First Published: In Struggle! No. 267, October 13, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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For the last several months working men and women in and close to IN STRUGGLE! have been discussing several criticisms on the orientation of the work and on the way the Organization functions. This developed into an important debate on what place the proletariat have in our Organization. For the moment the debate is mostly going on in Quebec, particularly in Montreal. We want to make the debate known more widely through these articles, and to get proletarians and intellectuals outside of as well as inside our Organization involved.
First of all there are criticisms of intellectuals in the Organization, and more generally of the intellectualism which affects how the Organization functions. These often stop proletarians from developing their own point of view, putting it forward and influencing the Organization’s decisions. For example, intellectuals are criticized for dominating the debates, and not really listening to the proletarians’ ideas. Workers are also critical of methods of work like doing long texts, of being in practice obliged to write your point of view if you want to get it known and the academic approach to political education. These methods contribute to rather than combat the inequality between intellectuals and the people who do manual work.
There are also criticisms of how little impact workers have on decisions taken by the Organization. Even after many criticisms have been made, it takes time to change things and even then some things don’t change at all. For proletarian women, the influence that they are able to exert is even less and they have less of a sense of self-worth than before when they were often active and leading several struggles.
As you can see in issue 265, proletarian women raise many of the same criticisms except that in their case the effects are even more severe. The intellectuals’ paternalism affects them not only as proletarians but as women as well. On the other hand they often find that the struggle against chauvinism is more difficult with proletarian men. They have fewer resources to draw on in waging it, being more economically dependent on their husbands than are petty-bourgeois women. In short, they feel that the organization values proletarian men but not proletarian women.
These criticisms are linked to another type of criticism: those of the orientation of the Organization’s work. The newspaper was criticized for how little it took up questions which concerned proletarians. For many it’s that it doesn’t talk enough about the stakes of the immediate struggles led by the working class. For others the problem is economism. Generally the questions raised by workers have to do with what advanced elements the Organization is trying to win over and recruit. Does the type of newspaper that we have and priority tasks set by the Organization allow us to focus on recruiting proletarians or not?
Running through all these criticisms is a single theme: workers see the question at hand to be whether we are going to build a proletarian organization. Proletarian not only in how it functions and in who takes part in it, but also in its orientation, its activities and its objectives.
For sure the Organization has encountered important difficulties in recruiting proletarians and in fully integrating them even though this was a central objective set at our 3rd Congress in April of 1979. The question is why? Were these impossible objectives to reach? Did we fail to properly understand the political conditions in which those objectives had to be pursued? Is it the way we are organized that puts off proletarians rather than helping them become an integral part of their own organization? That’s what the debate is about at this time.