Saturday, September 01, 2007


THE CONCEPT OF THE "POLITICAL CENTER" A Draft Document by Tom K. 1. ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICES COMMON ON THE FAR LEFT. There are a variety of different organizational models that people on the radical left are involved in. Some of these include: a) Doing a lot of rather random activism, hopping from issue to issue, working in different coalitions or groups as they rise and fall, doing good work, but remaining a radical minority in groups which have a very high turnover rate and a lack of continuity. The same political battles are often fought over and over again, leaving you feeling burned out and stressed that you never seem to be going anywhere in the long term. campus action committees, ad-hoc groups planning for a specific event or protest, organizations like Mob4Glob or various loose anti-war coalitions etc. b) Working as a staff person in an NGO such as a PIRG, Women's Centre, housing group, front-line social support organization, or Student Union. In these cases while there is a lot of important and much needed organizing going on, you are completely overwhelmed with a high stress workload and stuck lurching from crisis to crisis. This makes it hard to do much in the way of long term radical work outside of your job which often becomes your activism. c) A member of a small "revolutionary" socialist group which directs the activity of its members and tries to replicate to varying degrees the model of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. You sell papers on street-corners, have top-down leadership structures, focus on recruiting to build your group, and have a parasitical relationship to activist movements. In spite of your words, the practice of your organizing has the effect of the demobilizing and undermining autonomous and radical movements, and you often act as an adjunct to trade union, student union, or NGO bureaucrats. d) You are part of a leftist grouping that has less of political basis of unity than the "revolutionary" socialist group listed above, but more than most social movements do. While these groups are "anti-capitalist" formations, and they have the potential to become something very positive, they often do not live up to this potential. Due to a lack of a coherent political vision and an uneven involvement of all of its members in the group's work, this group often: 1) reverts to the Leninist model of a socialist organization; or 2) devolves into a social clique of its most active members; or 3) dissolves itself in the face of contradictions. [examples of this could include the Rebuilding the Left project, the NSG or radical anti-poverty and anti-war groups. 2. AN ALTERNATIVE: THE "POLITICAL CENTER" METHOD OF ORGANIZING. a) One option that has been put forward by libertarian marxists and anarchist-communists as an alternative to these approaches is the idea of building an organization which is a political center, a pole of attraction around which radical ideas and revolutionary practice can coalesce. Hal Draper in his work Toward a New Beginning – On Another Road The Alternative to the Micro-Sect (*, the writers of the Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists (, CLR James et al. in Facing Reality, as well as the Situationist International ( all put forward variations on this idea. (*note: Hal Draper still had the intention of building a "revolutionary socialist party" from this process of building a political center, but his conception of a "party" and interpretation of Marx and Lenin's activity is one of the more libertarian ones out there…) There are a number of examples of building a political center (as opposed to a building a "vanguard" or quasi vanguard socialist group). These would include: b) The work that the folks around ZNET and its assorted projects do with their website, Z magazine, South End Press, and the various debates, public meetings, activist trainings, is one of the best examples of what building a political center means in practice. (See their website at: for more info.) b) Democracy Now ( and the Indymedia projects ( are good examples of radical activists putting out an alternative to mainstream lies and distortions, and reporting on social movements and struggles. Although their politics are not explicitly revolutionary, they do serve as an important political center for the left. c) Small publishing and distribution centers such as Turning the Tide, Kerspebedeb and Arm the Spirit/AG Press are also smaller scale versions of such projects. Coherent groupings carrying out solidarity work with various struggles elsewhere in the world (Columbia, Palestine, etc.) might also be considered to be following this model. (LeftTurn in the US also strikes me as an example of this kind of a model on a larger scale...) d) In the Marxist tradition, the journal Monthly Review stands out ( as perhaps the best contemporary example of this model, but the newspapers and journalism of Marx and Engels served as a political center from which to develop and disseminate revolutionary ideas and as part of creating a revolutionary movement inspired by communist ideas. Anarchist-communist traditions such as the FAI in Spain as well as the Platformists, also believed in developing a political center surrounding a common organization and its publications. The concept of a political center is distinct from the project of building a vanguard political party, which is a flawed approach which has proved its historic obsolescence in a number of different ways. While creating a "political center" involves building an organization, made up of members working within an organizational structure, its approach stresses the development within mass movements of a preponderance of liberatory ideas and practices. This "leadership of ideas" as the anarchist-communists put it, is not a method to build a hegemonical, top down party which will seize and wield power on behalf of the masses, but rather a process of actualizing people's own capabilities for self-organization against capitalism and all forms of oppression. 3. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN PRACTICE? a) Creating a political center is about creating revolutionary theory intimately linked to a revolutionary practice. What does "theorizing" mean? "To theorize is simply to try to understand what we are doing. We are all theorists whenever we honestly discuss what has happened, distinguish between the significant and the irrelevant, see through fallacious explanations, recognize what worked and what didn’t, consider how something might be done better next time. Radical theorizing is simply talking or writing to more people about more general issues in more abstract (i.e. more widely applicable) terms. Even those who claim to reject theory theorize — they merely do so more unconsciously and capriciously, and thus more inaccurately… Radical theory has nothing to respect and nothing to lose. It criticizes itself along with everything else. It is not a doctrine to be accepted on faith, but a tentative generalization that people must constantly test and correct for themselves, a practical simplification indispensable for dealing with the complexities of reality." -Ken Knabb from the joy of Revolution- ( b) A political center is a place where revolutionary activists are able to regroup and to build themselves, gaining and developing a wide range of skills and capabilities. It is not just for regrouping existing activists, but also for developing new ones. It does not serve to simply affirm the politics of existing radicals, but to challenge us all in a process of engagement and action. c) The ideas developed by this political center arise from activity in actual resistance movements and are related back to those movements by the participation of activists where they are further tested in practice and developed. Revolutionary theory is created by trying in practice to understand the nature of class struggle today in terms of how relations between capital and labour are gendered, racialized and sexualized through cultural, geographical, and historic realities. 4. THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF A POLITICAL CENTER. The kind of organizational structure that makes sense for this perspective would require: a) A common political basis of unity arising from similar experiences of radical struggle which is the basis for the concentration of these ideas. b) A common commitment to carrying out a shared plan of activity supported through the labour and finances of the members. c) The holding of regular meetings/conferences to discuss and work out political perspectives and vision for the organization over the next 6 months to a year. This would also include the creation of structures such as email lists and means of communicating and making decisions in between conferences. d) The development of distinct projects arising out of the political basis of unity and the decision making meetings aimed at advancing it, i.e. committees or collectives to produce webpages, pamphlets, newspapers, documents, and to organize public meetings, lectures, reading groups, etc. These various groupings would develop out of membership as needed, would be accountable to regular conferences or meetings of the membership, and would develop means of relating to each other as needed. 5. AVOIDING THE PAST FAILURES OF REVOLUTIONARY GROUPINGS. How do we go about building a political center and what are concrete things that we can do to make sure that a healthy and democratic group develops? a) There must be a central focus on organically building a unity and coherence of the group in political as well as technical matters. The project needs to become the collective expression of every member, and we must strive to eliminate all barriers to participation from the membership. As the Situationist International ( put it: "Such an organization refuses to reproduce within itself any of the hierarchical conditions of the dominant world. The only limit to participating in its total democracy is that each member must have recognized and appropriated the coherence of its critique. This coherence must be both in the critical theory as such and in the relation between this theory and practical activity." The organizing of the political center, must strive to prefigure the kinds of revolutionary change that we wish to create. As the Situationists put it: "such an organization sees the beginning and end of its program in the complete decolonization of everyday life. It thus aims not at the masses’ self-management of the existing world, but at its uninterrupted transformation." The same should be true for the day to day life of the organization. b) While recognizing that different people will have different interests and focuses, a real attempt must be made for all members of the grouping to be proficient in such things as meeting facilitation, public speaking, child care, production of "theory", building web pages, bookkeeping, radio technology, poster, leaflet and publications design and layout etc. etc. Skills training should develop from a process of "each one teach one", not from an approach of a few "specialists" in certain skill sets training and "building up" everyone else. Members of the group should make an inventory of the skills they have and the skills they want to learn, and skills should be shared on the basis of people's own interests and of the work that needs to be completed. c) The group must create horizontal networks amongst its various structures through which information and power are shared evenly. As much as possible all people should take part in the work of contact building between members in various geographical areas. d) Political development and a sense of ownership to the project are the fundamental key to the health of the organization. This includes the ability of the organization to deal with issues of oppressive behaviour within the organization, as well as the overall internal functioning of the group. 5. COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY AND THE FUNCTIONING OF THE GROUP a) The group is not a collection of individuals, but rather a collective united by a common commitment to shared political perspectives. The development of theory and the future of the group is shared by all members, and continues throughout the course of the group's life, not just at the founding of the group or in moments of political tension. b) There is a political commitment to each other on an organizational basis. Meetings start promptly on time, members show up to them or send regrets if they can't make them, the meetings deal with the agreed upon issues to be addressed, minutes are taken and shared with all members who were unable to make the meeting. Decisions passed at previous meetings are examined at future meetings, to make sure that they have been carried through. c) There must be a focus upon the external struggles taking place outside of the organization and a relation to ongoing struggles. The organization of a political center needs to have a way of reaching people and to be reached by people. This means that public and semi-public events must be regularly held, and that the ideas of the political center are disseminated through such mediums as web pages, publications, pamphlets, newsletters or via newspapers, journals, radio shows, video footage, etc.. It is in the process of relating to larger struggles and the world itself that technical skills are developed and shared amongst the members of this organization. d) In developing these plans structures should not be created in the abstract, but rather shaped around the needs of the concrete tasks to be achieved. The organization should try to build through a steady and methodical way, and not overstretch itself or try to grow too quickly. Attention to the process of decision making is as important as a focus on the end result. **** APENDIX: An excerpt from the Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freedman While engaging in this trial-and-error process, there are some principles we can keep in mind that are essential to democratic structuring and are politically effective also: 1.) Delegation of specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures. Letting people assume jobs or tasks by default only means they are not dependably done. If people are selected to do a task, preferably after expressing an interest or willingness to do it, they have made a commitment which cannot easily be ignored. 2.) Requiring all those to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to all those who selected them. This is how the group has control over people in positions of authority. Individuals may exercise power, but it is the group that has the ultimate say over how the power is exercised. 3.) Distribution of authority among as many people as is reasonably possible. This prevents monopoly of power and requires those in positions of authority to consult with many others in the process of exercising it. It also gives many people an opportunity to have responsibility for specific tasks and thereby to learn specific skills. 4.) Rotation of tasks among individuals. Responsibilities which are held too long by one person, formally or informally, come to be seen as that person's 'property' and are not easily relinquished or controlled by the group. Conversely, if tasks are rotated too frequently the individual does not have time to learn her job well and acquire a sense of satisfaction of doing a good job. 5.) Allocation of tasks along rational criteria. Selecting someone for a position because they are liked by the group, or giving them hard work because they are disliked, serves neither the group nor the person in the long run. Ability, interest and responsibility have got to be the major concerns in such selection. People should be given an opportunity to learn skills they do not have, but this is best done through some sort of 'apprenticeship' programme rather than the 'sink or swim' method. Having a responsibility one can't handle well is demoralizing. Conversely, being blackballed from what one can do well does not encourage one to develop one's skills. Women have been punished for being competent throughout most of human history - the movement does not need to repeat this process. 6.) Diffusion of information to everyone as frequently as possible. Information is power. Access to information enhances one's power. When an informal network spreads new ideas and information among themselves outside the group, they are already engaged in the process of forming an opinion - without the group participating. The more one knows about how things work, the more politically effective one can be. 7.) Equal access to resources needed by the group. This is not always perfectly possible, but should be striven for. A member who maintains a monopoly over a needed resource (like a printing press or a darkroom owned by a husband) can unduly influence the use of that resource. Skills and information are also resources. Members' skills and information can be equally available only when members are willing to teach what they know to others. When these principles are applied, they ensure that whatever structures are developed by different movement groups will be controlled by and be responsible to the group. The group of people in positions of authority will be diffuse, flexible, open and temporary. They will not be in such an easy position to institutionalize their power because ultimate decisions will be made by the group at large. The group will have the power to determine who shall exercise authority within it. From:

Only bad girls post communist literature.,M1

Do you realize that I've thought of you as a woman all this time...? Until this:

That was not me. Nick Rosen. It was a joke.
And soooo..

Did you have a cameo in Manufacturing Consent?'re still a girl then?
I'm Innocent!

Ugh..I give up...

You don't want to tell anything about yourself..& I'm an open book...
An open book of fiction. This is not a secure line. I need privacy.
I'm all about the non-fiction...except for the name...but even that is technically true..It was my birth name....

Secure Line:
I'm all about the non-fiction...except for the name...but even that is technically true..It was my birth name....

I was talking about me. True, I don't tell everything (in public), but who does? My reference ...OKAY. I see the secure line. That's what I was talking about.

You will always be Alice to me. (Beautiful name.)
Oh I agree then...I am not fiction, you might be..if you say you are I mean...

Ok, well you know where I am...(as usual..)

...and are still a mystery to me...
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