The Destruction of a Workers Paper. C. L. R. James 1962
15th January, 1962
The Resident Editorial Board
Will you please bring the following to the immediate attention of the REB?
The minutes of the REB for December 10, 1961, contained the following:
“1. Discussion Procedure. Motion by Jim: to propose to JRJ that he consider his method of intervention and that if he wishes to intervene, which he has every right to do, that he intervene directly to the organization and not in the form of articles for the paper. Motivation: there is an internal discussion going on in the organization in which the organization has not determined the direction it is going to go or any change of direction if there is a change, and it is the responsibility of us to determine in the organization what are our political views to the public. We agreed that the discussion would not be in the paper.
“Discussion: Marty – JRJ’s article is not an internal discussion article It is a legitimate discussion of public questions which reflects the viewpoint of the organization. It should be published whether there is agreement or disagreement with it. Grace – J’s letter of Nov. 7 in reference to the REB minutes of Oct. 29 makes clear that the article on Williams was written as an intervention in the discussion. The agreement on procedure was that discussion articles would not appear in the paper. The question is whether or not J is to be an exception to this agreement and I believe he should not be: For: G. and J.; Against: M. Motion carried.”
This settled hostility to the principles of Marxism for 100 years marks the final stage in the destruction of our movement by the REB. Those who declare that the very fundamentals of Marxism are matters for discussion are no longer Marxists. I am unable to maintain any association whatever with people claiming to be Marxists and conducting themselves in that way. My experience has been that those who seek new and quick roads out of Marxism, while unwilling to declare their break with it, usually become the bitterest and most unscrupulous enemies of former comrades.
I therefore inform the REB that from henceforth I break all relations, political and personal, with all who subscribe to that resolution.
From the moment that I received the document in which the Editor of Correspondence announced the new discoveries in philosophy and theory, I was aware that the purpose for which the organization was founded was now in grave, probably irreparable danger. I did my best to save it.
I am compelled to remind you that I am the founder of this organization which is now more than twenty years old. I founded it for the purpose of maintaining the principles and extending the knowledge of Marxism. Never at any time during those twenty years have I ever had any doubts as to the correctness and importance of the tasks and methods which we set ourselves in 1941. So convinced was I of this and so happy in the work that never at any time during the twenty years have I ever had the slightest doubt that the interests of the organization came first with me over all other interests, political and personal. I do not take any credit for this because I was never tempted to do otherwise. In this work I found the only way that I could live with energy, peace and satisfaction with the rest of the world, with my comrades, my family and myself. Among many mistakes was the fact that I never at any time placed before members and friends what was the historical significance of our organization in the struggle against the catastrophies of modern capitalism; and the demoralizing effect this would inevitably have on Marxists, particularly American Marxists, and on them particularly for reasons which have been recently explained. The importance of an organization like ours is calculable only by an understanding that nothing is more certain than that the working class will sooner or later be compelled to take the road we are travelling. I neglected also to give to the comrades a clear and confident exposition of the influence of the organization on the lives and character of the members and adherents. Its mere existence was a threat and menace to all the other renegades and dilletanti playing with Marxism. The present leadership has sunk into its present degradation because of its lack of understanding of the significance of a Marxist organization, whatever its size.
The same motives which prompted me to found the organization and remain devoted to it for twenty years now compel me to sever all connections with those who subscribe to that resolution which expresses the destruction of all we have stood for. I remain as I have always been, the unremitting enemy of all those who, calling themselves Marxists, believe that the building of socialism by the proletariat is a matter for discussion. I would expect that normally this information would be immediately conveyed to the membership. I no longer can depend on that from you and shall use the limited means and strength at my disposal to inform the membership of where I stand.
At this stage and in this letter there is only one matter which I think it necessary to bring to your attention. The strictly political issues are adequately dealt with in the article of Frank (October 8, 1961 – “Facing Reality – NOW”) and in the letter of Marty to Freddy (Nov. 11, 3961). These two letters prove that the REB is impelled on its present course not by any backwardness or fatigue on the part of the membership but by its own desire to seek new and short roads to popular recognition and influence, a historical delusion. I have only to remind you of the following.
In Facing Reality an international commission made it theoretically clear that for us the experiences, attitudes and opinion of every section of the proletariat and those classes nearest to it should be our constant and vital concern, if even these were opposed to the principles of Marxism to which we were devoted. The second half of that volume was devoted to a theoretical and practical exposition of the way in which a small body of Marxists should and could maintain contact with and so learn from what is always the main source of any advance in Marxist theory – the actions and ideas of the proletariat itself. That Marxism can make serious progress from any other source is a stupidity which is a common place for years in the Marxist movement. As is customary in the Marxist movement, the ideas contained in the book and the book itself were planned and written in close collaboration with all who were members or close associates of our movement. In preparation for the last convention similar collaboration produced a series of documents and proposals for submission to the membership. That is the way we have lived. That is the way we have progressed, for we have progressed. These are the latest major steps of our organization Never at any time have we countenanced any suppression of any legitimate even if mistaken point of view, or any violent disruption or abandonment of what we believed to be the foundation of our movement. Even when such a blatant attempt was made not to examine politics and programs but to batter us by sheer force and brutality into a path in which the power of the proletariat became a matter for discussion, other members of the organization and I myself did not break with our methods. Continuing in the traditions of Marxism, I made known immediately my absolute rejection of this surprising new line (in reality as old as Marxism itself), but in the interests of the organization my main anxiety was to pay the fullest attention to conflicting points of view and not to allow them to break up the organization. This anxiety was most fully expressed in a letter to the Editor written on November 20th, 1961. At that time I was already convinced that the matter and the manner of her document represented a departure from Marxism and the Marxist tradition which I had experienced often enough before to recognize it for what it was. Nevertheless I thought it in the best interests of the great tradition of which we were one of the few representatives that I should suppress my personal convictions and make some effort to establish a procedure by which we would continue the work of twenty years (in my own case nearly thirty) In accordance with the best traditions of our movement I hoped that joint work the great historical events which are taking place with ever redoubled force around us, and the role we could play in them, would result in time in a better understanding and increased strength for all of us.
That there would be difficulties was obvious to all, but devotion to Marxism, good will, commonsense and above all a common belief that sooner or later the American proletariat would make clear the solution of our conflicts, all this impelled me to make one last effort to maintain the organization. I made it clear also that I intended to put aside all that I was doing and devote myself primarily to the organization which had declined chiefly owing to the inability of the leadership to combine Marxism with the problems of the day. I had watched this for a long time but had refrained from intervention because of my anxiety not to harm the authority of the leadership. I believed that the time had now arrived when my intervention would be welcomed by all. The following is the letter.