Wachla and Stanley Respond to Red Action

Red Action are no doubt correct to focus on the major contradiction that emerged from my article 'Experimentia Est....' (OP.No1) i.e., that between sensual knowledge and rational knowledge. Red Action rightly ask how else can rational knowledge be attained if not through practical activity. In raising this point, Red Action legitimately cite from the very same text that I myself used, from Mao;

'Discover the truth through practice, again through practice verify and develop the truth'

In my original article, I quoted Mao in a similar vein; 'Anyone who thinks that rational knowledge need not be derived from perceptual knowledge is an idealist...'

All matter is contradictory both within itself and with all surrounding matter. Knowledge, i.e. consciousness being a reflection of the natural world, reflects the contradictions of that world. The contradiction between the two stages of knowledge, as is pointed out by G.O'Halloran, has clearly manifested itself in my assessment of Red Action. On the one hand, I praise the comrades in Red Action for their direct approach - the only approach that has the hope of combating reformism in an imperialist heartland - but, on the other hand. I condemn the same comrades for creating an impotence every bit as sterile as that produced by Proletarian.

I will insult neither Red Action nor myself by pretending to 'solve' that contradiction by the usual 'Marxist' dialectical double-talk. Such a contradiction can only be resolved through practice and yet more practice. In political terms that means that every possible bridge back to social democracy will have been burnt. Rational knowledge emerges as the synthesis of not just the preceding activity but, in particular, the failed activity. Every practical defeat becomes a building block for eventual success. Sensual and rational knowledge must never be posed mechanically as opposites. If ever the term 'dialectical unity of opposites' was appropriate, it is here.

If I am to take issue with O'Halloran on any one point, it is that he fails to dwell on the notion that it is possible, and indeed essential, that we learn from the practical experience of others, i.e. - other revolutionaries. It would seem the height of folly to suggest that every lesson had to be learnt first hand. Fire is hot -I know that without having to experience the pain first hand. Similarly, I can conclude, from the global experience of the 20th Century, that the need for a democratic-centralist party structure is essential in building a vanguard for our class that is capable of combating and defeating a highly centralised bourgeoisie.

Today, it is fashionable from many quarters to denounce 'Democratic-Centralism' as antithesis to the needs of the working class. Yet practical activity on a global scale points in a very different direction. Wherever the leadership of the class has been diffuse, spontaneous and local, the result has been swift defeat, no matter how powerful the class itself. No, our task is not to jettison Democratic Centralism, but rather to rework its implementation. The more Red Action confronts the state, the more apparent this truth becomes.

Jan Wachla

In responding to my article 'Bureaucracy in Context', in which I stated that 'We need to recognise that the dictatorship of the proletariat can take a variety of democratic or even totalitarlan forms'. G.O'Halloran of Red Action posed the question 'who is to determine when In the revolutionary interest It has become necessary to substitute totalitarianism for democracy?'.

'My dear' G. Except for a state of emergency or war, such a course is not formally decided. A state of totalitarianism is decided upon by those who introduce it, in response to an actual or perceived threat to the existing society, with that actuality or perception being accepted by substantial sections of the ruling class. In effect, the political rule of the economically dominant class is then exercised through, and controlled by, these self-promoted representatives of that class. To recognise such a possibility under socialism is not to advocate that, inevitably, at some unforeseen point', a state of totalitarianism must be imposed by anyone. Any socialist state can be forced by the constant activity of international counter-revolution into a retreat on the democratic as well as the economic front. But it is not, as O'Halloran asserts - 'the retreat signals that the counter revolution has begun'. It is the offensive of counter revolution that forces the retreat, a retreat that, if it is not arrested when objective conditions permit, might well end in disaster and the victory of counter revolution and imperialism.

The dictatorship of the class in any class society, including socialist, involves a state with powers of coercion. It always raises the question as to how the class can exercise control over the state and, in the case of socialism, how the state can be dissembled for socialism's transcendence into communism. Socialist democracy represents the struggle for that final victory of socialism.

The inner democracy of the revolutionary party and its democratic interrelationship with the class counter-poses against the imposition of a totalitarian state by leaders who imagine that they are preordained to determine the "revolutionary interest".

John Stanley