Getting Past the Interregnum
The Paralysis of Scientific Thought
The first issue of Scientific Socialist , published in the fall of 94, carried a lead article entitled "The Old is Dying . . .Can the New Be Born?" In part, this article was inspired by Gramsci. Against the backdrop of Italian fascism's desperate efforts to keep moribund capitalism on life support during the 20s and the failure of Socialist revolution, he observed that when "the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of moribund symptoms appear." One of these moribund symptoms is that the "death of old ideologies takes the form of skepticism with regard to all theories and general formulae" which ultimately leads to a "form of politics" that is "cynical"(1). Interregnums , viz., lapses of time between two different eras, political systems, etc. have occurred throughout history, and it's during these lapses or pauses that ideological and cultural turmoil and confusion elicit skepticism. A common understanding of this phenomenon from the philosophical perspective is that "skepticism is most widespread in periods of social development when the old social ideals are already tottering, while new ones have not yet asserted themselves"(2).
Essentially the Scientific Socialist article critically analyzed the causes and effects of the skepticism that adversely affected Marxist-Leninists and drew the conclusion that at bottom lay the paralysis of scientific thought, impairing their ability to grasp "objective history . . . the nature of the contemporary reality and what clear prospects the future holds." This skepticism morphed from discouragement and demoralization that began in the early 90s when it appeared that the "new" was collapsing along with the "old," or more accurately being collapsed by the old. And yes, the cynicism that Gramsci spoke of was also a problem. This was the time, after all, when it became all too apparent that nothing was left of the legitimate movement to reconstruct a new Marxist-Leninist party. Key similarities indeed, but it should be understood that this is the same interregnum although in a later phase with its own set of distinct factors that led to subjectivity (3).
Making matters worse was that there was no Marxist-Leninist organization on a national scale that was able to get out a clear analysis of the nature of these developments, which can only be properly understood within the context of capitalism's general crisis, the nature of the state, and the class struggle on the international scale. Unarmed as the vanguard forces were, it was only natural for them to doubt and slip into skeptical attitudes towards Marxist-Leninist theory and/or become cynical about present and future prospects for organized revolutionary work.
More than ten years later we find that this paralysis still exists, generating negative views towards theory and organization. A case could be made that it is key in vitiating the potential to build a genuine Marxist-Leninist party as it stubbornly blocks crucial steps toward developing theory and organizing party reconstruction.
Let's take a look at how the paralysis of scientific thought regarding Party building, the "collapse of communism" and the "destruction of Socialism in Albania" fueled discouragement and then skepticism.
Questions of Party Reconstruction Redux - Briefly
John Redshield , of Forces for Change (1990-1993), wrote a pamphlet analyzing how the efforts to build a new Marxist-Leninist Party failed for a number of reasons, including sectarianism and isolation from the working class; however, he focused on the major cause: the absence of scientific theory needed to make such an historic advance (4). In the first place the scientific theory needed was a concrete, specific plan that the vanguard forces could agree to and unite upon to found and build the new Party. However, a number of groups, despite their claims that party-building was their goal, had very short range and narrow plans if any to achieve it. Much of their work was constantly geared towards responding to the spontaneous worker and democratic struggles with no idea how these activities figured into a long-term plan of party reconstruction simply because they had none:
. . . despite all their "activism," groups such as the USMLO and the MLWO have proven themselves to be completely impotent in the effort to rebuild the Party. They have not only failed to reconstitute the Party; they have not even been capable of proposing the rudiments of a scientific plan for building it.
What are the rudiments of the plan? Stalin said that the Communists cannot build effectively if they don't know what they are building for. He explained:
"The great significance of Leninism, lies, among other things, in that it does not recognize building at haphazard, blindly, that it cannot conceive of building without prospects, that it gives a clear and definite answer to the questions of prospects in our work . . ."(5).
What is most important is that the prospects of any plan are directly associated with an orientation for Party building that is " grounded solidly, both ideologically and practically in the working class , and that this grounding takes place through developing the scientific leadership of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat " (emphasis in original). Furthermore, this leadership can only manifest itself in the formulation and implementation of the Leninist program, strategy, and tactics "that respond at this stage to the needs of the proletariat's revolutionary struggle for progress and socialism in the US." This section concluded by spelling out a plan for uniting the vanguard forces around a key task that will work towards achieving these and related tasks. The key task was "to lay the Marxist-Leninist theoretical foundation of the movement upon which the revolutionary politics and organization can be built." Specifics were explained:
At the heart of (the key task) lies research, study, and analysis to develop the Leninist program, and strategy for Socialist revolution in the US as well as to develop plans and activities in the field of tactics to merge the program and politics with the working class movement. In taking up this task, the Marxist-Leninists will be both fighting to learn and learning to fight; they will be both learning and applying the theory in a scientific and militant way. How is this task best carried out? Here we have the essential question of the plan for this period.
The first part of the plan was to:
launch a theoretical / political journal. Around this journal, the most serious and advanced forces will collectively educate themselves in the science of Marxism-Leninism and in the skill of applying it to US conditions. And through this journal, the Marxist-Leninist theory and politics will be regularly issued to gain influence among the revolutionary and radicalized workers and intellectuals who comprise the most immediate base of support for Party reconstruction.
In this way , the journal would begin as "the collective organizer of the movement's theoretical work. "
In addition, in advancing this proposal for the vanguard forces to unite in a new organizational effort, the pamphlet analyzed how the Marxist-Leninist groups that failed either ignored or distorted Leninist theory and principles of democratic centralism in their organizational norms and behavior. It went on to state how, in fact, the "leadership" of these groups presided over "veritable snake-pits of bourgeois organization," . . . "flagrantly abused and manipulated the rank and file," and "suppressed Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, all behind the signboard of "democratic centralism!"
What's the point in repeating all this nearly 15 years later?
The point is that if the Marxist-Leninists had had a clearer idea why at the end of almost 25 years of work and struggle they had not yet accomplished their purported goal of reconstructing the Party, they may not have turned despondent, disillusioned, and demoralized and ultimately skeptical about Marxism-Leninism. Furthermore, if they understood how the organizations they had participated in were a far cry from Leninist in their structure, they may not have viewed new calls for Party reconstruction with cynicism.
Why the Despondency Over the Collapse of Capitalism in the Soviet Union Et al?
Likewise, there was no small amount of disorientation and disillusionment over events in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European states that resulted in the so-called "collapse of communism." Nevertheless, it was a somewhat surprising response coming from those who claimed to be "anti-revisionist" and had no problem heretofore denouncing the Soviet Union as "revisionist" and social-imperialist. Why didn't they stick to their guns?
Once again, this was caused by the paralysis of scientific thought, in this case having no clear and solid analysis on the nature of the state, especially on the changes that the Soviet state underwent after the Khruschevite social-fascist coup d'etat in 1953. There was nothing communist or even socialist about any of these countries to collapse or fall because they all had restored capitalism decades before. What did fall was a particular form of state monopoly capitalism - social fascism. The "fall", however, was in significant ways instigated and subsequently exploited by imperialist rivals, making these countries more "capitalist friendly" both politically and economically, especially toward the West(6). Thus, this was just further evidence of the bankruptcy of capitalism not Socialism. It was a matter of the most adventurist, reactionary circles of Russian and Eastern European state monopolists backed by international imperialism having their regimes drop their communist facades and let capitalism openly run riot throughout the lands. What disturbed and demoralized some Marxist-Leninists was that the working classes of these countries rejoiced over, embraced, and in some ways enthusiastically participated in these "capitalist revolutions." Or at least this was the picture presented by the world neo-fascist media. How is one to organize revolution with a counter-revolutionary class?(7).
The Truth About Albania
The overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Albania and the destruction of Socialism was definitely more difficult to sort out and a cause for legitimate disorientation and discouragement.
Nevertheless, it should have been understood that by 1990, Albania was well on its way to restoring capitalism thanks to the rightist political and economic policies of the fifth column agency run by Ramiz Alia and his pro-imperialist clique. It was this year that Forces for Change exposed and denounced this band of traitors - to the best of our knowledge the first to do so in the US (8). What complicated things was that the Modern Marxist-Leninists fully supported the Aliaites. Everything was fine and dandy in the Socialist homeland according to these scoundrels, who in effect were aiding and abetting the counter-revolution. So when things really turned ugly in 1991 with Anglo-American imperialism unleashing savage internal aggression within the country that overthrew the Aliates , who had cuddled up with rival Western European imperialist circles, the Marxist-Leninist supporters of Albania were thrown into ideological and political disarray(9). Tragically, down came the last bastion of Socialism. But instead of the Modern Marxist-Leninists offering at least a minimum analysis as to how it went down (not to mention some internationalist support to the Albanian proletariat, which had become the target of vicious imperialist-backed fascist attacks), they sidestepped or equivocated on the issue. Sans Socialist Albania, lost and quickly forgotten, they marched out newly "discovered" ?? Socialist countries, such as Cuba and North Korea to kowtow to.
How is one to gain the trust of any honest progressive or revolutionary forces by this confused and confusing political behavior? Subsequently, Forces for Change began investigating and analyzing how groups such as the MMLs were state manipulated if not state organized as fifth column agencies in our very midst(10).
Is Advance Possible?
Those who still have confidence that Socialism is the way forward and that proletarian revolution guided by Marxism-Leninism is the only path to take are keenly aware that something must be done to rectify the situation to get us past this interregnum and back on the high road of civilization and progress. Arduous work is needed on the theoretical front to overcome the paralysis of scientific thought on key issues, particularly on Party reconstruction. Subsequently, skepticism, this "moribund symptom," towards Marxism-Leninism and cynical attitudes about uniting organizationally must be obliterated because they block forces from stepping forward to join the fight, including older veterans of the previous movement and younger activists who are revolutionary minded and engaged in today's democratic struggles. Justifiably, all must exercise vigilance and caution because the fifth column and its agents are out to disrupt and sabotage any renewed effort at Party building and developing the revolutionary struggle of the American proletariat. The subterranean state's bogus organizations, as well as their "free-lance" agents are fairly good at what they do - recruiting and diverting those who step forward to participate into what they think are positive activities only to find out down the road (if they wake up to the fact) that they are just being marched in circles with no real direction for building or leading anything.
At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the vanguard forces will accomplish nothing by just observing from the sidelines or simply leading random political lives as individuals.
(1)Gramsci , Antonio. Selections from Prison Notebooks . New York: International Publishers, 1971. 276.
(2)Dictionary of Philosophy. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1984.
(3) Major similarities include the all-sided and continuing decay of the old capitalist system (dying but not dead) and reaction's destructive and relentless attacks against the new Socialist world (or its incipient tendencies).
(4)Defending Marxism-Leninism in the US - A Scientific Discussion on the Problems and Solutions of Party Reconstruction. November 1991. Additional relevant sections of the pamphlet will be posted to this web site in the future.
(5) Stalin, J.V . Collected Works , Volume 7.
(6)According to Scientific Socialist analysis, Anglo-American imperialism played a key role in launching internal aggression and supporting their puppets behind the guise of "capitalist revolutions" throughout the Soviet bloc.
(7) And it's not only the blatant neo-fascist media but the finest "leftists" that have joined this most fashionable fight to spin misinformation about the causes of events in the former social-fascist states. Take that "academic rock star" Slavoj Zizek scolding those in the West who criticized the capitalist revolutions of Eastern Europe simply because "an Eastern European from a Communist country . . . longs for Western liberal democracy and some consumer goods." Hence, embellishing the myth that democracies exist in the US and the Western European countries instead of explaining how these are merely less draconian forms of fascism than their social-fascist counter-parts in the Eastern European states. On the other hand, no one is begrudging our class brothers and sisters a higher cultural level anywhere in the world as long as it isn't driven by monopolist-manipulated consumer behavior and paid for by sinking the proletariat into perpetual debt bondage. In true Socialist systems, of course, so such "longing" would have existed.
(8) Forces for Change. "We Must Take a Revolutionary Stand Against the Imperialists, the Fascists, and the Traitors Who Have Organized and Unleashed Counter-Revolutionary Violence Against Socialist Albania! Support the Albanian Communists and Revolutionary Working Class and People Who are Fighting in Defense of Their Socialist Victories!" Marxist-Leninist Notes. December 15, 1990.
(9)What follows is an excerpt from the Scientific Socialist article "Who Causes Chaos in Albania? Who Will End it?" (April 97) It's a little lengthy but worth quoting because it spells out our essential analysis of events in the country that led to its current deplorable state. Perhaps if readers would like to read the entire piece, we will post it later.
Subsequent developments showed that Alia, though displaying a talent for betraying the Albanian working class, was a dim bulb when it came to maneuvering among the big imperialist wolves that he had let in the door. He and his new ruling clique in the Party harbored illusions that they could scrap Socialism and establish capitalism through a moderate program, a modus vivendi of two systems. Towards this end, they proposed a capitalist Albania disguised with Socialist window dressing similar to those social-fascist models set up by the Khruschevites in the Soviet bloc or the Maoists in China. They thought that Albania could be peacefully integrated into the imperialist camp through "mutual cooperation" with the "big powers" while waging the "diplomatic struggle" to safeguard its "independence" and interests. But it soon came to pass that such a "reasonable" and conciliatory policy for restoring capitalism in the country was deemed too little too late for certain imperialists, namely, the Anglo-Americans. To their way of thinking, "reforming" Socialism in Albania would be an anachronism when the "collapse of communism," then at its height, was "shaking the world." Besides, the Anglo-American ruling circles were decidedly agitated over the fact that the Euro-imperialists, especially the French, had gained significant influence over Alia's social-fascist fifth column. More extreme measures had to be taken to solve the "Albanian problem." Communism would have to be completely collapsed.
These measures began to be implemented by late 1991 when American and British foreign espionage services unleashed fascist bands within the country to carry out campaigns of terror, looting, and sabotage in an all out war against Socialism. This reactionary rampage, reported by the US media as "popular democratic" protests against "Communist repression" set the stage for Anglo-American imperialism to intervene and to muscle out the Euro-imperialists in the rivalry for political hegemony in Albania. Soon after, in 1992, Berisha and his Democratic Party were installed in power in "fee elections," dutifully "monitored" by "international observers," including representatives from the US, such as that impeccable democrat, Jimmy Carter. Thus the Anglo-American imperialists and their neo-fascist quislings succeeded in pushing aside the Euro-imperialists' servants, Alia and the social-fascists.
(10) See article "Neo-Fascism and the Fifth Column" on this site for further details.