The revolutionary workers’ organization should seek to be a catalyst agitating for organs of workers’ autonomy such as assemblies and struggle committees. It is important to recognize this as to avoid substitutionism, but also to recognize that the role of the revolutionary workers’ organization is to take the initiative towards such ends. The revolutionary organization should be more than just a social and philosophical association, a club, or talking shop.
We need to move from individualized work in social struggles as militants towards conceiving ways towards the development of collective subjectivities both at the revolutionary level and within the everyday struggle. After many years of revolutionary minorities becoming more and more sect like, it should not be a taboo question for revolutionary organizations to catalyze and or initiate struggles mass struggles when strategically appropriate. If anything there is an alienation from such mass political work, that is continued by keeping analysis, study, and thought separate from action, struggle, and capacitation of class militants.
Thus in my opinion the goal of every revolutionary minority in this period should be to move to being more than just a study/propaganda/networking circle (though certainly recognize such limited capacities as often a reality). The revolutionary organization can be the initiative to start collective long term workplace and community organizing, handle fights over grievances and against repression using direct action, on top of this it can do it’s political and popular education through study circles and local social centers. Based on experiences now, we can see this is often the state we are already left in, but without a focused cohesive project for bringing such endeavors together.
This perspective may be seen to be substitutionist, or too ideologically pure anarcho-syndicalist, trying to force the revolutionary party to be also a revolutionary union, or somewhere half way or in between, but these old distinctions of the Old Left are no longer relevant. Social movements are not whole organizations. The One Big Industrial Union or the AFL-CIO regrouping all trade unions as the One Big Trade Union is not a social movement of the laboring masses, they are specfic minorities, with specific to more heterogeneous political content. Today, and even more quite recently we’ve seen in North America (via Occupy) that when a social movement pops up that really gets to a point of rupturing with the current state of things it takes on the forms of assemblyist movement and autonomous action committees, calls for strikes (even if perhaps without the capacity to always win them), etc. Along with various class and cross class minorities these are the organic vehicles of the modern popular struggle. These are the spaces most fruitful for our endeavors, where our ideas can gain resonance, and where we must take initiative against all other actors that would like to steer struggle towards settling with the system. We need class gains, reforms that we can win without turning towards reformism.
And like we have seen with the movement CLASSE in the student struggle in Canada and the Pop-Up Union model from the UK, and in general Occupy revolutionary minorities can be instrumental in initiating the drive and organizing of such structures to handle the struggle. Even more importantly is there is a concrete role for such minorities as particular memories of the class to orient the movement to the best of their ability to the general interests of the class. These bodies thus become open to all members, often across sectors, and other boundaries that the more limited mass organs do not.
This is not an argument to abandon direct struggle work in such more limited mass organs that accept the existence of capitalism, but the goal of revolutionary militants should always be to work towards direct, autonomous, and combative vs indirect struggle, or working through such structures as the vehicle to fight for gains. For anarchists we long ago dropped the electoral struggle within the parliamentary system, boring from within to engage in electoral struggles within the major unions which have for the most part been integrated into the capitalist system, and by their function have a general staff that must mediate between the bosses and the workers, is simply after many years a dead end. In short I think we should take a second and think about what it means when the most progressive of such unions like UNITE HERE’s watchword is “build the committee, build the committee, build the committee” and don’t fight for NLRB elections, but for forcing recognition. The question for revolutionaries is, with which means and towards which ends?