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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Monday May 27th 2024

Criticism And Self-Criticism

by Peter Molenaar

Yes, the revolutionary process is again unfolding and is, this time around, discernible and understandable even to us “broad masses”.  It is natural, in this context, for the most “gifted” to step forward as “partisans of the people”.

It is natural, as well, that a competition for leadership status will develop between individuals and between political groupings.  Some say that this competition is a good thing.  However, a serious downside occurs when personal or sectarian interests are placed above the interests of the movement as a whole.  When opportunism prevails, we all suffer the consequences.

Are manifestations of this “left-opportunism” inevitable?  The answer is:  yes.  Yes, because many of our educated people are inadequately grounded among the working class and the oppressed.  As the revolution gathers steam, it then becomes increasingly obligatory for the actors to embrace the practice of “Criticism and Self-Criticism”.

It follows that we must all keep a critical eye on our leaders from the standpoint of helping them to develop.  However, let us recognize that our activists are by and large devoted and self-sacrificing people.  Nasty attempts to bring them down to “our level” are not to be summoned.  Nor should we endorse mean-spirited criticism rendered for the purpose of self-aggrandizement.  “Helpful” and “constructive” are the watchwords.

Yet of greater importance is the demeanor of the person who is criticized.  The first requirement is to remain inwardly calm in order to grasp what is being said.  Words uttered in response to criticism must always first address the “kernel of truth”.  Failure to respond in this way appears as a “bourgeois arrogance” and is bound to cause harm.

Note:  On the other hand, heavy handed “top down” criticism is certain to cause harm as well.

Allow me to make an example by way of a self-criticism.  Some years ago, having won a close election to the office of union steward, I found myself being dressed down by a co-worker while standing in the lunch line.  Instead of responding rationally, my mind flustered to:  How dare you assault me in public with your exaggerations.  Hence, an opportunity to enhance unity (and to elevate my own prestige) was lost.

So then, I suggest that many of our emerging but youthful leaders would do well to examine the “old left” doctrine of Criticism and Self-Criticism.  They have yet to realize that their immense talents are now property of the people.  Humility, it is said, is the first requirement of revolutionary culture.

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