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A Comment on Mary Scully's Polemic
by Paul Le Blanc

(from Bulletin in Defense of Marxism, no. 114, March 1994)

Given the character of Mary Scully's polemic against my two-part article "Notes on Building a Revolutionary Party in the United States" (which appeared in the June and July­August 1993 issues of Bulletin in Defense of Marxism) I have asked to offer an immediate response to what she has written.

Mary's article contains some positive ideas, but these are combined with much that is quite simply factually wrong. She attributes to me certain ideas which – if one looks at what I have written (including the article she is criticizing) – I obviously do not hold.

One example of this is the utterly false, unsubstantiated assertion that I believe "democratic-centralism is at the root of the problem" of the degeneration from Leninism to Stalinism or sectarianism, a notion which is alien to all that I have written.

Another example: in part two of her polemic she suggests that I share "the theoretical foundation of revisionism" with Eduard Bernstein because I use the word "accumulation" – that is, I assert that an accumulation of struggles help to develop class-consciousness, and Bernstein believed that an accumulation of reforms would gradually eliminate the evils of capitalism. (The comrade seems unaware that there is a qualitative difference between an accumulation of class battles and an accumulation of class betrayals.)

Her false assertions regarding how I view the working class are particularly offensive.

The distortion of my views flows, I assume, not from intentional falsification but from a hostile reading of what I wrote. Such things greatly weaken her article.

At the same time, Comrade Scully's general outlook reflects the orientation of a number of revolutionary socialists, although not everyone who shares that orientation would necessarily agree with all of her unfortunate formulations. Nonetheless, the publication of her article can advance a discussion which is very much needed on the problems of building a revolutionary working-class party in the United States. It seems to me that the challenges she poses can have value in stimulating thought and discussion on extremely important questions. I am presently completing an article which, I hope, will adequately address the most important of these challenges.

Here I want to offer a clarification, and to throw down a challenge of my own to Comrade Scully.

First the clarification, having to do with Leninist organization. She asserts that I don't believe in the possibility and the advisability of building such an organization, either nationally or internationally, in this historic period. This is absolutely false. My views are the opposite of what she says. I believe in the possibility and the advisability of building Leninist organizations in the United States and throughout the world now, in this historic period.

However, I make a distinction between a Leninist organization and a Leninist party. For me, a Leninist organization could consist of a few people or a few hundred people, but that is not the case with a Leninist party (whose model, for me, is the Bolshevik party of Russia, a mass workers' party which – after a lengthy development – was organized in 1912 and took power in 1917). In the United States, the working class and revolutionary socialists will have to go through a profound development before it will be possible to bring into being a U.S. equivalent of the Bolshevik party.

Of course, there are serious differences in the views of Comrade Scully and myself on how to carry out a commitment to Leninist party-building. The challenge is this: Comrade Scully and I should each work very hard, consistently, positively (what I would call "good work") to carry out our counterposed lines on party-building. In a few years, let's compare the results and on this basis evaluate the counterposed lines.

With this in mind, I urge those who have read her article to read (or re-examine) mine and then – assuming that you share our revolutionary commitments – help to test the two lines.

As I've already said, I will offer a more substantial response to Mary Scully's critique in a future issue of this magazine.

[The promised article appeared in number 115 of Bulletin in Defense of Marxism, April 1994, under the title “Culture, Consciousness, and Class Struggle: Further Notes on the Relevance of Leninism.”]