What is The Red Menace?
The Red Menace is published by Toronto Liberation
School. Toronto Liberation School is a group of liberation socialists,
independent of any political organization, who see a need for a
broad range of educational and cultural activities that contribute
to transforming this society. We see the constituency for these
activities as all those people who have become concerned about their
lives, their communities, and the problems of this society and its
institutions; people who have become activists at the workplace
or in the community, for their needs and rights, or around national
and international issues; people struggling for their liberation.
We believe that liberation requires a fundamental restructuring
of social and economic relationships, suited to the needs of all
people rather than only to those of the few. This we would call
"socialism", but by it we mean neither the band-aid reformism
of the NDP nor Russian-style totalitarianism. Socialism to us is
possible only through the self-activity of working people towards
a completely democratic society. Toronto Liberation School hopes
to contribute to this in any way that it can. In the past, we have
put on lectures, courses, and helped to organize a conference on
Popular Education, and participated individually and collectively
in a range of political activities. We see this newsletter, The
Red Menace, as one part, but by no means the only part, of our
political practice and development.
The Red Menace is not a theoretical journal. It is not a
mouthpiece for the correct line of political sect. What it is is
a newsletter, an organ of communication. Not a one-way conveyor
of communication, from a few theoretical "heavies" to
the unwashed masses, but a vehicle of encouraging vigorous participation
from as many people as possible. (In some ways, we look back to
the early development of modern science, when there was dynamic,
anarchic, and marvelously efficient, exchange of ideas and information
between scientists in different countries through the exchange of
Theory and writing have to be de-mythologized. Thinking about society
and how it could change is something that everyone does.
And no one has all the answers.
We don't just want to print long, dry, ponderous articles. We are
at least equally interested in brief, to-the-point comments
on various problems. A one-page observation on some specific issue
or idea is more valuable than a 15-page article that is academically
competent, but has nothing new to say. Nor are we looking for "definitive
statements" on particular topics. We are much more interested
in the tentative, the exploratory, the contribution, of someone
who is unsure of what s/he says, but is willing to air it to the
comments of others.
So please put your thoughts on paper and send them in. We are interested
· articles about where you work, where you go to school,
where you live, where you shop, where you play
· analytical articles about political activities and organizations
you are/have been involved in
· criticism and evaluation of what is happening on the left,
in the women's movement, in society as large
· articles about theoretical and strategic questions
· artwork (black and white).
· humour and satire
· experiences in, and analyses of, mass culture, everyday
· analysis of leftist newspapers, posters, films, music,
· book reviews
· revealing anecdotes
· questions you don't have answer for.
· questions you do have answers for
Oh yes - we need money, of course. Money to keep this newsletter
going, especially since we are trying to distribute them free as
much as possible. A dollar or two will help, five or ten dollars
would be really nice. If you are sending a cheque, make it payable
to Toronto Liberation School. And if you're involved in a publication
yourself, we'd be glad to trade subscriptions.
Write to us:
The Red Menace
The Red Menace, as the name implies, is a sinister
communist conspiracy of fanatical revolutionaries sworn to poison
the fabric of our national life, extremists who will stop at nothing
in their ruthless determination to undermine the moral values which
are the bedrock of this society and its institutions. In the pursuit
of their treacherous goals the agents of this Red Menace are willing
to go to any length. Their aim is nothing less than the willful
subversion and final overthrow of all that is most sacred in our
precious free enterprise society: wage labour, exploitation, bureaucracy,
authoritarianism, the nuclear family, even the state itself.
The newsletter you are holding in your hand is put by a number
of dupes, fellow-travellers, and conscious tools of this red conspiracy
who have formed themselves together in an organization called Toronto
Liberation School. Our intention is to use this newsletter, The
Red Menace, as a mouthpiece for the conspiracy.
This however requires the assistance of other people who agree
with our objectives.
We would stress, first of all, for the benefit of prospective fellow-travellers,
that this publication is a newsletter, not a journal or magazine.
We in Toronto Liberation School do not want to be the editors
of a product which will be passively consumed by readership. What
we intend, rather, is that The Red Menace be a vehicle of
communication between independent socialists in Canada, a forum
in which there can be discussion of experiences, strategy, and theory.
It is a project for which we seek the active participation of as
many people as possible across Canada.
Our decision to publish The Red Menace stems from our understanding
of the current state of the independent left in Canada. It is a
situation where there is widespread and diverse activity, on the
one hand, and a significant degree of isolation and strategic confusion,
on the other. There are some who do little except talk and theorize,
and others who are very active, but reflect very little about what
they are doing, and why. Few groups have a developed class analysis
of the situation in Canada itself. Many are oriented exclusively
to the Third World, doing solidarity work, which is valuable, but
which can hardly be the main activity of a socialist movement in
Canada. Few groups have a perspective or strategy for their own
development; most have little sense of where they are going.
Yet the independent left is a positive phenomenon. There are now
many groups and individuals across Canada who are committed to a
politics based on marxism, who have rejected any temptation to withdraw
from political activism, and who have similarly rejected the spurious
alternative of joining one of the innumerable "vanguard"
sects. Among many (although certainly not all) of the groups and
individuals of the independent left there at least implicit rudimentary
agreement around certain fundamental questions of revolutionary
This unity has however tended by and large to be implied, or expressed
by practice alone; this why it has remained implicit, rather
than being made explicit. This in turn has set sharp limits
on the extent to which this basic unity could be developed and elaborated.
The failure to confront strategic and political questions on the
part of much of the independent left may be partially explicable
by the basis of unity on which many left groups currently exist.
Coalitions of people with different political viewpoints, they have
avoided debate for the sake of self-preservation, for frank discussion
might easily uncover political differences that would threaten the
viability of some organizations.
Yet this failure to probe political questions in a serious way
has imposed a handicap that is often stifling: an inability to collectively
develop perspectives and directions. It also means that the independent
left, the product of social movements which marked a radical departure
from the "old left" and its politics, has nevertheless
largely failed to assimilate the lessons of those social movements,
of the new left, the women's movement, etc., as well as the traditions
of a wholistic, critical, libertarian marxism. As long as it fails
to do so, its prospects are problematic indeed.
These problems are neither surprising nor especially blameworthy
given the degree of isolation, from each other and from the working
class, in which so many groups operate. Fundamentally this isolation
is an expression of the level of class struggle in Canada. It cannot
be wished away or arbitrarily overcome by organizational measures
or by finding the "correct" strategy. Organization and
strategy are not universally applicable formulae that are "discovered"
by some clever theoretician steeped in the marxist classics and
then applied everywhere: they are ways of exploiting, as much as
possible, and as realistically as possible, the options which are
presented by a particular moment of the class struggle. They constantly
have to be re-evaluated, adapted, and amended in the light of particular
circumstances and changed situations. The vision of "the"
strategy is a mirage.
But nevertheless, it is our belief that the level of political
activity permits more initiatives, in terms of organizational links
and in terms of development of strategy and theory, than are presently
being developed. Hence The Red Menace.
One of the most important needs which we see this newsletter responding
to is therefore the simple one of overcoming isolation, for more
communication within the independent left. In this process of communication,
one of the most important priorities must be the sharing and criticism
of political experiences and activities. This could involve, for
example, a particular collective describing and analyzing a project,
organizing campaign, or whatever, that it has been involved in.
The purpose would not be simply to convey information about what
is being done by various groups (although this can be useful in
itself) but to encourage critical evaluations of various
forms of left practice, and the theory underlying it. This evaluation
would come in the first instance from people describing their own
work and using the opportunity to reflect critically on what they
have been doing. Response from others in the pages of this newsletter
could then potentially comprise a positive ongoing discussion of
the experience being considered and of related activities.
A process of constructive criticism should help to develop the
habit of looking at individual projects in a larger strategic, political,
and theoretical context. It should also make it more common for
revolutionaries to draw lessons from their practice and to learn
from each other, so that positive lessons are generalized and negative
ones not repeated over and over again. This is clearly something
that can occur only with established communications links.
At the same time, in this way we can (and must) avoid the rigidities
of the Leninist form of organization which seeks to subject everyone
to a uniform "line" and centralized discipline, which
seeks to guarantee political unity by organizational
Another priority of the newsletter, related to the first, will
be similar discussions of experiences at work, at school, in the
community, at play, and in other activities which constitute daily
life in this society. It is our belief that marxist politics must
deal with not only the 'high politics' of governments, monetary
crises, wars, etc., but also with the politics of ordinary life,
the level at which the oppressiveness of capitalist society is experienced
by most of us on the day-to-day level ("The critique of daily
life"). We believe that it is crucially important that Marxists
analyze this level of reality with same energy that they have traditionally
given to the affairs of states and capital, and that they incorporate
this analysis into their strategy.
An emphasis on specific analysis of specific situations should
make it possible to broaden participation in this political exchange,
so that not only the "theoreticians" take part, but also
those who now participate little or not at all in the formal development
of concepts, strategies, theories, etc. The newsletter will be strongly
committed to aiding the democratization of the political process
within the left, a matter not only of formal principles but of practical
utility, for the left needs to engage the minds and imaginations
of all its members.
Another priority of The Red Menace will be the project of
developing a coherent political perspective, partly out of these
different examinations of experience, but also through discussions
of theoretical, strategic and organizational questions. Our purpose,
after all, is not communication for its own sake, but the stimulation
of a definite political process toward definite political goals.
Accordingly, we approach this project of a newsletter with a certain
set of political attitudes and beliefs. This is not the place to
set out our ideas in great detail: this is not a manifesto. Indeed,
to be honest, at this point we in the TLS collective have worked
out our ideas in much less detail and with much less sophistication
than we would wish, although we believe that we have progressed
in the right direction. The content of The Red Menace from
issue to issue will necessarily be the best indication of our politics.
Hopefully the interchange in its pages will cause us to deepen,
re-affirm, and change the ideas we carry to it at the outset.
But we do not intend that this newsletter reflect a single political
line, not only because we do not believe that a coherent and comprehensive
"correct line" exists but more importantly because we
believe that a necessary condition, and pre-condition, of libertarian
politics is the widest and most open discussion. We cannot consider
any questions closed. And certainly there will be many times when
we print contributions that we do not ourselves agree with. At the
same time, we consider it neither possible nor desirable to throw
open the pages of The Red Menace to all possible shades
The project we are committed is that of developing a libertarian
marxism which takes as its project the critique of the totality
of human life in capitalist society. This critique cannot simply
content itself with generalities or with conclusions drawn decades
ago in a world that was significantly different. To understand something
means to understand it in detail, in historical context, and in
all its complexity.
Based on this critique, we are committed to developing a revolutionary
politics that is liberatory in the fullest sense of the word. Capitalism
is a totalistic system of oppression that invades all areas
of life: socialism must be the overcoming of capitalist reality
in its entirety, or it is nothing. Or more concretely, a socialism
that is partial can only become a parody of the liberatory ideals
it espouses. The disastrous results of a "socialist" movement
that equated socialism with nationalization of industry speak clearly
enough in this regard.
Our belief in a total revolution impels us to underline the assertion
that Marx made the first point in the statement of principles of
the First International: "The emancipation of the working classes
must be achieved by the working classes themselves." Nationalization
to be sure can be carried out by a vanguard party installing itself
in the state power. Social liberation, human liberation, however,
is a process that must go to the root. It cannot be decreed. Nor
can it be achieved without the participation of the vast majority
of the population. A collective project, and therefore individual,
as well, socialism must be self-liberation in every sense of the
word. We in TLS hope to contribute to this project because our own
lives are shaped and misshaped by our capitalist reality. Whatever
contribution we make will stem from our role as participants in
a great human adventure, not from any self-proclaimed standing as
the "vanguard of the proletariat" or any such reactionary
We do not consider it a priority to engage in lengthy debate with
those whose political identification is with the corpse of Bolshevism.
But The Red Menace will concern itself with some of the elements
of Leninist theory and practice, not for themselves, but because
they are based on principles which most of the independent left
has not sufficiently analyzed. Without fully understanding these
mistakes, it is impossible to develop a Marxist politics which avoids
them. "The traditions of all the dead generations weigh like
a nightmare on the brains of the living". Such critique is
especially important since these encrusted orthodoxies tend to dominate
much of left discussion through their controlled presses and the
sheer volume of the noise they generate. They do not convince, but
often they manage to deaden thought or disrupt or prevent intelligent
public debate with their incessant "interventions".
We will also seek to foster critical discussions of other theories
and tendencies on the left which pose important issues for a revolutionary
movement in Canada.
We hope that the kind of discussion we envisage will enable the
newsletter to contribute to a process of political unification
on the independent left in Canada. In this, we differ from those
who propose that various organizational ties be created to pull
different groups together, that we should all "get together"
now. We believe that this latter kind of unification is a rather
mechanical approach to the problem which would almost inevitably
come to grief because it sees the process only in organizational
terms. Political problems cannot be solved by organizational measures.
Lasting organizational unity is possible only where there is fundamental
agreement on questions of theory, principles, and strategy. And
to assume that such agreement exists at present is to blind oneself
to reality. Indeed a number of groups united primarily around practical
tasks are finding it difficult to develop further because the requisite
common political outlook is lacking. For them, the alternative may
be a choice between relative stagnation resulting from inability
to develop politically (or fear of doing so), and attempts at political
development that result in polarization and splits.
We do not think that it is a service to anyone to be over-hasty
in trying to create organizational links. Such links should grow,
not from an a priori belief in the virtues of bigness or centralization,
but from the actual needs of the groups concerned. We should
create whatever structures are needed to accomplish agreed-on and
clearly defined common tasks. Such pragmatic links, if accompanied
by conscious efforts to discuss issues of common political concern,
whether they be the mutual critique of practice, or theoretical
discussion, and stimulate a process of political drawing
together that is organic and rooted in real situations.
Some people disagree. They want to "get on with it" and
be done with all the talk. However, we cannot accept the often assumed
idea that everything has been said and that for socialists now it
is just a matter of doing things. Most of us have been involved
in enough groups that demand frantic activity but little thought
to be wary of such an orientation. We are similarly wary of those
who fail to recognize that theoretical practice is also a form of
practice, a form that is quite important at the present time. We
think that the socialist movement in Canada faces many unanswered
questions (indeed, many unasked and unformulated questions) that
have to be dealt with before we can progress significantly. Not
least among those questions are "What is socialism?" and
"Why does a socialist revolution seem so distant?" That
the level of discussion on the left is so dismally low is an indication
of how much socialists, like everyone else, are alienated from their
own intelligence: so many people want ready-made answers, but are
unwilling to think things through for themselves.
For us, one of the implications of marxism is the conception that
there is a close link between form and content in political work.
Consequently we will endeavor to pay close attention to form in
The Red Menace. We will persistently try to encourage the
use of plain language rather than left jargon, and try to foster
the ability to express complex ideas in as simple a way as possible
without losing the meaning. We also use graphics, cartoons, etc.
as much as we can given the rather severe limitations of the newsletter
format. As much as possible, we want to use The Red Menace
as a medium with which we can experiment, in which we can try to
develop different ways of getting our point across as effectively
as possible. This too should be an area which radicals can learn
from each other (and from non-radicals). Hopefully we can develop
livelier forms of communication that can be used in our political
work. Accordingly, we will sometimes be guilty of poetry, satire,
having fun and similar violations of political orthodoxy. There
should be no reason why marxist politics have to be as deadly and
dull as they generally tend to be. The task is serious, but creatively,
playfulness and humour are resources that we must learn to draw
on in our struggle for a socialist future. Their repression is itself
one of the indictments of capitalism, and of any politics that fail
to combat that repression.
It is impossible to stress enough that the flowering of creativity
demanded by a revolutionary socialist politics demands the widest
possible participation. By this criterion, the project of The
Red Menace, modest as it is, will be a failure if it doesn't
win the active involvement of considerable numbers of the people
who receive it. This is especially so because we are not a theoretical
journal in the traditional sense. We are not terribly interested
in seeking out articles that are the definitive last word on some
particular topic (though if you do happen to have such a definitive
interpretation of the world, we would be happy to see it.) We are
more interested in fostering an orientation to theory and strategy
and tactics that rejects the idea that these are the exclusive preserve
of theorists, strategists, and tacticians.
Everyone has something to contribute to these questions,
if not in the same degree. Our task is to create an environment
where such contributions are drawn out, and where we all learn to
get the maximum benefit from them. This means that theory has to
be de-mythologized. Theoretical practice is not only the writing
of books and articles, important as that may be. It is also drawing
conclusions from various situations, making generalizations on the
basis of one's experience and intellectual resources. This is not
necessarily a grandiose undertaking: a one- or two page comment
making one or two basic points about some particular topic, experience,
or problem is often more useful than a long treatise that is read
by almost no one, and says nothing new at any rate. A tentative
exploration of a problem is often valuable in provoking further
thought: there is no reason to insist that people have to have fully
thought our all aspects of a problem before they venture an opinion
on some part of it.
One consequence of this is that we will try to maintain a definite
bias in favour of brevity in The Red Menace, although we
will undoubtedly make exceptions. But it is less necessary to encourage
the self-confident theoreticians than those who don't think of themselves
that way, so we are "bending the stick the other way"
with an extra stress on the importance of short comments, feedback,
letters, and the like, in the process of dialogue that we are seeking
to develop in The Red Menace.
The purpose of this introduction is to open discussion,
not to close it with definitive pronouncements. So it will end here.
A fuller definition of what this newsletter is to be will have to
emerge from its practice. And that will be determined by those who
participate with us in this project.
Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February
See also: A
Political Statement of the Libertarian Socialist Collective.