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What's with Revisionists Studying Anti-Revisionism?

There seems to be a minor trend of people connected to revisionist communist organizations investigating the New Communist Movement (NCM) and broadcasting their thoughts on this period as if they have somehow become experts in the past anti-revisionist sequence. I've been noticing this on Twitter––where people I've muted because of their connected to the Communist Party Canada and their annoyingly bad takes get re-tweeted by mutuals whenever they say something random about the NCM––so it may be a relatively minor trend. But its ideologues are loud and confident enough that, even if the trend is minor, it piques my interest.

It's like these individuals recently read Max Elbaum's old book, heard some things about the NCM, and then embarked on a cursory investigation of articles hosted by the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online (EROL) so as to designate themselves experts of a period that was politically opposed to their chosen politics. That is, they tend to embark on these investigations so as to exorcize the anti-revisionist haunting of their own political perspective. Most of their insights are about the failures of that anti-revisionist sequence, maybe some sympathy to show that they are critical thinkers, but in the end everything is driven by the ad hoc desire to exorcize the ghost of the NCM from their revisionist perspective. "Look at these anti-revisionists, look at some of the interesting thoughts they had, but look at how they all fell apart, disappeared, or degenerated! Must mean that they were wrong, they weren't really anti-revisionists and we aren't really revisionists! Everybody vote for the CPC or the NDP in the upcoming election and come out to our YCL potluck!" This sort of investigation of the NCM thus serves the following and interrelated functions: i) to quarantine anti-revisionism as a discrete period disconnected from Lenin, Mao, and current revolutionary movements; ii) to also quarantine the old revisionist organizations from the charge of revisionism; iii) to approach this period through the lens of confirmation bias, using the errors and limits of that period as confirmation that it is the "anti-revisionists" that were wrong, because they failed, whereas the "revisionists" were correct because they're still around––the scare-quoting, here, is what these self-proclaimed experts of the NCM mentally apply to bracket their politics from the charge raised by the NCM.

Anti-revisionists such as myself study the documents of the NCM to figure out the limits of that sequence, how those limits were transgressed by the new sequence of anti-revisionism, and what errors manifest in the struggle to make communism vital against revisionism's death knell upon vitality. We also look at these documents because they often demonstrate, when judged against the practice of numerous groups in the NCM, the ways in which communism was made vital again but the limits this vitality encountered. We see them as more valid than revisionist organizations that continued to persist without doing anything to organize the masses. Unlike organizations that persisted as conventions and nothing more than conventions, NCM groups did far more to make communist organizing communist again than the social clubs and historical recreation societies of the old revisionist groups. We ended up studying this period and its documents because of our own dissatisfaction of what constitutes mainstream "communist" parties and a refusal to allow an anti-communist option––that universalizes the useless practice of revisionist parties upon communism as a whole––to declare the meaning of anti-capitalist reality.

These revisionist "scholars" of the NCM, though, are only investigating it so as to confirm that their revisionist sensibilities are correct, and are not in fact "revisionist" at all, because they remain and the bulk of the old anti-revisionist movement is gone. The perspective is that anything that challenges the old Khrushchevite parties as "revisionist" are themselves the real revisionists because they failed, that persistence as a "communist" social club that survived these challenges means that they're not revisionist and are in fact correct. This grand act in confirmation bias is akin to British monarchists before 1688 declaring that they were correct because all of the anti-monarchists had failed, and many of them were sectarian weirdos, so monarchy must be correct. "Long live the glorious monarchy," they might have proclaimed, "Because look at all these anti-monarchist sects, look at that Cromwellian fanatic John Milton, and we're still here despite them!"

It takes very little effort for individuals devoted to a revisionist project to find justification in this project due to the failures of actual revolutionaries. Actual revolutionaries will fail against the power of the capitalist state while coming to grips with how to defeat that power. Despite their failures, if we truly want to learn from them (as I and others do), something persists and bleeds into the next round of revolutionary momentum. But for organizations that have abdicated revolution, who are content to run in elections and in the areas they aren't running support social democracy, the past defeats of actual revolutionaries are somehow imagined as justification for not being revolutionary but pretending this lack of revolutionary desire is revolutionary simply because they baptize themselves as communist. That is, they aren't reading the history of the NCM to actually learn from it but only to confirm their right not to learn. Because the real lesson of the NCM is this: revisionist organizations are allowed to continue because they pose no threat to the capitalist state; anti-revisionist articulations of communism, which place themselves in the history of Lenin and Mao whose entire political sequences were wagered against the revisionism of their times, are defeated––and thus forced into retreat, dissolution, disappearance, or degeneration––because they weren't a social club endorsed by capitalism. And this is what revisionist organizations are: legislated "communist" social clubs.

But some of us study the NCM period to make sense of our anti-revisionism now. We connect it with the fact that communist projects that aren't revisionist glorified social clubs will face the full might of the state while the revisionists, who like to study us to confirm their own existence, will not face this attack. If the revisionists outlive us, which they often do, it is because they're not a threat to capitalism. They might study our history to imagine themselves as such a threat, to think themselves in relation to our thought, but such a study is self-serving and opposed to the very "Leninism" the espouse––the Leninism that emerged as Leninism as anti-revisionist in the face of Bernstein and Kautsky's betrayal.

You would think that the history of revisionism would cause these revisionists who study the NCM to confirm their revisionism to figure out how to think communism. To wonder why their organization persists as a glorified social club endorsed by the Canadian state. To imagine that the elements of the NCM they are studying contributed far more to the possibility of the dissolution of this state then their own organization that has been more than happy to collaborate and has been alienated from anti-capitalist dissent for decades. You would think. But this is precisely how revisionism thrives, and its thriving is even stronger when its adherents play-investigate the NCM so as to justify their shitty politics. But if you studied that sequence honestly, those of us who are anti-revisionists (as Lenin and Mao were) would wager, you would realize the limits of revisionist politics and seek to find an alternate route to capitalism. That's why we study it. Not as an immature act of confirmation bias but to learn from our revolutionary past.