3rd parties

Robin Maisel robinmaisel at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 19 10:57:13 MDT 2003

I don't think communists "take positions" on history.  History, i.e. the
factual record, can provide a guide to working through the theoretical
questions posed by events in the present, but it is not something one
votes on.  There is no "official history."  "Taking a position" on
history is not required for moving forward.  Understanding history and
being willing to discuss the theoretical problems posed is part of
developing a program for a party.  But since that requires not only the
study of history but also the work of today, appeals to "higher
authorities" (e.g. the Comintern's position on the LaFollettte campaign
- leaving aside for the moment whether or not he was or was not the
Ralph Nader of his day, what the meaning is of "the Ralph Nader"  and
whether that is good, bad or indifferent) does not answer any questions.

So the question raised by "third party" proponents is not the history of
third parties and the communist approach to them, but rather the here
and now class questions they raise.  Those matters are a bit more
pressing than "arcane."  I suspect that serious workers would like to
know not only history, but also "who are you going to vote for and
why."  So, what response should a communist make?  I don't think it will
be sending the inquisitive co-worker to the library to research the
Progressive Party and hope that answers his questions.  No matter how
good it is to read and absorb history, unless you can come up with a
position and a reason there is no reason why that worker would ever want
to discuss anything further.
I am more than happy to wait and see exactly what develops in the next
year because I think everyone on the list is (or should be) thinking
about that question.  There is no need to force an answer now out of
anyone  who may be pondering the question.  Lets see what develops in
the present.  I suspect what the answers of some will be, but let's give
them time to cogitate before jumping on them about their view of
history.  Sometimes the simple questions are the best test of both the
inquiring mind and the answering mind.


Louis Proyect wrote:

> Robin Maisel:
>>    Are you going to say "I am voting for a lesser capitalist evil
>> even though I am opposed to everything he stands for" (whether Green
>> Blue or Red to use the delightfully colored maps on the news and
>> election eve programing).  Do you really believe that voting for a
>> Democrat or Republican capitalist party or a "third" party or
>> "fourth" party which rests upon class collaborationist programs is a
>> step forward.
> Well, that all depends. In 1925, the Comintern decided that the CPUSA
> had been mistaken for not supporting the LaFollette campaign for
> President, which it regarded as a "great victory" for the trade union
> and farmers groups that backed it. LaFollette was a life-long
> Republican Senator who ran on the Progressive Ticket after getting fed
> up with business as usual from the two major parties. He was the Ralph
> Nader of his day.
> I should add that one Comintern leader was adamantly opposed to
> backing LaFollette and that was Leon Trotsky. However, his polemics
> drew from the theory of permanent revolution, arguing that LaFollette
> was an American Sun Yat-Sen and that pro-LaFollette forces in the CP
> were agents of Bukharinism bending over backwards to keep the peasants
> fat and happy. (Yes, comrades, this stuff gets pretty arcane.) At any
> rate I am not sure what position communists should take on this
> obscure bit of our history, because as we all know the theory of
> permanent revolution was a big sectarian mistake. And we do know that
> it is critically important to have the correct position on historical
> questions, of course until we realize that we had been wrong all along.
> Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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