An ongoing debate

The Libertarian Socialist Collective clarifies their policy for The Red Menace.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on January 14, 2011

In case you hadn't noticed, The Red Menace doesn't have a correct line on everything yet. (We're working on it, of course.) One of the things we (in the Libertarian Socialist Collective) are still trying to work out is the nature and purpose of The Red Menace itself. We do of course have certain guiding conceptions that we are working from, and we think that our newsletter is successfully developing a character of its own. But as we continue to publish, problems and issues arise that have to be dealt with.

The preparation of this issue was accompanied by an important debate over one question in particular - the question of printing submissions which we in the publishing collective don't agree with: a debate whose importance is by no means restricted to The Red Menace. Two articles sparked the controversy: 'The End of Dialectical Materialism: An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists', and Simon Rosenblum's piece on the NDP. We in the Libertarian Socialist Collective (LSC) are in fundamental disagreement with both articles. Initial objections to printing the articles came not from within the collective, however, but from anarchist comrades who have been helping us produce the newsletter. Their argument was that the articles in question are not representative of The Red Menace's politics and, in the case of the article on the NDP in particular, are resurrecting tired debates which are of no interest or importance of libertarians developing their own politics. Most, but not all, of the members of the LSC reject this position. (Some readers may find it slightly ironic to see anarchists opposing the printing of 'An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists', while the marxists favour printing it...)

The LSC's view is that The Red Menace should be a forum of dissenting views within the broadly defined boundaries of libertarian socialism. Generally, we are willing to accept the self-conceptions of those who submit articles: if they consider themselves libertarians, we will normally be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

We see The Red Menace as a forum for discussion and debate, and while we will certainly be making decisions about articles based on political considerations as well as on considerations of quality, relevance, and space, we want to be open to a whole range of different perspectives, whether we agree with them or not. Basically, we think that political development grows from criticism and debate, not from monologue, even if the message of the monologue is our own 'correct line'. For example, Rosenblum's article on the NDP expresses views that are widely held on the independent left in Canada. We strongly disagree with those views, but we consider it more useful to publish them and attempt to refute them, than to ignore them.

We also consider that we have a special obligation to print replies to articles published in The Red Menace. The letter from the Rent Freeze people at Bain Avenue in this issue ('Exchange') is an example. Based on content alone, this particular submission would have been rejected: it is politically retrograde, and deliberately dishonest to boot. But if debate on the left is ever to be shifted from its usual locale - the gutter - all of us must at least adopt certain basic principles: such as the idea that if you are going to publish a polemic against someone, then they should be given the opportunity to reply at reasonable length.

At the same time, we are not interested in abdicating editorial control over The Red Menace by simply printing anything that is sent in. Our primary purpose in publishing it isto develop and advance our politics. This naturally implies that a substantial proportion of the articles will represent the views of the LSC. It also implies that we will indicate editorially which articles we agree with, which we don't, and why. Beginning with this issue, we are publishing introductory comments on the major articles, in the front of the newsletter. Often we will take the opportunity to publish a reply to an article we disagree with.

We are also concerned with the overall balance and character of The Red Menace. We may not expect every article to express our views, but we do hope that it will be clear from each issue, taken as a whole, what we are about. In that sense, in setting priorities and designing the total package, we will attempt to exercise significant editorial control.

One aspect of this is that we do not want The Red Menace to be dominated by polemic and debate. We have other priorities as well. Thus, many articles of this nature will be restricted to the 'Exchange' section at the back of the newsletter, and the section itself will be kept at a reasonable size in any particular issue.

We are aware that our approach to this debate about the nature of The Red Menace is not the last word. Our friends in Kitchener may take the opportunity to state their views in the next issue. We are also very interested in knowing what our readers think.

Let us know.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.