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New International, April 1947



Correspondence ...

[On Responsible Marxist Leadership]


From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 4, April 1947, p. 126.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



In the January issue of The New International there occurs, in the article on the coal strike, a sentence worded so ambiguously that an uncharitable opponent, seizing upon it in isolation, could use it with effect against the Workers Party. (Page 6, 2nd column, 1st paragraph, 3rd sentence)

This reads:

“But Marxists must gauge it from the long range point of view, not from the utterly irresponsible concept that every sharpening of class conflict, at all times and under all conditions, must receive the support of the revolutionary wing of labour.”

I suggest that the latter part of the sentence should read thus: “— the utterly irresponsible concept that every sharpening of class conflict to a point liable to precipitate a decisive showdown between the organized workers and the state machine, should be advocated by the revolutionary wing of labour.”

It is the phrase “receive the support” with which I quarrel. Leaving aside the existence of unscrupulous opponents, it seems to me that a completely honest worker could misconstrue the meaning in such a way as to believe that the WP might stand aside from the picket line if it thought a strike was ill considered. The true meaning is clear enough – the danger of “July Days” and most especially when the revolutionary movement scarcely exists as a movement. The need for the party to act as a responsible Marxist leadership, to advise against actions which it considers foredoomed to defeat and disaster – while, nevertheless, participating in those which break over its head – to advocate the switching of pressure to another flank, etc. In a word, to act in accordance with Marxist political strategy, and not function as a group of simple industrial militants. With this analysis I entirely agree, but it is best not to leave the slightest room for possible misunderstanding or misrepresentation.



We are in entire agreement with the point made by R.B. and are grateful for his having called it to our attention. Our point was entirely confined to the political policy involved in the question of sharpening the class conflict. While it should go without saying that Marxists support every struggle of the workers against the class enemy, regardless of how critical they may be of the course being pursued in a given instance, care must be taken at all times to prevent any doubts or misunderstanding on this score.

The history of Marxism is replete with examples of the revolutionary party opposing the sharpening or joining of the struggle while throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the struggle itself. Outstanding examples are Marx’s attitude on the Paris Commune and the role of the Bolsheviks in the above-mentioned “July Days” during the Russian Revolution. – Editors

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