[lbo-talk] Louis Proyect on Party Building

Wojtek S wsoko52 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 24 08:10:25 PST 2011

[WS:] So what does this piece advise in practical terms? There are plenty of references to the "glorious past" which in my view miss the forest among the trees. Lenin faced a very different task than we do - in his environment, there were plenty of troops on the ground already, and the task was to organize them for a revolutionary action.

In our environment, the troops on the ground are few and scarce, and they are disorganized as well - so the primary task is the mobilization of troops rather than simply organizing what is already there.

Furthermore, dwelling on Lenin while disregarding Gramsci seems like a grave error to me. Gramsci had similar goals to Lenin, but he had the benefit of the hindsight (failed revolutions in Germany and Italy) and the first hand experience of the reality of Western countries where civil society acted as walls and trenches for the status quo (his metaphor) - which was a very different situation from that in Russia. Trotsky makes a similar observation in his Results and Prospects, btw.

In practical terms, this means that in Russia the revolutionary project could succeed with capturing of the state apparatus, whereas in the West not just the state apparatus but the civil society would have to be captured as well. Hence the importance of "organic intellectuals" in Gramsci's thought.

If Gramsci is correct, what we need now is not just a party of revolutionaries (however conceived) acting like commandos (another Gramsci's metaphor) but a standing army. What Cde Proyect et al. seem to be focused on is how to organize commandos (party) while being seemingly oblivious to the fact that they do not have an army to back them up.

In my view, Gramsci has much more to offer in practical terms to those living in Western-style democracies than Lenin does. But the main task is not to relive battles of the past, but to carefully analyze the battles we face today and determine what kind of forces are needed to win those battles. It makes little sense to focus on the WW1 style war of position (another Gramsci's analogy) in the era of the blitzkrieg - as the tale of the Maginot line tells us.


On Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 10:25 AM, Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> wrote:
> On Dec 24, 2011, at 9:42 AM, Angelus Novus wrote:
>> I've been enjoying Proyect's contributions on this question recently
> Yeah, good piece. I've been liking Lou's recent stuff a lot.
> Doug
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