AN IRATE reader recently wrote to us terminating his subscription to Social Scientist on the grounds that it was "no longer a journal of debate among Marxists". Debate, according to him, "presupposes a protocol of reasoned argumentation"; simple "vilification or exchange of 'fiat', is surely not a Marxist mode of debate". Certain publications in Social Scientist., he believes, have been violating this protocol. He cites as an example E M S Namboodiripad's review of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya's book on Lenin (No. 107); since the editorial note in that particular issue endorsed with "approval" this review, together with Madhu Prasad's article on Perry Andersen, he believes. Social Scientist has become a vehicle through which "particular political views have been imposed without recourse to reason and logic". Hence his decision to terminate his subscription.
Whether or not some other readers share this view, we think that the gist of our reply to this reader should be stated here so that our position is clarified in public. Social Scientist does aspire to promote debate among Marxists. This objective, we believe, is best served not by imposing censorship on articles on the grounds that they do not observe some "protocol", but by publishing articles as well as any rejoinders to them that may be forthcoming. We can be accused of shutting out debate if and only if we published an article but refused to publish a rejoinder to it, if and only if, in other words, we suppressed any point of view presented to us for publication. And this we have never done.
Debate prospers only when there is a forthright statement of position. Occasionally there may be statements in an article which are in the nature of assertions. In such cases, it is not for us to clamp down censorship on the article; that would be contrary to our objective of promoting debate. It is for the readers to write rejoinders pointing out that the particular statement(s) lacks any basis in facts or "reason and logic". We would be only too happy to publish such rejoinders, and that would constitute debate.