Reflections on the Insurgent Notes Conference

Recently the left-communist publication Insurgent Notes (IN) hosted a public meeting regarding the topic of “Building a Radical Left in the Age of Trump.”  The call for the meeting, despite some problematic aspects (such as a denunciation of “Stalinism-Trotskyism-Maoism” — who has ever heard of such a philosophy?), seemed promising in the main.  Insurgent Notes’ plea for taking advantage of the current upswing in interest in left politics to reach across sectarian boundaries and organize politically is quite in line with our thinking:

We are convinced that the only way out of the terrible mess that this country and the world are in is the development of a mass radical movement—a movement that will challenge the fundamental bases and characteristics of capitalist society with a program for the radical reconstruction of this society under the direct democratic control of the immense majority of the people. Such a movement cannot restrict itself to participation in electoral campaigns of any kind…

We feel compelled to seize upon [the current] momentum to find out how we might contribute to the development of the movement that we so desperately need. We recognize that such a movement will be the result of the coming together of individuals with different experiences and political convictions. Towards that end, we also believe that we need to come up with new forms of political organization that can allow for the definition of fundamental agreements, provide space for ongoing productive conversations and enable us to act in concert as events unfold.

Indeed, the coming months will be crucial for the future development of the working class struggle and organization in the U.S. for at least the rest of the decade, with a crucial question being, will the working class finally find independence from the capitalist parties, and more effective means of resistance?  It is our view that revolutionary Marxists, whether Left Communist or Leninist, need to show their seriousness at this juncture by taking the steps toward organizing a party, so that they can ultimately be relevant in the struggle of the working class.

Given the similarity of backgrounds and outlook, M.A.R.S. comrades felt compelled to attend Insurgent Notes’ meeting, and did so, eagerly anticipating a discussion of the conference’s main topic.

It is a sign of the urgency of these times that the meeting exceeded the organizers’ attendance expectations; roughly one hundred people were physically present, while dozens more joined remotely via the Internet.  All present seemed to be serious adherents of the political far left.  Many travelled from various corners of the country to engage in the IN event.

How disappointing, then, that the conference avoided the topic it was ostensibly called to address — “Building a Radical Left in the Age of Trump.”  The presentations that were made, regardless of their other merits, notably dodged this crucial question.  In the closing minutes, the organizers seemed to entertain perhaps taking steps towards some organizational effort, but this was done half-heartedly and belatedly.

In our opinion, this conference was a missed opportunity to discuss the question of organization that the present moment so urgently poses.  We can wax poetic on what Trump means, whether or not his rhetoric matches up to concrete realities, what a growing cleavage within the bourgeoisie and the state represents, and so on and so forth. Yet, without pointing to ways of how the radical left can move forward, all of this amounts to just… analysis without any teeth.

We can no longer ignore what is directly in front of us any longer: building a party of the working class. The real need for a political direction has not fared well either through the submersion of reformists in the Democrats or the work of revolutionaries to perfect their theoretical systems. The RSDLP, the most promising historical antecedent for revolutionary socialist organization, was not a spontaneous creation of the workers, rather it was a patient and protracted effort of workers and their allies. Even if Insurgent Notes equivocates on the Bolsheviks, that hesitancy is due more to the Bolsheviks’ subsequent Stalinization than their rise, if anything.  All serious revolutionaries must look to the past for guidance, and the Bolsheviks’ example of party organization, we would submit, is a model that is indispensable for the current moment.

The stories that many attendees related at the meeting confirm that the masses are starting to awaken to radical politics.  For instance, one man from Arizona shared his experience of seeing Democrats who were, seemingly yesterday, fervent adherents of the Hillary Clinton devotee club Pantsuit Nation now reliably turn out for minimum wage struggles and immigration defense, chanting about destroying white supremacy.  Will those of us with a commitment to socialism let this moment go to waste?  Will we condemn these newly politicized individuals to slink back to the Democratic Party in disappointment and despair when we can’t offer them a reliable path forward?

Parties can provide a forum for democratic debate, coordinate action, and formulate a positive program; defensive protests can not achieve any of this.  That is why we must take the next step towards party organization.  Please get in contact with M.A.R.S. if you share with us this strategy to move the country closer to socialist revolution.

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