First Published: In Struggle! No. 267, October 13, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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I would like to write you about the evaluation of the newspaper published in issue 263. Generally speaking I agreed with the points about past improvements and the practical measures envisaged for the immediate future.
But... the analysis is incomplete and ambiguous to say the least.
The leadership of the newspaper seems to see the criticisms of the newspaper for being intellectualist as very important. Except after reading the article one is no clearer on what the editors mean by intellectualism. What is it that is intellectualist? The content of the paper, the subject matter of the articles, the style? The article tells us that our lack of success in winning over and recruiting workers is due to the intellectualism of the newspaper. If you read between the lines you can figure out that intellectualism equals too many in-depth articles, Workers are supposedly incapable of reading in-depth analyses, so we should reserve some space for them in the paper and fill it with short and simple articles (on their own struggles perhaps?). Or perhaps we should simply choose another social group to aim our newpaper at! Keep all the “political thetoric” for our petty-bourgeois readers and talk to the workers about their struggles. A sure bet to help boost our recruitment!
The article says that we are having a hard time winning over workers because – at least maybe because – we are putting too much energy into the distribution of the newspaper. Lots of other organizations accord very little importance to the distribution of their newspaper. Are they any more successful in recruiting workers? It seems ridiculous to me to argue that we are placing too much emphasis on distributing the newspaper at a time when distribution is at its lowest level ever. And how are we to explain the fact that distribution is going down when it is felt that the newspaper is getting better? Those are the questions which any serious analysis of the newspaper should be trying to answer instead of suggesting that we reduce distribution, publish once a month instead of weekly and change the colours used in printing the paper!
The sum-up of the newspaper did not do justice to the struggles going on within the organization. More space was given to the expression of the political view of those who want the use of the newspaper accorded less importance. The newspaper article supports this view despite the fact that the April 1981 Central Committee meeting decided to promote an increased amount of distribution of the newspaper. Indeed, “the opening up to debate coincided with a reduction in the frequency with which the Organization’s general positions (sic) were explained”. Whose general positions were published instead – the views of the editors of the newspaper?
There are people in the organization who still want the newspaper to be the central organ of the organization. We want it to play its role of educator, agitator and collective organizer. Doing that doesn’t mean decreeing the “general positions” of the organization from on high. Nor does it mean simple descriptions of the struggles in different movements. It must include putting forth an independent communist viewpoint. To take but one example, the newspaper has confined itself to reporting on debates in the women’s movement for several months now. It has yet to say anything that is a contribution to those debates.
We have a position on the need for a vanguard party and for theory. Where are they in the newspaper? The only thing printed so far was the comment of a member who thinks we don’t need a revolutionary party, much less a vanguard one. Is this another position of the editors of the newspaper?
Another example: we supported the demands of the Native peoples during the constitutional debate but we have never mentioned the legalism, and even the monarchism, of some Native organizations. I suppose that is quite acceptable nowadays, given that we’re in a non-revolutionary period!
It’s all to the good that we are trying to stimulate a broader debate through the newspaper. But why not try to explain and develop the programme we adopted at our third Congress rather than systematically pushing a political viewpoint that contradicts that programme? Our (?) newspaper is not playing the role it should be as our central organ. Yet those words are still written on the masthead.
A B.C. IN STRUGGLE! member