– Where’s The Winter Palace
As we have stated, we believe many of the criticisms of the US Marxist-Leninist movement are correct. However, we still believe it is important to uphold something called ‘Marxism-Leninism’, though something that is radically different from what is practiced by those revisionist organisations which dominate the theoretical discourse in the US and the UK today.
Is Marxism-Leninism a historically contingent ideology? Yes, in the broadest terms, all such ideologies are historically contingent. We do, however, hold that there is a contemporary ideology in existence today which may be described as Marxism-Leninism, a practical political theory for the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, which continues to prove to be the most vital and revolutionary ideology today.
We agree wholeheartedly that we must read outside of a narrowly defined ‘Marxist-Leninist canon’ if we are to revitalise Marxism-Leninism in the anglophone world. But it was never the position of Marx or Lenin that our reading or our work were to be trapped within the narrow confines of party-approved thinkers. Lenin read Hegel in a time of crisis, Marx’s writings are filled with literary references. Beyond such historical references, however, we believe our ideology to express the truth in the totality strongly enough that there is of course nothing wrong with reading, engaging with, and working with persons from diverse ideological commitments. It has never been our position that anarchists and Trotskyites, for example, are “heretics”, simply that these formal labels happen to reflect a broadly different historical perspective than our own. In our practical work, however, many who identify with this traditions have proven themselves greater than many “Marxist-Leninists”, and important insights from sincere critics of the established order, even those who identify with merely as liberal democrats, may be engaged with to produced a fuller analysis. If the truth is in the totality, as dialectical thinkers believe, we will understand the social processes which produce diverse thinkers and political trends, rather than sectarianly dismiss them as heretics while rereading, with no critical eye or sincere understanding, a few works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin as if they were sacred texts to be regurgitated to suppress critical thought.
The traditions of Marxism-Leninism which we believe are most vital are rarely seen inside the anglophone world. In Turkey, Kurdistan, Sri Lanka, India, Latin America, the resurgence of Maoism in the Philippines, India, Afghanistan, and even China. In this sense, the incorrect ideas and lines of various communists are a result not just of their sectarian behaviour, but of their inability to develop on the nascent revolutionary traditions which have developed in their own society (for example the heroic socialist Black liberation trend from the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense onwards). This has been exacerbated by the lack of contact with revolutionary traditions outside of the US since China closed itself of to revolutionaries and opened itself up to foreign capital, or since the death of Enver Hoxha (notable exceptions are the Revolutionary Organisation of Labour and the relatively new American Party of Labour, who have made active attempts to grapple with deep theoretical and practical debates happening between organisations in diverse countries). Imperial arrogance and great nation chauvinism lifts the likes of Sam Marcy in the United States, or Tony Cliff in the United Kingdom, to great theoretical leaders, and as such, any true internationalist tendencies which existed in these countries withered on the vine, meaning that now, as the need for a revolutionary communist approach to mass organisation is needed, we find ourselves without the tools we need to develop one.
There is no better time for a piece such as Where’s The Winter Palace to be published. We believe that it’s positive reception amongst many in the US and Anglophone left is indicative of its correct analysis of many of the problems of the US Marxist-Leninist movement which we believe are also applicable to the context of UK Trotskyite organisations as well. We see it as particularly important in this context, as we have seen a rise of a number of young, vocal, self-declared Marxist-Leninists on social media joining these organisations (in particular the PSL). We support the authors in their critiques of the movement as it stands, and have high hopes that through interventions such as this, a stronger, fighting proletarian movement can be built.
We level our critiques here in the spirit of proletarian internationalism and comradely criticism, and we hope they are taken as such. Our critics focus on seeing the need to unite the strong focus on new revivified forms of practice and party organisation, with an equal focus on revolutionary theory. We wish to highlight again the importance of internationalism for every and any organising effort which parties undertake, and believe we have set out the criteria needed for this to be done on a principled and effective basis to avoid the pitfalls that the authors have so effectively demonstrated in the work.
We hope that this essay is the beginning of a fruitful and productive exchange between our two publications.
– The Lever Editorial Group.
* The title was chosen as a tribute both to the original League of Struggle in St. Petersburg which would go on to lay the foundations for what would become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) to emphasise the need for theoretical development that will complement practical work, and also for the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, an organisation from the heroic era of the Communist Party USA when they fought for Black liberation, prior to selling out Black people in the US south in 1935. We believe the name “League of Struggle for Negro Rights” was chosen as a tribute to the history of the communists in the Russian empire who fought for the liberation of so many peoples suffering under the Tsarist yoke prior to the revolution. We hope that interested US communists will appreciate this heroic moment in their own history, brief though it was.