Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter: Don’t sock Social Democrats so hard [and Call response]


First Published: The Call, Vol. 10, No. 6-7, August-September 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The July issue of The Call contained a full-page article by Robert Hanson on social democracy (the first I’ve seen in 7 years). Virtually 90% of the article is a criticism of DSOC. Yet apparently in an effort to cover or blunt these criticisms, Hanson says we should try to work with DSOC. This will be difficult, he says, because of their sectarianism.

Who is being sectarian? Hanson calls DSOC “an organization of intellectuals and progressive petty bourgeoisie” (as if the class base of our “trend” is any different).

He says that DSOC builds important social movements and the trade unions, but don’t develop the struggles of the people. How do they build these movements and unions without facing struggles? Or maybe these movements aren’t really that important because they are somehow without struggle?

He says that DSOC has a policy of benign neglect and bureaucratic chauvinism towards national minorities. This is evidenced by the attendance of a few Blacks at the DSOC conference he attended, and a purported one-hour parliamentary delay of an outreach policy (we were never told whether or not it passed). He says they don’t have close ties to the masses because someone at this conference told him that only 10-15% of their 5,000 plus membership are “activists.” (This is bigger than the whole CPML-RWH-PUL-CUO-LRS trend). And he says they aren’t serious politically because poverty, national oppression and the subjugation of women has not been eradicated in those Europeans countries where various social democratic parties exist.

So what? Are we less serious about democracy, forced sterilization and El Salvador because China’s position on these issues has been less than exemplary?

Hanson doesn’t even attempt to address the question of what it means to say that DSOC is on the left but non-communist. What has been DSOC’s experience in these social movements? A basic understanding of dialectics should tell us DSOC is not a monolith. Which way are the activists moving in the organization? Why has DSOC grown and our trend gotten smaller?

Many activists from our trend feel that the struggle against ultra-leftism has yet to be completed. “Vanguardism” and “professional revolutionary cadre organizations,” the former hallmarks of our trend, are clearly not present in DSOC. Hanson’s article attempts to show that those who say professional vanguards are not appropriate here are supporters of flabby social democracy, supporters of chauvinism and the exploitation of the working class, and misguided if they think anyone outside our trend is worth dealing with seriously.

J.G., Los Angeles

* * *

The Call responds: We agree there were too many unsubstantiated generalizations about DSOC. We don’t think this weakness outweighed the value of making a first analysis of the differences between two historically separate trends on the left, especially now when our trend is grappling for a self-definition.

A few short points. You misunderstood Hanson’s point about DSOC’s practice. Because DSOC’s strategy is centered around gaining influence in the superstructure of movements, they can build unions without keying in on the activity, organization, and consciousness of the people. This point is critical for us precisely so that we can work in united fronts with them, avoiding the sectarian demand that th6y act like us and the no-struggle approach as well.

The discussion of outreach and recruitment of minorities was defeated in the workshop he mentioned. As you can see by reading the account of the CPML’s congress, this would not happen in the CPML. It is not unfair to say that the stifling of this discussion is a reflection of an organization’s position on the national question.

Despite any of the well-publicized failings of socialist countries led by Marxist-Leninists, their, record is far better on the questions of eliminating inequalities of income and fighting national and women’s oppression that the accomplishments of any social-democratic parties in office in the various European countries.

The article should have investigated more the internal dynamics of DSOC, particularly the left and right. This will be forthcoming as our breaking with past sectarianism and the generally higher level of common struggle in this period provide new experience and insights.

On the one hand there is vanguardism, the sectarian posturing we are all so sick of. On the other there is the recognition of the need for a leading party over time and a style of work that tries to approximate chain of knowledge and unity of action at least locally now.

We realize that you are not trying to uphold DSOC as a model (noticing that you made no mention of their line supporting Israel) and that you want to effect some kind of realignment on the left.

Obviously there are very dramatic realignments going on right now. The most important of these in our opinion is the ML unity effort characterized by a more antagonistic view of capitalism, a more rigorous method of knowledge, and firmer orientation toward the basic workers and people, as well as the Marxist position on the right of oppressed nations to self-determination.

Although the social democratic trend could easily grow faster in this period, the principles and methods of the M-L trend will, we think, make it more capable of devising and setting in motion popular programs for struggle, including electoral and other fronts with other political forces.