Revolutionary Amnesia (From a Correspondent)

January 11, 2023

In What We Can Do

In 2020, Briahna Joy Gray, Krystal Ball, and Jimmy Dore argued that the Squad should set conditions upon their approval of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. Other prominent Left commentators kept silent or criticised this tactic.


Jacobin sided with the critics as it itemised ‘the many, many problems with Dore’s idea’. In pouring water on the initiative, Jacobin framed the controversy as a teachable moment regarding ‘strategy on the Left’ and ‘theories of change’:


[Condemning AOC as a sell-out for refusing to Force the Vote] is an extreme manifestation of a voluntarist worldview according to which anything is possible regardless of the objective political terrain — so if some good political outcome doesn’t come to pass, we should suspect that leaders who said they wanted it are too institutionally compromised to really want it, or at least aren’t sufficiently committed to fighting for it.

This week, Jacobin published an article about the Republican Right’s successful leveraging of the Speaker vote to extract meaningful concessions from their party leadership. The article analysed the tactic as a teachable moment, just like the 2020 article did, but drew very different lessons:


[I]f we’re going to triumph over the forces of reaction and win these changes and more, we’re going to need to learn to fight harder and smarter… In the last few weeks, the American right showed us just how much room there is in Congress to propagandize for one’s politics and build power. Take notes. Our time will come, and we should be as prepared to fight as they were.


In short, Jacobin‘s done a 180. Is this what is meant by revolutionary analysis?


If Jacobin has changed its mind, that’s no reason to fault it.


But what’s remarkable is, even as both Jacobin interventions were presented as instructions in left strategy, the new article does not acknowledge, still less account for, the old position.


Yet more egregiously, the new article neither credits those who back then got things right — in the face of indifference or opposition from Jacobin, among others — nor attempts to explain how they did so.


The slate is wiped clear. The calendar reset.


This sorry performance brings home the timeliness of Rosa’s advice —


The welfare of the workers’ movement requires above all a sincere and uncompromising criticism of the errors and deviations that this movement makes, rather than covering up and masking the full truth from the workers


— and underlines what a vital contribution to the movement your book is.