The modern party is a fighting
organization in the political sense of the term, and
must as such conform to the laws of tactics. Now the first article of these laws is
facility of mobilization. Ferdinand Lassalle, the founder of a revolutionary labor
party, recognized this long ago, contending that the dictatorship which existed in fact
in the society over which he presided was as thoroughly justified in theory as it was
indispensable in practice. The rank and file, he said, must follow their chief blindly,
and the whole organization must be like a hammer in the hands of its president.
This view of the matter was in correspondence with political necessity, especially
in Lassalle's day, when the labor movement was in its infancy, and when it was only
by a rigorous discipline that this movement could hope to obtain respect and
consideration from the bourgeois parties. Centralization guaranteed, and always
guarantees, the rapid formation of resolutions. An extensive organization is per se
a heavy piece of mechanism, and one difficult to put in operation. When we have to
do with a mass distributed over a considerable area, to consult the rank and file upon
every question would involve an enormous loss of time, and the opinion thus obtained
would moreover be summary and vague. But the problems of the hour need a speedydecision, and this is why democracy can no longer function in its primitive and genuine form, unless the policy pursued is to be temporizing, involving the loss of the most favorable opportunities for action. Under such guidance, the party becomes incapable of acting in alliance with others, and loses its political elasticity.
A fighting party needs a hierarchical structure. In the absence of such a
party will be comparable to a savage and shapeless Negro army, which is unable to
withstand a single well-disciplined and welldrilled battalion of European soldiers.
In the daily struggle, nothing but a certain degree of caesarism will ensure the rapid
transmission and the precise execution of orders. The Dutch socialist, van Kol,
frankly declares that true democracy cannot be installed until the fight is over.
Meanwhile, even a socialist leadership must possess authority, and sufficient force
to maintain itself in power. A provisional despotism is, he contends, essential, and
liberty itself must yield to the need for prompt action. Thus the submission of the
masses to the will of a few individuals comes to be considered one of the highest of
democratic virtues. “To those who are called to lead us, we promise loyalty and
obedience, and we say to them: Men who have been honored as the people's choice,
show us the way, we will follow you.” It is such utterances as this which reveal to
us the true nature of the modern party. In a party, and above all in a fighting political
party, democracy is not for home consumption, but is rather an article made for
export. Every political organization has need of “a light equipment which will not
hamper its movements.” Democracy is utterly incompatible with strategic
promptness, and the forces of democracy do not lend themselves to the rapid opening
of a campaign.