The Class Party in the Light of the Struggles in Iran

Intro

Today [25/11/18] the media reported the arrest of Ismail Bakhshi and three other delegates of the Shush Soviet whom we were talking about yesterday in connection with Iran. The strikes, far from losing impetus, have already affected almost the entire population and are spreading not only to the industrial city of Ahvaz but throughout the whole country. However, the arrests will undoubtedly be a setback. Even in its revolutionary moment the class finds it difficult to generate a vanguard capable of taking the fight forward. A vanguard is necessary in such moments to provide a lead, put forward the next level of demands and slogans and draw lessons from each stage of the movement whether it has been defeat or victory.

1

The Iranian case is very illustrative. Nobody can say that the workers were not carrying out their task when, in different parts of the country, they promoted the creation of soviets as an alternative to the stagnation of the movements of a year ago. Nobody can say that they are not part of what we call the party of the future. When we say that the party is a fundamental precondition not only for the revolution to become a possibility but for workers’ struggles to develop in a positive direction it is to this party we refer and not to a formal organization with its rules and statutes which is nothing more than an automaton.

2

In fact, there is nothing less like an automaton than the "communist party." In a short collection of programmatic texts of the Spanish Communist Left during the Franco period published today by the "School of Marxism", is a clear idea of the party as a process of the convergence of the work of serious elements and groups for the development of struggles.

Class consciousness is not the product of a "body of knowledge", it is not the result of an academic science. It does not arise from "research groups" nor in the application of a particular technique, nor in the acceptance of a program written in stone once and for all. It is the product of the nature of the class as an expression of its consciousness, inscribed in what the class "is" because it is no other than what it must do to create a society where human needs are paramount. The vanguard, the party, appears as a product of the need to develop and move struggles forward.

That is why the class is always creating a "party". In some places, at some times, you can count on good fortune that nuclei of the future party "have been carrying out the task", dedicated to the consolidation and development of a useful program. But most of the time it is not possible... but even then nuclei appear as a party in embryo. We see it now in Iran, but we also saw it in the Argentina of the seventies and eighties: the party arises, because without making a historical balance, without clarity about the universal character of the class (internationalism, centralism), without an authentic communist perspective, class combativity hits a ceiling. But it is the communist program, the capacity to be useful in struggles, not the "lineage" of formal organizations, which makes them useful. Organizations, as structures, are not guarantees of anything. As the same Fomento Obrero Revolucionario (FOR) text says after explaining the milestones of the Spanish Communist Left from the Revolution to the 1950s:

“Here is our story succinctly put. With this statement, let it be clear, we only intend to explain the origin of our group. Nothing is further from our intention than to want to claim a historical heritage or a right of seniority/authority. What is really important are the positions that our group defends, that we test them in struggles, and that we are willing to review them if they prove unsuitable with respect to the evolution of the capitalist system and the forces that sustain it.”

3

So ... Why so much urgency in getting organised already if necessity creates the party? Because the need for a party is evident in the moment in which the struggles arise, and a tool capable of offering direction and being useful for the development of consciousness in the class as a whole, is not constructed with a snap of the fingers. Iranian workers may have had the strength and fortune to have been able to build a nucleus in a few cities. But throughout the country, they need an immediate coordination of revolutionaries able to launch a clear and understandable message. Moreover, the struggle can hardly prosper if it becomes isolated in Iran. The Iranian workers’ need for a useful political organization to develop consciousness and guide struggles is what we all need. Not in the future but now.

4

On the other hand, the function of the party is not a pure exercise in will either. The class program may seem obvious in its objectives – a de-commodified and abundant society – but it is not at all within easy reach. When revolutionaries have not been able to form viable international organizations, as in the second half of the 20th century, struggles have stagnated and caused demoralisation.

“What is needed, in order to unleash a persistent offensive beyond borders, is the presence of one or more organizations that have made clear the copious experience of the past and which are sufficiently well-known to attract the attention of the proletariat in struggle.”

G. Munis. «Party-state, Stalinism, Revolution», 1974

Creating a meaningful and well-known organisation in the class internationally demands that the fundamental issues of the program be solved in clear and broad discussions, garnering forces, broadening one’s references... and that can not be achieved at the last moment.

5

But if, in the end, "lineages" do not matter, why insist so much on the history of the communist left? Have we not already seen how the Spanish Communist Left rejected any account of its own history that "claimed a historical heritage or reliability or a right of seniority"? Since the party is the product of the necessity of struggles, the capacity of a group is measured in them, not in their genealogies or glamour. But that does not mean that it can arise from anywhere. It is obvious that the class vanguard is not going to be the product of state institutions such as universities or unions. But neither will it be the product of currents and groups, which in the moment of truth, have defended the needs of the national capital, leading workers to kill each other under the banners of "their" national bourgeoisie. The vanguard of the class will not come out of schools and methods of analysis that end again and again in the slaughterhouse for the greater glory of the national capital. But it so happens that social democracy, syndicalism, Stalinism and Trotskyism - the left of capital - represent precisely that continuity, that of the negation of internationalism.

And if this is the case with the affirmation or rejection of the universality of the class and its interests in the world (internationalism), it would also be worth mentioning centralism, that is, the affirmation of the universality and unity of the class in each collective expression of struggle. To divide the class – and its vanguard – into identities; ethnic groups, types of workers with differentiated and even conflicting interests, is essentially no different from a call to join the army or a national movement to massacre the workers "of" another bourgeoisie. That is, there are class boundaries that delimit the programmatic and methodological terrain on which the party can be built. To align with trends or groups that are outside of the class, sterilises the best of wills. That is why the "red thread", the continuity in the basic class program is a necessary condition for the development of the party. That is why it is important to recover the debates and the tradition of the communist left that resisted the counter-revolution and its inevitable nationalist and identitarian orgy – from which we are still suffering. To try to start "from scratch", to renounce the historical and political experience of the last century, is to disarm ourselves precisely in the face of the most recent and present dangers.

6

Taking stock: the party is a product of the class. This is a process that is always underway because the reality of exploitation forces the class to undertake tasks that have to be carried out collectively. And in doing so, a vanguard is formed that has to affirm the perspective that is born out of the same class situation in order to be useful for the development of the struggle. The problem is that the fundamental task, the one that forms the nucleus of the "subjective conditions", cannot be left to the struggle itself. A contribution has to be made so that struggles advance. You have to give them an input, you have to be prepared and intervene in them on a potentially global scale.

“The objective conditions of communist revolution are not enough to guarantee victory, and subjective conditions will not necessarily be engendered by the former. The subjective conditions are nothing other than the theoretical consciousness of previous experience and of the maximum possibilities offered to the proletariat; it is the eager knowledge of human action, ready to change its subjective existence into objective existence. Now, theoretical preparation has never been so off centre, so behind experience and possibility as today.”

G. Munis. «Party-state, Stalinism, Revolution», 1974

7

What we see in Iran today and we will see in many other places as new class confrontations appear at a much higher level than in the last decades, is that painful contradiction. We see emerging those nuclei that advance fundamental elements of the communist program. We have seen in Iran how clearly it affirms what a Soviet is and how it works. But each step forward demands more clarity, more daring... more awareness. And also more organisation, not only of the class as a whole, but also of minorities, the party in formation, which has a responsibility to millions in an immense territory. That is why it is now time to encourage the development of minorities that endorse the history and experience of the class, the moment to connect and advance with those who already exist. The party is not an entelechy of a distant future, a philosopher's stone that will fix everything at the moment when a revolution transforms the world. The party is necessary and is being formed here and now. And that is the first battle we have to win.

Nuevo Curso

25 November 2018

Translated from the Spanish: nuevocurso.org

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Comments

Frankly I find some of this confusing. Maybe this is due to my lack of understanding but I have a pretty black and white conception of the party as a formal organisation of well informed and dedicated revolutionaries who subscribe to a defined body of doctrine and organisational rules.

So when it says....The Iranian case is very illustrative. Nobody can say that the workers were not carrying out their task when, in different parts of the country, they promoted the creation of soviets as an alternative to the stagnation of the movements of a year ago. Nobody can say that they are not part of what we call the party of the future. When we say that the party is a fundamental precondition not only for the revolution to become a possibility but for workers’ struggles to develop in a positive direction it is to this party we refer and not to a formal organization with its rules and statutes which is nothing more than an automaton.

...then I am not sure what the party referred to here actually is.

I would have have said workers calling for soviet organisation, admirable though it may be, do not constitute a revolutionary party.

Apologies in advance, but I think that calling everything "the party" is a recipe for no party.

I can see why you are confused Stevein because paragraph 5 says that the party is more than what it says in the paragraph you quote. The fact that it also says greater "clarity" is needed and that the class party cannot arise from juts anywhere (it has to have a programme against both the left and right of capitalism) is what I took this to mean but your argument is well made. There is a dialectical relationship going on here between class action and political solutions. Without the class action all the political solutions put forward by the best party will fall on deaf ears and equally class action without the political clarity of the party and the programme it carries (distilled from previous class experience) is destined to exhaust itself inside the system (as Onorato Damen said).

I think it is important to see the formation of the Party as a step in the process of the class carrying out the political tasks that are necessary for its emancipation. This involves a movement from spontaneous to conscious. This understanding of the formation of the Party (which must not be reduced merely to adhesion of individuals to a formal organization) is precisely the merit of this article.