It’s my contention that any revolutionary action, if it’s to succeed, must involve the right combination of theory and practice, for insofar as practice informs theory, the converse is also true.
Which isn’t to say one is a substitute for the other or vice versa – there is no substitute for putting one’s body on the line when moral force is the only force at people’s disposal against guns and brute force, let’s be clear about that! – nor is one necessarily preemptive of the other. In the best of all possible worlds, both should co-exist. Nor is it to say we can always tell what the right combination is. The exact dynamic of a movement is impossible to foretell, for all movements have a life all their own, their own life-expectancies and trajectories, many possible futures. All that’s being asserted right now, this relationship shouldn’t be ignored (if only for tactical reasons).
It might be presumptuous under the circumstances to argue on behalf of any value to be attached to leadership per se (a cadre or a vanguard are some of the more derogatory terms). Indeed, the very idea of leadership appears to run counter to the very idea of a true democratic process, the idea of direct participation and that of the General Assembly, of casting of lots, and I can’t help but totally concur. And yet . . .
When we look at the composition of the GAs across the many OWS sites, and if we’re indeed to take OWS at its own word as offering us a kind of pro forma, a boiler plate for reinstating true democratic practices and processes the world over, we get a different idea. We see that consensus, that most desirable end-product of the democratic process, is deemed attainable only within the confines of small groups, and moreover, that it’s built incrementally.
True, we’ve seen a proliferation of many such groups, each trying to do their bit and stay true to their task. The question of how these groups may or may not eventually coalesce and extend concentrically so as to make the consensus widespread needn’t concern us at this point, Suffice it to say, consensus can only be reached in small groups, where anyone and everyone has ample opportunity to speak as well as listen.