The terrain is changing beneath our feet. Since the collapse of the majority of the “official Communist” regimes, the world has witnessed both events and ideas that have undermined the former dominant thinking within the left. The Zapatistas, Argentina in 2001, South Korean workers movements, Oaxaca in 2006, the struggles around anti-globalization, and Greece’s series of insurrectionary moments have increasingly presented challenges to traditional left answers to movements and organization. In previous eras Marxist-Leninism was the nexus which all currents by default had to respond to either in agreement or critique. Today, increasingly anarchist practices and theory have come to play this role.
As a member of an anarchist political organization, a friend once told me I in fact was practicing democratic centralism. This was perplexing, because the group had no resembling structures, practices, or the associated behaviors of democratic centralism. However, I was told that since we debated, came to common decisions, and acted on that collective democracy, we were in fact democratic centralist. This kind of productive confusion led to questions about the concept, and why the target of democratic centralism has shifted. This move, the shifting conceptual territory of core concepts of a certain orthodoxy, comes up repeatedly not only with democratic centralism, but also surrounding ideas like crisis, dialectics, the State, and class. The resulting cognitive dissonance caused me to investigate attempts at reinvigorating the concept of democratic centralism (democratic centralist revisionism), and understand truly what it is, where it came from, and how it has been practiced. Continue reading