Thursday, December 8, 2016

Crucial role of political clarity in writing and translation

…. The English-language political vocabulary of the communist movement in the United States has been established in the struggle of the Socialist Workers Party to speak in clear class terms to working people and to peel away the counterrevolutionary obfuscations of the Stalinist and social democratic forces, as well as to eliminate various centrist pretensions and adaptations. The United States is the only country where, due to historical factors beyond any party's control (such as the fact that the United States escaped the physical destruction World War II wreaked upon the working class in Europe), communist continuity has been organizationally unbroken and comparatively strong for the last eighty years, numbers notwithstanding. The relative weakness of the organized communist movement throughout Latin America and Europe over that same time period means that the Spanish political terminology of our movement, like the French, has also tended to adapt to the political culture of the Popular Front "left," as mediated through the "far left" fashions in those countries.

There was an opportunity to break the mold of Stalinism, centrism, and social democracy between the early 1960s and the end of the 1970s. A small political vanguard, attracted to communism, emerged in many countries under the impact of the Cuban and Algerian revolutions, the worldwide impact of the Black struggle in the United States, the anti–Vietnam War movement, and popular proletarian explosions that reached prerevolutionary dimensions in France, Portugal, and Spain, as well as across the Southern Cone of Latin America, and then in Central America. But these currents and organizations failed to proletarianize themselves or systematically colonize the industrial unions. Without a working-class foundation and political practice, they began to disintegrate politically under the impact of the retreat of the labor movement and blows dealt by the capitalist rulers in the 1980s and early 1990s. Without being rooted in the broad proletariat, the "far left" was increasingly vulnerable to the nostrums accepted and promoted by the radical milieus of middle-class professionals and academics, union functionaries, and skilled workers in which they lived, worked, socialized, and practiced politics.

Another historical factor--which may at first seem contradictory--is important. The powerful ups and downs in the class struggle in Europe and Latin America, as compared to the United States, mean the political traditions of the workers movement are in fact stronger there, even if the proletarian vanguard has never been able to carve out a stable nucleus with decades-long communist continuity. So the political language that "sounds right" to workers in these countries, even those newly recruited to the communist movement, is much more heavily weighed down with Stalinist, social democratic, and centrist political content, embodied in a vocabulary that blurs class clarity and distorts historical honesty. It means that workers won to the communist movement in these countries often have more to unlearn than newly radicalized workers elsewhere--just to be able to express dialectical contradictions, materialist concepts, and, above all, revolutionary class-struggle content.

The accentuated unevenness and contradictory social combinations that mark the final historical days of the imperialist epoch are felt in many ways.

Given the growing social weight of Spanish-speaking workers, including within the imperialist countries of North America, and the fact that they compose a significant and increasing proportion of the cadre and leadership of communist parties in those countries, clarity and accuracy in translation between English and Spanish especially become a crucial part of the fight for the political homogeneity and revolutionary centralism necessary to forge a proletarian leadership powerful enough and broad enough to lead the toilers through storm and victory….


'Workers underestimate what they are capable of'

Mary-Alice Waters

February 1999

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