Saturday, 5 January 2013

Democratic Centralism: The need for a party

In the light of ongoing events on the left, we link here to some material on the questions of organisation, party democracy and left unity that readers of our blog may find interesting, and we welcome debate around these issues.

Democratic Centralism by Peter Taaffe, 1996 -

Published in Militant Labour Members Bulletin No.16, 'A discussion on Democratic centralism', 18 March 1996.

This discussion took place in the UK section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), which at that time went by the name Militant Labour. This discussion on democratic centralism was followed immediately by the discussion on the name of the party, which dominated the following four members' bulletins (17 - 20) during 1996. It led to the decision to change the name from Militant Labour to Socialist Party in early 1997.
The Class, The Party and the Leadership by Leon Trotsky, 1940 -

This article is an unfinished work written by Trotsky and first published in 1940. It nevertheless forms a very valuable text.

1 comment:

  1. I think a discussion on how the left deals with questions of organisation and democracy is a welcome one, particularly in light of the crisis that is taking place in the Socialist Workers Party (UK).

    I would make the following comments as part of a contribution to the discussion.

    An essential feature of the struggle to empower workers is the extension of democracy in all those organisations that profess to act for and in the interests of the working class.

    I think the central reason for this is that only an educated, conscious,self acting working class is capable of developing the struggle for a socialist alternative.

    A Party that aspires to act and lead that struggle *must* have the highest standards of organisational integrity and accountability. This means accurate minutes,timely leadership reports, and attention to detail.

    For me this is not about organisational fetishism but a clear understanding and respect for the organisational integrity of the Party as a *weapon* for the empowerment of the working class. The Party is not the property of this or that particular leadership!

    Workers would not put up with being treated in a high handed manner by trade union bureaucrats, have their hard earned wages paying union dues that are not accounted for, or being treated as mere footsoldiers for dictatorial union leaders.

    The history of struggle for rank and file control in the union movement is not about transferring power from one leadership to another, but that of creating a democratic atmosphere that allows the wider and wider participation of working people in a struggle for their own emancipation.

    I know that I have focussed on this one, but incredibly important aspect of this broader discussion, but the lack of basis democratic controls and institutions creates room for demagogues,and those with a bureaucratic tendency, to consolidate postions of control within Parties and organisations of the working class.

    having a leadership of the best meaning and likeable individuals is no substitute for having Party institutions and norms that can be applied to *all* Party members, irrespective of status and position.

    For me, this is a centrally important lesson of the crisis afflicting the SWP.