Wald’s analysis leaves much to be desired, but, as someone who was in the party’s leadership for many years, he is right to write that our inability to critique our past turned into a self inflicted and disabling wound. But for such a critique to be helpful, it wouldn’t be limited to the party’s relationship to the Soviet Union, nor the first half of the last century, as his analysis is. It would entail a rigorous look at our practice, theory, and internal culture over a century. On two occasions in the last half of the 20th century, we had opportunities to do just this, when larger events precipitated a crisis within the party.
But each time the necessary mass in the leadership didn’t exist and an embedded culture didn’t allow for a process of critique and renewal. On the first occasion, I was barely a teenager. But the next time, I was in the party’s leadership, but didn’t acquit myself very well. I stood along with others on a defense of old positions, understandings, and methods. And by the time I was elected chair a decade later, I had shaken off the old orthodoxy, but too many in the leadership still had no stomach for any kind of self/party-examination. Even if they had, it was, I now believe, too late anyway. The time and opportunity had passed.