To Build the Collective: “Imagination to Power!” – Mahir Yılmaz

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In order for the revolution to take place, besides the appropriate objective conditions, two basic components are needed. The first is a society that doesn’t want to be ruled as before and the second is the revolutionary subject. In other words, a revolutionary subject who will guide the society that doesn’t want to be ruled as before, who will react by doing double duty as a reactor and lead the revolution! On the other hand, the revolutionary subject should succeed in subjectivizing themself, so that they can also subjectivize the individual or the community they have included in the organisation, or they can subjectivize the society as a reactor during the process of revolution, incorporate it effectively to the process of revolution. However, though the matter of subjectivity and subjectivation is very well illuminated in theory, it has remained and has been conserved as an unresolved disease in perpetuity in Revolutionary Movements of Turkey. If the resolutions about being a subject that we will explain in this article remains in theory and are not put into practice, then our writings sadly will not be of great value.

In that case, let’s start to analyze the necessary circumstances in order to create the subject in the first place. Let’s start this questioning from ourselves. From the very first day that we’ve met the organisation… Why did we choose the organisation in which we participate? Sometimes this decision is made with a ripple of excitement, at times with a conscious choice or with the belief that this organisation is the one to lead us to revolution. In the beginning, with our amateur spirit yet with our whole self, we would calculate what we can contribute to our fight, our methods for leading to revolution, how we can develop the organisation, how we can incorporate a blind bit of it into revolution.However, the problems of the stiff-institutional structures, the chief-officer relationship, the distorted-one-way division of labor and the alienation that develops due to specialization, the inability to comprehend the whole and thus not being able to exist in the whole that are encountered in time often erodes the amateur spirit of the individual who tries hard to be a subject. Thus, the collective-individual relationship becomes a system in which the collective erodes the individual, instead of a relationship that feeds and ameliorates each other. These examples about structural problems can be augmented. Nevertheless, let’s continue to express ourselves without digress and increase the examples with their solution parameters as the article progresses. At this point, the question of what method to follow in order to maintain the right collective-individual relationship, thus to found an organisation that not only becomes a subject but also subjectivizes, comes to mind. Our answer to that would be collectivism as its simplest.

Collectivism: The Basic Unit of the Organisation

Collectivism is the transferring of the effort and the mind of each individual in the organisation to the revolution under the most favorable circumstances. Collective should take the individual in and the individual should also be able to find themself in the collective. At its simplest, the method where some make all the decisions and that others are simply concerned with their assigned tasks reproduce the chief-officer relationship and this results in the alienation of the individuals in the collective towards the ideology, the strategic line and the masses. The willingness of the individual that comes with a callow excitement of taking a part in the collective, the idea of strengthening the fight oozes away, rusts because it becomes impossible for the individual to find themself and exist inside the collective. Therefore, they cannot be in the position of becoming a subject and subjectivizing. This kind of mechanism is rather mechanical, not a living organism. It does not have the mind to renew itself according to the changing circumstances, for it does not have the ability to unite the whole mind of the collective and melt it in one pot.

In this sense, collectivism is to build a living organism that holds and collectively improves the effort and the mind of the individual/community in the collective while preserving the enthusiasm, the amateur spirit and the willingness to integrate the whole self of the individual or the community that joins and tries to exist in the collective. In order to achieve this, conditions must prevail in the collective, in the interests of the revolution, in which all human abilities and qualities can be freely developed.

In essence, the principle of collectivism is the embodiment of communism in today’s world in the organisation. With this principle organisational practices become miscellaneous, forming a living organism that feeds each other in a dialectical manner, in mutual interaction. A collectivist structure strips the individual out of unidirectional manners and dependent relations; bringing it to a dynamic position that can establish transitive relationships, subjectivize while subjectivating. Collectivism enables the conduct and conditions that the individual needs to actually go for the extra mile for the revolution. The unity of organizational mind and effort is the one and only condition for advancing it by leaps and bounds.

To be more precise, every relation of democracy (including democratic centralism) creates a power relation. In this sense collectivism aims to degrade these power relations to a minimum degree by taking the necessities into account. It prioritizes to annihilate the privileges and power spheres that derive from division of labor, specialization and authority. Surely, division of labor and specialization are sine qua non for the organisation. However, the individual must not alienate themselves from the whole while specializing. Collectivism does not reject natural leadership, pioneering and it also looks out for the conditions of the war and the speed of the struggle which are the necessities of the struggle and positions the organisation accordingly.

When collectivism, the vital principle of the organisation, is applied; mathematical calculations will turn upside down. In a way, 1+1+1 will be equal to 1. Because the collective will not preserve multitude as multitude and will melt all the effort and mind in one pot. Thus, every member of the collective will be able to exist within and find themselves in the collective. On the other hand, the organization will constitute more than the sum of all parts of the organization.

In order to build collectivism, it is important to understand part-whole relations. In the daily organizational life that turns into a chief-officer relationship, the individual can only comprehend the tasks assigned by the chief and only know what the chief conveys. Cadre1 detaches from the whole and they alienate to ideology, strategy and the masses. Let us try to make this situation clearer with an example. Let us imagine an automotive worker whose only duty is to tighten screws. They do not have any idea about the whole. Under these circumstances, the worker wouldn’t feel that they produce cars. They wouldn’t correlate the screw (part) with the car (whole) but only think that they’re tightening screws. In other words, the worker is a stranger to the vehicle they contribute to in its production. They do not have much opinion about it which is only natural. However, let’s consider a production mechanism where the worker tightens screws, but they also have a general knowledge and idea of the car’s manufacture. They can give ideas for a better production of the vehicle. Workers who manufacture and assemble other parts likewise dominate the overall production process therefore can give each other ideas for better production. So they can relate to the whole. The contribution of such collective to the development of the vehicle or to its more effective production would be at the highest level. In this case, the worker who tightens the screw feels that they produce cars, because they can relate to the whole, they generate themselves in the collective and thus alienation disappears. Of course this example does not exactly match with a revolutionary organization but provides important clues.

An Experience That Converges to Communism: The Persimphance Orchestra

Since it is a more concrete example to what a revolutionary organisation aims, let us examine the Persimphance Orchestra founded in the Soviet Union in 1922 by Lev Tseitlin. First of all, Persimfans rejects and abolishes conductorship in their work. This is because, in an ordinary orchestra it is the “conductor” who decides which piece will be played and which musical instrument will be used on which part of the piece. The conductor is the only person who can connect with the whole. The other members of the orchestra only have a good command of the parts they play and they have no other relation with the whole. They cannot express an idea about the whole, or fully engage in a constructive,integrative relationship with each other and the music. As to the conductor, they put on a show on stage to the audience as if they are an incarnation of the collective’s labour as a whole. With their gestures and movements, the conductor treats the other members of the orchestra as instruments that play as they press their buttons. The conductor creates alienation in the orchestra’s relationship with music and audience. They also prevent the participation of the audience. They technicalize the orchestra and make it officer-like.

Persimphance however aboslishes this culture and creates an orchestra without a conductor. Consequently, the stage assumes an oval position where everyone can see, influence and monitor each other. They decide together which pieces to play and which instruments to use in a certain part of the piece. Any orchestra member learns to play the piece from beginning to end to master the whole piece, even if they play a small part in the piece. Thus, orchestra members sense, improve and monitor each other. The technical affiliation and the officer-like relationship disappear, they can generate their labour in the collective and feel the collective in the music they play. They cease to be an officer of an external agent and become productive subjects of the organisation which they have internalized. After the public concerts, they provide the audience with a dynamic participation opportunity by conducting conversations on subjects such as the historical background of the works, the conditions of origin and the Marxist understanding of history. In this context, they have ensured the integration of the decision maker and the implementer in their collectives and they have fully implemented collectivization.

While breaking down the conductor culture, there is no opposition to natural leadership and pioneering. The natural leader of the performance is Lev Tsetlin, who pioneered its establishment. Tsetlin, like the other members of the orchestra, hates being treated as a musical instrument and leads the establishment of the Persimphance. Thus, Persimphace creates an organizational structure that avoids unnecessary verticality, builds forward egalitarianism and paves the way for individual and collective development.

Under these circumstances, orchestra members have found themselves in tougher working conditions. However, these conditions are no longer tiresome as they have formed an internal structure and prevented alienation with the audience and the music. Today, when we create a collectivist organization, the individual enters a more intense pace of work, but since they will integrate with the organization, they will gladly do their part.

While the history of revolutions contains progressive examples such as Persimphance, transforming the necessities into the constant principle of the revolution; it is also full of examples that create extra power spheres in the organization or in the revolution that has taken place. At this point, the main warning we will make is that the decisions taken due to inevitable circumstances should not become the constant principles of the organization. It is an indisputable fact that when it is forgotten that necessities are in fact necessities and they become the constant principle of the revolution, they will take the organisation and steps that the collective is trying to take forward, backwards. Revolutions where collectivism was not established and production-executive unity was not ensured, evolved towards the party state and collapsed internally. The clearest examples of this are all the experiences of socialism. These examples show us clearly how necessities erode the communism we envision if they become principles.

Collectivism; Dialectic of strong center-strong local

An organisation that treats collectivism as an organizational operation principle should primarily form a strong central strategic line. The transfer of this central strategic line to the local requires also cadres that have a strong grasp and understanding of this line. What we are trying to describe by strong central is not the existence of central cadre that are held in high esteem somewhere else. What we are trying to describe is the strength of central ideological-politic line and the full command of the local on this line. That, in line with the strategic line that it has full command of, is an organisation that can implement the necessary tactical flexibility and that minimises the bureaucracy, the mandatory power sphere in the local. This is the only manner where everyone can act as the center and can implement the flexibility that derives from the strong command of ideological-political line together with a strong central command. This, naturally, requires some prerequisites. An organization is a living organism, therefore, when a mechanism or system is mentioned here, it is not a mechanical structure that should come to mind. In other words, in order to reach maximum efficiency, a structure that fulfills the minimum conditions is a must. A culture should be established in the collective with this condition in mind. This is the only way to establish trust in the collective and enable everyone to act as the center. There is a need for an organizational culture and a system in which “power” is shared and power is no longer power. We are talking about an organizational collectivity where all cadres can find themselves in the collective in the most efficient way, create themselves in the collective, and in which newly joined individuals and communities can participate in the living organism the same way. With such wholism, creative-destructive actions and organizational form can be manifested and we can be freed from the chains that restrains the ‘mind’ of the collective.

In order to set a good example for this, we can examine MLN/Tupamaros to the extent of their implementation. Tupamaros had a strong central line and local cadre that had strong command of this line. However they did not achieve this in a day. As a revolutionary force organization, they made a preparation on this basis for three years. When they started organizing and started to act in 1963, they were only 50 people and had no guns. But they revealed a strength, an action, an organization that exceeds 50 people so much more by compounding collective mind, effort and willpower. Their first strike is an example of this. In their first strike, they rob a shooting club for weapon supply. They only have their pocket knives for the strike. However, by combining collective mind, effort and willpower they come out of this strike successfully without a single scratch. Thus they became the main focus of the public and they earned hundreds of thousands sympathizers and more than ten thousand members in a very short time. Considering Uruguay’s population and the time period of this success, these are definitely not short numbers. Tupamaros initiated the decentralization movement (distributing central duties and responsibilities to locals) and the organization of CAT (Tupamaros Support Committees) in order to make collectivism more dominant in the organization and their base. In other words, the organization has reached a certain maturity both quantitatively and qualitatively. The organization grew out of its shell. They took these steps to break this shell and to enlarge the organization in order to make effective moves and to increase collectivization in the organization and at their base. They surely did not accomplish these with instant decisions from the center. A convenient strong strategic line, strong cadre with strong command of this line was built as well as culture and trust so that these steps would be easily taken afterwards. For example; could the decentralization principle have been achieved without building this culture and trust in the organization, without the application of tactical flexibility in line with the central strategic mind by the local cadre? Let us consider the opposite situation. The cadre has no command of the central strategic line, but they follow the instructions from the center completely. So we may ask, where is the strategic clarity, tactical flexibility that we bring up repeatedly? What makes revolutionary organizations different from the relationships of alienation and insecurity that capitalism imposes on society? Revolutionists need to be able to explain the alternative in fundamental matters and to implement it in life as an indicator of consistency.

By looking through Tupamaros’ example, we can be more explicit about the trust issue which is the prerequisite in order to ensure collectivism. A relation of distrust is a relation that is backward in every sense. Capitalism tries to spread it among the society in order to prevent the society to trust, support each other and to prevent it from uniting to confront capitalism. It tries to render the society dependent to itself through distrust. At his point, we should build trust in every possible place. Self-confidence of the individual, trust of the individual in the organization, trust of the organization in the individual, trust of the society’s in the organization and its own strength. In fact, these are all mutual relations that contain a spiral, a dialectical entirety. We don’t have a prescription for that, however what we are going to build communism on depends on the steps that we are going to take both in the society and in the organization. There should be a transition from cadre that needs monitoring to an organization that trusts each other but is also able to monitor each other. When we imagine the organization as a living organism, we must take our steps accordingly. Just as a living organism that has DNA and organs that enable the organism to move in its entirety, the organisation should embody ideological-political-organizational and spiritual unity; should build a culture accordingly and take steps on this basis. Steps taken in the name of collectivism before completing these conditions lead to gaps in organizational relations. It is not possible to act collectively by just saying it out loud. Collectivism can be operated in the organization by blending these steps into the process beforehand and implementing them as they are blended.

Free Software Foundation – Collective Centralism Foundation

To begin with, let us explain the development of the free software idea by Richard M Stallman, the pioneer of free software movement and founder of Free Software Foundation. Richard Stallman met computers for the first time in high school in 1969 and became proficient in computer software in a short while. He started to do scientific studies in an artificial intelligence laboratory the same time he started college. Unfortunately, scientific work that was normally done for the society with open source code was commercialized by his colleagues, sold to private companies, and converted into closed source code. Some of these works that have been commercialized and converted to closed source code were Stallman’s own works and he was unable to work as he wished due to copyright. Thinking that copyright would obstruct social and scientific developments, Stallman resigned from his work in the artificial intelligence laboratory to focus on free software and started the GNU project. The GNU project is the main kernel of thousands of currently produced free software. Linux and Ubuntu are the most known examples among many free softwares.

Let’s explain with a short example why copyright obstructs scientific developments. Isaac Newton’s law of motion and law of gravity plays a crucial role in the rapid development of science. Let’s say Isaac Newton kept this information closed source and set copyright. If those who wanted to use this resource had paid royalties to Newton or his successors each time or tried to find these laws again, would science have developed this much today? Limits would have been set on the knowledge accumulated in its naturalness for ages. In fact, this is exactly what is intended to be done with closed source code by blocking free software: “You can take as much as it’s given”. Closed source code is a software system that aims for profit and creates a control mechanism for the system. So you have to pay to access the information. When you pay money, you cannot use the closed source codes as you wish, you can make changes within the limits set by the company that produces the closed source code. The free software project GNU, initiated by Stallman is against these restrictions.

According to free software philosophy, softwares can be used for any kind of purpose, the workflow of the software can be analyzed and people have the freedom of changing the code according to their needs, it can be shared with society with or without upgrading the existing base. In order to develop the software, it is necessary to have an understanding of how to code it. In other words, the relationship between the whole and piece should be very well comprehended. You should have a general knowledge so that you can develop and use the piece you think is beneficial for yourself or the society. Thus and so, the alienation can be prevented. And thanks to open source codes generated from Free Software Foundation, software developers who don’t know each other often act collectively. Thus, the collective mind was melted into one pot and useful software was opened to be used, to be developed by all software developers.

In his book Menkıbe, in section “Who Are The People’s Democrats?”, Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı has explained this much better: “Linux pushes the user to know and change, expressing that belonging to a community is not an act of consumption but a cost of participation, it calls to be ‘competent’, Linux is affiliate and common; and the Linux user says “gladly” without Linux having to say, “If you are sitting behind this screen, get your ass up and let’s develop these software together”. MAcOS X however, offers to ordinary users who do not know an environment full with plenty and ready options. Simply put, MacOs X doesn’t let the user acknowledge and discover its system by making everything that an ordinary user would need from the very start ready; MacOs X is a democratic republic project. Linux however is communism! That is the reason why Mac’s and PC’s are ‘personal’ computers, however a Linux user is always a part of a community and therefore connects with the machine through this way! “ This section, quoted from Menkıbe, actually presents us the difference between collectivism and any form of democracy very clearly. Members of the GNU/Linux users collective produced by GNU/Linux kernel, “gladly” develop projects suitable for them, adhering to the major axis of GNU / Linux. On the other hand, MacOs X closed source code software, which Suphi Nejat likens to the democratic republic, gives you a total of options that you cannot actually change; no matter which option you choose, you cannot make changes or improvements to the source code. Again, if you are a MacOs X user, you don’t need to know anything about the software. In this case, the user is left in a passive state. If we draw the analogy to the organization again, the GNU / Linux user is a member of a collectivist structure, he can develop programs for his own benefit by adhering to the GNU / Linux kernel codes. In this case, we can liken the kernel codes of GNU / Linux to a strong centralized structure and a strong strategic line. Software developed by users is tactical flexibility. In fact, if the software developed by Linux users becomes popular among the general users over time, these softwares are added to the main kernel in Linux updates and the production of the collective becomes centralized. The MacOs X user establishes a chief-officer relationship with the software; The user can know as much as Apple offers them. The rest is not their concern. These subjects are unfamiliar to them. There are predefined producers, just as there is a certain group that produces theory in organizations, a separate group that assigns – manages – the works and members who have to do them without question. What we are describing here may not be exactly the same with every organization, there may be different progressive examples, but this is the case in general.

Another issue that we try to explain through free software is the simple moral choice of human beings, who are essentially social creatures. If a human is a social being, what it produces must also be social. Production should be attributable to society, and a power relationship should not be established through knowledge or production. Isn’t that what capitalism is trying to do? It monopolizes production and knowledge so that it does not compete. A perception and culture is created as if the solidarity culture of the society was never experienced and as if the competition, which is natural in inter-human relations, is the oppression of the weak. And we need a system that will turn them upside down, that is, a system that will converge to communism. We need a simple and collectivist central structure that will take into account the obligations we have mentioned before, but that will minimize the areas of power other than these necessity areas and aim to dampen these mandatory power spheres when necessary.

In Lieu of Conclusion

At this point let us clarify that the centralisation which includes collectivism that we are describing here is not the denial of democratic centralisation but it tries further it. The collective that we tried to roughly describe can subjectivize itself as well as the individuals it includes. Considering the level of capitalist mode of production, the great changes worldwide and the past examples of socialism, the former organizational structures that objectify individuals, cannot construct the collective mind and effort and have no ability to melt the possibilities, the skills that the members of the collective can offer in one pot are quite regressive. These organizations separate central and local, theory and practice, leading to alienation on the basis of rigid division of labor and specialization. In the cases where these are not separated, as a result of the culture created by the individuals or the local, a collectivism may only occur in a partial sense, but a collectivism that is applied throughout the organisation is not possible. This kind of understanding leads to the loss of revolutionary culture and spheres of unnecessary privilege and power.

Since there are radical transformations in organizations of production and labor, we should also update the organizational structure and functioning in line with this transformation. This is exactly where our emphasis of collectivism and collective centralism originated from. Today’s organization should be able break out of its shell and build a bigger one when necessary. Existing organizations have excessive amount of power relations causing it to be rather mechanical. It is proven by experience that in such organizations that when the organizational structure starts to become “tighter”, breaking that shell to build a new one always carries many risks and is a lot more challenging. A collective centralist organisation on the other hand can easily break out of the old shell and reconstruct a new one since it builds an organisational culture that can easily feed from what it may need. We can avoid further confusion if we distinguish collective centralism from anarchism here. Collective centralism recognizes the necessities or the power spheres arising from necessities. However, it organizes a culture that is able to dissolve these compulsory power spheres when the time comes. Again, division of labor and specialization are essential in collective centralization. However, these compulsory spheres of power, division of labor and specialization do not give anyone any privilege or position. Nonetheless, while collective centralism opposes the chief cult, it does not reject leadership.

In order to progress / leap into communism with consistent steps, we must organize the prototypes of communism in each environment/time that we live in. Otherwise, we cannot have a consistent understanding of socialism / communism and we cannot take the right steps.

What makes a revolutionary a revolutionary is their ability to comprehend these structure-changing processes and produce the right answers to them. “Every heart is a revolutionary cell. Imagination to power!” These words of Suphi Nejat are not just a slogan. It needs to be analyzed further. These are the exact words that can be considered as an answer to these structure-changing processes. It is a concrete statement pointing that traditional organizations cannot bring the imagination of the individual to “power”.

As we have mentioned about Suphi Nejat so much, let’s make the final remarks with Menkıbe: “Truly, where would you take a person in who has not been in contact with the traditional themes of the left, but who is sensitive in the simplest sense and wants to do something, other than being a politician? Does dealing with these issues really provide a concrete stance and perception towards life? Beyond calling for press releases and announcements to various events lately, which organization has changed the lives of whom, in a non-biopolitical way, by going beyond traditional Kurdish/Alevi environments? In all honesty, are we communists?”

1 Dedicated revolutionaries in the organisation.

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