Reader Correspondence

It is sad to see some so-called radicals rallying around Obama, but then again, I guess it's good when people show their true colors.

1918: the revolution criticises its errors

Marxism is first and foremost a critical method, since it is the product of a class which can only emancipate itself through the ruthless criticism of all existing conditions. A revolutionary organisation that fails to criticise its errors, to learn from its mistakes, inevitably exposes itself to the conservative and reactionary influences of the dominant ideology. And this is all the more true at a time of revolution, which by its very nature has to break new ground, enter an unknown landscape with little more than a compass of general principles to find its way. As we shall see, one of the consequences of the Bolshevik party identifying itself with the Soviet state was that it increasingly lost this capacity to criticise itself and the general course of the revolution. But as long as it remained a proletarian party it continuously generated minorities who did continue to carry out this task.

The Communist Left in Russia, 1918-1930, Part 1

When one talks about the revolutionary opposition to the degeneration of the revolution in Russia, or of the Communist International, it is generally assumed that one is referring to the Left Opposition led by Trotsky and other Bolshevik leaders. The wholly inadequate criticisms of the degeneration made after much delay by those who had played an active part in that degeneration are taken to be the be all and end all of communist opposition inside Russia or the International. The much deeper and more consistent critique elaborated by the ‘left wing communists' long before the Left Opposition came into existence in 1923 is either ignored or dismissed as the ravings of sectarian lunatics cut off from the ‘real world'. This distortion of the past is simply an expression of the long ascendancy of the counter-revolution since the years of the revolutionary struggle ended in the 1920s. It is always in the interests of the capitalist counter-revolution to hide or distort the genuinely revolutionary history of the working class and its communist minorities, because only in this way can the bourgeoisie hope to obscure the historic nature of the proletariat as the class that is destined to lead mankind into the reign of freedom.

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