The Future of Northstar Compass

George Gruenthal
Secretary, NSC

Northstar Compass is now celebrating its 15th year of publication. In this time it has played a unique role, especially in the English and French language media. At a time when much of the left was despondent over the temporary downfall of the Soviet Union and others on the "left" took this as an excuse to move to open Social Democracy (and, of course, the bourgeoisie and their press were celebrating), NSC clearly pinned the blame on imperialism and revisionism, especially Gorbachev’s revisionism.

Northstar Compass played a historic role for several reasons:

1) It defended the history of the Soviet Union, the building of the first state of the working class, the dictatorship of the proletariat. It defended the history of socialist industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture, the leading role of the Soviet Union in defeating fascism in World War II, all under the correct leadership of Joseph Stalin and the Bolshevik Party that he headed.

2) NSC traced the roots of revisionism back to Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin and the beginning of the dismantling of socialism at that time, through to Gorbachev’s complete liquidation of socialism and the Soviet Union, and Yeltsin’s counter-coup of 1991 and his attack on the Supreme Soviet of that year.

3) NSC showed the devastating conditions that the working people of the Soviet Union were subjected to with the open restoration of capitalism: closing of factories, loss of jobs, hunger, homelessness, dismantling of the health care system, mass emigration of people looking for work, the decline on the average life span, absolute decline in population, etc.

4) NSC pointed out that, without the Soviet Union, the US as only superpower was unimpeded by any other state power in its quest for world dominance.

This was at a time when the lying capitalist press was crowing about the benefits of "freedom" and "democracy" that capitalism had brought.

5) Maybe most importantly, NSC brought news of the resurgent communist and workers’ parties, not just in Russia but throughout the former Soviet Union, which are fighting to restore socialism and the Soviet Union.

This historic role Northstar Compass has carried out consistently over 15 years, publishing a monthly edition of about 1200 copies which are circulated all over the world, including 350 copies in Canada and 100 in the U.S. and the rest elsewhere, including in the former Soviet Union. This work could not have been done without the tireless work of Michael Lucas with the assistance of Helen Lucas. Since November of 2001, Northstar Compass has also appeared in a French edition, now published every other month by Dr. Adelard Paquin. And beginning in 2005, the Soviet Society for Friendship with Foreign Countries has put out a Russian edition.

Some Suggestions for Broadening Our Readership

At the same time, there have been certain weaknesses in the work of Northstar Compass, for which we all, especially the members of the Editorial Board and the Executive Committee of the International Council, must take responsibility.

In my view, the principal weakness is in the limited scope of circulation. I am not talking just of numbers, but of the political question of the breadth of its influence. This is a question that has been discussed before, and while there has been a certain verbal agreement, we have not yet significantly changed our practice.

In particular, it has been repeatedly stated that NSC is the organ of a friendship society, the International Council of Friendship and Solidarity with Soviet People, and not the nucleus of a new communist international. But I am sure that the great majority of those at our two Congresses were representing communist parties, organizations or journals. Where are our representatives from trade unions, from progressive social and cultural organizations, from other friendship societies that go beyond communist groups in their home countries? They are by and large absent. This should help us recognize the fact that we have not yet brought NSC into the broader movement, and that the pages of NSC do not yet sufficiently bring news of interest to a broader progressive readership.

Let me take an example from my own country, the United States. There is a growing movement against the U.S. imperialist war on Iraq. Most of the people in this movement are new to political struggle, they have little understanding of imperialism, and even less of the role that the Soviet Union played in opposing imperialism and imperialist war. We need to make NSC into an organ that could explain how: a) the Soviet Union and the October Revolution was born out of the opposition to the first imperialist war, b) the role of the Soviet Union in trying to form a united front against fascism before World War II, and the actual formation of the anti-fascist alliance during World War II, and c) the role of the Soviet Union in fighting imperialism before and after WWII.

Or, for the progressive trade union movement (which is still in its infancy in the U.S.), but which is seeing a revival in much of Western Europe and which is a growing part of the revolutionary movement in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America), we need articles on how workers took the lead in organizing production under socialism in the Soviet Union, how they helped develop the 5-year plans, how socialism could and did produce a continuously rising standard of living for all working people, what the conditions are like now for the workers there with the open restoration of capitalism, how the trade unions (especially Zaschita Truda, "Defense of Labor" and other progressive unions) are fighting for the rights of the workers.

For people in the dependent countries who are fighting against imperialist oppression, and for the oppressed nations and nationalities within the imperialist countries, we could have articles on how the Soviet Union championed the fight against colonialism after WWII, how it supported the right of self-determination throughout the world, including for the African-American nation in the Black Belt South of the U.S., how the restoration of capitalism in the former Soviet Union has led to constant conflicts between nations and nationalities, and how the right of self-determination and socialism is the only way to end national discord.

Undoubtedly, these are all topics about which, in one way or another, many of us are knowledgeable and often about which we may have written articles for publication in our own countries. But how often have we taken these articles, possibly rewritten them from the perspective of NSC, and at the same time thus made NSC more relevant for the broader movements in our countries?

In this way, we can both broaden the outreach of NSC and at the same time use it to help orient the more conscious sectors of the mass movements to an understanding of what socialism was and will be again.

The Need for a Truly Functioning Collective

There is just one more task that I wish to raise, and that is the need for a functioning collective to put out Northstar Compass. We all know that almost all the day-to-day work of NSC has been carried out by Michael and Helen, from selection of articles, translation into English, laying out the journal pages, even stuffing copies into envelopes. This cannot continue as a one or two person operation. Even if we wish Michael "sto lyet" (one hundred years), it is possible that it may take another 20 years until socialism is restored in the former Soviet Union, and Michael may have to slow down a little before then.

It should be possible, using modern means of communication, to have a functioning editorial collective across countries and even continents. It would require, particularly from the larger organizations, that they delegate one or more persons who have as one of their main responsibilities the production of the journal, or that smaller organizations or individuals also make NSC one of their priorities. And particularly for the comrades from Toronto, a few people should take on the practical tasks that are needed monthly (stuffing envelopes, taking NSC to the post office, etc.) without which the journal cannot be distributed.

In the discussion I hope we can set some preliminary responsibilities for making Northstar Compass a collective effort. Clearly many final decisions cannot be resolved until our Third Congress which will have a much broader representative of forces, both geographically and politically.

These are my main opinions for the discussion of the future of NSC.

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