Marxism, History & Socialist Consciousness, Parts 1 – 3

Published on WSWS, by David North, August 24, 2007.

… (excerpt of part 3.):

The International Editorial Board and the perspectives of the ICFI (International Committee of the Fourth International): During the past year the International Committee sponsored two major theoretical and political projects: first, the series of nine lectures on “Marxism, the October Revolution and the Historical Foundations of the Fourth International” that were delivered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, August 14-20, 2005; second, the meeting of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site, held in Sydney, Australia, January 22-27, 2006. Your reaction to these events is a devastating self-exposure of your abandonment of Marxism and hostility to the political outlook and traditions of the Trotskyist movement … // 

… In conclusion, I briefly explained the analytical method that guided the International Editorial Board:

  • The main task to which we will devote ourselves this week is to provide an outline of the main features of the rapidly developing crisis of the world capitalist system.
  • Lenin wrote in 1914 that “The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts . . . is the essence (one of the ‘essentials,’ one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics.”
  • In accordance with this theoretical approach, the reports that we will hear will examine from various sides and aspects the development of global crisis.

My opening remarks were followed by:

You have nothing to say about any of the reports presented at the meeting of the International Editorial Board. You offer no response to the question that I posed in opening the IEB conference. You do not state whether you agree or disagree with the analyses presented by the reporters. Comrade Nick Beams offered a comprehensive review of the development of the world capitalist economy, placing particular emphasis on the disequilibrium within the world system and its far-reaching implications for both inter-imperialist relations and the international class struggle.

This analysis forms a critical foundation for the perspective of the ICFI. What is the reason for your silence on this report? Comrade Cogan’s report was devoted to the single most important international event: the American occupation of Iraq. Your document makes no reference to this report, nor do you raise the question of the war. Are you in agreement or disagreement with Cogan’s analysis? Were I to continue down the list of reports, the same question would be repeated again and again. Why do you fail to address concretely any aspect of the political analysis presented by the ICFI in its extensive reports? Your non-response cannot be explained as mere indifference.

What is involved here is the outright rejection of the Marxist concept of perspective, which strives to root revolutionary practice in as correct and precise an analysis of the objective world as possible. As far as you are concerned, this is simply a waste of time. You do not believe that the type of reports given at the editorial board is in any way related to the development of what you consider to be “socialist consciousness.” What you mean by that term, as we shall explain in greater detail somewhat later, differs profoundly from the conception of revolutionary consciousness that inspired the work of the best representatives of Marxism. You want the International Committee to concern itself primarily not with politics and history, but with psychology and sex – particularly as presented in the works of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.

These subjects are for you the basis upon which “socialist consciousness” and “socialist idealism” should be constructed. That is why you respond with cold indifference to the work conducted by the International Editorial Board. Its attempt to elaborate a world revolutionary perspective, based on a study of the historically-developed socio-economic and political contradictions of capitalism as a global system, is rooted in a Marxist political tradition from which you have become totally alienated … (full long long text and Notes).

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