A Self-Criticism on Irresponsible Editing from the Incendiary Editorial Board

By The Incendiary Editorial Board

On January 19 we published an op-ed by our contributor Ed Dalton titled “‘Peaceful’ Gun Rally Obscures Rising Fascism.” In response to our handling of this, he delivered harsh, but accurate criticisms of our editing of his article, and submitted his resignation. We subsequently unpublished the article, to prevent the dissemination of distorted political lines, and are issuing this self-criticism in response to his letter.

Ed is one of the most knowledgeable and skilled writers our paper has had, and a comrade who we deeply respect. But we unite with his decision to resign, and ultimately see this development as a necessary one for the growth of the paper and ourselves as editors, turning a bad thing into a good thing.

As editors, with humility, we do not claim to be the foremost experts of Maoism, or history, and will continue to fail. But we will not let failures stop us from learning by doing and earning successes. When we publish an incorrect line or factual error, and receive criticism, this only makes us better, whether in fixing our error, or challenging an incorrect criticism.

The heart of Ed’s criticism is that we, “Disallow debate through bureaucratic closed door maneuvers.” We accept this criticism, and it is something we have struggled with as we try to expand the capacity of the paper.

We are guilty of the serious error of productivism and bureaucratic practice, attempting to show that our paper can keep up with the fast-paced news cycle, seeking to be timely with all of our stories. Productivism does not put politics in command, and instead sees that production is primary (an economistic error), in this case publishing articles as fast as possible and as many as possible, opening the door for factual inaccuracies and incorrect lines, aiming for quantity over quality.

In practice, because of our limited capacity and resources, this at times means that authors may submit drafts, and not receive a full response with edits. At this stage in our development, it is not possible to go through a full back and forth editing process with every contributor. This is due to subjective and objective conditions.

Subjectively, the editors and contributors are not making time to work on pieces and respond to edits, whether because of organizational skills, procrastination, lack of commitment, issues of delegation, etc. Objectively, we do not have enough editors and contributors, and neither are developed enough ideologically. Both of these issues can be resolved through deeper ideological study, which leads to committed practice from every part of Incendiary.

The primary casualty of our productivism is the negation of two-line struggle. Line struggle is the motor of all organizations, and it must be fostered and allowed to flourish. Without two-line struggle, the correct line will never emerge, and instead, bad lines will go unchallenged and be established.

Not carrying out two-line struggle with authors should not be the default, especially in the case of articles that delve more deeply into theoretical ideas, and especially when it is written by a contributor like Ed, who has been with our paper since the beginning and has criticized us for similar errors before. This was a major failure.

This is the primary error we acknowledge in the face of Ed’s criticisms and resignation, but we have also engaged in liberalism in our edits, which was also pointed out.

One of the primary errors was the altering of criticism directed toward the ‘Antifascists of the Seven Hills,’ an anarchist antifascist group based in Richmond. This group gave an interview to Vice News leading up to the event in which they declared that they would be present at the rally to oppose gun reforms from a ‘leftist’ position, in essence finding unity with the reactionary groups in attendance.

The original article mentioned that the anarchists “marched in solidarity with reactionaries,” “made themselves part of the large right-wing demonstration,” “switched sides,” and “pretended that the reactionary character of the demonstration was non-existent,” all of which were removed in the final version.

With the intention of verifying these points, editors were overly reliant on the self-proclamations of the anarchists, who attempted to publicly distance themselves from the Vice interview and dishonestly presented contradictory positions on their intentions for participating in the rally. Editors took these claims at face-value, ignoring the essence of their participation which served the function of standing alongside reactionaries, in favor of their petty-bourgeois rationalizations and excuses after receiving justified blowback for their positions.

Ultimately the softening of criticism was an opportunistic move motivated, at least to some degree, to avoid accusations of being ‘unfair’ or ‘overly harsh’ in our assessment of the anarchists. Instead of engaging in relentless criticism of their collaboration, editors presented a half-hearted criticism which distorted the author’s analysis of fascism. This was especially egregious considering that the article was an opinion piece which falsely attributed these points to the original author.

Another point that was added by editors was that the ‘Seven Hills’ group engaged in “unprincipled collaboration with right-wing groups who sought advice for keeping more explicit fascist elements out.” While it is factually true that the anarchists did collaborate with reactionaries in an attempt to ostracize swastika-waiving fascists, they chose to let fascists with US-patriot symbolism off the hook.

This presents a false dichotomy and an incorrect analysis of fascism that dangerously obstructs and prioritizes the form over the essence of fascism. Fascism isn’t simply swastikas, the totenkopf, or other well-known symbols from historical fascist movements. Fascism isn’t simply terror. It is the response to economic crises by the most reactionary faction of the bourgeoisie, in imperialist countries and countries oppressed by imperialism alike, that attempts to revive the old dying state. This takes the form of rearranging the state and minimizing government (i.e. ‘small government’), and a negation of the parliamentary system. The symbols fascists adopt are secondary. The growing fascist movement in the US is not led by neo-Nazis, but rather by ‘small government’ patriotic constitutionalists.

Our formerly-erroneous analysis allows fascist groups with more insidious propaganda meant to appeal to the masses to fly under the radar.

We unite that we are not as studied ideologically on fascism as we need to be, or any subject that we cover. We are learning by doing, and all the members of the editorial board dedicate ourselves to study, which can always be deeper, and more disciplined. This is the case for any of our contributors, for anyone who supports the revolutionary movement.

We accept Ed’s resignation, knowing that we will continue to welcome his weapon of criticism when we make errors. We know that he will continue to make vital contributions to the Maoist movement regardless of where he applies his skills.

Our currently limited resources means that we need to be more creative as well as sharper in everything we do; the paper’s success depends on this. We hope that our readers, contributors, and supporters worldwide will continue to struggle with us to further our development to where we need to be. It means that we have to improve greatly, and that the editorial board and contributors must commit themselves with the same dedication to ideological struggle that comrades like Ed demonstrate, and develop the discipline to work at the high level that Incendiary requires for it to be effective as a voice of not only the proletariat, but for all revolutionaries united under the invincible ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.