Building the revolutionary project
Preeti Kaur discusses participation, oppression, and the revolutionary project
As flares blaze in Istanbul, as the current British government pursues its strategy of using the dogma of austerity to further stratify a society in which poverty abounds and hunger increases, and as the EDL and BNP continue to pose a pervasive threat, I’ve been asked to provide a short contribution on the role of a revolutionary organisation today. For me, a revolutionary organisation would have commitments to radical process and action, as well as a common platform centred on the pursuit of freedom from all systems of oppression and domination – class, racism, sexism, hetro-normativism, authoritarian state power, able-ism, age-ism and so on.
For me, this organisation is conscious that everyone who feels the effects of our dominant social systems and structures are the agents of revolution. Such commitment to radical process and radical action should take from the feminist movements of the 1960s, especially the principle that organisations in the pursuit of a free society must not reproduce external forms of oppression – classism, sexism, racism etc – internally. Instead, in the journey towards participatory socialism, a revolutionary organisation would embody values such as equity, solidarity, diversity and self-management while maintaining a commitment to internationalism as well as protecting and nourishing the environment.
Self-management would ensure that all those who are part of our organisations and movements have say in decision-making to the extent to which they’re affected. A commitment to collective participation helps ensure accountability and transparency whilst also creating positive forms of engagement that do not reproduce the alienation we experience in workplaces with hierarchical power structures.
Revolutionary organisations should encourage members to participate ethically in radical action. This, for me, is about participating in grassroots struggles to resist oppression and win tangible improvements in people’s lives today. Ethical participation is about building participatory struggles and movements – not taking charge or aggressively recruiting within them – working alongside those that may not identify as revolutionaries of a particular type, or revolutionaries at all. It’s important for individuals within revolutionary organisations to infuse revolutionary processes and analyses within movements, but it is more important to participate for the success of the particular movement or struggle – whether that is for better working conditions, immigrants’ rights, womens’ rights etc.
The act of winning struggles in a participatory way would, I think, politicise those we work alongside in an empowering way. Struggles should deepen collective power and create conditions to win even greater demands and tangible improvements, and ever more empowerment. By supporting grassroots struggles, we’re working– ultimately – to build a mass movement with the strength to confront the defenders of the status quo.
Radical action is also about creating new institutional experiments and social relations today that embody the values that we want in our society tomorrow. So it would include defending and fighting for space within our current society for the seeds of a free society to flourish – as we seek to transform ourselves as part of the struggle for a free society. As in our movements, such spaces must be cognisant of the need to develop new social relations and recognise internal oppressions we’ve all internalised, whether in relation to class, gender, race, sexuality, able-ism etc., and seek to confront and undo them. New institutional experiments would include building workplace councils, neighbourhood assemblies, community boards, participatory socialist planning processes, through participatory democratic decision-making structures, as well as spaces that meet people’s basic needs today in a participatory way.
Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón said “If the revolutionary lacks the guiding idea of their action, they will not be anything other than a ship without a compass.” I think it is, therefore, the responsibility of revolutionaries to develop a vision of a new world which will shape a revolutionary organisation’s strategic orientation and tactical decisions. But also, to do so without being dogmatic, and understanding that our vision will transform itself through struggle and experimentation. In the same way, diverse strategies and tactics will respond to changing circumstances requiring regular revisions in analysis.
Finally, I think a revolutionary organisations must enhance our lives, not pervasively lead to burn-outs…as Emma Goldman once said, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution!”