Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Group of Four sums up its work

First Published: In Struggle! No. 286, May 4, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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A collective of four militants from the Organization who work in the youth and popular movements published a paper called “Staying revolutionary in a non-Revolutionary Period” last January.

350 copies were sold in two months.

This paper did not escape notice in the polemic hit parade. It was briefly presented in three internal debates, subject to discussion and commentary among militants at individualized meetings and popularized by some IN STRUGGLE! members as “How to be a mountain-climber in a country with no mountains”.

The interest greeting this paper, which spoke of several subjects (the present situation in the working-class movement, the specifics of a non-revolutionary situation, the role of reforms under such circumstances, the unity of the left...) at least proves that many militants expected to debate and take a stand on key questions facing us.

As the collective winds up, we want to present here an evaluation of our activity and especially to set out the attitude we feel should he taken towards the main issues at the next congress.

A short evaluation of a short process

A woman over 30 years old, a manual labourer under 25, two intellectuals, white and male, that was the mix, explosive to say the least, of social differences within our collective.

We could write an “Eulogy of Differences” here and tell you all the details of how these social antagonisms were expressed and experienced. But because of lack of space we will go to the essentials. Despite these differences and the short duration of our collective (6 months) each one of us evaluated our common experience positively, Why? Because the political process remained collective. How? Through a regular sharing of viewpoints, accounting of collectively shared reading, dividing work so that everyone could do a minimum of research work. Our collective was really able to get involved in preparing for the congress by remaining open to debate. This all proves that it’s possible for “rank and file members” as some would say, to take stands on questions of political orientation.

Our starting point

We did not form our collective with the idea of developing positions so as to reach “absolute agreement on all fundamental questions” as communists demanded of groups which merged a few years ago. This kept us from being very disappointed. No, What united us was mainly a similar attitude towards the confusion and problems generated by IN STRUGGLE!’s crisis.

At that time, the idea of disbanding the organization was in the air; a return to spontaneous self-flagellation as a preferred method of evaluation among some members of IN STRUGGLE! and to the crude one-sidedness of the views then circulating. A response was called for.

Thus, what we wanted was to contribute to a political evaluation of IN STRUGGLE! that would identify errors and gaps in its programme and politics while pointing out accomplishments to keep and build on.

With respect to this last point we think this could create some ambiguity to the extent that, to take up the words from another collective’s paper, certain comrades believe that just seeking to acknowledge the extent of IN STRUGGLE!’s political lessons inevitably leads to abandoning a critical viewpoint [1]. We don’t agree.

On the other hand, to accomplish the evaluation of IN STRUGGLE! work and setting out perspectives requires a lot of work including the preparation of sectoral evaluations and the publication of viewpoints by individuals and tendencies.

The contribution we wanted to make was on political views (nature of the State, a stand on reforms, the need for independent work,...) mentioned in other papers. We felt strongly that these views should be challenged on the basis of interventions we had seen and the reality of the popular movement. Finally with regard to the need for unity of the left, the elements of information we brought up (groups, composition...) are doubtless very brief but pertinent nonetheless. We don’t know of many papers concretely addressing that question.

Finally, some people criticized our collective for not taking a stand on this or that question. In fact our paper didn’t take a stand on “all questions” because we didn’t want to play at being “wholesalers” of ideas. History has clearly shown that under certain circumstances a commerce in ideas leads to monopolies of intellectuals... God preserve us from such dangers!

The stakes at the congress

Many are wondering what kind of organization must be set up under present circumstances. That’s a good question. At the same time there is the question of what IN STRUGGLE! can contribute specifically to the class struggle and the struggle for socialism.

Some feel IN STRUGGLE! has nothing to contribute but the virus of Marxian totalitarianism which they caught from IN STRUGGLE!. This is why they propose disbanding.

On the other hand, numerous militants have already stressed the need of keeping a Marxist viewpoint, a Marxist perspective, if we manage to maintain an organization and continue to intervene.

We are aware that it’s not easy at this point to say what a Marxist position is on many points. The necessary questioning has already begun, the study and research done so far and that which remains to be done demonstrate the problem of translating this political desire into fact. Important theoretical work must be done.

However, it is important to be aware of this fact for it will then be possible to point out the effects of this on decisions to be made in the next period. This is also true about resolutions on the unity of the left.

In a crisis situation, consensus and unity of action by popular and union and left movements are of primary importance. The struggle against the sectarianism shown by IN STRUGGLE! and other groups must continue. We must aim for the unity of the left but we must also define what kind of unity is most likely to bear fruit in the short and medium run. And before speaking about fusion with other organisations, it would be judicious to see what these organisations are, analyse their programmes, practice in the masses, and their social base. This would permit us to see if such an action would strengthen the defence of a Marxist point of view and the influence of proletarians and women in the unified organization. This will enable us to avoid falling into the defence of another Single party with another kind of programme after having dropped a single party with a Marxist-Leninist one. The new programme would be... social democratic.

Two offers you cannot refuse

As a result of the above, we propose the following stands on the Programme and tasks.

We propose the suspension of the programme. The accompanying article develops our viewpoint on this subject.

We see three tasks that appear central to us.

First, on the basis of what was produced in the different sectors of work, we should publish a sum-up of IN STRUGGLE!’s work. This evaluation should be done in an active way, taking positions on the evaluations (or demolishings) and criticisms produced by different groups, individuals and tendencies.

Second it is crucial to call for under present circumstances the organization of political and ideological research to be done collectively and in various different forms according to a general plan known by all. This work could be stimulating if it includes everyone’s knowledge and experience and is constructed to answer questions our practice in the masses presents to clarify the stakes of Capital’s present crisis, the movements of classes and parties, the role of new social movements, of culture, and continued research on the basis of women’s oppression and patriarchy.

In this general framework should be included an evaluation or the so-called socialist experiments, of the international communist movement, the socialist international as well as a branch of research to situate the contributions and limits of the ideological currents in the left and youth in the past 25 years (Guevarism, revolutionary reformism, Eurocommunism, etc,)

Finally, last but not least, we must continue to participate in the struggles and work in the places where militants are and in the strata and struggles democratically chosen as priorities by the Organization.

This participation requires an analysis of the present general situation that can guide everyone’s autonomous work. It should be made collectively on the basis of our objectives and our basis of unity.

These then are the resolutions our work led us to, a process that ends with the publication of this article.

On the basis of the ideas we have put forward we will work from now on wAh individuals and forces that have similar viewpoints to strengthen, develop and correct necessary these embryonic elements of a political line.

April 1982


[1] Initial text of “To build a majority consensus”