Sunday, 18 July 2010

On revolutionary leadership

Paul Foot, one of the best left-wing writers of his generation, died on 18 July 2004. He was a superb campaigning journalist, a populariser of socialist ideas, and one of the most eloquent public speakers I've ever had the pleasure to listen to.

His final book, The Vote, was published posthumously. It demonstrates his gift for crystal-clear expression as well his range of historical and political knowledge. On the anniversary of his death, I thought I'd post a snippet from towards the end of the book. It summarises the case for socialist organisation - a lifelong commitment for Foot - with clarity and force.

'A vibrant socialist party that relates to the struggles of the workers and the dispossessed in every area of life, that seeks to draw from past struggles the lessons that can help the present ones, seems to me not a luxury but a priority.

In the period of the degeneration and collapse of Stalinism, many people on the left have shrunk from such a party. They have shrunk particularly from what they call 'vanguardism' - the notion that the party sets itself above the class and imagines that it can on its own do the democratic job that only the masses can achieve.

Such people shrink from the concept of 'leadership'. They denounce as fundamentally undemocratic the very idea that any set of people can aspire to lead the masses. But in a sense every expression of opinion, the very essence of democracy, is an expression of leadership. 'I think we should do this, march here, strike here, mobilize somewhere else' - all these are expressions of leadership, of pointing in a direction and urging people to follow.

This is the real meaning of democratic leadership. In a world where so many people are demoralized , depressed or sensitive to outright right-wing, militaristic or even fascist solutions to their problems, the failure to organize in order to persuade and lead in a socialist and democratic direction is irresponsible.'

Also see HERE.


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