First Published: Forward!, No. 1, June 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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We have observed and studied the RWL line in practice in the ALSC and have struggled with it at local forums. The work in the ALSC is particularly revealing of the bankrupt, sectarian quality of the line.
The RWL’s complete muddle on mass practice is revealed in the particularity of their work in the ALSC, the mass organization from which the RWL emerged and in which the RWL line has organizational hegemony.
Over the years the ALSC has consistently organized around the annual African Liberation Day (ALD). In 1975 the ALSC organized marches and demonstrations across the U.S. to expose U.S. imperialism’s role in Africa. The ALD march in D.C. brought out several thousand people in a multi-national display of solidarity which linked up the struggle against imperialism to the struggle for democratic rights and against economic exploitation in the U.S. Over the years the work of the ALSC has attracted thousands of people, many of whom have stayed to work in or with the ALSC.
In 1976, the ALSC took NO part in ALD except for the publication of two propaganda leaflets. It organized no activities. By default ALD was turned over to the pan-africanist All African Peoples Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) which carried out a march and forum under the revisionist and unscientific slogans of “Take ALD Back to Africa” and “Total Unification and Liberation of Africa Under Scientific Socialism.” Also participating in this was the PSP and other revisionist forces along with the trotskyists and consolidated opportunists. Only the WC and the CAP arose form the audience to raise the issue of imperialism and social-Imperialism.
How is it that a mass organization like the ALSC, in which Marxist-Leninists exercise considerable influence, could so completely ignore the spontaneous struggle of American against U.S. imperialism and pass the initiative to pan africanists? Only two possibilities arise. Either the masses rose up and denied the revolutionary leadership of the communists, or the communists offered no revolutionary leadership. In this case, it will do no good to blame the “backwardness” of the masses. Rather, it was the RWL muddle-line on mass practice which allowed the revisionists to make gains.
Ever since the RWL emerged in the ALSC, it has been confused about how to work therein. In the winter of 1975-76, the RWL debated whether to use its organizational hegemony to shut down the ALSC. This course of action was eventually dropped and in early April a meeting was called to announce new principles of unity.
At this meeting the mass character of the ALSC was re-affirmed and two new principles of unity were added: opposition to both superpowers and membership open to all nationalities. At this meeting committee work for ALD, 1976, was begun.
The next meeting wasn’t until early May. Meanwhile, in closed meetings, the ALSC leadership debated further changes in the principles of unity. They announced that members of the ALSC should prepare for the May meeting by studying the party-building lines of the “revolutionary” wing.
By the time of the May meeting all initiative for ALD had passed to the AAPRP. At the meeting it became apparent that the ALSC leadership had been focusing not on the development of ALD plans but, instead, on adopting a party-building line for the ALSC. All the committee work of ALD was incomplete. While plans were announced for an ALD rally the weekend following the AAPRP rally and for an eight hour(!) forum on party-building and ALD, most of this meeting was devoted to a struggle around the wing’s line and practice.
In particular, the action of the RWL at the Iranian Student Association event earlier in the week was brought up and criticized by honest forces in the ALSC. The RWL had gone to the ISA event to insist that the ISA was opportunist for failing to adopt a line on the central task–party-building in the U.S. After disrupting most of the early evening with this ridiculous line, they walked out as the planned activities began. The RWL refused to accept criticism on this action and stated that all anti-imperialist mass organizations should adopt a line on party-building. Building the party is the only path to opposing imperialism, regardless of the level of development and focus of the people involved. “Party-building is the central and only task of communists and advanced elements.” This is the RWL’s completely unscientific and mechanical approach to things. They are not aware of the particular processes of development of different things. Thus, they adopt a chauvinist position in relation to the work of other honest forces.
At the next ALSC meeting in May all those who were not prepared to unite with the wing’s line on party-building were told to leave. This was the purge of the “Menshevik opportunists”–all genuine communists, advanced elements and middle forces who were not yet prepared to accept the RWL line. There had been only a part of one single meeting devoted to struggle over the line; there was no democratic process of adopting the line by the members. But these are secondary issues. In essence what the RWL line meant in practice was that communists should strive to raise the level of unity of the mass organizations in which they work to that of a communist organization. This is exactly what happened in the ALSC.
What is this but the complete destruction of the mass organization? The effect is two-fold. On the one hand, it is to drive the communists out of the organization, save those who unite around the particular party-building line. If the RWL doesn’t see any unity for struggle with these forces, then they should come out and make it plain by explaining why. As one comrade who had been purged from the ALSC said at a recent forum, “You don’t think you’re the revolutionary wing; you think you’re the whole damn bird!” This is empiricism, pure and simple– worship of the RWL’s own narrow experience.
On the other hand, the effect of the RWL line in mass work is to drive out the intermediate and backward (as well as most of the advanced who do not unite on the party-building line) and to provide principles of unity and practice which will insure that new intermediate forces do not join. This is simply sending the less developed forces back to the bourgeoisie’ misleaders, social props and the revisionists, while at the same time splitting off the more developed forces (the advanced) from the intermediate.
This is the left form of the OL’s right deviation of creating the Fightback–the same basic tactic all opportunists use. The RCP has its “intermediate” anti-imperialist and workers organizations. Elsewhere, dual unionism is advocated. In essence, it is all the same. Split the advanced from the intermediate and avoid the hard, communist work of working in and developing the existing, spontaneously-arising organizations of the masses.
The RWL ended up cancelling its forum and rally for ALD, claiming that to carry through on this work would be “bowing to spontaneity.”
All this conduct is the inevitable by-product of the RWL’s mechanical line which cannot perceive the particularity of different times, places and conditions. In general, this means completely confusing the contradiction within the communist movement with that between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement. This is why they are currently disrupting mass organizations which do not have lines on party-building, why they are endeavoring to split the advanced from the intermediate, why they are driving genuine communists away from “their” advanced elements, why they are liquidating the two-line struggle among communists, why they fail to raise M-L-M Thought at mass events, why they direct their main blows within the communist movement, and why they engage in communist struggle with all their cadre in front of the bourgeois state.
This is the conduct of people completely muddled in their knowledge of the contradictions with which they are trying to work. This is the unity of the OL and the RWL. Objectively, this is the line of complete spontaneity which can only serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. Honest forces beware!