Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Idea of the Vanguard by Louis Evan Palmer

There are many questions that surround leadership. Who leads? How do they gain & maintain authority? How do they get people to follow & accept their orders? Or, more fundamentally, how do they assume power?

In the context of a social revolution, there are numerous steps: the building of a mythology, the laying of an organizational foundation, the cultivation or manipulation of the political & economic climate, the readiness to seize & exercise power, a convincing vision & plan and the means to effect a change in societal perception & control.

Key to all of the above is an organization, a political party, or more accurately, a vanguard within that party or movement. That is, a cohesive group who are determined & effective, who define & lead the transformation. And who are invariably small in number.

One of the most difficult challenges facing any leadership is effecting change. The challenge is only exacerbated by the fact that most change is ill-considered and wrong-headed. At least, most of the change that is proposed.

This naturally draws one towards the bedrock from which change should issue - accurate, valid analysis. Unfortunately, what often substitutes for it, is the spouting of charismatic or ideological leaders.

When the demogogues reign then the idea becomes that what gets done reflects the imposition of one group's will on the rest of the masses and that this usurption of public discourse and diminishment of the ability to dissent or resist is the exercise's true purpose. It is here that the idea of the vanguard - beloved of the old communist dictatorships - emphatically comes to the fore. The small group who leads. In some cases, it a small self-selected group; or, a self-selected leader and would-be high-office holders and flaks and fans and hangers-on but, most of all, the critical bolstering of the true believers who form the bulk of the vanguard, the true shock troops.

How Many Does It Take? The size of the vanguard is typically in the 5-10% range. That is, 5% of a given group directing the other 95%. Based solely on common experience, most of us would probably agree that 5-10% is a good number. Depending on the circumstances, we might even feel it could be lower - perhaps 1%. Certain conditions can act as multipliers so that smaller groups can act with the effective weight of a larger group.

But, the success of the vanguard dynamic depends on many factors, most of which are not commonly, or well-understood.

One noteworthy factor in this type of undertaking is whether a given vanguard can take advantage of any power or impact mulipliers. Typical multipliers are money, the ability to confer fame or honours or social access, the ability to provide sexual gratification, the ability to provide luxury & other physical gratifications including intoxicants, strong shared beliefs, strong bonds (familial, genetic, ..), control of media, control of production, control of wealth, willingness to be violent, kill or die, secrecy, control of social pressure, the ability to instill fear or awe or shock, social momentum, the ability to undermine a person's freedom of action or financial status or mental stability including false arrest, an actual or apprehended state of seige or threat, well-based or baseless blackmail, hidden alliances or weapons.

It becomes evident as one goes through a list like this that a vanguard will quickly end up as a dirty amoral bunch of thugs for a cause. The cause is intended to cleanse them, if not now, then later when victory has been achieved or, perhaps, their redemption will have to be pushed onto future generations. But for now, it doesn't matter and the job must be done!

All the usual suspects are potential vanguards including Jesuits, High-Financiers, Freemasons, NeoCommunists, NeoConservatives, International Criminal Syndicates, etc. etc. A truly effective vanguard must have a militant arm so it's logical to demand that they must have solid links into the armed forces & the police & the intelligence services. The vanguard must also be able to reward its members which, among other things, means access to lots of money & influence. The vanguard must have a political dimension either as a full-fledged party or with members, or access to members, in the major parties.

When looking for potential vanguards especially hidden ones in operation today, it's useful to search for somewhat cohesive groups that fall in the 5-10% range in any given region, social strata or community, profession or endeavour. For example, in some countries, homosexuals might be able to constitute a vanguard. Or, selected ethnic communities like emigrant Chinese throughout South Asia. Or, large prison populations as in the U.S.A. Or, university graduates who might be able to operate as a stealth vanguard? Or, special forces within the armed forces or police or intelligence services?

Of course, there can also be positive vanguards, filled with inspiring idealists who want to make a difference. These can be ecological groups, animal protection societies, anti-poverty and social action groups. These types of vanguards have been identified by some "intelligence" services as terrorists.

When it's successful, any given group that was active enough and assumed significant power might be called vanguard in retrospect; but, it's in the advance analysis where we want to be able to identify these potentially disruptive & destabilizing forces. Where are the vanguards?

The Idea of the Vanguard, The Way It Can Be, Louis Evan Palmer,
Copyright Louis Evan Palmer 

He lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have been published in numerous publications. 


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