Dogmatism and Revisionism: Remembering Historic Leaders

Date: 01 May 2022

Author: Michael C.

Tags: N. America, Philosophy


It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice

Marxism-Leninism is often called “a living science.” This necessarily means that it is rigorous, and it is material. This is the basis of all sciences as we understand them in modern times. Any self-proclaimed science not adhering to this basis is a science in name only and is not, and will never be, taken seriously as one. 

From this basic first principle, it becomes abundantly clear that there is no “national science.” There is no form of scientific thought in existence that is relevant to only one single country or geographic area; natural phenomena in the real world do not work that way. If they did work that way, then dialectical and historical materialism, the bedrock of the science of Marxism-Leninism, would be worthless. As would all other sciences. Natural phenomena occur naturally, hence why they are called natural phenomena, and not American phenomena, or Russian phenomena, or so on. Certain phenomena are specific to regional or cultural conditions; those phenomena exist under pre-existing fields of scientific thought and do not constitute their own independent existence. They are dependent on conditions which exist under the broad and far-reaching analyses of scientific systems and do not contain in and of themselves new scientific systems. 

To this end we can point to history and the theoretical foundations upon which we now stand, and see that socioeconomic evolution is a natural phenomenon, including both Capitalism and Communism. Marxism-Leninism, as the historically prevailing philosophy on the development and implementation of Socialism, is then associated with this, and brought up from merely being a localized affair. This is not to discount the work leaders and movements who tailored the principles of this science to fit their local conditions. It is the opposite; we must study them with vigor for their achievements. 

There is talk today of rejecting several, if not all, of the contributions of those who came before us. There are those who believe we should ignore the likes of Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-Sung, and others. Arguments in favor of this position fall primarily along two lines:

The first line is that these figures did bad things, and therefore any reference to them is necessarily bad. This is blatant anti-communism and revisionism, as it means rejecting our own history and attempting to re-write it to exclude whole movements which fought and sacrificed for the socialist cause. Karl Marx asserted that we must take part in “ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.” This criticism naturally applies to these figures. However, at the same time, to reduce them in their entirety to these criticisms is an un-dialectical and ultimately anti-communist position. Is Josef Stalin’s life and work completely deducible to the bad policies under his administration? Mao’s to the excesses of the cultural revolution? Without the actions of Stalin and Mao in specific, the great anti-fascist war, world war two, would have been a completely different affair. Without the theoretical and practical work before, during, and after, the entirety of the international Communist movement as it exists today would be unimaginably different - likely even nonexistent. Reducing the lives and works of these figures to only their failures is a literal enactment of the old adage “to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” There is nothing Communist about it. With the dirty bathwater, the theoretical and practical achievements of these comrades are likewise thrown out, ultimately for nothing more than an idealistic, ultra-leftist sense of ideological “purity.” Whether we “claim” them or not, to attempt to dissociate ourselves now, a century later, from these comrades is tantamount to retroactively adopting the Trotskyite line on the Soviet Union. In the eyes of even the most uninformed onlooker, it appears as a cheap trick to avoid ownership of the past, or worse, a refusal to recognize where one has come from. Such actions will not make us appear more palatable to liberals, but will mean disarming ourselves of the knowledge these comrades’ lives and works contain. We must wholeheartedly ensure that we do not repeat their errors, but how can we do this if we do not learn about them and their successes as well?

The second line is that all these figures are foreign, and therefore any reference to them is inconsequential to the Communist movement in the United States. This is, quite blatantly, a chauvinistic position. In his 1945 article for Cahiers du Communisme, titled On the Dissolution of the Communist Party of the United States, Comrade Jacques Duclos railed against the liquidationist position adopted by American Communist leader Earl Browder. Asserting that “one can observe a certain confusion” with the approach Browder espoused, he sarcastically quipped that Browder was “resolving problems which have no parallel in history and demonstrating how Marxist theory should be applied in practice,” before finally condemning him, stating that "Browder’s analysis of capitalism in the United States is not distinguished by a judicious application of Marxism-Leninism.” As established earlier, Marxism-Leninism is a science, a living science, we say. This second line of attack against our ideological forebears and comrades in struggle is rooted in the exact same rejection of that science as Earl Browder’s liquidationism; the idealistic and chauvinistic assertion that somehow the American situation is of such historical uniqueness that no other scientific progress or observations may be deemed “worthy” from foreign shores. We are internationalists and the science we practice encompasses the whole world; the rejection of contributions by foreign Comrades, on the grounds that they are foreign, is antithetical and wholly intolerable. All principled comrades know that the conditions of mid-20th century Russia or China are different from America today, but to stop at such a basic observation and not further analyze their developments for what may be useful to us is infantile and revisionist.

This aforementioned chauvinism, characterized by adherence to a revitalization of Browder’s own declaration that “Communism is 20th Century Americanism,” is a growing problem within our movement. The crisis of defending our foundational Comrades’ legacies is a symptom of this cancer attempting to take root and spread within our ranks. If our movement is to repeat the same mistakes of the past century on the grounds of “seeking our own truth,” then it will be just as Marx formulated: first as tragedy, then as farce. The historical moment we exist in today leaves no room, no time, and no mercy for such a farce. A fall from grace because of these failed policies and views would be more insufferable, more detrimental, and more destructive than ever before. Many of these chauvinists know all too well that these are the stakes and often fall into one of two categories in their folly:

The first category, which we may call the “honest chauvinists,” are those who genuinely believe that their “Americanism” is the correct path forward. That by rejecting all evidence to the contrary and alienating and attacking all who stand in their way they will form a red-brown alliance with the most regressive sections of the working class and in that way bring about Socialism. Given the ignorance requisite to hold this position, they are best dealt with via education if possible and are impotent when leaderless. Many of them dress up this position with overtures to tailism, decrying the social justice initiatives of the most progressive elements of the working class - of whom Communists have always been a leading section. They say that we must “meet the workers where they are,” even if that means meeting them at a Klan rally. They are infantile and idealistic, and generally have very little experience with the truly vast and diverse proletariat; they stake out a comfortable position among their own and shout their vitriol from the sidelines.

The second category, which we may call the “true chauvinists,” are those who know exactly what they are doing and how disastrous the consequences of their actions are. They are reactionaries and anti-communists, openly asserting that any Communist movement not adhering to their will is not one worth following. They are the bedfellows of fascists and all other forms of filth and are almost always predominantly motivated by their individualistic desire for power and money, which their followers give without question. If starved of what they crave, or put to the test, they abandon leftist political trappings without a moment’s hesitation and revert to their true form: fascists.

The solution to these issues, and excising the cancers of social reaction and chauvinism attempting to take hold of our movement, are twofold:

Firstly, an invigorated and far-reaching effort to increase educational work grounding all comrades, young and old, in the principles of Marxism-Leninism, rooted in the so-called “Five Heads” thereof. Such an undertaking would take time, but would be well worth the effort.

Secondly, a renewed emphasis must be placed on revolutionary discipline. Strong understanding and adherence to democratic centralism, dialectical and historical materialism, and knowledge of other such etiquette related to our work. Ours is not a movement of harsh disciplinarians or authoritative commandists, but we must understand and not shy away from who we are, where we come from, and who our enemies are; otherwise the continued spread of this cancer will become overwhelming, and another generation of American Communism will be lost to the dustbin of history.