Socialism From Below: A Real Dangerous Idea

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Published on Wednesday, 29 May 2013
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Socialism From Below: A REal Dangerous IdeaLeaflet produced for distribution at the Counterfire Dangerous Ideas Festival, 31 May/1 Jun 2013

Members of the International Socialist Network are pleased to attend the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas”, organised by Counterfire. One of our activists, China Miéville, is debating “What’s the point of the left?” at the event at 10am on Saturday. We welcome and look forward to that debate, and to the discussions with others attending the festival.

Discussions about what? Lots of things, but probably most of all the idea of “socialism from below”. This means that socialism is not just a policy or an idea advanced by certain tactics - but comes from the independent self-activity of working-class and oppressed people. Like Counterfire, we split from the Socialist Workers Party, a party that claimed to be based on this idea but whose practice did not reflect it.

We are concerned that the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, attractive and well put together as it is, reflects a practice far from the idea of socialism from below. The language of the programme seems strangely fixated on “leadership”: there are six “leading members”, three “key organisers”, one “leading director”, one “chief of staff” and one comrade “leading the charge”. Where are they leading people to? Are the people listening to them followers?

We hope not. In our fight against capitalism, racism, war and oppression someone has to take a stand and suggest a plan, even if it goes wrong - to “lead”. But we seek to expand and embolden that group of people, not cast them as the audience for others. The fetish of abstract “leadership” is best left to the business press and the capitalist political parties.

The IS Network is not the party that is going to lead the revolution. It is not even a party at all. We are a network of activists who hold to the idea of socialism from below. Please find out more about us on our website, You can read the content of our internal discussions there too.

We are holding a public meeting next week (see details below). Please come if you are interested in socialism from below.