Comment on the Chicago Revolutionary Network's
Spontaneity & Organization


The contribution from the Chicago Revolutionary Network refers to a pamphlet published by Red Black Notes in 1998. It contained a short essay bearing the title of the pamphlet, an essay from Living Marxism entitled "The Impotence of the Revolutionary Party," a short article by Pannekoek and the Echanges presentation pamphlet.

Aside from a simplistic and schematic analysis of the events in Russia in 1917, the comrades of Chirevnet seem to have a mechanical understanding of spontaneity and organization, suggesting that a future revolution will begin as a spontaneous upsurge then going over to an organizational framework. Spontaneity and organization are conceptions that primarily relate of the "old labour movement." We would argue that spontaneity in a pure form does not exist. Spontaneity is the label put on an eruption of the class struggle the leftist parties or the bourgeoisie had not foreseen. In reality, such outbursts have an all too real organizational structure and prehistory, just not on the surface. At the risk of over-simplifying, class struggle is at times like the proverbial iceberg. In addition, it is the working class and not the political organizations, which tend to create the necessary political structures. While reliance on the Russian model is dangerous, it is useful to recall the Russian soviets were not created by any party, but by the working class as a means to facilitate its goals. Likewise the factory committees.

Because of their view of spontaneity, Chirvenet's analysis of the Bolsheviks tends toward the sinister and conspiratorial. Our analysis of the Bolsheviks has been of the state-capitalist Marxism of the German Social Democracy transported to Russian soil with populist overtones. The Bolsheviks maintained an internationalist position during the First World War, and in many ways were the most left wing organization in the Russian Revolution. However, Lenin never completely broke with his political past, and so his conception of the revolution and the party-state was always influenced by the SPD and not Marx. Rather than the Machiavellian politics Chirvenet projects, it's unclear whether Lenin ever wrote that the party must rule over the working class. The real problem was that Lenin identified interests of the party with the interests of the class: thus, there is no contradiction between Lenin's advocacy of working class rule and his advocacy of one-man management. Lenin's conception of socialism can be seen in his solutions to the rising bureaucracy he saw within the party at the end of his life: Another committee. The Bolsheviks were not evil, but the political program they were carried out was the development of capitalism in Russia.

State capitalism in Russia was a product of Russia's backwardness. The guarantee against the development of a new tyranny in the event of a counter-revolution is the degree of consciousness of those workers who make the revolution.


R&BN/October 2003

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