Editorial from 1919 (mcmxix.org), the new journal of the North American affiliates of the ICT.
Intransigence as a project started in 2017. The publication was a vehicle that brought disparate and geographically separated communists together to engage with one another in debate and discussion. The goal was to identify common ground and to identify areas of disagreement, both to clarify commonly held positions and to work out which differences are irreconcilable within the communist left in North America. In one respect, the project always had a terminus. The idea was that the political differences could be worked out, and those that found strong commonality in their positions would regroup. New organizations could emerge, or previously existing organizations could grow stronger through this process. Once those goals were realized, the publication would no longer be necessary, or it could evolve into something else with a new mission. With this note, we are asserting that the time has come for Intransigence to end this chapter, and we are ready to begin a new one.
The communist movement throughout history has been a learning process for militants involved in the struggle. This learning process is scientific in the sense that this experience of the communist movement is cumulative; the goal is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and to build off of the successes and proven tactics while maintaining flexibility when intervening in class struggle. One theme of Intransigence throughout our history has been to acknowledge the successes and the defeats, and to acknowledge the sorry state of the communist movement today. That is, the communist movement, which once appeared poised to confront and smash capitalism a century ago, had reached a nadir. The reaction to this powerful communist movement brought about a virtual destruction of the proletarian bonds needed to confront capital on a proletarian class terrain.
Even the remains of the left-wing of capital appeared scattered and incapable of mounting any campaigns to negotiate away the concessions won in previous struggles. All that appeared left were the fading memories of an era when the proletariat would assert itself. What few remaining organizations that were rooted in the traditions of the communist left had maintained connections to that tradition but were stretched thin. Regroupment of some kind, any attempt to facilitate conversations among communists, was a necessary first step in gauging what possibilities lay before us.
One benefit of contemporary technology has been the ability to easily communicate over long distances. This gave communists a fighting chance in establishing regular dialogue. Despite the immense limitations of social media, this provided an avenue to strengthen ties with communists who sometimes find themselves completely alone in their part of the world. Without connections to principled organizations, the tendency is for atomized groups to diverge and to take up positions subject to local conditions and influence. A well-connected communist movement that maintains these links can maintain an internationalist perspective, something we would argue is a cornerstone of the communist movement.
Intransigence emerged as some communists found themselves floating in a sea of confused ideas and shrinking sectarian political circles. The initial bar was not set high. The criteria for anyone interested in the project was full agreement with a 7-point statement of principles. A full-throated denunciation of capitalism, in all forms including the quite capitalist “actually existing socialist” states, a rejection of cross-class collaboration, a reiteration for the need for proletarian struggle independent of organizations that may act against it, such as unions, and the need for a revolutionary party, were the minimum necessary standard set to begin dialogues. The initial approach to this regroupment quickly brought a small group together to begin this dialogue. Right away, there was a shuffle of new faces and abrupt exits, which characterized the first phase. With this initial congealment of the regroupment, we were ready to begin writing clarification articles, delving deeper into the positions that are outlined in the statement of principles.
Following the first issue, the regroupment began to gain some steam, and it became clear to us that we should formalize the project, and put effort into reaching a wider audience. By Issue 2, we had built a site, a social media presence, an audience, and had several groups involved in the project. By all accounts, we were succeeding at our initial task of getting enough people together to facilitate a deeper debate on positions where we might differ.
The next phase in our development was where we began to look more critically at our project, our positions, and could begin deriving lessons from this project. The publication began to outgrow the bounds of a typical magazine as contributing authors poured in. Momentarily it appeared that our goal of clarifying positions was being pushed aside in favor of publishing for the sake of publishing. It became apparent that the project was becoming a clearinghouse for ideas that tangentially touch upon our positions. Rather than allow the publication we control to begin controlling us, we reigned it back in and began to reflect more seriously on our task.
With the articles published in Issues 3 and 4, our team of editors became overwhelmed with material, with a pressure to publish without fully working out the political differences. Several articles were published that were controversial even among the organizations involved in the project. The discussions that followed revealed political disagreements between organizations that could not be reconciled. Some of the organizations involved in the regroupment split from it, and those remaining began to coalesce around a shared political vision.
At this time, we began to reflect on the material from contributors, on the prospect of new groups joining the regroupment effort, and on what lessons we had learned. At this point, the remaining groups involved had grown considerably, and were much stronger having done it. Those still involved were sympathizers with the existing groups that were North American affiliates of the Internationalist Communist Tendency. In our reassessment of the goals of the project, we determined that we had exhausted efforts for regroupment, and instead a strengthening of the associated organizations was proving more beneficial.
The lessons that we learned are numerous. We sought clarity and found it in abundance. We outlined the foundations for organized communists to again intervene in class struggle in the United States and in Canada. However far off the goal of communism may feel to us in the present, steps in the right direction toward that realization should always be met with enthusiasm. While we are saddened to discontinue the Intransigence name, we are not doing so out of gloom and pessimism. Instead, we view this as the beginning of a new chapter — one where the path forward is more illuminated than before. We wish nothing but the best for those who have participated in the project throughout its history. We are also hopeful that the lessons we have learned are retained in memory. And while we may often look to the past for answers, we must also look to the present and future. To belay this point no further, we are excited to announce that our work is unfinished and will continue through our new 1919 publication.
Klasbatalo and Internationalist Workers' Group