A Brief Introduction to Revolutionary Centrism

Jessica Marshal argues against ultraleft and opportunist shortcuts

What is centrism? It is the tendency of the patient. It is the tendency of those who can see an opportunity and wait. The centre avoids the pitfalls of opportunism. The centre sees the unity of the proletariat as its goal. It seeks to unite the tendencies within the proletariat, the right and left. The centre understands we need the working class as a united whole. Right, centre, and left. But let us define these terms.

What is the ‘right-wing’ of the worker’s movement? In this sense, they are those who seek reforms under the capitalist nation-state(s). What is the ‘left-wing’ of the worker’s movement? In this sense, they are those who call for strikes and agitate for action among the masses. They are both manifestations of the objective conditions the working class as a whole faces. The working class has to fight for alleviating reforms and it also has moments of – more or less – spontaneous action brought on by the inevitable exploitation all workers face. These tendencies, on their own, are clearly inadequate for global revolution. The right will be absorbed by the nation-state and its apparatuses; and the left will inevitably dissipate either into, at best, economistic sects, or will simply disappear until the next spontaneous movement. What does the centre do?

The centre unites the right and left so they can apply their tactics to the proletariat as a whole. The centre develops a strategy of mass party-building, utilizing the twin tactics of both the left and right. The centre develops itself on the necessity of the highest level of revolutionary proletarian organization: A party. Not of ‘genuine Marxist revolutionaries’, but of the working class. Such a party would be, in a sense, a Marxist party but it would not be a party of solely Marxists.

The working class does not consist solely of Marxists and never will, it contains within it radicals of many stripes. None of this is to downplay the differences within the left – there are clearly many – and most are genuine issues well worth debating and discussing. None of this changes the ultimate point, however. The revolutionary left cannot lead the proletariat if it cannot talk to itself, debate with itself, and work with itself. We need an organization – a party – where everyone can talk openly, honestly, and seriously about our divisions, why we’re incapable of coping with our situation, and why we aren’t able to – even in the face of global economic depression – connect with the working class as a whole.

Such a party would need multiple basic things to function as more than an idealistic and well-intentioned sect. A clear revolutionary programme, freedom of factions (permanent or temporary), the freedom for any individual to dissent publicly, free access to the party press and publishing, and the requirement that we all work together on actions collectively agreed upon by the majority in a full and free democratic debate. The centre sees the need for a united, militant, truly democratic, and highly organized international proletariat.

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