Monday, August 25, 2014
SO WHY NOT DIVERSITY WITHIN UNITY?
The analytical piece below by Roy Ratcliffe seemed so obvious to me when I finished reading it that I almost decided not to post it here. Then I asked myself why, if the importance of diversity within unity within the anti-capitalist movement, within the struggle against Global Capital is so obvious, then why as Ratcliffe's notes, " In this particular activist paradigm, sectarian diversity without unity is the default and currently deeply entrenched position – even when anti-capitalists are faced with common dangers."
I mean, I have been a part of the left for a long time and if there is one thing I know it is that unity is a facade. Almost everyone, ever grouping, party, outfit seems to think it knows best and offers no space for the possibility that anyone who disagrees with their vast knowledge could possibly know what they are talking about, possibly have a valuable opinion. The same much too often holds true even within organizations where the elite, the Central Committee, the leadership, the whatever just is absolutely sure that the "rank and file" just needs to stand in line and follow instructions. Oh sure, sometimes you can have some debate, within very circumscribed boundaries, but at the end of the day, well, you know, we all have to pull together, and by pulling together what most of these "vanguardists" mean is "think alike," and follow the leader. Most communists give good lip service to the role of the working class, but fall back on the "we know what is best for the working class" motif. All hail the vanguard party.
Yet, it can't work that way. If nothing else history has proven that to be true over and over again. At the same time as the piece below points out all of nature, all of the universe, seems to have figured this out a gazillion years ago and with it, nature, the universe, the reality is diversity within unity is the default position.
Within the left, on the other hand, diversity without unity is the default position. It is so obvious again that this posture is ridiculous that even amongst the most vanguardist of the vanguards lip service is always given to some form of "internal" democracy, but you and I know what the reality is.
My autonomous Marxist background was shaped within an organization that had great theoretical positions on this sort of thing. It also promoted internal education so that everyone could be a "leader," but the truth was within the organization there were three or four "heavies," and there were the rest of us. The group promoted in theory for a type of autonomy without the organization as well, and railed against dogmatism (who doesn't). Yet, somehow, we a group of less then 100, more like 50, acted very much like everyone else, like all the other commies and Marxists. When some of us actually acted in the way the group suggested we believed, we were shut down. I remember a time back in the early 80s where two of us, not from the "center" were theoretically the facilitators or something of our anti-war work, of what we called the anti-war fraction. We actually worked with other communist, Marxist, and non communist groups within the anti-nuclear movement, within the general anti-war and solidarity movements of the time. We, the two of us, actually promoted an independence for the movement itself, and independence also of us. Eventually we became involved in what led up to something called the People's Anti-War Mobilization (PAM) and then to the All People's Congress (APC). The APC itself was billed as a conglomeration of groups and people from all over the country ranging from welfare rights activists, to Marxist Leninists, from individuals to Partyies). We, of course, had our viewpoint, and we, of course, argued for it, but the two of us and a few others within our fraction of our little communist organization understood our position as one amongst many. When the time of the All People's Congress actually happened in Detroit everything reverted back to that left default position. The two of us were basically cast aside within our own organization and the central part of the Central Committee took over. Suddenly the organizations efforts were more about the right line and the (read our) organization itself than the overall goal of working within a broad mix of ideas united by a broad belief in some sort of anti-capitalism, or simply a fight back against what was happening under the Reagan Administration. The All People's Congress itself suddenly was only about its originator, the Workers World Party. At one point during a rather acrimonious debate, which was supposed to be good in theory, but was obviously not what some from that vanguard party had in mind, I turned around and noticed that dozens of goons from Workers World were lined up in the back of the hall ready to physically bring things back to reality, their reality.
Nonsense. I did grow tired of all this and moved away and beyond, but as I look around there is no reason to believe that the same thing would not happen again today...if anyone could even get to the point of an All People's Congress even convening.
So, yeah, what Ratcliffe writes about may be obvious, but apparently being obvious isn't enough. I like much of Ratcliffe's writings. I have some deep issues with some of it. You know what though? That is all right, because I really do believe in that diversity within unity thing.
For me, the notion of diversity within unity goes beyond what Ratcliffe writes about below. For me, we are talking about also the notion of autonomy. We are talking about respecting the autonomy and significance of, say, the workers movement, the Peasants movement, the Black Liberation Movement, of the Women's Liberation Movement, of the movement of the world's indigenous people, of the Environmental Movement, of this and that movement. We should be talking about the fact that each of these movements and others are significant and important in their own right, independent not only of any Party, but independent even of the direct working class movement itself. We should understand that each of these movements for some sort of social change have something to offer all of us. In my mind for the multitude to defeat and replace Empire with a new world of hope, freedom, and justice, a world free of global capital, white supremacy, environmental destruction, economic exploitation, Patriarchy, State control, and all the other crap, each of these movements must have their own autonomy and respect the autonomy of the others. Each of these autonomous struggles are truly also linked in one common struggle and at the same time their diversity must be respected and, in fact, desired. Without diversity of this kind their can never really be the type of growth we need to build the new world we want...and it is within the building of that world, as we struggle still with our diversity, will we, the multitude, hopefully one day truly find unity, peace, and justice.
Note: This does not mean as I often saw within the Occupy movement allowing people who were objectively racist, or people who were Jew haters, or other abject reactionaries be a part of our stuggle(s). We have enemies and we do not unite with white supremacists, bigots, patriarchal capitalists, and the like simply because they may, for example, not like the government at the present moment. There are, of course, perimeters.
The following for Theoretical Mondays at Scission is from Critical Mass.