Views in brief

February 22, 2008

What can the left achieve today?

THE AUTHORS of a recent Views and Voices article on the left and broad parties ("Can broad left parties succeed?" February 15) exhibit both a poor understanding of the revolutionary left's traditional approach to the question and confusion about the forces attempting to create such organizations today.

First, some definitions and qualifications are in order. The term "broad parties" is left shorthand to describe heterogeneous formations that range from Leninist tendencies to left-wing social democracy.

For example, Marxist activists in Brazil's Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSOL) describe PSOL as a "class struggle and anti-imperialist party," one initiated by activists expelled from, or having broken with, the Workers Party (PT) as it accelerated its move to the right after having captured the presidency.

PSOL was formed to try and regroup the militants who had built the PT after long years of military dictatorship. This was not a "short cut to building resistance to capitalism," as the letter by James Illingworth and his anonymous London co-author would have it, but an important initiative to maintain political and organizational coherence to that resistance and project a socialist alternative.

Illingworth and Anonymous declare that "almost without fail, [broad parties] have ended in disaster." According to this logic, since the Scottish Socialist Party, an organization initiated by relatively small Trotskyist organizations, split over internal leadership issues, German revolutionaries should counterpose themselves to the new Left Party, the most significant left-wing split in European social democracy in decades.

What's needed here is specificity. The British Socialist Workers Party's (SWP) initiative to found the Respect coalition that oriented on Muslims, an important strategic initiative, wasn't foredoomed because it was a "get rich quick scheme," as the authors imply. Respect split partly because of the SWP's methods and partly due to the inherent problems in such a project. One need not sympathize with the Respect faction siding with the party's member of parliament, George Galloway, to come to that conclusion.

Illingworth and Anonymous, however, don't assess the concrete situations. Apparently, it is more convenient to lump Respect, an electoral coalition of a few thousand that achieved the election of Galloway and some local city council members, with Italy's Communist Refoundation, a mass left-wing split from what had been the biggest Communist Party in the West. Galloway's break with the SWP has nothing of the political weight of Refoundation's turn to the right.

Finally, Illingworth and Anonymous dig up a quote from Tony Cliff about how revolutionaries in the 1930s revolutionaries had a "psychological need to believe in miracles" about how to rapidly create mass organizations.

This won't do. Whatever our difficulties, the revolutionary left internationally is not faced with victorious fascism and Stalinism. Rather, we are attempting to constitute a bridge between the tradition of revolutionary Marxism and a new generation of working-class fighters radicalized by a world faced with imperialist war and economic crisis.

Achieving that goal--and determining what organizational forms are necessary to do so--will require careful analysis in each country. The sterile approach offered by Illingworth and Anonymous won't get us anywhere.
Lee Sustar, Chicago

The experience of abortion

I FEEL like it might be useful to throw my two cents out about the article "Why Hollywood is afraid of abortion" (February 1). I totally agree with everything the article is saying. However, I think it's important to recognize the actual experience of abortion today (which could very well be different for different people).

Five of my close friends in their 20s who have become pregnant have had abortions. In every case, they told me that these experiences were incredibly painful and frightening.

One friend relayed how disturbing the environment at the clinic was, how awful the people were, how they treated her horribly and made her feel even more guilty and dirty in a way about the experience. All of my friends told me how guilty they felt.

I think to some degree, this won't ever be completely erased, no matter how much we come to accept abortion--there's just something strange about stopping something that could have become a person from growing. Or that's what I'm told.

I haven't seen Juno, but even though I agree that we should be able to portray abortion as something to feel confident about, I think the reason this is hard is because the experience is not all rainbows and clouds. And, of course, the reason is because of the cultural perspective, its controversy, particularly the negative views of abortion. I think the abortion experience is, by nature of our laws and viewpoints, largely ignored, and therefore tends to be a horrifying experience.

I think we can talk about how abortion should be accepted, and how we need to provide more comfort for women who want to get one, but I don't think it's fair to say it's a good experience right now.
Iris Chamberlain, from the Internet

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