On Leadership: Vanguard or Vanguardism?


by Gerye Proletari

(February 22, 2015)

In our political organizing it is important that the most advanced sections of the working class are organized and that they organize the rest or as many as they could. To be clear, there is a difference between leadership connected to the masses and a select group which imposes itself as the “vanguard”. We must differentiate between the two and understand that the advanced leadership connected to the masses with a base in the masses is the actual vanguard, this is not a bureaucratic relation. When a select group of people or organizations proclaim themselves to be the vanguard without an organic base sprouting from the masses or the classes they claim to lead, this is a bureaucratic imposition on the people.


If for example, there is a group of workers in a factory that has organized into committees or councils based on the interests of the workers, this is in fact the leadership of the worker’s struggle in that factory and they are a vanguard. It does not mean that their relationship to the rest of the workers is undemocratic, it is rather the fact that they took the initiative to organize based on their interests, that they are working towards organizing the rest of the workers that makes them to leadership or vanguard. If however in the same factory, a union for example, sends union organizers into the factory to tell the workers what to do, declaring itself the representative of the workers and stops autonomous worker organizations, this is a bureaucratic relationship. In the latter case, there is no actual organic base in the factory and if there is some support it is typically not democratic and based on the worker’s interests. It is typically not the workers of the factory that control these union locales or councils or committees but professional union organizers.






by Jan Makandal

(February 21, 2015)


The self-proclamation of being a vanguard, by a few intellectuals totally disconnected from the popular masses, is vanguardism. Vanguardism is the dominant tendency of the petit bourgeois, based on elitism and a non-organic [bureaucratic] relation with the masses.


It is important that we collectively do a critical periodization of revolutionaries’ work directed toward the masses—both revolutionary autonomous practices as well as the alternatives of democratic struggle among the masses for the objective of radically detaching them from the hold of bourgeois ideology.