Editorial Notes

“Against Exaggeration”

(March 1931)

Written: March 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 6, 15 March 1931, p. 2.
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If you live long enough, they say in Missouri, you will see everything. The proverb is not without merit. It affords a sort of philosophic protection against apoplexy from shocks and surprises. No doubt there were many who remembered it gratefully in that sense the other day when they read the front page editorial in the Daily Worker entitled Against Exaggeration. In that editorial it was promised that henceforth there is to be no more padding of figures regarding attendance at party demonstrations. And to make it more authoritative a day or so later “Red Sparks” himself promised to tell the truth from now on. He acknowledged that “exaggeration” is a “bad habit”; and he pledged himself, with all the fervor of a man who has come to Christ late in life, that he also would overcome it. Later followed articles on the subject. The movement against “exaggeration” has become a campaign.

Is this a moral regeneration? Have these people given up the idea that they can lie the capitalist system out of existence, and with it 120 million “fascists”? Such hopes are optimistic and exaggerated. The whole thing has a political explanation.

During the “third period” which was alleged to be characterized by a “revolutionary upsurge of the masses” it was necessary – in order to substantiate the theory – to have huge crowds at all demonstrations organized by the party. And if the masses didn’t exist at the demonstrations it was necessary to invent them. That is why the crowds which marched through the streets were always outnumbered, five or ten to one, by the legions marching through the columns of the Daily Worker.

Now it is different. The “third period” theory is being dropped (without saying so) and the party leaders are marking out tactics for a two-and-a-half period. Adventurism is giving way to minimal reformism. The swing from fighting the police and capturing the streets to knocking on back doors with modest petitions requires different reports about the attitude of the masses. If the “third period” needed exaggeration in this respect the present period calls for the opposite. The crowds must grow smaller as the slogans and demands become more moderate. This is the explanation of the campaign against “exaggeration.”.

Last updated on: 5.12.2012