- It’s the grassroots masses themselves who have the power to effect real and lasting change;
- We understand that the prospects for advancing the struggle towards a human-centred society are not infinite. There are strategies which have the objective possibility of success, and those that will not fly and will fail. Pursuing a wrong strategy or the wrong campaign that does not “grip the masses” is a possibility;
- Fear of getting it wrong can’t overwhelm the need for action, of trying something that attempts to push the button of mass consciousness;
- We study with open minds the political conditions at any one time and we grasp the multiple forces at work. Understanding the world as correctly as we can will minimise political mistakes;
- We learn from our mistakes. A cliché perhaps, but true nevertheless;
- We learn from struggles going on in other countries. As well as learning from and updating the strategies and tactics of historical political leaders who have understood that the transformation of society is the act of the grassroots themselves;
- Our campaigns and slogans seek to undermine the market, but are always realistic in the eyes of grassroots people;
- We tell ourselves again and again, and then another time, that we must be in dialogue with the grassroots majority. They can and will teach the leaders. We do nothing that is not ultimately aimed at reaching masses of people.
6. Everyone an activist Mass leaflets, hardcopy and internet publications, social networking internet sites, poster campaigns, media campaigns – we need to be reaching people through all the available tools of mass outreach. This emphasis on mass outreach will encourage a culture of doing, not just talking. We see what works, reflect and discuss, and then do some more. Getting it wrong sometimes, but always with the same shared goal: how to encourage masses of people to get behind an idea. So that they start a conversation in the workplace, pass on a leaflet, letterbox their neighbourhood, forward an email – all modest measures, but when done by thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions, becomes of a qualitatively different character. We need a redefinition of activism to include small acts by ordinary people. Just as the political traditions of members of a broad left party will be, and must be diverse, so must the criteria by which we judge activism. The broad left party should fight for a broad-based activism of people fed up and angry with the market, who are encouraged and inspired, in the first instance, to take small steps to do things which effect the people around them. From this mass force will come the impetus for people to join a protest march or take part in a political strike. Ultimately, a broad left party must aim to be a mass organisation, which in the New Zealand context might include tens of thousands of members and supporters. Only that way will a critical mass of people be brought together, reaching into the heart of grassroots communities. If an organising apparatus consisting of a core of committed broad left activists can play an activating role in these communities, then real, substantial and lasting change can be achieved. 7. A broad left party contests elections There’s a general consensus across the left that we need to stand in elections. A broad left party or coalition should contest elections with these factors in mind:
- We use electoral contests to raise concrete demands which have the potential to become mass campaigns;
- Grassroots people will get a big lift of confidence from a broad left party or coalition that achieves electoral success;
- We aim to win parliamentary seats or other elected positions. Over time we work towards the goal of a broad left party forming or being part of a government, or a majority on a regional or local body council. At the national level and local level there are important leverages of power that a broad left party can use strategically and tactically to advance the mass movement;
- We look at how leftists in other countries have used electoral contests and governorship to advance their struggle. Of particular relevance are the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela, which are using various constitutional and organisational means to roll back the market with the backing of the majority of the population.
- Any broad left party or coalition that contests elections must never get sucked into the parliamentary bubble. We remain mass activists focused on mobilising ordinary people to take action.
- If a broad left party maintains a grassroots campaigning style, and has within its ranks grassroots people who are willing to stand up and take leadership roles, then the masses will evaluate honest mistakes and dishonest attacks from the corporate media fairly. A broad left party, if it’s truly of and for the people, will not be bound by the rules that the media and “spin makers” would like to dictate.
8. Comrades in the struggle People from different political traditions (ecological, anarchist, Marxist, social democratic, etc.) who are genuine in their attempts to relate to grassroots people, to talk with them, to listen to them, and who understand that the movement of masses of people will protect us in the current crisis, are comrades in the struggle. Comrades talk to each other, they listen, they conduct debates in a way that’s open and constructive. They work to ensure that decisions are democratic. Our cards are laid on the table and every effort is made to achieve an atmosphere of trust. There’s no backroom decision making and factional organising, both of which can only lead to destabilisation and the implosion of a broad left formation. Building a particular broad left formation in the current context must be the political priority of all members. 9. Transitioning together away from the market A vision of a new society has to remain fresh and exciting. It should be evolving, while keeping in sight core principles like equality, democracy, ecology and peace. People need to feel that they have a stake in determining what the end goal is. That way they will be more motivated to join the struggle. For a broad left formation to work it must agree that the path lies away from the corporate market, without forcing any agreement on what exactly a future society may look like, which is impossible anyway. The minutes to RAM’s 2009 national conference refer to activists from different traditions on the left all embracing a common philosophy, which is that “we are transitionists”. (See RAM’s 2009 national conference minutes at http://unityaotearoa.blogspot.com/2009/04/minutes-of-rams-2009-conference.html.) In the end how far a movement advances and which direction it takes will be determined by grassroots people. 10. Marxists at the heart of the movement Change, even revolutionary change, is a process. And change, even revolutionary change, is the action of masses of people. From these two truths, which history would show to be correct, it’s apparent that political leaders cannot be anywhere else than with the grassroots masses. It’s they who must push forward the process of change. Right now the struggle for a better world requires a “transitional mechanism” that’s far broader than a narrow Marxist organisation. The vast majority of people today are not going to be won to joining the movement away from the corporate market by first being won to the idea of socialism or revolution. To build a political vehicle capable of engaging with and giving leadership to masses of people Marxists need to be working alongside other leftists. Marxism, with its emphasis on material realities, class struggle, and understanding events in their complex totality, has an enormous amount to offer the movement. Marxists can provide a well of ideas for other activists to use and consider. And Marxists, of course, must be active learners. The Marxist tradition will only remain vibrant and relevant through engaging in an outwards focused political practice that connects with workers and other grassroots people. No one can ever lose sight that ideas convince people when they match with their own experiences of the world. Accepting ideas as true is a process of learning. All new learning bridges what we already know and believe with a new understanding. Ideas have no compulsion.
The global economic crisis and its political aftermath will radicalise and energise, testing the ideas of everyone. All participants in a democratic broad left formation will share in the co-ownership of new ideas, and the adaptation of old ones that best meet the known and unknown political problems in front of us. And we will see what works in practice. It’s a basic principle of Marxism that people change their situation and themselves though collective action. In new situations, new mass realities, political discussion will take place at a higher level. And Marxists and socialists from a variety of backgrounds and traditions will have plenty to say as part of a mass democratic debate. You only have to look at what’s happening in Venezuela to see what might be possible when a mass movement has chalked up some serious victories against the market. There’s a truly mass discussion happening under the umbrella of “socialism for the 21st century” between activists and masses of people. It’s a discussion that’s informed by the history of struggle from below and people’s own experience of struggle in Venezuela today. It’s an incredibly exciting dynamic, which is helping reinvigorate socialist ideas. Grant Morgan has written: “The structures of a tiny minority can triumph over the values of the vast majority only so long as the majority remain divided, uncertain and disorganised.” (“Protecting the people from the market crisis’’, http://unityaotearoa.blogspot.com/2008/02/feature-article-protecting-people-from.html, November 19, 2008.) The urgent and monumental task of the left today is to provide the leadership and organisation that prepares the way for a mass movement demanding, organising and fighting for a human centred society. Only mass-based broad left formations will be able to achieve this task. All who wish to fight in a principled and consistent manner against the market are needed. In moving forward together we can best breach the outer perimeter of the crumbling corporate castle and usher into the world a political alternative.