I recently posted a couple of what I myself termed anti-revisionist articles by Arlen Tracey, a Bay Area activist who has sent me a few notes over the last 18 months since I started this blog. A few readers have asked, in comradely fashion, for a little background on Comrade Tracey before weighing the two posted articles. The note below indicates Arlen Tracey is, perhaps in retirement, a "soldier of ideas" much as Fidel Castro describes himself. I assumed Arlen Tracey was a man, but realize now I have no way to support that assumption. Below his c.v. I have added his most recent article on revisionism. It is clearly the work of someone who has been in the trenches and realizes that the struggle over program is more than just a poker game between theoreticians. To answer a question already put to me: no, I do not know how to get in touch with Comrade Tracey; the gmail address the articles come from is, at the author's request, confidential.
Comradely, s/Jay for Marxist Update
Who Is Arlen Tracey?
Arlen Tracey is a communist organizer who previously worked closely with the October League (M-L), the Marxist-Leninist Party, the Democratic Workers Party, the Bay Area Radical Union, the Provisional Organizing Committee, the National Labor Federation, the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, the Communist Workers Party, and numerous other communist organizations that sprung out revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s and early 1970s, hoping to push the proletariat into action.
He is steeped heavily in the writings of Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Frederick Engels, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Enver Hoxha, Bill Dunne, Ken Cockrell, Amical Cabral, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro, Jose Maria Sison, Rosa Luxemburg, Huey Newton, and numerous other revolutionary liberation fighters.
He never joined any of these organizations as the rhetoric about “Soviet Social Imperialism” and their desire to force the secession of the “Black Belt South” on Afro-American workers always repulsed him.
As revisionism gripped and destroyed these organization in the 1980s in response to the re-strengthening of U.S. Imperialism, he buried himself in the mass movement, acting as an organizer for Welfare Rights and the struggle for LGBT liberation, among other movements for class struggle and people’s war.
In the past two years, as the prospects for socialist revolution increased and capitalism entered its long awaited self-destruction, Tracey now makes clear his desire to contribute to discussion of Marxism-Leninism. He is most excited about the possible formation of a genuine vanguard party in the United States, as was attempted numerous times in his lifetime, but each time resulted in a mess of sectarianism, cultism, revisionism, and ultra-leftism.
He resides in San Francisco, and is not currently a member of any Marxist-Leninist organization. His Communist outlook directs his activism in the local Asian-American community, organized labor, and anti-imperialism.
He is currently re-directing his efforts to push for more agitation and rhetoric about Marxist-Leninist ideology. He sees the effort to create dialogue and discussion about Communism by Jay Rothermel at “Marxist Update” to be very important, fascinating, and relevant in modern times, and hopes to contribute more to Rothermel’s forum for revolutionary continuity in times of burning relevancy and urgency for humanity.
The Symptoms and Cure for The Disease of Revisionism
By Arlen Tracey
Revisionism is the process by which revolutionary organizations cease to do their intended task. Revisionism is the gradual moving away from revolutionary activity by an organization intended to move humanity toward classless society.
Revisionism is a danger to revolutionary organizations. It not dangerous because it is “impure” or results in a lack of dogmatism. It is dangerous because it results in the weakening of revolutionary organization, a key weapon in the struggle to free humanity.
When revisionism conquers a revolutionary party, the revolutionary party becomes less effective. It is like a knife gradually becoming more and more dull, until it is no longer capable of cutting anything.
Revisionism is a disease brought on as a result of hostile conditions in class struggle and people’s war. When hostile positions present themselves, revolutionists have one of two responses. Some revolutionists will be driven to become more serious and more devoted in order to meet the conditions. Other revolutionists will embrace revisionism out of discouragement and disillusionment caused by a lack of success.
Revisionism is not permanent, or ever complete. As long as a single revolutionary remains in a revolutionary organization, hope is not lost. As long as the revolutionary organization exists, revisionism has not totally triumphed. The ultimate goal of revisionism is destruction of the revolutionary organization.
As revisionism sets in, like a disease, causing the host body to decay, symptoms within the revolutionary organization exhibit themselves.
The following five symptoms are signs of revisionism:
1. Political Disinterest – If leading members of a revolutionary organization approach the work of Marx, Lenin, and other great revolutionists with yawns and boredom, revisionism is present. If members of a revolutionary organization are discouraged from actively investigating the science, history, and art of revolution, revisionism is present.
2. Bourgeois Economic Rhetoric – If the leaders of a revolutionary organization begin to speak in the manner of the bourgeoisie regarding economic activities within the organization, revisionism is present. For example, a revisionist will treat their contributions as if they are stock shares. They will proclaim that if they donate a certain amount, they are then somehow given a proportional amount of input into party policy. This of course, is contrary to democracy. As long as party members give the mandated dues, and follow party policy, each member shall have one vote only. Influence in a revolutionary party is not for sale, like influence in a bourgeois party.
3. Factionalism – Revisionists will create a hostile atmosphere between party members. The tension forged by a revisionist is not based on political disagreement, but on rumor mongering, character assassination, slurs, unsubstantiated accusations, and such. Because revisionists loathe politics, they will seek to cut down their opponents with other means. Revisionists loathe politics, but instead embrace jealousy, rivalry, egotism, shame, guilt, psychology, and numerous other methods to silence those who anger them. The more non-political, purely personal hostility and tension within an organization, the stronger the presence of revisionism.
4. Hostility or Indifference Toward Victory and Defeat – Revisionists, because they are moving away from revolutionism will become indifferent to achievements or losses in the revolutionary movement. Revisionists will display no confusion, sadness, or emotion about a massive setback for their organization. They will respond to tragedies for workers and oppressed people with remarks such as “that’s the way things have always been.” Likewise, Revisionists will downplay or ignore great victories in the class struggle. Revisionists will see a huge advance by workers and oppressed people, and respond not with joy, but with a desperate search for reasons to denounce it, and proclaim it not to be a victory. As revisionism becomes harshest and more deadly, revisionists will speak of their own organizations destruction as if it is a meaningless event. The more indifference toward the process of revolution and it advances and setbacks, the more thorough revisionism becomes.
5. Wavering Political Line – Revisionists, because they are not grounded in revolutionary politics, will be inconsistent and erratic in their politics. As revisionism grips an organization, it will begin to alter and reverse its political line often and quickly. Revisionists themselves will be indecisive and incomprehensible in their viewpoints. A revisionist can advocate peace with the bourgeoisie one day, and on another, accuse rivals of not being harsh enough against the bourgeoisie on another. A revisionist can one day proclaim belief in a certain policy, and the next day take a position opposite the same policy after very little discussion, debate, wrangling, or investigation.
All of these signs show revisionism is beginning to set in. These signs can be exhibited by one person, one clique, one party cell, or an entire party. These signs can be subtle or very obvious.
When such signs exhibit themselves, it is the duty of revolutionists within the organization to raise their voices, both inside and outside of the party.
Inside of the party, the revolutionists must seek to argue against revisionism, expose revisionism, and keep revisionism out of key positions where it can be dangerous.
Outside the party, the revolutionists must increase and intensify their revolutionary activity in order to make up for the internal damage done by the revisionists.
Just as revisionism is strengthened by hostile situations and weakness by a revolutionary organization, revisionism is weakened by expansion and growth by revolutionary organizations.
The more effective and powerful a revolutionary organization becomes, the less dangerous revisionism will be.
The cure for revisionism is two fold:
1. An internal push for genuine revolutionary politics.
2. An external surge in genuine revolutionary activity.