First Published: Guardian, October 18, 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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With this issue, Vol. 25, No. 1, the Guardian begins its 25th year of uninterrupted publication.
We have adopted as our motto for this period, “25 Years of Struggle.”
Despite significant changes over the years – changes reflecting developments within the U.S. left and in the world at large – the Guardian has always been a newspaper of struggle. During its first year it took up the cause of the Trenton Six – six young black men sentenced to death in a racist frame-up – and played a leading role in mobilizing a campaign that eventually saved their lives and reversed the verdict.
And at a time when many on the left were afraid to take up the cause of accused “Soviet spies,” the Guardian exposed the cold war frame-up of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell and played a leading role in the crusade which eventually brought millions of people throughout the world into the streets in protest.
During all these years the Guardian dared to struggle on issues and questions in advance of popular consciousness.
Its first editors understood that one of the jobs of a radical newspaper is to pave the way for mass struggle by crusading reportage and political education. School integration, the Korean war, McCarthy witch-hunts, cold war politics – on all these questions the Guardian not only took a principled stand, it also saw the need to inform and educate. As a result, one of its founding editors, Cedric Belfrage, was sent into political exile by a vengeful U.S. government.
But it is not our purpose to bask in political nostalgia. It is important for the U .S. left of today to understand its own history, for a movement which does not understand its past is condemned to repeating its errors. There is much to be learned from the history of the Guardian and we plan, in the course of this 25th anniversary year, to reprint from time to time significant articles from these pages that will help to illuminate some of the important questions of the past two decades.
At the moment, however, our eye is on the struggles of today and a political perspective for the future.
After a quarter of a century of observing – and participating in the actions and debates of the political left in the U.S. – we are convinced of one thing: the major task confronting us is to assist in bringing to birth a new revolutionary political party, based in the working class, armed with the science of Marxism-Leninism, committed to socialist revolution.
Wherever we turn – to the disintegrating antiwar movement, to the largely sporadic and spontaneous militancy of the workers, to the serious divisions in the movements of blacks and other oppressed national minorities, to the various sectors of the women’s movement, to the radical and largely undirected outbursts of culturally alienated young people – the absence of a vanguard political force operating on the basis of creative application of Marxism-Leninism to the U.S. is keenly felt.
Seeing the creation of such a party as the historic task of our time is not to suggest that the Guardian proposes to organize such a party in the immediate future. We do not think that a newspaper, by itself, can organize a revolutionary party. Such a party must, of necessity, be rooted in the working class, be multi-national in composition and can only come into being out of the collective experience of those directly engaged in mass struggle.
But the Guardian can play an important role in providing the information and analysis that will help to develop revolutionary consciousness towards the objective of bringing a party to birth.
We see that role as follows:
1. To produce a hard-hitting newspaper of quality. Our job is to provide our political activist readers with the informational tools they need in their daily work. This means in-depth analysis of the worldwide struggle against imperialism, reasoned reportage on the major political developments on a world and national scale and particular attention to the mass struggles of the people.
2. To provide a forum for an exchange of views on the left relating to questions of both ideology and political strategy. We do not see such debate, however, as an abstract intellectual exercise. Its purpose is to help develop a principled unity around fundamental questions of ideological line leading to the projection of a political program for Marxist-Leninists.
3. To help bring into focus the principal political questions of our time. This means, in the first place, seeing all questions in the framework of the class struggle on an international scale and seeing that the principal contradiction in the world today is between U.S. imperialism and oppressed peoples and nations struggling for independence, national liberation and socialism.
To these ends, the Guardian has devoted itself in the past year to the struggle for unity in the antiwar movement, consistent coverage of developments within the U.S. working class, solidarity with the aspirations of oppressed national minorities within the U.S. – in particular, the struggle against white racism and principled support for the growing struggle of women for their emancipation.
On a world scale, we see the need to help develop an historic alliance between the U.S. working class and the forces of liberation who daily confront the might of U.S. imperialism. The oppressor and exploiter of the world’s toiling masses is the oppressor and exploiter of the U.S. working class.
The understanding of this profound historic truth is the underlying material basis for proletarian internationalism. Specifically, this means recognizing that the struggle of the peoples of Indochina against U.S. imperialism constitutes the front-line of struggle for all peoples in the world.
Any attempt to view the struggles of the U.S. working class and oppressed national minorities in isolation from the world-wide struggle against imperialism is the narrowest kind of opportunistic national chauvinism. It is for that reason that we have tried to develop a more precise understanding of the way in which revisionist tendencies and forces in the world revolutionary movement have become the principal barrier to world-wide revolutionary solidarity.
The U.S. left has historically come to grief as a result of a blind allegiance to other parties and movements. The failure of the Communist party in this country is inextricably bound up with its flunkyist relationship to the party and state leadership of the USSR. We do not propose to correct this error of the past by substituting for it a dogmatic loyalty to any other revolutionary party – whether in Peking, Havana, Pyongyang or anywhere else.
At the same time, we see the emergence of the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Tsetung as one of the momentous events of this epoch and we believe that solidarity with the Chinese revolution is one of the hallmarks of a principled revolutionary movement.
Many readers who disagree with us on one or another question have given us the benefit of sharp and constructive criticism. Such criticism is always welcome. But it is no secret that our stand on many important political, questions has led to loss of support in some quarters and unprincipled attacks in others.
When the Guardian supported the emerging revolutionary consciousness among black people in the U.S., many a faint-hearted white liberal threw in the towel. When the Guardian stood firm in its principled support of the Palestinian liberation movement, many “revolutionaries” found that they were Zionists first and socialists only second, and deserted our ranks.
Today, when the Guardian has opened up the question of the debilitating effects of revisionism in the ranks of the world revolutionary movement, still others have decided that “this is the last straw.”
But we believe that the tide of history is running the other way. No, we are not so sanguine that we think we have satisfactorily resolved all political questions. Quite the contrary. We believe that many questions are only being opened up for the first time and that the times require serious, principled investigation and debate. The Guardian, as it begins its 25th year, hopes to contribute to both the investigation and the debate.
A Mexican revolutionary, Juan Sarabia, once wrote: “The publication of a revolutionary paper is equal to the taking of a city; the proclamation of a political plan is the same as the bloodiest of combats. They form equal parts of a rebellion and are inherent in it. ... I have never seen, nor probably will I ever see a revolution without the propagation of ideas as a preliminary and the shedding of blood as the inevitable means of deciding the outcome.”
It is with that thought in mind that we begin our 25th year of struggle.