy, but felt that this concept was too complicated to introduce into the essay. – Note, 1986

Explanations of acronyms used:  CRV = Committee of Returned Volunteers;  LNS = Liberation News Service;  RYM = Revolutionary Youth Movement;  SWP = Socialist Workers Party;  YSA = Young Socialist Alliance, the youth division of SWP;  SMC = Student Mobilization Committee, a front organization for SWP and YSA;  NUC = I've forgotten, maybe New University Caucus?;  ARG = I've forgotten; Mobe, or new Mobe = shorthand for the New Mobilization against the War (or something like that), the main umbrella anti-war protest coalition during those years.