“Who starts the party?”

Who is anyone?  Anyone can be someone.  Start the party with whoever else wants to start a party!

We always want to lay the groundwork for a party, before declaring a party.  We want to have a series of phenomena which constitute a party – like coalitions, movements, unions, study groups – before putting the capstone on it by drawing all those people together and naming it a party.

However, rather than viewing the formal, artificial, intentional act of declaring a party to be a capstone, it is more like a skeleton.  It is the bones that the meat goes on.  Having a party helps build those other things, rather than the party being only the final stage of them.

Most of all, we cannot help the fact that, even if we wanted a party built on entirely organic, spontaneous, and movement-driven foundations, we would ultimately have to take the artificial action of declaring it a party, and figuring out its boundaries and infrastructure.  Many people on the Left are afraid of doing this.  They are afraid it is premature, audacious, and pretentious.  Indeed, there are many groups on the Left who declare themselves to be parties, even internationals, whereas there is very little legitimate basis for calling these tiny grouplets either of those things.

But we don’t really have a choice.  We have to say things which seem premature, in order that others might be familiarized with the ideas, so that they ultimately become popular and “well-timed.”  We have to create structures which seem like more formality than substance, because we need to create formal democratic frameworks for mass participation before mass participation happens.  We cannot build a good system for managing the discussion, debate, voting, and coordination of millions of people, in the middle of the moment that those millions of people become mobilized.  Otherwise, the democracy will probably be poorly-conceived and poorly-executed to not being a democracy at all.  Otherwise, the energy of the movement will be wasted in clouds of energy without direction, resulting (as many times before) in burnout and cynicism.  We therefore need a democratic structure already in place which we can scale up to meet that need when it comes.

Giving people a banner to rally around is not some unnecessary, self-serving activity.  It is absolutely essential to the crystallization of class-consciousness, the development of radical consciousness which goes beyond antagonism to insisting on a fundamentally new system, and even to the proper sustenance of social movements in the street.

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