Monday, December 3, 2007

Comment on the Publication of Marxism, History and Socialist Consciousness


On Aug. 17, the World Socialist Web Site announced the publication of a printed version of David North's polemic, "Marxism, History and Socialist Consciousness" and posted North's introduction to this volume. A brief comment is in order here. North claims that because it has been a year since he wrote his document, there is no further point in waiting for a reply from us because "something akin to a statute of limitations has been passed." We were unaware that any such limitation existed; it is certainly a novelty in the history of Marxist polemics. We could add that until this moment it would seem that North himself was unaware of such a limitation since he waited 3 years to respond to Brenner's 2003 document, "To know a thing is to know its end", and as we point out in our reply, he has to this day not answered Steiner's 2004 document, "The Dialectical Path of Cognition and Revolutionizing Practice". The only conclusion one can draw is that North applies this "statute of limitations" only to his opponents but not to himself. The fact is that from the moment we received North's document, we made it clear both that we would be responding to it and that our response would necessarily be a lengthy one. It often takes longer to unravel distortions than to make them, and North's polemic is replete with distortions. More importantly, we saw our responsibility as entailing not only answering North's arguments but also placing this polemic in the context of the political evolution of the International Committee. All that took time - in fact a little more than a year - and we make no apologies for that. We are convinced that the serious and principled nature of our forthcoming statement will be evident to any objective-minded reader. North, on the other hand, proceeds in an increasingly cynical manner. This is particularly evident in the curious timing of this book launch. In July we posted an announcement on our website that we would be issuing our reply to North in September. North was certainly aware of that, and yet he chose to publish the book a month before our reply is due. (One might add here that North is not only the writer of this book but also its publisher, so the decision as to when to issue it was entirely up to him.) Why not wait to see what we have to say? If the political education of party members was the primary concern, that surely would have been the way to proceed. Instead, it is obvious that this book launch is meant to preempt any further discussion, to declare that (given North's fondness for legal metaphors) the 'case is closed' and thus to provide himself with an alibi in advance for ignoring our forthcoming reply. The readers of the WSWS should not be fooled. What North fears is an honest and thorough discussion of the issues we have raised. We are confident that this attempt to marginalize and silence us will not succeed.

August 18, 2007

Frank Brenner, Alex Steiner