Ideas for the struggle #12 - Do not confuse desires with reality
By Marta Harnecker, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal 1. Unfortunately, there tends to be a lot of subjectivism in our analysis of the political situation. What tends to occur is that leaders, driven by their revolutionary passion, tend to confuse desires with reality. On the one hand, an objective evaluation of the situation is not carried out, the enemy tends to be underestimated and, on the other hand, one’s own potential is overestimated. 2. Moreover, leaders tend to confuse the mood of the most radical activists with the mood of the grassroots popular sectors. There exists a tendency in more than a few political leaderships to make generalizations about the mood of the people based simply on their own personal experiences, whether it is in the region they are in or the social sector they are active in, or based on the perception of those around them, who are always the most radicalized sectors. 3. Those that work with the most radicalized sectors will have a different vision of the country compared to those that carry out their political activities among the least political sectors. Revolutionary cadre who work in a militant popular neighborhood will not have the same vision of the country as those that are active in middle-class sectors. 4. The same thing occurs in countries where both war zones and legal political spaces co-exist. The guerrillas who are engaged in real confrontations with the enemy, and who have been able to win control of certain zones thanks to their military victories, tend to believe that the revolutionary process is more advanced than activists who work in legal political spaces in the large urban centers, where the ideological power and military control of the regime is still very large. 5. The only guarantee for not committing these errors is assuring that leaders are capable of evaluating the situation not on the basis of their mood, but rather by taking as their starting point the mood of the bulk of the people, the mood of the enemy and the international reality. Once this evaluation is carried out, it is necessary to come up with proposals that allow us to take advantage of the situation as a whole. 6. It would seem to be a truism to say that it is important for leaders to learn to listen. We believe that this is fundamental. Nevertheless, what tends to occurs is that some leaders are so impregnated by preconceived ideas regarding the current state of affairs, of how things are, of what can be done and what cannot be done, that in their contact with intermediary leaders and the grassroots, they tend more towards transmitting their vision of things than informing themselves about the actual mood of the people. 7. What can therefore occur is that, when one has to make an analysis of the situation, errors are made, not so much due to the lack of information, but because, despite information having been transmitted correctly and in a timely manner by grassroots activists, the leadership has not assimilated it. 8. But it is also important that grassroots activists and middle leadership layers be objective in providing information. Sometimes they can misinform rather than inform by providing, for example, inflated numbers for certain mobilizations or actions. 9. The tendency to delude oneself, to falsify data regarding mobilizations, meetings, strikes, the weight of each organization, is quite common in politics. For instance, saying that thousands were mobilized when it was really only hundreds. 10. This triumphalist focus is the product of the mistaken idea that we are always right, that we are always the best, that everything we do ends up in positive results for us. 11. It is not only in regards to numbers where self-delusion exists; it also occurs when evaluating actions that have been proposed. If the goal was to win a certain amount of representation in parliament but this was not achieved, recognition is not given to the fact that the number of votes received was below the expectations that had been created; instead, there is always an attempt to find a way to present the event as a triumph, for example, stating that the number of votes increased compared to the previous election. If a national strike is proposed, but only a partial strike is achieved, this is not recognized as a defeat; rather the success of the strike is talked up because more workers did not go to work compared to previous actions of this type, etc. 12. If leaders do not listen—something that requires a large dose of revolutionary modesty—and, at the same time, they receive falsified information, then proposals are made which—taking false premises as their starting point—are not adjusted to the real possibilities of the forces on the ground. As such, battles that are planned out can lead to significant defeats because they are not based on the real correlation of forces. This is the last in a series of twelve articles that were first published in 2004 and have been updated and revised for publication in a second edition the pamphlet Ideas for the struggle.