Women and the Bolshevik Revolution

Tom Condit tomcondit at igc.apc.org
Wed Apr 5 10:44:13 MDT 1995


I was very interested to see the announcement of the book, _From
Baba to  Tovarishch, The Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet Women's
Struggle for Liberation_, edited by Barbara Ranes, and I've
ordered it.  I wanted to put a very brief note about the Marxist-
Leninist Party, the group to which the authors belonged, for the
benefit of anyone who might be interested in this work but be put
off by its "provenance".

I worked with members of the former MLP in two political
struggles in northern California--a fight to drive the CIA-front
airline Southern Air Transport out of the Oakland airport
(unsuccessful) and the defense of women's clinics against
Operattion "Rescue" et al. (successful).  In addition, one of my
close colleagues was a sympathiser of theirs who attended their
discussion groups and I've read their press extensively.

The MLP was one of the last groups of the political trend which
could be characterized roughly as "third period Stalinist", or as
they were known in Communist Party circles from late 1950s on,
"Albanians".  In the case of the MLP, the latter characterization
was for some time literally accurate--they circulated and
reproduced the writings of Enver Hoxha, etc.  In their early
stages they were very heavily under the influence of the
Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), which has a very
dreary history.

A few years ago, the MLP broke from Albania and Enver Hoxha's
theories and began a very serious process of internal discussion
and study, together with correspondence and debate with kindred
groups around the world.  I've read a fair amount of this
material and added to having actually worked with MLP members in
struggle I think I have a good estimate of their strengths and
weaknesses.

First, they still hold to what I think is a basically untenable
position on the history of the Soviet Union and the Communist
International, although they are certainly correct that for the
international communist movement as a whole the "popular front"
was the key turning point toward irrelevance.  Together with this
position, they carry the baggage of its terminology and a method
of approaching questions which is much too heavily weighted
toward examining and analyzing "texts".

Second, much more importantly, they have a direct and unswerving
honesty in their statements.  I don't think there's any other
group on the left of which I can say that I have *never* known
any of its members to, shall we say, improvise the facts
necessary to make the argument.  They also have frequently said
both in person and in writing the equivalent of "We don't have
the answer to that question, but we're studying it."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's a good chance this
book might be "wrong" in some of its conclusions.  I suspect the
odds are close to zero that it will be in any way deliberately
dishonest, and the chances are close to 100% that any quotes or
facts cited in it will be accurate.  In addition, I'll guarantee
that it's written from the perspective of class struggle--that
is, what we can learn from the experiences of the Bolshevik
period which is relevant to our work today in fighting
capitalism.

Tom Condit


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