B&C: Can you say something about the institutional or organizational structures that the movement against capitalism and for communism would have to have? You argue that we have to renew the idea of the party. Many will regard that with some skepticism!
JD: First on the idea of the party. Lukács is really great in his book Lenin: A Study on the Unicity of his Thought in recognizing that the party is a form for the actuality of revolution, which means that it is a form that we need because of the multiplicity of people who become mobilized when a movement starts. Of course, they are going to bring all kinds of different forms of consciousness to the movement and that can easily be redirected and become a kind of populism. So a party can be useful in trying to respond to this — not dogmatically but flexibly, trying to push and steer a little bit. But it should not and cannot get ahead of the people. It has to have a much more responsive relationship to it, trying to direct in a responsive way. So with regard to the first question I think that a party is necessary and that we can recognize even in the old history of Communist parties it was never as dogmatic, unresponsive or rigid as the critics want us to think. Second, not a whole lot of people are excited about the party idea; I’ll admit to that. But I think the experience of Syriza can be made more inspiring for people outside of Greece. Because they see that there is a flexible left coalition that was able within four or five months to function as a party and make real progress. That would be different in the United States because we do not have a parliamentary system, so the incentives for the party form are not really there, which is a real problem. On the other hand, one of the experiences that has come out of ‘Occupy’ is that there needs to be a more explicit understanding of how leaders function and arise so that leaders can be accountable and different people can move in and out of leadership positions, in an open, transparent and accountable way. So I would hope that over the next year some more cohesive organizational form can emerge and I do not think that it hurts to call it a party.
B&C: Historically the role that Communist parties have played has often turned out to be anti-revolutionary not only with respect to e.g. the more anarchist currents in these revolutionary movements but also in other ways. One might think that the council system would be a good alternative to the party form in terms of organizing the movement.
JD: I don’t think that the party form is opposed to councils, cells or soviets. In October, I was reading Lenin’s April Theses and thought that the general assemblies of Occupy are a new form of soviet. All of these are units in which a party can function or which can be components of a party. They are not opposed to each other. I think Anarchists are too reductive here because they treat the party as something on top rather than something within: an organization of voices within a broader field. I think it is a mistake to build up this dichotomy.