Leadership Is Most of All a Question of Where You’re Leading People and How
Revised and updated March 8, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Linda Sarsour has said that “If you’re in a movement and you’re not following a woman of color, you’re in the wrong movement.”
This begs the first question that needs to be asked: what problem is your movement seeking to solve? And does the leadership have a basically correct understanding of that problem and the way forward? If the goal of your movement is essentially “a seat at the table” in a monstrous system that grinds up billions of human beings, every hour of every day—then, one criterion is as good as another. But if you are truly trying to change the world, then you have to be serious and critical about what it will actually take.
Especially if your goal is getting beyond this whole system of exploitation and oppression, including the oppression of people based on gender and nationality (or “color”), then you need to overthrow—to defeat and dismantle—the existing power structure. You need a real revolution, bringing in a whole new state power which aims to eliminate, and not merely rearrange, relations of domination and oppression. This has proven to be extremely complex—and the leadership you need in that process must be as scientific as possible in order to understand and give correct leadership to all this, whatever the nationality, gender, or sexual orientation of a particular leader. Any movement built on any other basis will lead only to the same wine in different bottles, and NOT a liberated world.
The questions that must be asked about any leader are these: What is their understanding of the problem? What is their understanding of the solution? What is their method for approaching these questions? And are they working to enable others to take up that method and wield it themselves? And if this understanding and method is taken up by others, where will it lead? These must be the questions raised and the criteria of judgment for anyone serious about the emancipation of humanity.
[Editor’s note: This has been changed from an earlier version which, while making correct and important points as to the character of leadership needed for revolutionary movements, could have been interpreted to mean that the leadership of movements for what are essentially reforms does not matter. This is not true, as some reform movements can be of significant importance in the larger struggle for human emancipation. In the case of movements for any significant reform, both the basic orientation of those who lead it—including whether they truly seek to actually END the abuse they are fighting, no matter what it takes, or on the other hand if, in the end, whether they are in fact seeking nothing more than what boils down to a “seat at the table” in the monstrous system which spawned the outrage in the first place—as well as the fundamental question of how they analyze the problem and how they are leading people to fight it can matter a great deal. Now more than ever this distinction is important to grasp.]
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