In this lecture, Bensaïd provides a general survey of the conditions for building a revolutionary proletarian party. He begins with a discussion of Marx's and Engels's points on the party question. He later focuses on Leninist concept of party, and concludes with clarifications of some ambiguities of Leninism valid for today.
Audio's Daniel Bensaïd
1984 Marxism and socialist parties, from Marx to Lenin. 317 January 2017
Bensaïd focuses on polemical aspects of Leninist theory of organisation, and starts with a discussion of two Leninist positions. Firstly, the Leninist theory of organisation represents a very historic moment in the history of working class, where the political party tends to dissolve itself in the social organisation of the proletariat. The ideas of Lenin entail a distinction between party and class. Dictatorship of the proletariat, trade unions, working class and party do not mean the the same in Lenin's thought. Bensaïd here touches upon the difference between Leninism and Bolshevism, and elaborates on the fight between Leninism and the Second International. The ambiguity in the 1st Congress of the Comintern: On the one hand, the Party as an organisation of all workers organisations including the soviets (subordinated politically and organisationally to the party), at the same time, as the party is a vanguard party, it is just one part of the soviet. Therefore, the party is only part of and subordinate to the soviets. Secondly, the Leninist concept of party as a vanguard party, selected party, doesn't eliminate at all the question of a mass party.
In discussing this position, Bensaïd sets out two levels of action: the problem of political independence of the working class for building workers party remains a task. He gives the example of Guatemala and the militarist organisation versus the Leninist organisation of a party. He sees the solution in auto-organisation in the party at different levels. He concludes by underlining that the degree of centralisation can change, the members can change, the system -as it shows the political conditions- can change; whereas, the difference between party and class should be maintained.
1984 The early Fourth International 1933 – 1938. 117 January 2017
History of the 4th international (1933-1938) - the aimis to understand what battles we come from and what is the programmatic heritage that we have. Bensaïd provides contextual information regarding the foundation of the FI, and introduces the discussion along the axis of five questions/subheadings: 1- Why a new international is necessary? 2- What basis, what is the programme to build this new international? 3-How to establish a new international? 4- What are the problems of its building and how Trotsky himself discussed them along problems of centrism-fusions, and problem of entryism in mass parties. 5- Results and conclusions. In this first part of the recording, Bensaïd focuses on the first question and talks about the degeneration of the Second International and Third International, and the "historic tests" that evidenced the impossibility of their re-generation. He contextualises the foundational years of the FI and continues with a discussion of the programmatic basis. He describes for what the programme stands, and in terms of strategy, he goes thorough the Eleven Points, underlining the necessity to adapt them to present conditions and learn from them to evaluate present conditions.
1984 The early Fourth International 1933 – 1938. 2 and 3.17 January 2017
Bensaïd focuses on the third question in his outline: How to establish a new international? He discusses the first five years of building the FI. For Trotsky, founding of a new international was less a declaration than forming a unity of different forces and trends. Bensaïd depicts the situation of the forces in the 1933 and the situation of the Left Opposition internationally in the 1933. In the second part of the recording, he discusses the fusions. He describes the "modern centrism" concept of Trotsky - between social democracy, Stalinism, and revolutionary Marxism. He then takes up the question of the united front, the inclusion of mass organisations and agreement on a general political line. He discusses examples of 68 France, and Spain in the end of 1970s.