Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты

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Democratic centralism

The same manner as one often tries to understand Soviet-type societi­es in terms of bureaucracy, it seems to be the more appropriate term for understanding Bolshevik-type parties with its apparatus in luxuriant growth. However, any attempt that tries to comprehend this organization in such terms will lead to a blind alley.

The feedback in a bureaucratic system – be it centrally or democratically organized – concerns the latter’s functioning and not structuring. If those whose position imply a function were appointed to that position by the will of a “Centrum”, it is given incontestably and independently of them who belongs to that centre; if, on the other hand, they were elected to their position by the “Demos”, then the definition of who belongs to the people is given again incontestably and independently of them. It may happen in both cases that bureaucracy detaches itself from the ultimate source of its legitimacy, but this step is apparently illegal: it falls necessarily outside the scope of power assigned as its legitimate function.

On the other hand, in the system of democratic centralism, the most important legitimate function assigned to a position within the Party apparatus is “to decide in per­sonnel questions”, that is, to manage the practical problem of appointing or dismissing the subject of the collective charisma. The fundamental question in an organization of this structure is who constitutes the “Centrum” and who belong to the “Demos”. By the time the “Demos” gets in a position where it can have its will asserted democratically in the election of the “Centrum”, its com­position can be changed in such a way by the apparatus, by virtue of its legitimate right to expel from and admit to its membership that the new composition will elect that “Centrum” which the apparatus, by its legitimate power, has previously nominated. Whether elected by the membership or appointed by the Party committee at the relevant level, the Party appara­tus has the legitimate means to guarantee the conditions of its power for a practically unlimited length of time, at least in periods without radical shocks.

The Party apparatus does not always take such strongly marked steps as it did in Cuba. According to a well known doctrine, a socialist revolution is al­ways the deed of the Communist Party, still the empirically given Commu­nist Party headed by Blas Roca at that time condemned the revolution as pet­ty bourgeois adventurism. Six years after the victory of the revolution this lat­ter’s headquarter headed by Fidel Castro replaced the whole Communist Par­ty by a new one that was to hold its first congress only some ten years la­ter. Nevertheless, hereafter the validity of the above doctrine was ensured: from that moment on the revolution had been the deed of this communist Party.

The Czechoslovak Party apparatus only dismissed a single Party congress: the first XIVth Congress held on 22 August 1968 in Vysočany was replaced by the second XIVth Congress. And the Party was purged of 500,000 people in the absence of whose potential votes to the opposite, the Party apparatus could go on exercising its powers legitimately including its right to expel 500,000 people from the Party whose potential votes might have stripped this power of legitimacy.

That less far-reaching practice of dismissing the old Politburo and Central Committee by the new secretary general for the very first years of his office is worth while mentioning only because it may seem us as trivial as dismissing in any bureaucratic system the staff of the previous superior by the succeeding one, although the Politburo and the Central Committee is by no means a staff for the secretary general who is subordinate to them.

On the other hand the apparatus to whom the secretary general is indeed superordinate are able to dismiss him as they really did with Khroushtchev in the Soviet or Dubček in the Czecho­slovak Party, thereby forestalling the possibility of their taking any measures concerning that apparatus. In the absence of such measures, their dismissal continued to be a legitimate exercising of their powers.70

The paradox of having the legitimate power to appoint or dismiss the basis of legitimation for this power is made possible and necessary by the fact that the powers are not set to positions but to the subject of the collecti­ve charisma institutionalized at the level of state-administration by the one-party system.71

A detour into social psychology

It is an important precondition of any organization to have greater coherence between its parts than between any of these parts and the environment of the organization.

Tajfel (1981) states social psychology uses a kind of group concept for which “members of a group are considered as such when they categorize them­selves with a high degree of consensus in the appropriate manner and are consensually categorized in the same manner by others”. He adds that so­cial psychology “is not concerned with the historical, political, social and eco­nomic events which may have led to the social consensus now defining who is »in« and who is »out«“, and he also points out that while “there is no doubt that these events were crucial in the establishment of the nature of this consensus; and is equally true that the consensus once established re­pre­sents those social psychological aspect of social reality which interact with the social, political and economic events determining the present and the future fate of the group and of its relations with other groups” (pp. 229-230).

Regarding the social psychological processes of consensus, the form by which the members of a group belong together and separate themselves from those outside the group might become more important than the substance of the economic, political, ideological and cultural events that carry the form. That is why it can often be observed that people invariably over­emphasize their new attachments and detachments by overemphasizing shared similarities and, respectively, dissimilarities of what they do, say, think or feel, or the way how they do it.

But, paradoxically, the formal structure of relations also belongs to the substance that it gives form to:

If the members of a group believe they have some feature in common with each other, this common belief itself suffices to create community among them. If, on the other hand, they share the consideration of not sharing anything, this common belief leaves them less reason to have it.

One can imagine a group in which some will tolerate no one with intentions different from the common will, while others will opt for the possibility of divergence. In such cases the mere utterance of these conflicting standpoints immediately changes the material reality to which they refer: the mere expression of the first claim against the second immediately puts into force this other position (as the divergence turns out to be possible), while the fact itself that the second position may also be uttered invalidates its opposite (as there is someone who does represent an intention deviating from the common will).

Those paradoxical social structurings – in which the relation of a set of factors is included in this very set – establish or undermine themselves, thus the logic that looks for external foundations underlying the existence of social phenomena and external mines under their abolition in order to understand them is inadequate.

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