Friday, July 8, 2011

A Comment on David Bruce's 'A Charlatan Exposed'

by James Bradley

Your introduction to David Bruce's piece, A Charlatan Exposed,  provided an excellent backdrop for the ideas raised by Bruce and provokes further interest. You make several points in your bullet summary with which I heartily agree and your reference to "Left Keynesians claiming to be Marxists" and the "honorific . . . Science of Perspectives" is an apt comment with respect to the WSWS commentary on world events.

Yes, David Bruce's work is much more focused on philosophical issues than North's and his remark labelling Healy's philosophy as "misunderstood empiricism without the clarity of the empirical philosophers" is particularly succinct and memorable.

Clearly, Bruce put a great deal of effort into exposing what he calls the “fraudulent nature of the ‘philosophy’ which has passed for Marxism in our movement for years ”.

Today, the philosophy of the ICFI has again been challenged in the series of documents produced by yourself and Frank Brenner. I urge all casual readers of this site to take the time to read all of the relevant documents.

I was particularly interested in Bruce's reference to One Step Forward. With respect to Plekhanov's opportunism at the conclusion of the Congress, Bruce makes the point:

“As a matter of fact, neither Lenin nor Trotsky tried to explain Plekhanov’s opportunism primarily by looking for ‘philosophical’ flaws in his writings although they did criticise them. They looked rather at the evolution of his social being: long years of exile, isolation from the movement, the undeveloped state of the class struggle during his formative years, etc etc. ”

Of course this discussion is reminiscent of your discussion with David North.

Ironically, whilst Bruce may not have been aware of Lenin's remarks concerning Plekhanov in Volume 38, Lenin made some very explicit comments (One Step Forward: Section P) with respect to Plekhanov's failure to have a dialectical understanding of the fruits of his (Plekhanov's) own publication What Should Not Be Done. When Plekhanov is taken aback by the reaction to his overtures to the Martovites, Lenin points out:

“This misfortune befell Comrade Plekhanov because he violated a basic principle of that dialectics to which he so unluckily referred, namely, that there is no abstract truth, that truth is always concrete. That is why it was out of place to lend an abstract form to the perfectly concrete idea of yielding to the Martovites after the League Congress.”

When writing about “ 'the continuity of Trotskyism' “, Bruce says:

“I would argue that it is not established simply by showing (perhaps we would end by showing the opposite – consider where that would leave us) a thread of integrity through different sections of the International vis- a-vis the Permanent Revolution, dialectical method, etc. Rather, the continuity of Trotskyism is based upon the economic and cultural conquests of October and the gains of the working class that have followed. The betrayals of Stalinism and social-democracy have not led to the overthrow of the property relations established in 1917. [This written in 1985] Millions of Russians did not die in vain in the struggle against fascism. That is the primary determinant of the continuity of Trotskyism. It is the movement of social forces (the major conquests of masses of people) that determines our ideas, not the other way round. ”

Bruce seems to suggest that the continuity of Trotskyism is diminished by the betrayals of Stalinism. Isn't this defeat of the working class an affirmation of the correct analysis and warnings made by Trotsky of the policies of Stalinism? The continuity of Trotskyism is not diminished by these defeats, but by new interpretations of Trotskyism which ignore what Trotsky had to say.

The ICFI today bases its abandonment of work in the trade unions on the defeats of the working class caused by the class collaborationist policies of the trade union leadership. Amongst Trotsky's last articles, Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, he warned:

“From what has been said it follows quite clearly that, in spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes in a certain sense even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party. The matter at issue is essentially the struggle for influence over the working class. Every organization, every party, every faction which permits itself an ultimatistic position in relation to the trade union, i.e., in essence turns its back upon the working class, merely because of displeasure with its organizations, every such organization is destined to perish. And it must be said it deserves to perish.”

Thanks David Bruce for making this work available and thanks Alex for the very informative introduction.

James Bradley


Mark said...

I think there is a certain danger in seeing the defeats of the working class as a affirmation of Trotskyism. It can turn into the objectivism of ICFI which touts its predictions of defeat as a success for Trotskyism. A prognosis should serve a different function, it should warn of dangers of course, but it should also give a strategy for the working class and the revolutionary party. The strategy or plan of action never gets formed in the case of the ICFI, they see there role as to provide analysis, but in most cases, as in their news feed, it is just raw information, and somehow the working class is supposed to connect the dots, organize itself and form a strategy. I don't see the ICFI at all representing the continuity of Trotskyism or dimishing it, they have simply broken paths with Trotskyism and Marxism and gone their separate way.

Mark said...

I'd like to backtrack a bit here, because I think what I wrote is not quite correct. The question again is, does the SEP diminish the continuity of Trotskyism? and I would have to agree to a good extent on that point. It is not simply the case that they have seperated paths, they maintain that there is an identity between the movement of Trotskyism and the movement of the ICFI. To the extent they falsely represent Trotskyism, as you note on the issue of the trade unions, and falsely represent Marxism, they do diminsh these movements. And the polemics on this site demonstrate amply the distance they have traveled from Marxism and Trostskyism.

I would disagree with Bruce on a different point, that the continuity of Trotskyism is measured only in the material conquests of working class. I think there is no doubt that the material conquests by working class can strengthen the Marxist movement, but the continuity of this movement is not determined primarily by material conquests. Marxism is an intellectual and practical movement, its continuity is defined by its living forces and their ideas and practice. Stalin not only paved the way for the destruction of the conquests of October revolution, but dealt a huge blow to the continuity of Marxism by exterminating a whole layer of revolutionary Marxists and socialists.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with Mark that the ICFI has broken with Marxism, he is not specific about the nature this break. Alex and Frank correctly pointed out in their articles that the heart of this break was the abandonment of dialectical materialism. While I have fundamental disagreements with their method for demonstrating this abandonment, there can be no question that this is at the root of the ICFI’s abandonment of Marxism.

As Lenin states in “Ten Questions to a Lecturer” ( ):
“1. Does the lecturer acknowledge that the philosophy of Marxism is dialectical materialism?
If he does not, why has he never analyzed Engels' countless statements on this subject?
If he does, why do the Machists call their "revision" of dialectical materialism "the philosophy of Marxism"?”

There can be no development of the method of dialectical materialism if it is not fought for as the most advanced method for engaging the world. The working class will not be able to build socialism without studying and mastering this method. The absence of any but the most cursory history of Marxism, of the history of the workers movement, and the history of human thought is glaring evidence of this abandonment by the ICFI.

The ICFI is not attempting a revision of dialectical materialism, they have abandoned it. Therefore, they have abandoned Marxism.

Mark said...

The lack of content regarding dialectics is significant and was noted in the polemics of Steiner and Brenner, but that should not be the end of the critique of the ICFI. And while its true that they are not trying to revise Marxism, it is not immediately clear that they abandoning it either. They portray themselves as Marxists, and not only Marxists but Marxists of the most orthodox stripe. They publish their own seemingly orthodox accounting of Marxist history leading to founding of SEP. For anyone that has not spent years studing Marx, which is probably most of the readers of the WSWS, their abandonment of Marxism will come as a strange proposition.

The polemic MWHH and the other documents on this site have been quite effective in drawing out the theorecetical and practical consequences of this abandoment of dialectics and demonstrating how pragmatism, positivism, and impressions have taken its place in the method of the ICFI. In so far as the ICFI was an organization capable of being reformed it was an important effort, but beyond that Marxists need to come to terms with the ICFI which arguably reprented the continuity of Trotskyism for a time. Even if the inner life of party today resembles that of a cult, many people still visit the WSWS looking for what they believe is a Marxist perspective on world events. A thoroughgoing critique was entirely waranted and I believe will be important in the future for regenerating the Marxist movement.

Tom said...

As Marx famously said at the conclusion to his “Theses on Feuerbach”, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” This is not the approach of the ICFI. They apparently think scientific analysis of the events of the day, thereby enlightening the minds and raising the consciousness of their readership, will bring about socialism. This is akin to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

What the ICFI does not do is call for the working class to examine its own worldview and practice. Selling Marxist classics is not doing this. This is treating these classics as a kind of religious icon which we pay homage to. The lack of discussion of the fundamentals of Marxism, the lack of educating the worker class about the history of the struggle against capitalism, the lack of philosophical discussion about the history of human thought; all are symptoms of a departure from Marxism. That is what reading these classics is for and there is scant evidence of this on the WSWS.

What is needed is to conflict with the bourgeois, capitalist worldview that the working class has inherited. This worldview and its attendant practice must be superseded with a socialist worldview that can only be developed in the struggles of the working class to replace capitalism. For this the dialectical materialist method, developed by Marx and Engels, is required.

The comment of Mark that, “The lack of content regarding dialectics (by the ICFI) is significant and was noted in the polemics of Steiner and Brenner, but that should not be the end of the critique of the ICFI.” is disturbing. It is not the beginning or the end, but it is the heart of the critique with the ICFI. As Lenin says in the quote in my letter above, dialectical materialism IS Marxism. If you remove Marxism than what is left for taking the ICFI seriously?

Also, the statement “the lack of content regarding dialectics” indicates an idealist view of dialectical materialism. This method is not just ideas in our head. Such an approach is part of the postmodernist approach to science that treats science as one myth among many. Dialectical materialism is the method for attaining, through our practice, an approximation in our mind of the material world that is in constant motion and thereby becoming the guide to our actions. It is in this interaction that we change the world.

As Engels said in "Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy" in section 4: Marx:

“We again took a materialistic view of the thoughts in our heads, regarding them as images [Abbilder] of real things instead of regarding real things as images of this or that stage of the absolute concept. Thus dialectics reduced itself to the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought — two sets of laws which are identical in substance, but differ in their expression in so far as the human mind can apply them consciously, while in nature and also up to now for the most part in human history, these laws assert themselves unconsciously, in the form of external necessity, in the midst of an endless series of seeming accidents. Thereby the dialectic of concepts (Hegel) itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world and thus the dialectic of Hegel was turned over; or rather, turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet.”

Mark said...

Tom, I think you're view, if I'm not mistaken, reduces Marxism to a kind of pragamatism, that the only way to achieve knowledge is through practice. Certainly practical experience is one way that knowledge can be acquired, but in no sense can that be considered the core of the method of Marxism.

Marx didn't organize a strike or found a workers party to understand the laws of captalist development. To write Capital, Marx spent his time in a British library reviewing the history of capitalism and the history of political economy. Does this make Marx an idealist? Was he not employing the method of dialectics? Even before Marx was actively involved with the workers movment he employed the method of dialectics.

I think it is clear that understanding the world and changing the world are two interrelated but separate phases of Marxism. To reduce Marxism to some form of pragmatic activity would be just as much a dead end as reducing it to a form of contemplation. We need to regognize that Marxism has not only a practical component but an intellectual one as well.

The ICFI has two interrelated problems, in so far as they accurately understand the world situation, there is no strategy or conception of their own practice. On the other hand their adaptation to bourgeois ideology -- liberalism, pragmatism, and positivism -- and their abandonment of dialectics, means that there is no way for the ICFI to practically orient itself in the world as a revolutionary party.

Tom said...


How you can read this in my last post:

“What the ICFI does not do is call for the working class to examine its own worldview and practice. Selling Marxist classics is not doing this. This is treating these classics as a kind of religious icon which we pay homage to. The lack of discussion of the fundamentals of Marxism, the lack of educating the worker class about the history of the struggle against capitalism, the lack of philosophical discussion about the history of human thought; all are symptoms of a departure from Marxism. That is what reading these classics is for and there is scant evidence of this on the WSWS.”

And then say this in you post in response:

“Tom, I think you're view, if I'm not mistaken, reduces Marxism to a kind of pragamatism, that the only way to achieve knowledge is through practice. Certainly practical experience is one way that knowledge can be acquired, but in no sense can that be considered the core of the method of Marxism.”

is beyond me!

Theory and practice are not an either/or situation. They are not “separate phases of Marxism”. Theory and practice are a unity in conflict. You cannot have one without the other. Practice without theory is blind, leading to confusion and possible catastrophes. Theory without practice is dead abstraction leading to no change in the world except in the head of the theoretician who develops ideas separated from a materialist understanding of the world at the moment.

This separation of theory and practice once again shows an idealist approach to dialectical materialism, seeing dialectics as abstractions in our heads, not the science of the general laws of motion, BOTH of the external world and how this motion can be imaged in human thought.

Do you truly believe Marx cloistered himself in the British library separated from the workers struggles of his day? He published the first volume of Capital in 1867. Prior to that, in 1857 he had accumulated 800 pages of notes capital, landed property, wage labor, the state, foreign trade and the world market that was published almost 100 years later as Grundrisse. In 1859, he published “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”. In the early 1860s he worked on composing three large volumes, the Theories of Surplus Value, which discussed the theoreticians of political economy, particularly Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

During this period of intense theoretical activity, he joined the International Workingmen’s Association, the First International. He was quickly elected as the as leader of its General Council. He played a vital role in preventing the International being taken over by the anarchists led by Bakunin. During the Paris Commune in 1871 he played an important role through the International in orienting the communards with a correct political program.

Marx’s leadership of the First International came about both because he worked out the laws of capitalist development studying in the British library, a great achievement of the dialectical materialist method, and because he took the understanding that he had developed to the labor movement of his day.

Marx clearly understood that the approach to building socialism is to test theory in practice.

Sam said...

Of course Marxist Theory is based on practice, just not in the way many on the left narrowly recognize as practice. Basing ones theory on studying the history of the class struggle and the development of society is basing ones theory on practice on a much higher level than trying to somehow develop it from handing out leaflets outside factories.

There is also the fact though that theory is not class neutral but reflects social interests. Ones theory (and practice, eventually the two will reflect, even if indirectly, each other)is not simply a product of some neutral contemplation of history. The ICFI is a sect/multi-million dollar business whose purpose for existence is no longer about socialist revolution. That purpose affects both it's practice and theory.

Alex Steiner said...

Part I:

I think some of the more recent comments on this topic are becoming increasingly sterile. I don't mean to stifle genuine discussion and difference of opinion but I cannot follow what the fuss is about in the last couple of exchanges between Mark and Tom. It seems to me that Mark made a basically correct observation, which if I were to summarize it in my own words, maintains that Marxist theory has both a theoretical and a practical moment and our critique must deal with both if it is not to be one-sided. He also made the correct point that in assessing the theory and practice of a group like the ICFI one cannot simply say they have abandoned Marxism without further qualification because if you examine their output they have produced a vast body of literature claiming to defend Marxist orthodoxy. So the critique of the ICFI must take place on a deeper level which is precisely what we have done in our polemics.

Tom's latest comment, while saying many correct things, is something of an over-reaction to some of Mark's statements. Perhaps the problem here is how we conceive of the unity of theory and practice. It is certainly correct to note that had he not participated in the class struggles of his time and fought to lead the working class movement, Marx would not have been motivated to devote the bulk of his life to unearthing the basic laws of motion of capitalist society. But we must also be careful not to reduce the strictly theoretical side of Marx's work to the day to day concerns of organizing a movement. Marx's involvement in the class struggle did not absolve him of the responsibility to go through the Blue Books in the British Library and analyze and follow the arguments of Ricardo and the other classical economists and I might add devote some time to a study of Hegel's Logic.

I think the lesson here is that the unity of theory and practice for Marx (what he called in his Theses on Feuerbach "practical-critical activity") must not conceived too narrowly. Like everything else, this is a Unity of Identity and Difference. The theoretical moment is sublated into the practical moment, but in doing so it does not lose any of its theoretical validity. On the other hand it is also true to say that a theory that cannot be realized in practice (at least as far as social theory is concerned) is empty.

Perhaps this should bring us back to David Bruce's original discussion. Bruce very aptly demonstrated that Healy turned Marxist dialectics into empty formulas to cover up a deeply opportunist and anti-theoretical practice. On the other hand, it is equally mistaken to abandon the dialectic and claim that Marxism can be reduced to historical materialism as David North has done most recently. I made this very point in my comments on Bruce's piece:

"The untangling of the conflation of historical materialism with a ‘theory of knowledge’ is a useful antidote both to Healy’s tendency to vaporize the study of history or science into his ‘practice of cognition’ as well
as the equally wrong-headed notion that in analyzing history or politics one can dispense with philosophy or reinterpret philosophy in the narrowest sense to be little more than a defense of materialism."

It is well to recall that Healy's 'practice of cognition' was always coupled with an absurdly narrow interpretation of the unity of theory and practice. Healy in fact considered that the validity of his 'dialectical insights' stemmed from and reinforced the 'practice' of the deliberations of the Secretariat of the Workers Revolutionary Party. This heady brew of self-justification by the party leadership were exported to the American Workers League. For instance, take the following statement from Workers League perspectives document published in 1977:

Alex Steiner said...

Part II:

"The practice of cognition is inseparably linked to democratic centralism. The party leadership each day derives new notions from analyzing that day's events, following the development of the labor movement, and most importantly, examining all aspects of the practice of the party. These notions are then transformed into new material in the party press, new initiatives in the labor movement or changes in the organization of the party."

"The party membership as a whole must then test out these notions collectively in its practice. Newspapers must be sold, policies must be fought for. The experience and knowledge derived from this practice must then be examined once again by the leadership so that new notions can be derived. In this way the practice of cognition is a practice of continually checking and and improving our practice."

Mea culpa, I believe I was the author of this section of the Workers League's perspectives document of 1977. This description combines certain truisms (such that it is necessary for a party to check the results of its interventions and draw some conclusions from that) with the fantastic notion that the pinnacle of theoretical validation lies in the deliberations of the Central Committee of a party. This is the kind of hubris that the Marxist movement has been infected with for many years and it certainly marked much of Healy's leadership.

Note also the incredible flattening of what is meant by “theory”. There is nothing here about acquiring an understanding of the history of philosophy, of developments in the natural science, of developments in culture and the arts, not to mention any study of Marx’s Capital. We simply reflect on developments in the labor movement and elsewhere in what is conceived of as the “class struggle” and develop some “notions” which we then “test” out in this bastardized understanding of “practice”.

Finally as to Sam's comment, I think the statement that theory is not class neutral has to be qualified lest we fall into the trap of judging the validity of a theory by criteria of whose class interests it serves. Remember that the Stalinist science bureacuracy in the 1930's condemned Einstein's theory of relativity because it was deemed to be "idealist" and therefore served the interests of the bourgeoisie.

What we can say is that when it comes to social theories they are very prone to hidden assumptions and prejudices based on class interests.

The ICFI is indeed a sect today but we have not spent so much time deconstructing their theoretical and practical work if we think they could be so easily dismissed. Rather I think the work we have done in our critique of the ICFI can and should play a role in contributing to the rebirth of genuine Marxism because many of the issues that we have discussed are the same ones that will be faced in any attempt to construct a new movement.

Gerry Downing said...

This is an extract from a longer document which shows that North's problems did not originate in the US:

Nevertheless, objectivism has been the theoretical basis of the centrist degeneration and consequent crisis of the Fourth International. It has led to the tail-ending of one movement or process after another (the attitude to Titoism in Yugoslavia in the late 1940s and early 1950s being the first clear example of this method). However, there have tended to be some differences between the objectivism followed by those forces which were part of the International Secretariat following the 1953 split and those which were part of the International Committee. The former have tended to adapt to petty-bourgeois forces and tendencies of nationalist or Stalinist origin: the FLN in the Algerian War of the 1950s, Castroism in Cuba, the student movement in Europe and North America in the 1960s and early 1970s, guerrillaism in Latin America during the same period, Sandinism in Nicaragua.
The latter have tended to adapt to the objective movement of the working class. The spontaneous struggles of workers and movements in the trade unions have been seen as the forward movement of workers breaking from reformism. This has led to syndicalist and economist adaptations of Marxism to the present level of consciousness of Rank-and-file movements in the trade unions. It has generally been clothed in the guise of orthodoxy an attack on the adaptation of the International Secretariat/USFI currents to petty-bourgeois movements. While much of that criticism was correct, the orthodoxy itself was poisoned. Fundamentally, it represented a legitimation of the equally revisionist workerism of the International Committee tradition …
In the SLL/WRP these tendencies were reflected in adaptation to the rank-and-file militancy of the shop stewards movements in the 1960s and early 1970s and were reinforced hand-in-hand with its increasingly sectarian, catastrophist turn. Indeed, there was a direct link between the objective process of workers’ struggles as conceived by the SLL/ WRP and catastrophism - the crisis and collapse of the capitalist economy pushing the working class further to the left and forcing it to break with reformism. However, this did not immunise the SLL/WRP or any other International Committee currents, from the very same accommodation to bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces that they attacked in the International Secretariat/USFI, so that the WRP was to display an uncritical worship of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Yasser Arafat unsurpassed by anything in the history of Pabloism.”[11]

From Trotskyist History No 1 September 1993 What Happened to the Workers' Socialist League?

Alex Steiner said...

Just to clarify the record in response to Gerald Downing's comment, I am not in agreement with his assessment of the history of the Fourth International. Whatever their problems may have been, the forces that came together in 1953 to form the International Committee of the Fourth International were essentially correct in their opposition to the liquidationist course trumpeted by Pablo and Mandel. They were also correct in 1963 when they refused to go along with the Socialist Worker's Party's capitulation to the Pabloites. But being correct on critical issues at one historical conjuncture is no guarantee against theoretical, political and organizational degeneration. The remnants of the International Committee that linger on today should serve as a constant reminder of this lesson. This is not to say that we are oblivious to the deep seated theoretical problems that plagued the International Committee from the beginning. Unlike some, we do not adopt a religious attitude toward the organizational history of the Trotskyist movement. It was an organization launched under the most unfavorable conditions imaginable. There were clear signs of it going adrift shortly after Trotsky's assassination and these only became more acute in subsequent years. Even so, the Trotskyist movement in the postwar years could count on a number of real accomplishments despite all the difficulties it faced. And the veterans of the struggle against Pabloism from 1953 through the 1960's should be proud of their work.

We have written two book length polemics that have documented the sad fate of the International Committee:

Link to Marxism Without its Head or its Heart

Link to Downward Spiral

These works expore the theoretical and historical circumstances of the degeneration of the International Committee in far greater depth than has ever been previously attempted. But it is also worth remembering that a plague on both your houses approach to history can be just as wrongheaded as blind loyalty to a mythical past.

Alex Steiner

Ray Rising said...

Theoretically I endorse the whole outline of David Bruce's critique of G Healy's in his 'Charlatan Exposed. Both Bruce and I were comrades in the WRP and worked alongside one another for more than a decade until the 1985 split of the WRP AND ICFI. Where we 'old men' went to after the split and just how it is that we now agree on the falsity of Healy's subjective AND eclectic perversity of theory and practice as Marxism posing as Trotskyism, is an altogether other question, which I must leave aside here. I cannot but agree also with A Steiner in his critique of D North's singular theoretical and organisational regime of selective control over the SEP/WSWS group/tendency/party. What I do denote as lacking in his outlook however, is the singular campaign to correct the WSWS through North in particular. Trotsky amply demonstrated that the revolutionary character and resolve of a leadership that would seek to put itself at the head of the revolutionary movement could only itself prove so and be tested in this drive by unendingly seeking to bring workers into the organisation itself to thereby continually proletarianise the aspiring party and test the petty bourgeois pressures idealistically exerted on the party. That North imbues his ultra-left grouping with anti-Union, and thereby toward ANTI workers natural and elemental combinationism, should be a most important political ground to demonstrate how to fight for Trotskyism and in the course educate the leaders and workers in concert with one another. Alas, comrade Steiner seems to prefer to isolate his small(?) following within a closeted online page and deems it only worthy of very occasional 'news and analysis' for and by (if any), the workers themselves.

Alex Steiner said...


I am sorry that you find the theoretical work that we have done insufficient because we are not a mass movement that draws in millions of workers. In fact, we are not a movement at all and never claimed to be such. We make no apologies for that. What we have attempted to do is to clarify a nexus of theoretical issues involved in the building of a revolutionary movement. For good historical reasons this theoretical work took on the form of a polemic. Whether we have succeeded or not is for others to judge. But if we have succeeded, even partially, in clarifying some of the issues we have addressed then I think that we have made a substantial contribution to Marxism. I think such work is far more fruitful than the endeavors of various mini-groups and micro-groups that are very quick to work out positions on issues that are currently in the news but who never have the time to devote any serious consideration to the theoretical issues involved in building a revolutionary movement. The current thread here is a typical illustration of that problem. It is meant to be a space where thoughtful comments can be posted about David Bruce’s critique of Healy’s butchery of dialectics. And it did begin that way. But very quickly the discussion veered off any consideration of David Bruce’s piece and devolved into a political discussion with all the usual disagreements. Does this not indicate that there is a deep-seated resistance, even on the part of those who are nominally in agreement with the material, to actually wrestling with the issues discussed in Bruce’s critique?

I am not saying that political discussion and working out programmatic positions is unimportant. But surely we might make a little room for the philosophical issues? It used to be one of the strengths of the International Committee that it recognized that the philosophical issues are fundamental because if they are not clarified then it guarantees that your practice will become disoriented and your cadre will be mistrained. I think we have seen the results of that over and over again. Comrades that start out with the best of intentions are unable to sustain a revolutionary perspective.

Finally I have to say that I have never encountered the kind of resistance to a consideration of fundamental philosophical issues among workers as I have among the mostly middle class members of various left wing groups, including those claiming to be Marxists.

Alex Steiner