The Third International after Lenin

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What do we mean by the phrase "citizen of time"?

Ankara solidarity picket after bombing of Kurdish rights rally this weekend

....“Books sold from this shop introduce workers and revolutionary-minded youth to the communist program,” said Norton Sandler, a member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, and one of the speakers at the celebration. “It is through reading and studying the communist program that you can become ‘a citizen of time,’ begin to understand the contradictions and logic of the class struggle, learn the significance of the Russian Revolution and the Cuban Revolution, and internalize the necessity of building a revolutionary party.”


....Connie Harris was a “citizen of time,” Silberman said. “She didn’t worry if she would live to see the conquest of power by the working class and its allies in the United Kingdom in her lifetime. What mattered was that when objective conditions ripened, the forces that could lead the working class and its allies in a revolutionary struggle for power would be ready.”


....Every one of us can draw strength and joy from the activity of a person who as teenager became a citizen of world and a citizen of time, Barnes said. He pointed to several conversations with Ethel about the accounts of her political activity, which, she told him, she concluded she had basically written for herself. After reading over these accounts a couple of times, Lobman said that in looking back at her life and revolutionary activity "I wouldn't change a thing."

Ethel Lobman, Barnes concluded, "remained an unceasing fighter for human solidarity and an uncompromising soldier of the socialist revolution."


....As they search for answers and an effective course of struggle, revolutionary-minded youth in the United States--and vanguard fighters of all ages--need Che's help.

They need Che's scientific precision to help them learn to analyze the tendencies and laws of motion of capital underlying the complex and fast-moving political events that mark the unfolding class struggle in this changing world.

They need Che's Marxism--the Marxism of Marx and Engels and Lenin. The Marxism of the Communist Manifesto, of Capital, of Lenin's Imperialism and What Is To Be Done--the Marxism that is not a set of preconceived ideas or formulas, set down in manuals, but the generalization of the line of march of a class fighting to achieve its emancipation and open the road forward for all the oppressed peoples of the world, for all humanity.

They need Che's deeply felt hatred for the coarseness and hypocrisy of the imperialist rulers, his revulsion against their brutal indifference to all human life, including the life of the most innocent child, if it serves their needs.

They need Che's discipline--and the satisfaction he gained from hard work and rigorous study; the responsibility he felt for his own actions and the consequences they had for his co-combatants, to whom Che was so loyal.

They need Che's cultural breadth, his historical perception as a citizen of the world, his selflessness as a citizen of time. They need the example of his lifelong effort to acquire this perspective....


Farrell Dobbs in 1966:

....The road ahead in that struggle is going to be strewn with obstacles, and there are going to be many pitfalls. There’s no roadmap, no way you can find some kind of a detailed handbook that’s going to tell you what to do at each juncture. Our task is to chart a revolutionary course, based on a fundamental understanding of our program—a basic feel of our revolutionary strategy—and to hammer out the tactics in that direction as we go along.

There’s no timetable. Nobody can say how long it’s going to take or when it’s going to happen. I personally feel that those of you sitting in this room today, who have got all your youth going for you, have got at least Damon Runyon’s six-to-five chance of seeing that explosion.

But in saying so I want to add immediately: don’t make that a condition. Don’t adopt the criterion that the revolutionary change must happen in your time. Don’t take as a guide to your active life that narrow, provincial, self-centered notion that if it doesn’t happen during the time of your own subjective existence on this planet, it’s not important.

Always remember that history is magnificently indifferent to the problems of the individual. History doesn’t care whether you die at six or live to be seven hundred, if that were possible, or what happens during your particular lifetime. As the German poet Goethe once said, “History marches like a drunken beggar on horseback.”

A lot can happen during your limited lifespan, or you can live a dull existence. Some people have had the good fortune to live more in a year than others at a different historical juncture could live in their whole lifetime. Or, as Plekhanov once put it, “If it hadn’t been for the French Revolution, Napoleon would probably have ended up as a corporal in the French artillery.”

Don’t make it a condition that the socialist revolution must come in your lifetime. Be not only a citizen of the planet; be a citizen of time. Recognize that what’s fundamental is to be in rapport with the human race from the dawn of history, on to heights we can only vaguely begin to dream of.

And what’s the alternative? The alternative is to make a compromise with this rotten capitalist system. Do you know what people who do that are like? You remember the movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster? Jabez Stone, you know, sold his soul to Scratch, the devil. He did so on the promise that his personal ambitions would thus be served. Later he regretted the action and asked to have his soul returned. Scratch, who was played by Walter Huston, that magnificent actor, finally said all right, he’d give it back.

So Scratch took a small matchbox from his pocket. He opened the box and began poking around in it with his stubby finger trying, and trying, to find the mean little soul of Jabez Stone so he could give it back.

That’s symbolic of what you do to your own soul if you make a compromise with this rotten system.

Our job is to build a movement of men and women who emulate the seasoned fighters of the Continental line in the first American Revolution. Learn to be professional revolutionary fighters. Don’t be summer soldiers. Don’t dabble; don’t vacillate. Put nothing above the considerations of the movement. Maintain your place in the front ranks of the revolutionary fighters, and stand in that place for the duration.

There is no other way in which you can find so rich, so rewarding, so fruitful, and so purposeful a life....

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