back to Theory home feedback
Activists must choose overall strategies and immediate tactics. Every suggestion needs to be evaluated in light of long-term and short-term effects.
Nearly all tactics are good - if they fit the situation, but that's a monumental "IF".
In one situation, an activity might be perfect. In another, it might be "sectarian." "Sectarian" errors are very aptly named, because they can cause unnecessary divisions and splits such as those caused by religious sects.
In one situation, an activity might be perfect. In another, it might be "ultra-left." "Ultra-left" errors, blasted by Lenin as "infantile disorders", probably should have been named something else. People might think that "ultra-left" means, "more to the left," when in fact they aren't "left" at all, but represent a harmful aberration.
Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is unity within the working class and its progressive allies, and work through this little questionnaire:
Situation#1: Your school sets up a "recruitment day"
for U.S. military recruiters. Your progressive student group decides to respond.
What do you recommend?
a. Ignore the whole thing
b. Throw red paint on any student who comes near the recruiter
c. Denounce cooperating students in the student newspaper
d. Put snipers on the rooftops
e. Set up a rally or other public activity with as much lead time as possible
Answer a: Ignoring the whole thing may not be as bad as it seems. Your group may decide that there is not enough support on campus to make your time on this particular activity worthwhile. The big "plus" here is that you risk very little, but it's probably not the best answer.Go back
Answer b: Throwing red paint on fellow students would alienate the very people you need for progressive allies, and is thus a sectarian error. It's also an ultra-left error because your other allies would see you as crazy or, possibly, as a police agent. For this paint-throwing idea to be a good tactic, an extremely different set of circumstances would have to apply. Go back
Answer c: Denouncing cooperating students would tend to divide your progressive student base, and is thus a sectarian error - in today's circumstances. Go back
Answer d: Putting snipers on the rooftops is ultra-left. The working class and its allies cannot out-shoot the capitalists, their police, and their army. Most of the people you hope to ally with would disapprove of your action. Go back
Answer e: A public rally with a broad point of view is a low-risk option and could be very effective, especially if there is time to build support with students, parents, faculty, newspersons, and others. The main power that workers have is our numbers. In my opinion, you chose wisely. Go forward
Got any Feedback?
Situation 2: Your boss just announced a 10% pay cut for everybody. Your progressive group wants to respond. Which of the following ideas would you support?
a. Start a union organizing drive. If you already have
a union, take a delegation to the union leadership to work together on a response
b. Denounce the union and ask people to resign from it
c. Create a goon-squad to beat up the boss
d. Start a group of elite craftspersons to ask the boss to save your paycheck at the expense of some other job category
e. Quit your job
Answer a: Unions are the best way invented so far to protect job rights. Active union membership is risk free and likely to be the most effective route. You can't go wrong when you're building unity with workers. Thanks for looking at the questionnaire, and please let me know how to improve it. -- Jim Lane Feedback
Answer b: "quit the union" is the ultimate sectarianism because it divides the only people who might be able to overcome the boss. Amazingly, it comes up over and over again in "right to work/starve" states like Texas. Go back
Answer c: Muscle-power might seem like a satisfying fantasy, but how would it improve the problem? Can you afford to let your fellow workers and their families suffer while you indulge your ego? Go back
Answer d: We'd like to think that union people always stick together. But the reality is that different job categories often try to get advantages over other workers. It's sectarian, and its long-term effect is to bring everybody down. Go back
Answer e: Quitting your job might be an option for an individual,
but not for a group unless a sufficient number of people were willing to do
it together. It might be slightly smarter to announce a future date for job-quitting,
then see how many workers you can get on that program before you actually leave.
Generally, it's an elitist and sectarian idea that divides rather than unifies.
Suggested reading: V.I. Lenin "Ultra-Leftism, the Infantile Disorder"