Real dogmatists think that it is better to be on the “Left” than on the Right, and they have a reason — they want revolution. But in terms of damage to the revolutionary cause, to be on the “Left” is in no way better than to be on the Right and should therefore be resolutely corrected:
Ragnar V. Røed (RVR) presents on tjen-folket.no our disagreement as a struggle between a left line and a right line. I disagree with this. I mean this is a struggle between a left line and a “left” line.
The “Left” Line is a dogmatic and puritanical line that sets the theories in the front seat and does not understand or can adapt the theories to the concrete reality. Dogmatists are this way philosophical idealists when the are putting the theories (ideas) in the front seat and not understanding that it is the practical material reality that is the main part in the contradiction – the side we are trying to understand through our thoughts and theories.
Marxism consists of general truths and theories of concrete conditions. It is here a dialectical relationship between these. True theories are made from practical experience as a guide to new practice. These theories are often made for guidance for a concrete reality in a specific time and place. When Lenin wrote “What Is To Be Done?” eg. It was a theory of what must be done in Russia at the time when he wrote the article. Later, Lenin has adjusted these theories based on changes in Russian society. We can extract some general truths that apply to all Communist parties in countries with a bourgeois state. One of Lenin’s most important contributions here is the theory of the Vanguard Party as an absolute necessity to create a revolution.
The dogmatists, however, do not understand the difference between the general and the concrete in Lenin’s theory and will mechanically copy the whole model including the part that pertains to specific conditions in Russia into a completely different reality. As I have shown in my previous reply to RVR, Lenin feared that not everyone would understand this and thus make mistakes.
The dogmatists also do not understand that communist pre-revolutionary organization goes through three phases (communist group, association and then party) and that all these three phases have their peculiarities. They do not understand that one must have concrete analyzes and a concrete practice that is adapted to the phase one is in.
When the dogmatists try to put the theory into practice, it turns out that the theories do not work, since they are not adapted to the concrete reality. The theories they relate to are written for a different time and place then the reality the dogmatists live in.
Marxists know that the validity of a theory is tested in practice. When we see that the theory does not work or work poorly in practice, then we will adjust the theory. The dogmatists, on the other hand, maintain the theory and are unable to see that it does not work. In this way, the dogmatism / “left” line causes great damage to the revolutionary matter. In reality, therefore, the “left” line is a right line, since it serves the reaction and not the revolution
RVR argues against the following quote from me:
RVR writes: “In the past hundred years, right lines have liquidated all original Communist parties without exception in the Western countries! “
It is true that revisionism has historically made greater damage. It is also the case that the negation of dogmatism is Marxism or revisionism. In this way, “Left”-wing deviation can turn to revisionism, and the organization can be destroyed that way. But as Mao writes, there is nothing better with “left”-wing deviation than right-wing deviation for that reason. “Left” deviation does just as much damage as a right deviation does, and must therefore be resolutely fought and not downplayed as RVR does.
It may be right that no parties have been liquidated by “left”-wing deviations. In parties (meaning organizations of a certain size) such leftist tendencies have been corrected. However, there are several smaller organizations that have never been able to grow and have died as a result of dogmatism and / or leftistism (Revolusjon (“Revolution”) in Norway is one example. Rebellrørelsen (The Rebellion movement) in Sweden another). Especially Rebellrørelsen in Sweden did much damage to the emerging ML movement in the country.
In 1963 in Beijing Review, the dogmatic danger was described as follows:
Dogmatists distort Marxism-Leninism. … By separating from reality, they contrive abstract, empty formulas, or take mechanical experience from foreign countries and force it on the masses. Thereby, they cramp the the mass struggle and prevent it from achieving the results it should. Leaving time, place and conditions out of account, they obstinately stick to one form of struggle. They fail to understand that in every country the mass revolutionary movement takes highly complex forms and that all the forms of struggle required have to be used simultaneously and complement each other; they fail to understand that when the situation changes, it is necessary to replace the old forms of struggle with new ones, or to use the old forms, but fill them with new content. Therefore, they very often cut themselves off from the masses and from potential allies so fallen into errors of sectarianism…
If the leading body of a Party commits errors of dogmatism, it becomes unable to grasp the laws of the actual revolutionary movement. In the field of tactics, it is bound to make all kinds of mistakes. A Party of this kind cannot possibly lead the people’s revolutionary movement in its country to victory.“More on the Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Us”, Peking Review, No’s. 10 & 11 (March 15, 1963), p. 53 (
HOW TO NOT TALK TO EACH OTHER
I am accustomed to when discussing, we relate to counter-arguments, take a stand for or against them, and either correct your position if you see that it was wrong or comes with counter-arguments. RVR does not do this. RVR has already written a criticism of my article ” Gonzalo and ultra-left deviation“, which I have again responded to . For some reason, RVR does not relate to my reply post, but only creates a new post without commenting on my comments.
RVR wrote that he “disagreed with the phrase” adapt Marxism “” and continued: “Adapting Marxism is in its essence revising it” . Something he thought was “a characteristic of opportunism” . In my answer, I pointed out that Mao wrote about “applying” Marxism. Which is synonymous with my term “adapt”.
[Note: RVR uses in his English translation the word “adjust” where I in my English translation used the word “adapt”. I have here used my original word (“adapt”)]
Here we see that RVR disagrees with Mao. Either RVR should then also criticize Mao for being an opportunist, or he should revise his own perception of it and say that it was Mao and not he who was right. RVR, however, does not do any of these – he instead begins to write on something else and pretend that this incompatible contradiction between him and Mao on this question does not exist. I can understand and respect if the RVR will not respond to all points that are being addressed in a debate, but this is about something far more. Here RVR are on collision with something very basic in Marxism, and should take a deeper reflection in order to learn to understand what’s essential in Marxism. This is not a question he can ignore.
When RVR is against adapting Marxism, he is in fact against:
There are several points in my reply to RVR that he does not comment on, I will refer the interested reader to read my answer and will not waste time repeating this.
DISGUISED ATTACK ON GONZALO?
RVR claims that what I really do is a disguised attack on Gonzalo. RVR has no real arguments for why he thinks I’m doing a disguised attack on Gonzalo. Instead, he uses rhetoric like “I’m not against Gonzalo, but …”.
I have been quite clear that I agree with Gonzalo on some questions, but disagree with some others. I have also written a separate article here, in which I make a settlement with the theory of leadership from Gonzalo and PCP. I can reveal that I also have on the question of Stalin a “I’m not against Stalin but …”. I support for example not Stalin’s theory of monolithic unity. It will surprise me if RVR does not have one little “but” in this question about Stalin also…
RVR continues his article with something that is most similar to a praise of Gonzalo. It sounds very similar to the praise of Mao who Mao himself criticized. We do not have to put Mao or Gonzalo on a pedestal where we go in ring around and hail them as great big leaders. We are communists and not religious fanatics in need of individuals to praise and swear allegiance to. As Maoists and Communists, we use the theories to find guidance for our practical work. Such praises are typical of dogmatist who are unable to apply the theory in practice, but rather opportunistically stay to reciting and praising theories (and the great classics) detached from practice.
GONZALO ON LEADERSHIP
The dogmatic puritans look at things unilaterally. Things are either right or completely wrong. They believe that Gonzalo was infallible and right in all, and that those who criticize some of Gonzalo’s theories are attacking all of Gonzalo’s contributions and, consequently, are horrendous right-wing of the last resort.
The reality is that nobody is infallible. We all do mistakes – this also applies to Gonzalo. His theory of leadership is a bad theory that is incompatible with the Communist principle of collective leadership, and which contradicts what Mao has written on this subject. Gonzalo claims in the interview in El Diario from 1988 (assuming he is quoted correctly) that a great leader is one who through arduous struggle has proved that he is capable of leading the party and the masses victoriously through a revolution.
A leader is someone who occupies a certain position, whereas a top leader and Leadership, as we understand it, represent the acknowledgment of Party and revolutionary authority acquired and proven in the course of arduous struggle— those who in theory and practice have shown they are capable of leading and guiding us toward victory and the attainment of the ideals of our class.Gonzalo: https://archive.org/details/InterviewWithChairmanGonzalo/page/n
I disagree with him on this for the following reasons:
- You can’t know if a leadership is capable of leading a revolution successfully before actually doing it in practice. To say in advance that you have a leader who has proven that he / she can lead the revolution – is to say indirectly that you should follow this leader uncritically. If you think he / she is doing or saying something that you think is contrary to reality or Marxist theories – then you are proven wrong and do not have to ask questions. Marx said we should be critical of everything, even our own thoughts. It is in this way that we can correct erroneous thoughts.
- It is not necessary to have a leader who is very good at all the qualities needed by a leadership to lead a revolution. Marx and Engels eg. were open to the fact that they were not good at building organizations, but they were very good at explaining the society and thus providing a basic understanding of what we need to do. A leading collective that together has all the necessary qualities to be a leader of the revolution is good enough – you do not need all these qualities in one and the same person.
- It’s not good for any leader to be put on a pedestal where he is hailed as a fantastic good leader. He can become full of himself and his own infallibility and become uncritical for his own writing and actions.
- It will quickly flock a bunch of leftist dogmatics who will be full of zeal in profiling themselves as protectors of the “correct” “left” line and who will uncritically follow the “right teachings” of the “great leader”. These will go to rabid attacks on anyone who has criticism of the leader, when he full of himself is leading in the wrong direction. This will create an atmosphere where proper criticism of the leader becomes impossible. We are already seeing strong tendencies to this in this discussion, where people who support much of Gonzalo’s contribution to Marxism are being scolded as right wing reactionaries and “disguised attacks on Gonzalo” when criticizing some of Gonzalo’s theories (such as this on leadership ). (I’m not thinking here primarily about RVR, even though we see tendencies also with him for such an attitude).
I have a separate article (in English) with criticism of Gonzalo’s theory.
IS REALITY CONFUSING?
For left-opportunists, reality is confusing and difficult to relate to. The theories, however, are far simpler. For the Communists, on the other hand, theories are a tool for understanding reality. When the Communists see that theories do not fit with reality, they create new theory and / or adapt the old theories to the new reality. For the dogmatic left-opportunists, such adaptation of the theories is terrible sacrilege.
Gonzalo, on the other hand, was no dogmatic at all and he refers to Lenin on this question:
Lenin also said that the revolution in the east would surprise many and especially big would the surprises be for book-worshipers and those who only follow well-known paths and are unable to see the new oneshttps://tjen-folket.no/start/view/12125
The dogmatic Gonzalo followers, who portray themselves as the prime defenders of Gonzalo, are in fact not at all in line with the essentials of Gonzalo’s contribution or Marxism in general. The notion they have of themselves on this question is therefore completely mistaken.
Tjen Folket have in recent times written many times about the need for protracted peoples war, etc. The theory of protracted peoples war is a general truth which is at least proven to be correct in the feudal or semi-feudal world and which on all likelihood is also valid for our part of the world also today. But this general truth has no value unless it is used for a concrete analysis of the specific situation. If one constantly repeats a general truth without filling it with concrete content then it becomes an empty phrase. Eg. it is a general truth that a communist party is needed to create a communist revolution. If one continually repeats this truth without having a strategy to create this then it becomes an empty phrase. Continuous repetition of general truths for concrete content is symptomatic of “left” wingers.
The same applies with the principle of the vanguard party. RVR stamps me as an opportunist, revisionist and as a supporter of mass party because I don’t want a party model that is a blueprint of the party model that Lenin outlined in “What Is To Be Done?” in 1901. That Lenin himself adjusted the theory to the reality he lived in and already in In 1905, and went in for major changes regarding the recruitment work for the party is a fact that RVR just closes his eyes about.
As Marxists, we must extract the general in the theories (such as the theory of the vanguard party as necessary part on the road to revolution). Based on this, and based on studies of peculiarities with past revolutions as well as other experience and knowledge from the concrete reality we live in, we need creatively to create theory for the peculiar situations. We must then put this theory into practice, then we must critically summarize our experiences (what went well and what went bad). From this we create new and better theory that we put into practice again. In this work, we must not blindly stare at ourselves, but also use the mass line and see if others do not have solutions to the contradictions we struggle with. “The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding, it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.” as Mao said. This also applies to our work on building a vanguard party. We are in a different phase in another country at another time with very significant differences and therefore cannot mechanically copy in theory concerning peculiarities of the Communists in Russia in 1901. There are a lot of contradictions which we have to balance and find the best possible solutions. For example, there are a number of such practical contradictions that arise when we weigh the need for security in the organization against the need to recruit to the organization. In such areas, we cannot unilaterally look at one side in the contradiction, but look at the whole and find solutions that, that as little as possible, damage any of these considerations. In some cases, one side must prioritized down because of the need to satisfy the other side.
The puritanical dogmatists will only consider one side in the contradiction (security) here and neglect the other. They will not critically reflect on the practical consequences, but think that as long as one follows as slavish as possible what Lenin wrote in 1901 in “What must be done” then it will go well in the end, and it is not dangerous if the organization becomes small – since only quality (meaning dogmatic puritanism) is important.
In this way, the dogmatists will never be able to build the organization larger and will never reach the stage of the party they want to imitate. In this sense, the security policy is becoming a joke, as the security policy protects an impotent organization that will never pose any danger to the bourgeoisie.
A Marxist, on the other hand, will look at the totality and constantly work to improve and reinforce the security policy within the framework of growth.
It is not possible to build a Communist party without cleaning away the dogmatic puritanism and radicalism. According to Lenin, this is a childhood illness that can be cured by theoretical struggle. Both Lenin, Stalin and Mao have written several articles against this. In particular, I would like to highlight Mao’s two articles “On Contradiction” and “On Practice“. Below I have some quotes from the former, but I would strongly recommend anyone who is genuinely concerned with building a Communist Party that can lead a Communist revolution to read the articles in their entirety.
Where our dogmatists err on this question is that, on the one hand, they do not understand that we have to study the particularity of contradiction and know the particular essence of individual things before we can adequately know the universality of contradiction and the common essence of things, and that, on the other hand, they do not understand that after knowing the common essence of things, we must go further and study the concrete things that have not yet been thoroughly studied or have only just emerged. Our dogmatists are lazy-bones. They refuse to undertake any painstaking study of concrete things, they regard general truths as emerging out of the void, they turn them into purely abstract unfathomable formulas, and thereby completely deny and reverse the normal sequence by which man comes to know truth. Nor do they understand the interconnection of the two processes in cognition– from the particular to the general and then from the general to the particular. They understand nothing of the Marxist theory of knowledge.Mao: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_17.htm
The dogmatists do not observe this principle; they do not understand that conditions differ in different kinds of revolution and so do not understand that different methods should be used to resolve different contradictions; on the contrary, they invariably adopt what they imagine to be an unalterable formula and arbitrarily apply it everywhere, which only causes setbacks to the revolution or makes a sorry mess of what was originally well done.Mao: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_17.htm
Lenin meant just this when he said that the most essential thing in Marxism, the living soul of Marxism, is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.  Our dogmatists have violated Lenin’s teachings; they never use their brains to analyse anything concretely, and in their writings and speeches they always use stereotypes devoid of content, thereby creating a very bad style of work in our Party.Mao: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_17.htm