On the Dissolution of Tribune of the People
We are engaged now in a long, protracted combat, a dialectical conflict on a vast historical scale. The revolutionary process of the global class struggle of the proletariat for socialism got its real start in Paris, and has had its rollicking ups and downs since in the miners’ Labin/Albona, the Bolsheviks’ Moscow, Mao’s Jiangxi, Hoxha’s Albania, Beijing, Shanghai, the Spartacists and communists’ Berlin, etc. The preceding epic of class struggle, the struggle of the bourgeoisie to expunge the old feudal order from the world and establish capitalism (though in many colonized countries they later came to utilize and co-opt semifeudalism for their own purposes, when the advanced imperialist-capitalist countries began to export their capital to colonies that were still feudal in economy), was itself a great epic across many countries and centuries, with successes and failures before it finally concluded in establishing bourgeois rule. Efforts, some that lasted and some that did not, toward the establishment of bourgeois states and economies over feudal ones include the civil war in England and earlier the revolts of Wat Tyler and Jon Ball, the revolutionary first republic in France and those it fostered, the early merchant oligarchic-bourgeois republics in Italy and the Netherlands, the Meiji revolution in Japan, and many of the bourgeois revolutions and national awakenings across Europe in the “Spring of Nations” of the 19th century. Just as the proletarian movement has had its traitors, its Khrushchevs and Gorbachevs and Hua Guofengs and Deng Xiaopings, so too did the bourgeois movement long ago have its own traitors, its bloody Bonapartes and Cromwells. Every historical process of class struggle has its setbacks, is a protracted process of many many years and phases, and is a historical inevitability condemned to win.
Tribune of the People, the main newspaper and press organ of the US Maoist movement, is gone. No wide-release announcement of this has been made, but new articles have ceased to flow and correspondence made with what was Tribune’s email by comrades of mine has been replied to with a message stating the paper was dissolved due to the contradiction between the revolutionary movement and revisionist elements in the paper’s leadership, with the stipulation that comrades of the former paper continue working for the cause. It is the above view we must keep in mind as we react to the sad news of the loss of our country’s communist movement’s main publication: the historical progress of humanity as a long and arduous process of centuries, a protracted process of constant struggle with a general forward trend but significant setbacks, which in no way change this trend. This does not, though, mean the process is “gradual”; it isn’t. Lenin said “there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” This was a somewhat hyperbolic way of communicating something significant about the basic nature of how dialectics in society and nature alike progress over time: like a pot that heats and heats over time before boiling over all at once, there can be years and years of gradual quantitative intensification of contradictions (between classes in this case) before a qualitative leap occurs and there is an explosion of struggle, of fighting, of forceful and glorious change. This change is not always necessarily a “success” in the sense of a revolution that, for lack of a better word, “sticks,” but it always moves history and the progressive class (in the present phase of history the proletariat and, in semifeudal countries, peasantry) forward physically and ideologically toward this final victory.
It is in the context of this long, protracted process of quantitative development, punctuated by rapid periods of dialectical struggle to resolve, through qualitative change, the contradictions that have developed and intensified, that we must view present developments. In biology the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution parallels this structure, suggesting the role of dialectical processes in evolution and lending credence to the theory of Dialectical Materialism and its use in understanding the nature of the universe and its development over time. We are, now, at a moment of struggle, a qualitative change that will define further struggle, in the dialectical process(es) of the development of the communist movement itself. It is not an eruption of the central class contradictions in society, or not so directly, but one of the contradictions between different class-lines in our movement. Many are going to be dismayed at the dissolution of the publication Tribune of the People, and they are well within their rights to feel a little sad one of our core nexuses of organizing was a nest for a secret clique of revisionists and had to be destroyed and replaced. I myself feel disheartened. But we cannot be misled into thinking the deathblow to our movement has been dealt, for in reality what has happened is that the last several years of quantitative intensification of contradictions have borne fruit in the form of a qualitative explosion of change, which has laid the foundations for the next stage in our country’s communist movement’s development.
The fact is, a revolutionary process necessarily involves many bodies and organizations, and many will become defunct before the victory of socialist construction. Let us look at the Soviet case. The broad-strokes understanding of this revolution goes as follows: the monarchy was abolished and a provisional government established in a brief bourgeois-led period; then Lenin, Stalin, Kalinin etc.’s CPSU(Bolsheviks) led a protracted war to replace this and the various tsarist-remnant and proto-fascist factions of the White movement, uniting the soviets behind them to build dual power and ultimately a union of (originally four) soviet socialist republics. This is, in broad strokes, accurate. But we must understand that in the course of this process, which was again protracted, many many revolutionary formulations came and then, for various reasons, went. Many dozens of other small proto-state SSRs were founded and dissolved over the course of the struggle. The CPSU(b), which was earlier the Bolshevik faction of the RSDLP, had many predecessor organizations and many revisionist groups with which it had to compete for leadership of the soviets, and vanguardship and ideological leadership of the workers’ struggle. And, rest assured, comrades, the CPSU went through plenty of publications that needed to be dissolved or denounced and replaced!
Iskra is a good example. There was a time Iskra was a core organ of the revolutionary movement: when the RSDLP was the unified vanguard of the struggle, the Red faction of the Bolsheviks generally had control of the publication, and it was through it that the Leninist theory of democratic vanguardism initially began to be practiced through the spread of the communist doctrine among local Party groups by its published issues. As the internal contradictions of the RSDLP became severely antagonistic and a rectification, in which it was divided into the genuinely revolutionary CPSU(b) and the counterrevolutionary RSDLP(m), became necessary, however, it was the Menshivik RSDLP(m) faction which took control of Iskra, and it subsequently needed to be renounced. But was this the deathblow of the revolutionary tide? No! The loss of Iskra can be called a setback, but the communists did not falter long, because they knew that new revolutionary tools would succeed those they lost, and indeed they did: new revolutionary publications like Pravda were built. And, lest we forget, Pravda was founded ten years (!) before the founding of the USSR, proving again that the process of revolution is long and arduous, but nonetheless victory will come in the end.
We must not, then, be dismayed- not for long, at any rate- by the loss of Tribune, especially in light of the supposed reason for its dissolution: an intractable plague of revisionism and petit-bourgeois thinking right within the leadership. A new revolutionary organ will no doubt come along soon enough- a better one, too, without these internal contradictions that fester, become antagonistic, and necessitate rectification by dissolution. The great march of history will keep moving forward on the road to communism, just as it did when Iskra was lost!
So what do we do, we left behind by Tribune? First, let us state the very important thing: there remain community organizations laying the foundations for dual power, on which a People’s War will build, in many communities, and, based on the Tribune dissolution announcement’s statement that “a lot of comrades are still wanting to organize and continue working,” we may infer that this includes some of what were once the local Tribune support committees. Firstly and foremostly, the communists must support all genuinely revolutionary mass organizations in this country in their work, by word and by deed. Also, each of us who is or strives to be a communist must live the principles of the communist movement, going among the masses to teach and spread these principles and to take part in the struggles of the ordinary working masses of humanity, in preparation for the emergence of the new communist Party we must, in future, reconstitute and unite behind. We must do this as individuals, and whenever at all possible in organized groupings as well. For the many of us who are of labour-aristocrat and petit-bourgeois backgrounds, this includes the necessity of the process of “class suicide,” the surrender of the privilege and mindset of one’s class background to unite with the interests of the working masses, to see the world in the objective truth of the scientific philosophy of proletarian liberation, Maoism, and in the mindset and outlook† of those most exploited and oppressed under capitalism, the industrial and agricultural proletariat- Comrade Kevin Rashid Johnson has written an interesting new essay on this concept, and while I would criticize parts of it•, its thesis is totally solid. Communists must take an active role in promoting the doctrine of Maoism, in encouraging revolutionary optimism for the communist future, and in rallying to the cause of the oppressed and the proletarian majority each time they suffer under the contradictions of capitalism. As long as we do this, the movement goes on.
† Some might call this the subjective experience of the working class, and this is not inaccurate, but we must be careful not to fall into subjectivism when it comes to looking at the world. Communists must sympathize with the subjective attitudes and experiences of the downtrodden, but always be objective and scientific in addressing and acting on them.
•Its analysis conflates, in my view, the petit bourgeoisie (the “middle class” between haute bourgeoisie and proletariat, the small-business owners, small-time stock-gamblers, etc. who both own capital and do labour) with the labour-aristocracy, the upper echelons of intellectual and professional proletarians who, in developed capitalist-imperialist economies (as Lenin was first to describe), are elevated above the other proletariat and given certain special privileges such that they become in outlook petit-bourgeois, but who remain physically proletarians as far as their actual role in production.