Ideas for the struggle #2 - Convince, not impose

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By Marta Harnecker, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal 1. Popular movements and, more generally, the different social protagonists engaged in the struggle against neoliberal globalization both at the international and national levels, reject — with good reason — attitudes that aim to impose hegemony or control on movements. They do not accept the steamroller policy that some political and social organizations tended to use that, taking advantage of their position of strength and monopolizing political positions, attempts to manipulate the movement. They do not accept the authoritarian imposition of a leadership from above; they do not accept attempts made to lead movements by simply giving orders, no matter how correct they are. 2. Such attitudes, instead of bringing forces together, have the opposite effect. On the one hand, they create discontent in the other organizations; they feel manipulated and obligated to accept decisions in which they have had no participation; and on the other hand, it reduces the number of potential allies, given that an organization that assumes such positions is incapable of representing the real interests of all sectors of the population and often provokes mistrust and skepticism among them. 3. But fighting against positions that seek to impose hegemony does not mean renouncing the fight to win hegemony, which is nothing else but attempting to win over, to persuade others of the correctness of our criteria and the validity of our proposals. 4. Winning hegemony does not require having many people in the beginning. There are a number of examples in history that demonstrate how, in a revolutionary situation, a small group with clear ideas, one that correctly analyses the balance of forces in dispute, that elaborates a correct strategy and tactic, and that is armed with great passion and the determination to put their ideas into practice can, within a short timeframe, become a movement that mobilizes hundreds of thousands of people. 5. It is more important to put forward a political project that reflects the population’s most deeply felt aspirations, and thus win their minds and hearts, than to create a powerful party with a large number of militants. What matters is ensuring that its politics succeed in winning the support of the masses and consensus in the majority of society. 6. Some parties boast about the large numbers of militants they have, but in reality they only lead their members. The key is not whether the party is large or small; what matters is that the people identify with its proposals. 7. Instead of imposing and manipulating, it is necessary to convince and unite all those who feel attracted to our project. And you can only unite people if others are respected, if you are willing to share responsibilities with other forces. 8. Today, important sectors of the left have come to understand that their hegemony is greater when they succeed in drawing more people behind their proposals, even if they may not do so under their party’s banner. We have to abandon the old-fashioned and mistaken practice of demanding intellectual property rights against organizations that dare to hoist our banner. 9. If an important number of grassroots leaders are won over to these ideas, it is fair to assume that their social base will more likely also be influenced by these ideas. It is also important to win over distinguished national personalities to the project, because they are public opinion makers and will be effective instruments for promoting proposals and winning over new supporters. 10. We believe that a good way to measure the level of hegemony obtained by an organization is to examine the number of natural leaders and personalities that have taken up its ideas, and in general, the number of people who identify with them. 11. The level of hegemony obtained by a political organization cannot be measured by the number of political positions they have won. What is fundamental is that those who occupy leading positions in diverse movements and organizations take up as their own and implement the proposals elaborated by the organization, despite not belonging to it. 12. A political organization that genuinely does not seek to impose hegemony should be able to propose the best people for different positions, regardless of whether they are party members, independents, or members of other parties. The credibility among the people of a political organization will depend a great deal on the figures that it puts forward. 13. Of course this is easier said than done. Frequently, when an organization is strong, it tends to underestimate the contribution that other organizations may have to offer and tends to impose its ideas. It is easier to do this than to take the risk and rise to the challenge of winning people over. The more political positions obtained, the more careful we have to be of not succumbing to the desire of imposing hegemony or control. 14. Moreover, as life follows its own course, new problems arise, and with them new challenges, the concept of hegemony should be a dynamic one. Hegemony cannot be consolidated once and for all. Maintaining it requires a process of permanently re-winning it. This is the second 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.