Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

“You don’t get the same view of the world from the bottom as from the top”

by a Toronto member

First Published: In Struggle! No. 268, October 20, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Having just finished reading IN STRUGGLE!’s supplement on preparing for the 4th Congress I’m giving you my first impressions and comments on what seems to me to be the main thing right now, which is “the crisis in the Marxist-Leninist movement” if not to say “IN STRUGGLE!’s crisis”.

I think it’s useful to go back to the beginnings of the ML movement to look at it historically in relation to other political movements , which have appeared over the last 20 years. But the overview of this made in the supplement is so brief as to leave “holes” which in the end only raise more questions than are answered. But maybe it wasn’t the aim of the overview to do so and strictly speaking I can well understand the limits of space in the newspaper.

As for me, the present crisis seems very serious and without denying the necessity of going back in history I remain convinced that the best way to understand and resolve the present crisis is to understand and analyse it as deeply as possible through the forms it takes right now for us in our Organization. What bugs me quite a lot is to see how for some History is always seen as past history and never, or rarely, a (hi)story which is going on today right under our nose. To analyse the present and specific forms of the crisis in the ML movement in our country inevitably has some practical consequences. The most important of these is that, in the face of a flood of criticisms, bitter snipes against the leadership, demobilization, and questioning of everything we should first stop to listen carefully to what’s being said without ’jumping” to the defensive to the defence of long-established great principles each time a criticism is raised.

I’ve been told that the criticisms being raised and the uneasiness that is felt has been with us for some time now and that we’re going to make sure to sort it all out at our next Congress. I say you’re “full of it!” For months and months everyone in my region talked about “THE CRISIS”. We knew vaguely (through the grapevine) that the crisis was wreaking havoc in Quebec. But it didn’t have a great significance for us as everything seemed to be going rather well in Ontario. For once Ontario wasn’t in crisis, and we were contentedly patting ourselves on the backs.

Then little by little people here and there were affected. It was still “individual cases” not general disarray. Since then the situation has changed. Not that everything now is all screwed up but one “case” has led to another and the malady has spread. We now know that we are going through the crisis in our questioning of things and all our wrangling. It hasn’t brought the world to a standstill but we know all too well that things can’t go on this way. Many key questions are being raised: the situation of women in the organization, how we see democracy in an ML organization, how an ML organization is linked to the masses and with what aim, how to integrate proletarians, the role of intellectuals, and not to mention the well-known idea of the “vanguard party”, the infamous flat-out principle of democratic-centralism, “one correct line”, the link between leadership and the masses outside and inside the organization, of “our” tasks, etc.

Each and everyone of us talked a lot, even endlessly, among friends and with comrades we work with about all these questions. Our discussions were often confused, identifying many faults but, still not many solutions. It helps for us to talk together but it’s not enough. We still have only an inkling of the whole gamut of problems and their causes. We are still miles and miles from resolving them. At least that’s how things seem to us in our isolation. We don’t think that anyone has the great miracle solution. We believe that we’ll solve our difficulties by collectively summing up all this and by seeing what the problems are elsewhere. (That’s at least one reason why we want consultative conferences prior to the Congress: we need to give time and thought to the avalanche of questions raised; and we need a collective experience to enable us to see further than our own nose.)

Some old defenders of established rules clinging to their “camp” like a shipwrecked sailor to his raft, look askance at our untimely questioning. Maybe they’re right and we’re wrong but what makes them think that we’re so off base! Have they ever seriously and sincerely listensd to what we have to say? In seeing how they go on I’ve come to the conclusion that the world really isn’t seen the same way from the top as it is from the bottom. If those up above don’t come down then we’ll have to come up.

A Toronto militant