Doctrine is a guide to dealing, in a general way, with some aspect of objective reality. As that reality changes, doctrine must change accordingly. For example, until the end of the Civil War, mass infantry attack was the basic military doctrine. The invention and use of the machine gun forced the military to abandon that doctrine and adopt the doctrine of dispersal.
We could present many examples, but the point is that failure to change doctrine with changing reality condemns a political organization to failure as a doctrinaire sect. For revolutionaries, doctrine is a general policy or set of principles that guides political activity to accomplish a definite political goal. During these rapidly changing times we must almost daily challenge and examine our doctrine to make sure we are keeping up with reality.
In 1848 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels startled the intellectual world with the statement, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." This overarching statement has withstood the test of time and the assault of subjective ideologues. In Europe, where class definition was rigid, it was inevitable that that statement would be transformed into "the doctrine of the class struggle." Thus, all political tactics or inquiry proceeded from the understanding that no matter how remote, class struggle was the determining factor. This doctrine became the guiding light under all circumstances and at all times. The revolutionary's main problem is the true believer who attempts to impose an historically correct statement on all transitory situations. The revolutionaries have paid a terrible price for not constantly adjusting doctrine to the changing circumstances and class relations. We are again entering a period when changing conditions demand we re-examine doctrine.
The struggle between classes to achieve the political power to impose its will on society is at the heart of social motion. Social history is more than class struggle. It is also the record of the spontaneous quantitative and qualitative development of the means of production and the consequent broad struggle of society to reorganize itself – its production and distribution – in a way compatible with these new instruments. The class struggle is about in whose interests this reorganization takes place.
There are long periods within and between qualitative stages of history when there is social motion and its leading characteristic is not class struggle for political power. An example would be the massive social struggles such as the Freedom Movement of the 1960s. In such times, serious revolutionary organizations must identify the overwhelming characteristic of the moment and develop doctrine to guide them during that period.
What is the content of our moment, its fundamental characteristic, and what should be the doctrine that reflects this reality? The content of our time - the determining factor of this moment in history - is the transition from production by electro-mechanics and human labor into electronic production without or with very little human labor. Humanity has begun a leap from one social system to another. What is a leap? It is the sudden ending of the development of one process and the beginning of the development of another. The development of the industrial era ended with the introduction of electronics. Electro-mechanics is still around and will be around for some time. However, it is not developing. All new developments today are in the realm of electronics or robotics. Production by a combination of labor and electro-mechanics is less efficient and more expensive than robotics. Therefore, further development of that process ended.
Old relations are disappearing and new ones are coming into being. These changing relations and instability affect "class struggle" as well. Unions, formed to protect the workers from the corporations, become major shareholders and guardian angels of these corporations. The government has gone from a policy of hands-off the economy to massive intervention. Public debt and private profit have replaced private debt and public profit. The examples of instability and transformation are endless.
This transition is disrupting every aspect of our lives. Education, health care, production and distribution, employment, personal relations – every aspect of our lives is breaking loose from its moorings and becoming unstable as society struggles to create new foundations compatible with the new means of production. This instability and unpredictability is the leading characteristic of this time.
During this period, we must be guided by a doctrine that reflects that reality, the "doctrine of the leap." This means that we do not proceed politically from the stability of class struggle, but from the instability of transition. Instability demands much more from revolutionaries than eras of stability. The doctrine of the leap demands the constant summing up of experience and the thinking through of the revolutionary process in this new period. It demands that every single revolutionary make her or his individual contributions. We all have the sense that our chance is coming. The doctrine of the leap demands we close ranks with maximum contribution and activity.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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