Strategy, Mission and the Way Forward
In order to be effective, revolutionary organizations must constantly step back, assess and examine the environment and conditions within which they work. From this examination they must develop a strategic overview that directs them in the overall class struggle to achieve the goal of a cooperative, communist society. This means revolutionary organizations must always be asking — How do we get from where we are to where we need to be? How do we accomplish our tasks? What kind of organization is needed for this stage of history?
Finding the Center of Gravity
The term center of gravity is a scientific term most often used in military contexts. In his book, On War, the great military strategist Karl von Clausewitz described centers of gravity emerging from the “overruling relations of both parties”; that is, a center of gravity is relevant only in relation to an enemy. It matters because of its effect on an enemy or a situation. “One must keep the dominant characteristics of both belligerents in mind”, Clausewitz wrote. “Out of these characteristics a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends. That is the point against which all our energies should be directed.” There “is no higher and simpler law of strategy” he wrote “than to focus military force on the most vulnerable part of your enemy’s defense”, dubbed the center of gravity.
For the League, the center of gravity is a political question. The League uses the concept as a means of developing an assessment and a plan to address the overall class struggle. We ask ourselves: What is going to be the heart of that struggle? Where do we concentrate in order to push the process forward?
We look first at what is objectively happening in America, where the enemy is the most vulnerable. We have to determine the group which at this time, under these particular conditions we see developing in the real world, that can pull the whole process forward along the path to a communist society. Once we identify this “center of gravity” it is essential to develop a plan that has the goal of politically influencing this group as a means of politically influencing the class as a whole. At the same time, through taking this strategic approach, an organization of revolutionaries not only shapes the political and intellectual formation of the class, but seeks to influence the coming revolution in America.
The Dispossessed and LRNA Strategy
For many years, the League has written about the emergence of a new class. Part of the working class, this new class is being created by the qualitatively new means of production of electronics.
The current electoral rhetoric showed quite clearly that the discussion over jobs is directed toward those who have had decent jobs and are now falling into economic instability and poverty. It is directed to that group of people in America whose economic situation puts them in a position to move the entire revolutionary process forward. These millions of people we call the dispossessed, and are at the core of the new class.
The dispossessed are relatively well-educated, (with at least a high school education), have had jobs, have lived in a fairly decent situation, and have been socially active and socially aware in that they vote, attend church or participate in some kind of civic or community activity.
The foreclosure crisis and loss of income have widened the gap within the class, but whites are not the only members of the dispossessed. Along with a large number of whites, a disproportionate number of African Americans and Hispanics were victims of the foreclosure crisis, which resulted in wiping out 90% of their wealth.
The dispossessed are not at all a cohesive political entity, and have been pitted against one another along color, ethnic, gender and religious lines. Because they are part of the unraveling “middle” of American politics that supported the policies of the ruling class, they tend to be the most socially and economically conservative.
Yet, their deteriorating economic position puts them in a position where they have to move against their conditions. It is impossible to predict which way they are going to move, but when they do they are going to pull — by virtue of their position in society — a huge section of society with them.
Michigan is Harbinger
We can see the beginnings of this process in the situation faced by the workers in Michigan. There, the dispossessed are among the tens of thousands of workers who have been battling valiantly for their very survival, fighting to have the needs of the people met, in some cases struggling to defend against more cuts to vital services and a continuing decline in their standard of living.
Now, democracy itself is at stake. Public Act 4, (also known as the “dictator law”) displaces the duly elected representatives of local governments and imposes a state-appointed “Emergency Manager” to rule over the people, without the consent of the governed.
Seeing their democracy going down the drain, the people have mounted an effort to repeal Public Act 4 through a referendum on the ballot in November. Despite a spirited campaign, the State moved at every turn to block their efforts. Leaders of the movement ran into a wall: the question for them, and for us, is how do we move forward if there is no legal or political redress of our grievances? Finally, it was placed on the ballot and the people of Michigan voted it down. Undeterred, the ruling class is now gearing up to force through another round of Emergency Manager legislation.
The handwriting on that wall is: “No more reforms are possible.” Or, in other words, it has never been more clear that these are revolutionary times. From New Deal to No Deal, the ruling class is shutting the door on reform, on even the most incremental amelioration of the misery of the people.
This predicament is being manifested in many ways and on all fronts around the world. The workers of Greece waged a massive and intense struggle for reform, or just to maintain the reforms won in a past period, but the ruling class did not budge. The uprisings of the Arab Spring have seen their efforts turned back.
Across the U.S. we see, as in Michigan, cities and states teetering on bankruptcy even as they absorb one wave of budget cuts after another. Where is the ability to turn that around, or even to slow it down? The doors are being shut.
Anaheim and many other cities have felt the full brunt of a police state bent on exacting its control through brute force. The G8 and NATO meetings as well as the Republican and Democratic national conventions were armed camps.
Even the elections, that last spectacle of bourgeois democracy, were an exhibition of the two ruling political parties who have no real solutions to offer. In other words, no real reforms are possible. More important is what is coming, after the elections. The likely scenario is a continuing stalemate in Washington, the inability to address the cause of this epochal crisis — the growing permanent joblessness — and an accompanying fiscal crisis that threatens to drag us off a cliff.
This is not a doomsday scenario, however. Not to fight, or to give up all hope, is not an option. The question is not whether or not to keep on fighting, but how we fight. This is where matters of strategy and identifying the political center of gravity come in.
Strategy and Leadership
Revolutionaries base their work on what is arising. At this time, under these conditions, that is the political and social motion of the dispossessed. They are not going back to work. They have no redress for their grievances. The capitalists have nothing for them. They are being pushed outside not only capitalist relations, but out of bourgeois society, where they no longer play any role whatsoever. They are pitted against one another by the ruling class and told that their problems are the results of one another.
The ruling class understands the significance of this grouping, but it has nothing to provide them but ideology. America is getting close to the stage economically when the American people cannot keep talking about the social and ideological questions in the face of their families living on the streets or going without food. The strategy of the ruling class is to prevent awareness and identity of different classes in America, and to stop people moving in their own interests along those lines. The League makes sure that class interests and class identity are part of every discussion.
To influence the movement, revolutionaries also have to figure out how to work within this section at this time. Masses are moved through the people who influence them. We commonly call these “leaders”, but we do not mean this in the traditional sense. Leaders are those who influence others, who step forward and seek to solve the political problems they and others face.
When it is no longer possible to reform the system, then the only solution is for the oppressed and exploited class to gain the political power to reorganize society in its own interest. The task for these leaders is to begin to look strategically at the question of how are they going to play a role in shaping the consciousness of their class so it can move forward step by step in the fight for political power.
If revolutionaries understand the significance of developing leaders so they can influence the people they lead, then the question we must answer is, how are the leaders of this revolutionary class to be developed as strategic thinkers, as revolutionaries positioned to shape class consciousness as a condition of moving along the path to revolutionary solutions? This gets to the heart of the question of what kind of organization the League is building, and what the tasks of the League are at this particular point.
The League is the place where the revolutionaries can receive the tools necessary to resolve the problems facing society today. By bringing the revolutionaries who are the leaders of the dispossessed into the League, the conditions can be set not only for their development and training but also for the League to build as the type of organization that can be about really changing things.
These leaders are scattered everywhere. How do we reach them?
In the words of one seasoned revolutionary fighter in the escalating battles in Michigan, “When you look at what we are faced with, it means that there is nothing left for us but widespread propaganda.”
Doing widespread propaganda does not mean that revolutionaries step away from the heat of battle, or propagandize from a distance. Revolutionaries accomplish their mission by working within the practical struggle. From within the struggle, revolutionaries offer solutions to the questions of the day, pushing the movement forward along its line of march from scattered defensive battles to united political struggle. Every struggle becomes a battle over actual interests and a school for revolutionary ideas.
When the doors are being shut by the ruling class, for example, the development of third parties such as the Green Party is inevitable, and this helps to open a door to take us along the path in which the struggle must go to achieve its goals. When the government puts the needs of the corporations above those of the people, the struggle for nationalization of vital resources and services pushes the struggle along the path to taking over the corporations in the interest of the people. When public education is attacked on every front, the teachers’ struggle for better conditions for students and for decent public education for all allows for bringing into the struggle the vision of a cooperative society.
All of League propaganda is aimed at getting the LRNA in a position to influence this growing discontented mass in America. We do widespread propaganda, but we recognize that simply by attacking everything we attack nothing. We aim at the center of gravity, that core that can pull the whole revolutionary process forward. Therefore in line with our estimate, the League directs its propaganda at the conditions and concerns of the growing core of dispossessed and particularly those who are emerging as leaders from its ranks. This is the meaning of the League’s mission: “To unite the scattered revolutionaries on the basis of the demands of the new class, to educate and win them over to the cooperative, communist resolution of the problem.”
The League has the weapons to accomplish its mission. The presses and their interrelationship each play a particular role. The presses of the movement cast the net wide, providing the basis for League propaganda. At the same time, particularly through Rally, Comrades! and other forms of propaganda, and through education, the League is able to present to the leaders of the dispossessed an understanding of the problems they face and a strategy for victory.
Political Report of the LRNA Standing Committee, September 2012.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011