Published: The Communist, Vol. I, No. 7, April 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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EROL Note: Two different editions of The Communist, Vol. I, No. 7 were published as a result of the split in the Black Workers Congress. The one from which this article is taken was published by the leadership of the Black Workers Congress (parts two and three of this article were subsequently published by the Revolutionary Workers Congress in Movin’ On!). The other edition of Vol. I, No. 7 of The Communist was issued by a group that became the Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist.) This article explains the split in the BWC from the perspective of the BWC leadership. The Workers Congress explaination of the split is set forth in the article The Split in the BWC. Leninism or Petty Bourgeois Democracy.
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In February of 1974, the Black Workers Congress consolidated on the position that party building was the central task of communists in the U.S. Our organization still holds this to be the central task of all communists in this country. However, recent ideological struggles in the organization have determined that since our organization consolidated on this central task, we have held a “left” opportunist line on this question.
Among all genuine Marxist-Leninists there is agreement that the central task for communists is party building. What the new Communist Movement does not agree upon is how the central task is to be accomplished. How are we to bring into being the general staff of the proletariat; the organized detachment of the working class; the highest form of class organization of the proletariat; the instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat; how are we to construct the Party? That is the question that perplexes the new Communist Movement and that is the problem that caused the most intense two-line struggle in the history of the Black Workers Congress.
The two-line struggle in the BWC has been complicated by the fact that two erroneous lines on party building were contending with the correct Marxist-Leninist line. In the course of the two-line struggle, a right opportunist line was put forth by Mike Hamlin and the forces who grouped themselves around him. The “left” opportunist line was already the official line of the organization, and the proponents of this line grouped themselves around Donald Williams, the chief theoretical spokesman of “leftism”.
It was the “left” line that was determined to be the most dangerous line in the BWC. This “left” line on party building was indeed the most dangerous line in the organization because it was this line that guided the policies of the organization for over a year. It was this line that prevented the organization from winning the advanced, that kept us isolated from the class, that promoted sectarian attitudes towards other organizations in the new Communist Movement; that promoted dogmatism and subjectivism inside of the organization; and put forth sham rather than genuine Marxism at every turn.
Both, the proponents of the right line on party building as well as the proponents of the “left” line on party building grouped themselves into factions to put forth their erroneous views. Throughout the course of the two-line struggle, the Hamlin faction and the Williams faction constantly engaged in anti-organizational activity in a conscious effort to undermine the democratic centralism of the organization. Nonetheless, the proletarian line was able to gain hegemony in the organization and the right and “left” factions of Hamlin and Williams have been ousted and purged from the organization. Both the right and “left” lines have been smashed and the proletarian line has come to the fore in the organization.
As for the faction of Hamlin, who consciously styled themselves as “the revolutionary bloc” while inside of the organization, and flaunted the basic rules of a Leninist organization, the BWC sees the majority of these comrades as confused as to the science of Marxism-Leninism, especially its science of organization. However, these comrades are considered to be, still, a part of the new Communist Movement.
As for the majority of forces who grouped themselves around Donald Williams, we, as well, see these comrades as misguided by a lack of understanding of Marxism-Leninism and duped by the demogogy of D. Williams. However, D. Williams represents a special case and merits special attention. The activities of this scoundrel, this opportunist, this liar, this thief, this sower of dissension and sectarianism in the organization, in the new Communist Movement and among the masses has occasioned every cadre in the organization to pose the question: “WHO IS DONALD WILLIAMS?” and “WHAT IS HIS THING?” We will speak, more extensively on these questions towards the end of this article.
A two-line struggle on party building existed every since the organization consolidated on this central task. The struggle only reached an intense level after the break-up of a faction that existed in the organization’s highest body.
The very first manifestation of this struggle dealt with the question of “bowing to spontaneity”. The concept that the “leftists” put forth was that any engagement in the mass, spontaneous struggles of the workers or national minorities was “bowing to spontaneity,” regardless of whether we gave those struggles a planned, conscious character or not. The “left” line prevailed and the organization, for all practical purposes, withdrew from all political activity except in one or two places.
The next manifestation of the two-line struggle was embodied in the inner-organizational struggles around the machinations of the “leftists” in their plans to participate in the Communist League’s National Continuations Committee. Many comrades were hesitant and reluctant to embark upon this venture with CL. Many others outright disagreed with this move of the “leftists” in the leadership. We still had not summed up the errors which had caused our organization to tail the Revolutionary Union, and now we were about to embark upon a relationship with CL! Because bureaucratic centralism rather than democratic centralism held sway in the organization, the “leftists” were once again able to overcome the objections of cadre in the organization and place us squarely in the camp of the CL. Not having understood the ideological essence of the error which caused us to tail the right line of the Revolutionary Union, it was a’ foregone conclusion that we would again commit errors of either a right or “left” character.
CL’s bankrupt line on the international situation and their out and out opportunist moves in the NCC were the dominant factors which forced the “leftists” to abandon the march with CL to their bankrupt party date in September of 1974. At this time, the “leftists” in the leadership began to exercise their own hegemonistic ambitions and for all intents and purposes saw the BWC as the only force that could bring the Party of a New Type into being.
However, at the same time, there was a break-up of the “left” faction that had existed in the organization’s highest body. The “left” faction sundered into “left” and right factions, the faction of D. Williams and the faction of M. Hamlin. This is not an unusual happening. Marxism-Leninism teaches us that “lefts” are no more than rights turned inside out. All errors of Marxism-Leninism are, in essence, right errors. The break-up of the faction in the organizations highest body was the objective factor that allowed the struggle to break out with such intensity and allowed the proletarian line to assert itself.
Party building is a reflection of the dialectical relationship between the objective and subjective factors, Thus, any attempt to build the party that does not put forth the correct dialectical relationship between the objective and subjective factors, between knowing and doing, is bound to descend in to the bog of economism and bowing to spontaneity on the one hand, and dogmatism and sectarianism on the other.
Those who attempt to build the party recognizing only the theoretical tasks will end up making “left” errors, mainly manifesting themselves as sectarianism, dogmatism and isolation from the masses. Those who attempt to build the party, recognizing only the practical political tasks to the exclusion of the theoretical tasks, will end up making economist, reformist and other errors. Based upon our analysis of the new Communist Movement we state that opportunist errors to the right and to the “left” have dominated our Movement. The Marxist-Leninist line on party building has yet to assert itself in our Movement.
During the period in the BWC since we have held to the central task of party building, we have made “left” errors because of our absolutizing of the theoretical aspects of party building, the subjective factor. In absolutizing the theoretical aspects of party building, we do not mean to say that the quality of this work was high or that the quantity was sufficient. In essence, even this aspect of party building was belittled because once theory is separated from practice neither one can be correctly grasped in a M-L manner. Theoretical work isolated from, and not based on revolutionary practice, is no theoretical work at all. The correct approach is to link the theoretical and political tasks of party building in their dialectical relation, seeing the theoretical and ideological tasks as primary but not at all neglecting the practical, political tasks that flow from the requirements of party building.
The various currents that emerged in the BWC must be measured by the analysis put forth in the above paragraph. In the struggle against the “left” line, a number of forces coalesced for a time in this struggle. However, as the struggle for clarity developed, and as the Marxist-Leninist line began to come to the fore, it was clear that differences existed among those who understood the “left” to be the main danger in the organization. These differences only emerged clearly when the right faction under the leadership of Mike Hamlin began to put forth their view of party building.
Although the rights wrote many polemical papers dealing with the two-line struggle, not one of them dealt with the question of party building. Their papers were directed to the personality of D. Williams, to the line of conciliation, to phenomenal aspects of the “left” line in the organization but none of them addressed themselves to the question of party building. It was only much later “that the right-ism of the Hamlin faction began to manifest itself. The approach of these comrades was an empiricist approach and a pragmatist approach. As the Chinese comrades state:
Empiricism is a manifestation of subjectivism and formalism. Ideologically, it runs counter to the fundamental principles of dialectical and historical materialism. This is the ideological root cause why empiricists often blindly follow “left” or right opportunists. Peking Review, #43, 1972.
This is certainly the case with our rights. They were firmly in the camp of the “lefts” at one time and. played a major role In consolidation of the organization on the “left” line and as quickly lined up squarely behind a right line whose essence was pragmatism and empiricism.
The rights refused to apply themselves to the task of apprehending the ideological essence of the “left” line. They contented themselves with a simple statement that there was a divorce of theory from practice. Of course, all theoretical errors of Marxism-Leninism come as a result of the divorce of theory from practice but one has to go further and show why the breach between theory and practice occurs. The rights were certainly not interested in this at all, not interested in doing the rigorous work necessary in uncovering the deepest reasons for the development of the “left” line; and thought that all would be well once the main perpetrators were dealt with by expulsion from the organization. They called for organizational penalties against individuals rather than calling for the uprooting of the “left” opportunist line in the organization. They saw the question of opportunism in a very abstract way and not related to the central task of communists. The rights saw themselves fighting against opportunism but could not relate this to the opportunism of the “lefts” on the central task of party building because they never addressed themselves to the stance of the “left” on the central task of party building.
It was difficult for a time to discern the outlines of the posture of the rights on the question of party building but through a number of debates as well as inferences drawn from some of their papers, it is clear that they put forth organization as key, rather than seeing the ideological question as the key question in regards to party building. They make organization the key question by saying that factory nuclei are the key link in party building. This presupposes that the ideological and theoretical questions relating to party building have been resolved. The rights also called for the liquidation of the Central Organ of the organization as well as liquidation of the as well as liquidation of the National Center of the organization.
The unity of the “lefts” and rights was clearly shown on the organizational questions that came to the fore in the two-line struggle. Both the “lefts” and the rights united to oppose democratic centralism. They both formed factions and engaged in anti-organizational activity. They remained loyal to their groupings throughout the two-line struggle. On all of the anti-organizational activity that existed in the organization, the rights and “lefts” managed to “find each other” as Stalin would say. Objectively, the rights and the “lefts” formed an anti-organizational bloc inside of the BWC.
Early in the two-line struggle, the rights formed themselves into a faction and styled themselves as the “revolutionary bloc”. These comrades refused to give up their groupist activity and when they were ordered to do so, they preferred to resign from the organization rather than submit to the will of the majority. This faction was led principally by Mike Hamlin, and was the minor danger that arose in the course of the two-line struggle. The main danger in the BWC is ”left” opportunism and the struggle against this danger has been consistent and resolute to the point where this trend is being defeated in the organization.
The “left” line in the organization made a direct assault upon the science of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought in that it substituted metaphysics for dialectics in its attempt to study the phenomena of social development. This is the philosophical error made that led to the theoretical error of subjectivism and one-sidedness. This narrow bourgeois and petit bourgeois point of view caused and led, in turn, to the absolutizing of the subjective factor (theory) and caused the “lefts” to dogmatically approach the science of Marxism-Leninism as static and fossilized rather than as a developing science. Consequently, they were unable to advance the organization one bit while they were in the leadership. Our “leftists” blamed all of the faults of the organization on the cadres and brought forth the point of view that “organization was key”. If we couldn’t recruit any advanced workers it was not because the line of the organization was incorrect but because our individual work style and our “amateurishness” were at fault. If we had no connection with the broad masses, the cause was not the line but the cause lay with the cadre who had not organized themselves correctly, or had not organized their districts correctly. It was everything but the line that was at the heart of our failure to make advances as an organization.
In the course of the two-line struggle, our “leftists” have buried us under tons and tons of paper verbiage but nowhere in this mountain of quotes and paper do these comrades deal with the concrete reality of the BWC. Further they have constantly distorted the history and development of the organization. The “leftists” have promoted the “theory of cadres” in the organization. As this theory goes; we have to get ourselves together theoretically before we can undertake any political work. To involve ourselves in any practical, political work is “bowing to spontaneity” and economism. Comrades In the Communist Movement can attest to the absence of any BWC cadre in any political work except in one or two cities. Our “leftists” have conveniently defined theoretical work as political work so they have combined “two into one”, a thoroughly opportunist concept. This concept of “combining two into one,” merging contradictions Is counter to dialectics and has been used historically by a number of counter-revolutionary forces to refute the concepts of scientific socialism. It was used by Proudhon, by Duhring, by Kautsky, by Deborin, by Bukharin, by Khrushchev and by Liu Shao-chi. D. Williams is the latest to bring forth the reactionary concept of ”combine two into one” to substantiate his revisionist theories.
Organizationally, the “left” line manifested itself as sectarianism. There was the inner-organizational sectarianism towards the rank and file cadre and the lower units. Cadre were subjected to commandist and authoritarian postures from the leadership. There was no participation by cadre in the development of line. Line was developed from the subjective wishes of the “leftists” and cadre existed as robots to carry out the line without questioning it in any way. Bureaucratic centralism was the dominant error in relation to democratic centralism. D. Williams’ point of view was that centralism was absolute and democracy was relative and went out of existence altogether when execution of a directive from the leading bodies was handed down.
Democratic centralism had no place in the plans of our “leftists” and whomever raised the question of democracy was branded as a “petty bourgeois democrat”.
Aside from the inner-organizational sectarianism, there was the sectarianism towards the masses. Under the “left” opportunist line the BWC made unprincipled attacks upon almost every organization in the new Communist Movement. Donald Williams used open platforms in the Movement to attack, in a personal manner, leaders of these organizations to further his own careerist ambitions. Political criticisms are one thing, but unprincipled, personal attacks are quite another and D. Williams was fond of the latter. D. Williams is fond of posturing at forums and other gatherings of Marxist-Leninists, fond of his ability to quote-monger and distort the classics of Marxism-Leninism. D. Williams’ sectarianism towards the masses is also well known. He has been known, at a forum, to read pamphlets, word for word and page for page for four (4) hours. A gathering of over 300 people came to hear a presentation by the BWC on the national question and before he finished reading the pamphlet there were less than 100 people there.
As this is just the first installment of our exposition on the two-line struggle, we have only struggle will be taken up in forthcoming issues. As to the main proponent of the “left” line in the organization, Donald Williams, we feel that we have a special obligation to the new Communist Movement to put forth our view on this person.
As stated, an examination of the personal and political history of D. Williams has provoked the question from cadre inside of the organization as well as Communists outside of the organization: “WHO IS DONALD WILLIAMS?” and “WHAT IS HIS THING?” We in the BWC do know this much. The BWC is the first political organization that this individual has belonged to. He has inspired violent hatred in a number of cadre and has been driven from his post in several districts by the enmity that he has created among cadre. He is a liar and has accused a leading cadre of being a police agent and when asked to substantiate this, could not, and lied that other cadre had told him of this. He is a thief and stole the organization’s newspaper equipment when suspended from the organization. He is a demagogue of the worst sort, using all sorts of unprincipled means in the course of “ideological” struggle. All of this is aside from the monstrous distortions that he has made of the science of Marxism-Leninism.
He has brought forth metaphysical materialism, subjectivism, idealism, dogmatism, narrowness and sectarianism inside of the BWC and when he was exposed attempted to split the organization. On his part it has been a process of self-exposure and on our part a process of getting to know him. The masses might put it this way: “He wore a mighty long coat but we have spied his ass at last.” Perhaps Harry Haywood said it best of all in a quote from his letter of resignation to the POC, in reference to Armando Secretary of the POC:
There are, as we see it, only two possible characterizations to make of the man. He is either a power-mad, unprincipled schemer and conniver with a left-liquadationist line – or a conscious agent provacateur. In either case, he is a thoroughly dishonest individual who merits no confidence whatsoever, either personally or politically. Many of his followers are honest Communists who have been taken in by an incorrect line.” Statement on The Political Line of the POC