First Published: In Struggle! No. 238, February 17, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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As we indicated in a previous article (IN STRUGGLE!, no. 226, Nov. 11, 1980), we have received a considerable number of letters in response to our texts on revisionism and, more broadly, the history of the struggle for socialism. Many, many questions are raised in the letters, from the necessity of the party to whether socialism is even possible...
The letters testify to the fact that many people are very interested in all the questions related to the history and the future of the struggle for socialism; at the same time they indicate that some readers, and notably some comrades within the Organization, have questions about the method we have chosen to use to better understand these questions and wage the struggle against revisionism.
The two reactions are not unrelated. In the series “Documents for the criticism of revisionism”, IN STRUGGLE! has concentrated on the history of the struggle for socialism in the 19th and early 20th century; it has paid only limited attention to theoretical questions. But the questions and comments of most of the members and other readers who have written to us concern questions of analysis, strategy and tactics raised by the struggle for socialism.
This is not hard to explain. For one thing, we can assume that the vast majority of IN STRUGGLE!’s readers are “practitioners” rather than “analysts” of the class struggle. Furthermore, for many years now communist forces, and notably the communists who identify themselves as Marxist-Leninists to demarcate from the positions of modern (Soviet, Eurocommunist, etc.) revisionism, have not generally distinguished themselved by their interest for historical and theoretical questions, much less scientific and philosophical issues. They have instead confined themselves to ideological debates, and more explicitly to the “defence of Marxist-Leninist principles” – probably in the name of political efficiency, most certainly in the name of the demands of the immediate struggle, in the obvious hope of rapid victories over the revisionist tendencies.
This “tradition”, already several decades old, definitely puts considerable pressures on all communists today. Analyses of the struggle of the working class during the Second International are not really what many people want from IN STRUGGLE!; they are more interested in the Organization taking a stand on the relationship between the unions and the party, for example, or on the question of a single party for the working class, or on democratic centralism, or the place of national liberation struggles or struggles for reforms in imperialist countries.
Today, we must admit that we have been somewhat naive. We thought it was possible to work on several fronts simultaneously, both in examining historical and theoretical questions and in analysing the current situation and the strategy and tactics needed in this situation. But things are more complex than we thought. We cannot acquire a satisfactory understanding of a century of history nor master historical materialism in a matter of weeks. This is especially impossible when at the same time we must necessarily form an opinion on the major events in Canadian and international politics and criticize revisionist positions on these same questions. These views are what guide our daily action.
This situation can lead to confusion and frustration. It is worth reviewing both the goals we are pursuing and the method we have chosen to use.