"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." -
Eugene V. Debs
Saturday, January 09, 2016
We Are All Leaders
These are not times for reform and tweaking the system. Capitalism is in the process of destroying the Earth. The Socialist Party knows that no leaders are going to pull the workers into socialism. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Mainstream politics cannot comprehend the absence of leaders in the movement and that it is not a weakness but a strength, testifying to our determination not to be followers.
Forget about looking for leaders. What we need is a movement that rises from the people and empowers ourselves. People need to stop looking up, and start looking around. There is an old adage, if the people lead, the leaders will follow. People need organisations, and people need to come together. But by self-organisation from the root, you will find that you have got no leaders – and do not want them because you do not lead them.
A leader may say “all that our organisation has gained is because of me”. But it is not so. It is not because a leader persuades the government to be nice, but because the actions of mass movements force the government to give back some of what has been taken from us.
Leaders, indeed, will sometimes pretend that they know best and that the movement depends on them. But they can do this only by with-holding knowledge and denying power from others. This is why it is important to make organisations as democratic as possible. The individual leader substitutes for and holds back the capacities of the ‘led’. If we rely on one leader, or a group of leaders we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position because we can easily be misled. Nor is there a leadership to be bought off. A leader comes to symbolise an organisation’s cause and projects it on to one individual that his or her reputation and personality comes to represent and embody the cause.
The working class have nothing to gain and everything to lose by relying on leaders.
Leadership is one of those problematic words that needs qualifying. When we say “don’t follow leaders” we mean by this something very specific – a narrow political sense of the term – to denote the idea of surrendering power to an individual or group to change society on our behalf. We are not promoting the false idea that socialism is about “making everyone equal” in their endowments, abilities and so on. There will always exist those who will be better orators or write more lucidly than others.
Structure doesn’t necessarily mean a leader. The best examples of organisation historically can be found in the trade union and labour movement at its best. Take, for example, the structures of trade union branches. These are a product of a long tradition of members debating, agreeing and renewing clear, transparent written rules that create a framework of mutual accountability, self-discipline and individual responsibility. They are there on paper, the responsibility of every member, to be used, contested and, once agreed, followed. That is not to deny that apathy and inertia can set in; the rules become a barrier to creative thinking and change; officials become corrupt or complacent. Yet the rules and basic principles remain, always available.
A socialist party must be a party of no compromise. Its mission is to point the way to the goal and it refuses to leave the main road the side-tracked that lead into the swamp of reformism. Nor does a socialist party advocate violence in the labor movement because it knows the capitalist class has the advantage. It is not cowardice but common sense and it is not heroism that makes a fool rock a boat in deep water, it is idiocy.
The capitalist class can gerry-mander elections, miscount and steal votes, plus resort to a thousand and one other political tricks, but such is simply to tamper with a thermometer, it cannot change the temperature. And the temperature is the organised power of the working class.