[Marxism] Patiently explain (was: Re: moderator's note)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Jul 18 07:13:04 MDT 2004

I don't think that civility requires pretending that there aren't
fundamental differences of political opinion and orientation.  
Obviously more than an immediate empirical view of things is involved in
the gap between Marvin Gandall's view of politics.  I see no reason why
name-calling, insults and so forth should flow from that.
As we emerge from the disintegration of the sectarian left, which is
continuing, we have to relearn what Lenin said was the major task of
revolutionists in a revolutionary, near-civil-war situation where the
bulk of the traditional "left" plus the peasantry plus a lot of workers
were supporting an antirevolutionary government:
"Patiently explain."
It's a good thing that the debates and views and pressures of politics
that working people and political activists face in the real world break
into the list and that we all have to learn how to explain our ideas to
other people who don't hold them.  I hope that task confronts us all on
a much bigger scale in the relatively near future.  
I recently attended a Solidarity meeting that discussed the election.
(I have applied to join the group as part of what I hope will gradually
become a broader regroupment process.) It was shocking but refreshing to
be in a milieu where activists in real struggles debate in the framework
of the massive anti-Bush sentiment in almost all activist milieus.  I
once suggested that the anti-Bush campaign would have some of the
appearance of a mass movement, and I think that's one estimate that
didn't turn out all wrong.
I realized it had been decades since I participated in a real political
debate with people who were drawn to something like the ABB campaign,
or, for clearly explained and understandable reasons, did not want to
take it on.  
We used to have such debates regularly with antiwar activists and Black
fighters and in the Chicano movement.  And I occasionally have an
initial form of the debate at work today, but with people who are
generally not involved in any political or even trade union struggle.
That's what the Peter Camejo-Jack Barnes book The Lesser Evil was about.
As the SWP gradually withdrew from areas where their politics were not
taken for granted and retreated behind the book tables when they
ventured out, we stopped having such debates with people, or only on
rare occasions. For a truly politically homogeneous party requires a
politically homogeneous milieu, which will not threaten the politically
homogeneity of the party which is the main requirement for a
revolutionary leadership. Such milieus are hard to come by..  We lived
in a world where it seemed like EVERYBODY WHO WAS ANYBODY opposed the
twin parties and was outraged by support to the Democratic Party,
Greens, or whatever.
Sometimes the debates over this on the list (and elsewhere) remind me of
that atmosphere, where the appearance of anyone who reflected the views
on this question held by the vast majority (including, by the way, the
nonvoters who do not mostly consciously reject the two party system but
for good reasons don't feel its worth their while to do anything about
it) intruded in our midst, the reaction was shock and even outrage.
Out, out, damned spot!
I am glad to be having this debate again, and learning how to carry it
on in a new period.  I also think that the debate basically represents
progress, not retreat in US politics.  Of course, I also think that the
supporters of Kerry (or Kucinich, for that matter) are absolutely dead
But the watchword on all sides should be: patiently explain.
Fred Feldman

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