Developing the Discussion

March 12, 2007

Political discussion plays a decisive role in mobilizing people, strengthening their convictions and building up the independent organizations of the people.

Initiating political discussion means raising the issues affecting people - i.e. speaking out against the war, demanding increased investment in the public schools, bringing out the urgent issues at the workplace, denouncing the repression of the government or the treachery of the Democratic Party, etc.

The politics of the Workers Party cuts through all the stultifying and mystifying propaganda of the capitalists and gets to the heart of the issue. Our experience shows that once the real interests of the people are brought to the fore, people have a tremendous amount of experience and a lot to say about the problems facing them. To release their initiative we must begin by boldly speaking out.

Political discussion is not one-sided lecturing. Discussion by definition requires two or more participants. Developing the discussion means asking people what they think about the issues and creating an atmosphere where everyone feels free to speak out. The aim is to clarify things and strengthen people's stand through the exchange of ideas and experience.

This does not mean that anything goes. In order to advance the discussion, we must always take a firm stand in defense of the people's rights and interests. Chauvinism and fascism, of course, must be opposed.

Yet more. It does not help the situation, to simply adapt to whatever phrase may be fashionable. For example, today, the capitalists and opportunists are trying hard to stop the anti-war discussion by saying: "Of course, Bush was wrong but now that the U.S. is in Iraq, we can't just leave." We must go against this tide by firmly and clearly explaining. We must remind people about the ongoing crimes of U.S. imperialism against the Iraqi people. We must underline that the permanent aims of U.S. imperialism are to colonize the country. We must stand up for the sovereign rights of the Iraqi people. Our experience is that this discussion helps many people think things over and helps them take a real anti-war stand. Others expose themselves as diehard chauvinists and pro-imperialists.

II.

We must always keep in mind that we initiate political discussion not for the sake of talking but in order to rally people into struggle - in order to take a real stand to solve real problems in the world. Keeping politics in command means that we cannot let the discussion get sidetracked.

The capitalists, of course, have known for a very long time that their politics will always be exposed and isolated when discussion is focussed on the real issues, when facts are presented and the interests of the people kept in the forefront. Thus, the capitalists try to poison the political atmosphere by creating a million diversions. For example, in the middle of an intense discussion in opposition to the war, someone will "enlighten" everyone by insisting: "But Fidel Castro is a dictator." The issue is not whether such diversions are "right or wrong." The issue is precisely that they are diversions.

Various sects of phony communists are notorious for inciting such diversions - for insisting that people accept some particular ideology as a precondition for political unity. Rather than seeking to unite people on the basis of finding common solutions to common problems, this sectarianism divides people and remains unconcerned with the real issues facing humanity.

Of course, many sincere people get so excited at the opportunity to have real discussion that they begin to bring out a thousand concerns all at once. We need to cherish the genuine initiative and thinking of people but, at the same time, we need to create an atmosphere in which everyone can participate. This can only be done if the discussion is developed in a step-by-step manner - taking up one issue at a time, going thoroughly into it, giving everyone the opportunity to bring out their experience, and then moving on.

III .

When we say that political discussion must start from and remain focussed on the real issues affecting people, this does not mean that theory and ideology have no role.

On the contrary. Theory and ideology play important roles in people's consciousness, in their ability to sort out their problems and develop their struggles and build their organizations on a solid foundation. People want to know what is the cause of war and why the health care system is falling apart. They want to know what real changes have to be made in society to end exploitation and keep the political power in the hands of the people. They want to learn the history of the working class and popular struggles.

The Party has important responsibilities to unfold broad and in-depth discussion over scientific social theory and to expose major currents of bourgeois ideology.

The issue is not to mix up these different fronts of discussion - the political and the ideological.

The political discussion, which is the starting point of our work, aims to unite people in the struggle to advance their interests. It zeros in on the balance of political forces and on how to advance the struggle. In the course of this, we must oppose and expose any ideas which present themselves as obstacles to the mobilization of people.