Over the past few weeks both The Cuban Communist Party and the Socialist Worker’s Party (US) have made it a point to condemn the actions of the participants in the bombing of the Boston Marathon. On the one hand such statements against what appears to most working people as senseless evil are easy to make. On the other hand these are important messages.
The glorification of violence on the part of those wearing the mantle of revolution and claiming to speak out against social injustice is all too common. It is my opinion that militarist, conspiratorial and terrorist forms of organization on the part of revolutionary groups during much of the 20th century created a legacy that continues to shackle the working class, socialist and and anti-capitalist movements in their struggle to find a footing in the current epoch.
Variants of this form of leftist extremism are found amongst radical sects in all of the major socialist currents, Maoist, Pro-Soviet Stalinist, people who consider themselves to be Trotskyist, as well so amongst people who consider themselves to be anarchists and progressive nationalists of various stripes and even certain radical liberal social-democratic currents who may pursue a concilationist reform agenda on their own turf but romanticize violent radicalism in other contexts.
This sort of orientation mostly stems from a perspective in which the working class is viewed with a compassion-less eye as an objectified mass, like a bull to be goaded into revolution, or a pitied child unable to see it own interests but needing one who knows better to come to her defense, rather than as the subject makers of history. To this true believer in his own theoretical construct, once the red flag has been waved, the bull must charge. If he does not charge, perhaps then some form of violence will make him start. Never does this revolutionary toreador consider the possibility that the patient bull is smarter than he.
Of course the question as to when and where force is justified is infinitely reductive with its extreme poles being insurrectionist anarchism-with no purpose beyond mayhem being it object–on the one hand, and pacifism on the quaker model–in which even direct self defense is considered a spiritual violation–representing the other extreme.
I welcome comments on this post but will not entertain the conversation if it devolves into an abstract reductionist argument. The question to me seems to require a careful view in terms of principle, tactics and history.
This is to say that there must be a basic reasoning of moral principle in which individuals who claim to represent certain values must respect those values in the context of their own behaviors and statements. If we are clear enough to represent the social interests of the working class then it must be a matter of principle that our actions and tactical orientation do not create destructive conditions whose primary victim is our own class.
On the tactical level if our goal is to lead toward the free association of the producers it must be understood that the democratic development of a social class is not achievable by means of violence. In this way one better understands the forced collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union under the leadership of Stalin, the effect of which was a massive decline in the productive capacity of agriculture there due to the political demoralization and generalized disruption of the lives of millions of Russian Ukrainian and Central Asian peasants. It is not extreme to consider, at the dissolution of soviet power some 50 years after, that this act was the death blow to the Russian Revolution. The peasantry who, despite their class position as small proprietors, had been integral to the overthrow of the major landholders and financial/industrial bourgeoisie, the victory of the Bolshevik regime in the Civil War and defense against invasions (1918-1921) were treated by Stalin as social objects rather than as they had been as actors and participants in the struggle.
Equally important to the consideration of strategy and tactics in the battle against capitalism is to see with a clear eye where one stands in history. Tactics that may have served Toussaint Louverture two hundred and thirty years ago may be lauded for their heroism respected in their context and defended as tactically correct. They may however not fit so well into the present moment.
The Militant, in my view correctly identifies “jihadist islamism” as a reactionary movement and so not one to be identified with the historically progressive struggle to defend the social interests of the working class.
Links to the rest of it are below.
As also a link to Lenin’s “Left Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder”
Vol. 77/No. 19 May 20, 2013
Why revolutionaries condemn terror
methods, from Boston to Colombia
Further information can be found in this April 16/ AP article published in the Huffington Post.
Cuba Sends Condolences To Victims Of Boston Marathon Explosions, Condemns ‘All Acts Of Terrorism’