Crowds and Party by Jodi Dean, Part Two




Last week I posted Part One of my interview with Jodi Dean, author of the thought-provoking new book, Crowds And Party. You can hear that first half of the interview here.

Now, here is Part Two, the second half of my interview, which was broadcast on WBAI radio’s Arts Express program yesterday.  In this part, Jodi Dean talks about the problems with The New Left and Identity Politics; the anarchist/socialist split; the various critiques of the party formation and the rebuttal of those critiques; and why she thinks parties are the only way forward for those who would seek to upend capitalism.

Click on the grey triangle above to hear Part Two.

2 thoughts on “Crowds and Party by Jodi Dean, Part Two

  1. Hi Jack, Thanks for Part II of your interview with Jodi Dean. You did a brilliant job. Those were good questions you had prepared to get at her thinking. Very interesting. It turned out really well!!

    But I am still puzzled about where she is coming from. She has the right idea, obviously, that there needs to be a party. No doubt about that! But I don’t quite know if that means she sees the need for it to be a *revolutionary *party or not. Maybe that comes across better in her book. She seems clearly to realize that capitalism is the problem and she appreciates how we lose our way if we forget that. She wants a communist party, so she wants capitalism to be replaced by socialism/communism. So I suppose she realizes that getting there will take a revolution. She just has a very unusual way of coming at the problem.

    I agree with you totally about Syriza. Obviously it led the masses straight into more austerity!! And it was not a question of leaving the Euro but of “leaving” capitalism. Obviously, no party in Greece was prepared to lead the workers to do that. And Sanders, is obviously trying to deliver all the disaffected into the Democratic party. The ignoble end to that campaign surely left tens of thousands of people demoralized.

    Jodi did piss me off by referring to “Trotskyist substitutionalism,” That is so distorted. True, LT DID during the years in exile before he became a member of the Bolshevik Party have serious doubts about a party that was tightly organized and disciplined and had fears about the consequence of democratic centralism if the *democratic* part of the process got shoved aside. But he totally abandoned those doubts and joined the Bolshevik party in 1917, adopting all the principals of democratic centralism, appreciating them, advocating them, operating within them for the rest of his life. Even after he and the Left Opposition were expelled from the party, he first directed all his efforts in exile inside the USSR and from enforced exile abroad, toward reforming the party. After he finally realized in 1933 that reforming the CPSU and the Third International was impossible, he devoted the rest of his life working to build a new revolutionary party and a new international. To him, a democratic centralist revolutionary party was indispensable. Period. He never abandoned that.

    So I don’t understand why she speaks as if this concept of “substitutionalism” was “Trotskyist”! That is really unfair and false, actually. As if that was Trotsky’s final thoughts on the subject!!

    Again, there were places–12:20 – 12:55–where I was not sure we speak the same language. She has a way of looking at the situation that is out of my realm, I guess.

    Also, she said that just because the anti-war movement did not end the war and people got demoralized, that does not mean that they stopped organizing. But it DID!! The demonstrations to stop the 2003 war to destroy Iraq did not stop that war. And people got demoralized and have not protested against the ongoing wars since–going on 14 years now! There is no “anti-war movement” in this country or anywhere else that I know about.

    Sorry to be so critical, but one more thing: I am all for optimism. But I wonder where she is seeing small socialist parties beginning to collaborate in new ways like she said. Stumps me!! I ain’t seen any o’ that!!! 😎

    Her advice and her sentiments are in the right direction, of course. AND her idea of “what to do Monday morning” is a good one except for this consideration, which takes me to where I/we were going with the radio program idea:

    Jim Creegan sent us who are in that German Revolution class 5 readings from the Cliffite group in the UK, from their *International Socialist* journal. Anyway, they are arguing whether or not the German Revolution was defeated by 1919 or whether it still had a chance in 1923. Here’s the thing: We have always concluded that the problem then was that the Germans lacked a revolutionary party–they formed it too late, etc. And that is true, of course. But a revolutionary party–I mean by that a party that says that its goal is to overthrow capitalism and not to try to reform it–is not enough. The guy who wrote the 4th contribution of these 5 points out in that in the coming two years there will be two anniversaries that give us “an opportunity for reflection and stock-taking” of where we are. One of these anniversaries is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution–obviously, lots to reflect on about that one–and the other anniversary is the 50th anniversary of the formation of the group which morphed into the Cliffites of today–called the SWP over in England. It is not only the SWP over there that has been around now for half a century or more. But so have a lot of other “revolutionary” groups of all types–Maoists, Stalinists, Trotskyists. And, where are we??

    It is not a pretty picture. Somebody is doing something wrong. I wonder if any of them ever reflect on this. The point I mean to make: A party is essential but if it does not have a revolutionary program…it goes nowhere. That’s the corollary to her thesis, right??

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this author and her work to our attention on your blog. It is fascinating stuff and I hope a lot of people read and think about it!!!


    • Thanks for your insightful comments, Marilyn. I certainly would have liked to talk another hour with Jodi. Unfortunately, I lack the background to have asked her the kinds of questions you are bringing up.

      I was a bit skeptical about the “parties working together comment,” but she did name some encouraging specifics when we spoke, which got left on the editing room floor. I can go back to the original, if you’d like me to recall the exact events to which she was referring.

      In 12:20 to 12:55 I believe she is simply saying that parties don’t spontaneously have effective organization just because they are of the working class; effective structures need to be put in place to function well.

      As to whether she believes in a revolutionary party–that wasn’t explicit, but my guess would be yes.

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