First Published: Class Struggle, Nos. 4-5, Spring-Summer 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In this article, Sherman Miller analyzes the ultra-“left” posturing of the so-called “Revolutionary Wing,” showing that beneath its rhetoric, the real aim of this unprincipled bloc is to prevent the formation of a genuine Marxist-Leninist party.
Sherman Miller is a member of the October League Central Committee.
As the movement toward the formation of a genuine Marxist-Leninist party grows, opportunists of all stripes increase their attacks on Marxism-Leninism. This is to be expected. The new communist party can only be built in the course of ideological struggle.
The U.S. proletariat needs, and the advanced workers in the proletariat demand, a genuine Marxist-Leninist party founded on the most advanced scientific principles and having a revolutionary program of struggle. The proletariat must have a party that practices democratic centralism and whose members constitute a disciplined fighting force with unity of will and unity of action. Such a party was the party of Lenin. Such a party is being built today.
In opposition to this construction work stand the interest of the bourgeoisie, particularly the petty-bourgeoisie. The latter’s representatives in our movement are fighting a rear-guard action to preserve the lack of discipline and the disorganization characteristic of the more primitive stages of our movement.
This petty-bourgeois, opportunist anti-party opposition today takes two main forms. One is the more or less open right-opportunist tendency whose most articulate representatives–though not the only ones–are the leaders of the Guardian newspaper. They openly confess that they have no concrete proposals to build a party, and consider the time not “opportune” for party building at all. On the national question, they openly oppose the right of self-determination for the Afro-American people, and lack a position of any kind–much less a revolutionary position–on the question of the Chicano, Puerto Rican and other nationalities in the U.S. Their position on the international scene has been centrist, attempting to reconcile Soviet social-imperialism with Marxism-Leninism. They are now blatantly pro-Soviet social-imperialist and viciously opposed to the Marxist-Leninist line of the Communist Party of China. They openly advocate unity of action with the CPUSA revisionists and reject unity of action with Marxist-Leninists. These are among the main political lines characteristic of the openly right-opportunist tendency.
The other side of the anti-party coin looks very different on the surface–very “left.” They say that party building is not only the principal task, but the only task at this time. They refuse to address the working class with broad agitation, confining themselves to what they say is Marxist-Leninist propaganda addressed to the “advanced workers” only. On the national questions, their positions are supercharged with “leftist” phrases. On the world situation, they state that their views are the same as the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the Chinese comrades, but are in some respects “more revolutionary”. They say that they more than anyone else oppose unity of action with the revisionists, and they claim that their clustering of groups is the nucleus around which all genuine Marxist-Leninists ought to rally.
These “leftists” are not the main danger within the movement at this time. The openly right-opportunist line–the line of the Guardian and others who conciliate with revisionism–is in this period the principal obstacle to building a new Marxist-Leninist party. But Marxist-Leninists also have an obligation to refute the attacks coming from the “leftists.” This is in part because the “leftists’” phrasemongering can confuse certain people in the movement, particularly those who are seeing this nonsense for the first time. But it is mainly because the real content, the essence, of this “leftism” is right opportunism and, in effect, merges with it and reinforces it on every key political point.
The Marxist-Leninists have dealt with the open right opportunists before and will continue to do so. The present article puts the spotlight on the concealed right opportunists, the cluster of ultra-“left” groups who have dubbed themselves the “Revolutionary Wing.”
The general character of the cluster of groups who call themselves the “Revolutionary Wing” is that of an anti-party bloc without sound unifying principles. This becomes immediately clear when the question is put: What exactly is it that holds the different elements of the “Wing” together?
This is a most legitimate question in light of the fact that the “Wing” never tires of accusing the October League of wishing to build unity “on the lowest common denominator,” and of trying to organize a “Menshevik-(opportunist) type debating club.” Let us therefore turn it around and examine what the common denominator might be that glues the “Wing” together.
Is the “Wing” held together by a common principled stand on the Afro-American national question? An examination of their line shows anything but the Leninist staunchness and definiteness on matters of principle that the “Wing” boasts to uphold above all others.
Examine, to start with, the question of busing. Here one of the chief groups in the “Wing” coalition, the August Twenty-Ninth Movement (ATM), has this to say in its organ, Revolutionary Cause: “ATM stands in favor of forced busing in Boston, (although we believe the Blacks have the right to choose whether or not they wish to be bused). . .The OL correctly lays out that it was the tasks of communists to participate in this (Carson Beach–ed.) anti-segregationist march.” (Feb., 1976).
ATM favors busing. But two other main groups in the “Wing,” the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers’ Organization (PRRWO) and the Revolutionary Workers’ League (RWL) are well-known for their long-time strident opposition to busing and to any related moves toward integration.
Their opposition to the struggle against segregation in Boston has stemmed not so much from any analysis of their own as from the influence within their ranks of the former “Wing” member, the Workers’ Viewpoint Organization (WVO). PRRWO and RWL so far this year have said few words about the busing and integration issue. But PRRWO and RWL continue the same diatribes against the OL on this question as before.
Thus RWL says: “On the question of busing in Boston, the OL sees the sham reform of busing as everything and the revolution as nothing.” (Palante, Vol. 6, No. 3).
And PRRWO: The OL has “shown that they unite with the ’liberal’ bourgeoisie, and the essence of their line leads to reformist illusions that there can be so-called ’integration’ in this society as if capitalism itself will resolve the national question.“ (“Party Building. . .of the Class Struggle,” p. 39). In short, one part of the “Wing” supports busing; another part opposes it.
Anyone who cares to dig a little deeper will find that the obvious unprincipled unity within the “Wing” on the issue of integration stems from an even greater lack of common principles–even a lack of any clear principles at all–on the national question in general.
For example, RWL at last report had “no position” at all on the question of the right of self-determination for the Afro-American people. They confine themselves to mouthing truisms about the national question being a class question–a truth that in this context evades the issue. As for ATM, they also take a lazybone approach with the statement that they “unite” with the 1930 position of the Comintern–also a very “convenient” way of avoiding doing a concrete analysis. PRRWO, finally, has only said in general terms that they support Afro-American self-determination, agreeing with a former Black Workers’ Congress position paper; but in a subjectivist flip-flop, they use the label of “self-determination” to oppose the anti-segregation struggle.
What does this all amount to? Instead of “principled unity,” a mish-mash of different poses based on little or no concrete study of concrete conditions, and lacking any clear and definite content. At the heart of the “Wing” is a vagueness and eclecticism that differs in no significant way from the typical “economist” habit of evasion that Lenin criticized in What Is To Be Done? Their dogmatism is a cover for right opportunism.
Where are the “principled” polemics among the “Wing” groups on the national question, on busing? Instead of struggling with each other to draw the clear lines of demarcation they claim to prize so much, they have made a cease-fire with each other. Instead of ideological struggle, a liberal “detente” prevail among them.
Take the woman question. At the March 1976 Multinational Women’s Conference in New York, RWL and PRRWO were hysterical in their attacks on the October League’s just stand in support of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as a reform that would serve to advance the class struggle.
ATM on the other hand, in the April 1976 issue of its paper, says that we should fight for passage of the ERA as it would “be a step towards legal equality for women.”
Or take the international situation? For quite a while PRRWO has been maintaining that practically the whole world is “pregnant” not with revolution but with revisionism. It has been launching attack after attack on the third world countries, giving the clear impression that they are not making much contribution to revolution, but are mostly “puppets” of one or the other superpower. This spreads an unwarranted pessimism. Now RWL has gone to the “other extreme” (behind the cover of “revolution is the main trend”) of ignoring the actual twists and turns on the road to revolution, including war and Soviet social-imperialism. ATM is somewhere in between. Is this principled unity?
Take any important question of political principle on which there is today a two-line struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism (e.g., strategy and tactics, class analysis, party building, etc.) and analyze the “Wing,” and you will find underneath the red-flag-waving and supercharged rhetoric the same electicism and right opportunism, and the same internal “detente” on questions of principle.
What glues the “Wing” together? Not clear principles, least of all Marxist-Leninist principles. Yet the lack of a consistent line–a lack on which the “Wing” perversely prides itself–is in itself also a line. The “Wing” has a line. The whole system of eclecticism on which the “Wing” is founded does have a “glue.” It does have a very definite drift and tendency, a definite aim and purpose, a definite target: and that target of its attack is the growing trend of unity, of Marxist-Leninists, and especially the October League. The “glue” that keeps the “Wing” together is opposition to the building of a new communist party on Marxist-Leninist principles.
The chief activity of the “Wing,” to judge by the content of the papers which “Wing” groups have been publishing in recent months, has been to “polemicize” against the October League. The main characteristic of these polemics–in fact, their exclusive content–has been a lack of principle and consistency.
There is not time in the world to answer each and every attack. But the real character (or lack of character) of the “Wing’s” “polemics” will become clear enough if we examine in more detail their attacks on the October League on the national question, on the woman question, on the world situation, and above all on the question of building a new, multinational communist party.
The different groupings within the “left” anti-party bloc have, as we saw, different positions on the struggle against school segregation, particularly in Boston. What they have in common, however, is the method of slandering the October League and distorting its positions and of departing from the Marxist-Leninist standpoint in their criticisms.
Take first ATM. This group says that the October League, in calling on people to participate in the Carson Beach anti-segregationist march, was correctly laying out the tasks of communists. What follows immediately thereafter in ATM’s analysis of this event, however, is not one or another principled conclusion, but a series of bits of childish gossip (a style that runs throughout “Wing” polemics) alleging that the October League “asked” the NAACP whether they had self-defense plans, and that Atkins, head of the Boston NAACP, had replied they “expected no trouble.” What this drivel, based on inaccurate hearsay, is supposed to prove, according to ATM, is that the OL allegedly failed to display independence and initiative, but supposedly tailed behind the NAACP.
This is false from start to finish. The fact is that the October League, precisely because it recognized the crucial importance of maintaining revolutionary independence and initiative, initiated and independently organized the Fred Hampton Contingent. As The Call pointed out (Sept. 1975):
“In response to this (NAACP) opportunist leadership, the OL took the lead in mobilizing the Fred Hampton Contingent which had distinguished itself last December by providing anti-imperialist leadership in the mass March Against Racism.” Our article pointed out that, “At the Carson Beach picnic, the Fred Hampton Contingent united with the opposition to segregation and the demand to break up the racist gangs, but at the same time, it opposed relying on the police for protection.”
A leaflet distributed by the Contingent called for “working class and minority people to unite and fight back,” and raised the need for “self-defense by any means necessary.”
The OL position on the struggle against school segregation in Boston is clear in the cited article and in numerous others which have appeared in The Call and Class Struggle. The height of ATM’s arrogance is that they accuse the OL of “neglecting to carry out any systematic revolutionary work among the masses in Boston.” Anyone who has seriously followed events there knows that the OL has been and is now the only Marxist-Leninist organization carrying out such work. If ATM wants to find “neglect” and “opportunism” concerning revolutionary work among the masses on the segregation question, ATM has only to look at its partners in its anti-party coalition. It is typical of the “detente” within the “Wing” that ATM raises no criticisms of its bloc partners even though, as everyone knows, they have caised to a “principle” their opposition to busing to achieve school integration in Boston and everywhere else.
Where PRRWO and RWL do have the same “line” as ATM is on the question of slandering the October League’s work. PRRWO’s view is that the OL’s position amounts to “calling on the ruling class to integrate school children,” and that this is revisionist. They try to link anyone who opposes segregation under capitalism to the revisionist theory of “productive forces.” This sounds very sophisticated and “learned.” But it is a complete departure from Leninism. If these quote-mongers were not too blinded by their anti-OL sentiments, they would ponder Lenin’s quite plain and clear words on this question:
“... it is the economic and political life of a capitalist country that necessitates at every step the smashing of the absurd and outmoded national barriers and prejudices, whereas separation of the school system and the like, would only perpetuate, intensify and strengthen ’pure’ bourgeois chauvinism.” (Lenin, “Critical Remarks on the National Question”)
Lenin in the same article goes on to specifically condemn school segregation in the United States. In another article, “The Working Class and the National Question,” Lenin says: “Class conscious workers stand for full unity among the workers of all nations in every educational, trade union, political, etc., workers organization.” Both of these articles were written before the establishment of socialism in the USSR.
Who upholds the Leninist view on the national question and school segregation, and who does not? It is clear as can be that the “Wing’s” unreasoned opposition to the October League has landed them in a blatantly anti-Leninist position–a position which ends up conciliating in theory and practice to nationalism, chauvinism and segregationism.
The same method of upholding Leninism in phrases but then turning around to try to sabotage the substance of Lenin’s teachings is visible in the “Wing’s” use of the resolutions on the Afro-Americian struggle by the Communist International (Comintern)–resolutions to which PRRWO and ATM, in particular, pay lip service. The Comintern, for instance, says the following:
“In our sense of the word, the demand for equal rights means a continuous work of abolishment of all forms of economic and political oppression of the Negroes, as well as their social exclusion, the insults perpetrated against them and their segregation. This is to be obtained by constant struggle by the white and Black workers for effective legal protection for the Negroes in all fields, as well as the actual enforcement of their equality and the combatting of every expression of Negrophobia. One of the Communist slogans is: Death for Negro lynching! ”(Emphasis added)
How should this statement of the Comintern be properly applied to the actual conditions of the busing situation in Boston? Is it by ranting and raving against “forced busing,” as PRRWO and RWL do? Or is it by standing against segregation and calling for the actual enforcement of equal rights for Blacks?
What do you do when a fascist lynch mob is attacking Blacks? Do you promote armed self-defense as the basic strategic line, while at the same time tactically taking advantage of contradictions in the enemy camp by demanding that the police break up the fascist gangs and provide effective legal protection? Or do you rant and rave against “relying on federal troops” and do nothing whatsoever except to distort the position of the Marxist-Leninists (who never called for “relying on” the bourgeois state in the first place)?
The answers to these questions are as obvious as the bankruptcy of the “Wing.”
On the woman question, as on the Afro-American national question, we saw earlier that the “left” anti-party bloc contains two different views. PRRWO and RWL hysterically attack the October League for our support of the ERA as a reform demand which would be to the advantage not only of women, but above all of the entire proletariat’s struggle for socialism. ATM, on the other hand, looks on the ERA with favor.
One might hope that ATM would take up the struggle over this question with its cohorts in the “Wing.” But no, the “Wing” retains its unprincipled internal peace, its “detente,” in order to unite in distorting and slandering the October League. Thus ATM (in Vol. 7, No. 4 of “Resistencia”) attacks the OL position, with which they have at least surface agreement, as “basically reformist,” while it lauds PRRWO and RWL, which hold views on the ERA opposite to those of ATM, for their “honest approach.” PRRWO and RWL, in exchange, don’t attack the position of ATM. Instead of principled struggle, mutual backscratching.
But, the same as on the national question, the October League’s position on the struggle for the equality of women is too well known for ATM or its partners in the ultra-“left” anti-party bloc to get away with its misrepresentations. As Eileen Klehr, OL’s vice-chairman, stated at the Multinational Women’s Conference:
“Communists.. . have led in pointing out the enemy of women as the capitalist system and have united men and women in taking up women’s special demands. Through this process, many women have and are being won to take up the science of Marxism-Leninism and to become communists themselves. But this work can only be done consistently and on a national scale through the formation of a genuine communist party that has the ability to educate the masses of men and women to the source of women’s oppression and to the goal of socialism as the only way to achieve real equality .. . The woman question is fundamentally a question of class struggle.”
“Basically reformist”? Liquidates the task of party building? Promotes the idea that equality can be won under capitalism? No, ATM, PRRWO, RWL, these childish distortions just won’t wash.
But what about the “honest approach” of PRRWO that ATM has so much respect for? What does PRRWO say about the ERA? “It pits men against women,” says the April Palante. “It leads to seeing men as a problem of inequality and not capitalism. It takes the focus from the bourgeoisie to men as the problem.” PRRWO also notes that the ERA “would not provide for better conditions for the class” and that it would “promote bourgeois democratic illusions”–although just how both of these would be accomplished together is not answered. PRRWO sums it all up with the ludicrous suggestion that the fight for the ERA is allegedly promoting fascism “because” fascists, claiming that women already have “too many rights,” are rising up against the ERA!
This latter point reveals, not the “honest approach” but the utter cowardice of PRRWO. What are we to do in the face of fascist opposition? Drop the demands and run for cover?
By bringing in the question of fascism, which implies a form of capitalist rule stripped of all democratic rights and resting on open terror alone, PRRWO unwittingly touched on the real heart of the question: the relationship between the struggle for democratic rights (such as the ERA or school integration) under capitalism and the class struggle to overthrow capitalism. For all their fondness for quoting (or rather, misquoting) Lenin, there are some passages of Lenin that they never cite, despite their appropriateness. Here is one of them:
“The conditions that make it impossible for the oppressed classes to ’exercise’ their democratic rights are not the exception under capitalism; they are typical of the system. In most cases the right to divorce will remain unrealizable under capitalism, for the oppressed sex is subjugated economically. No matter how much democracy there is under capitalism, the woman remains a ’domestic slave,’ a slave locked up7 in the bedroom, nursery, kitchen.”
“Only those who cannot think straight or have no knowledge of Marxism will conclude: so there is no point in having a republic, no point in freedom of divorce, no point in democracy, no point in self-determination of nations! But Marxists know that democracy does not abolish class oppression. It only makes the class struggle more direct, wider, more open and pronounced, and that is what we need. The fuller the freedom of divorce, the clearer will women see that the source of their domestic slavery is capitalism, not lack of rights. The more democratic the system of government, the clearer will the workers see that the root evil is capitalism, not lack of rights. The fuller national equality (and it is not complete without freedom of secession) the clearer will the workers of the oppressed nations see that the cause of their oppression is capitalism, not lack of rights, etc.”
Lenin concludes: “It must be said again and again: It is embarrasing to have to drive home the ABC of Marxism, but what is one to do if Kievsky (Today we would say PRRWO and RWL) does not know it? ” (“A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism,” Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 73).
The concrete application of the lessons of this passage to the struggle for the equal rights of women and the demand for the ERA clearly reveals the two lines in our movement. On one hand, PRRWO says that the more democratic rights are won, the more bourgeois illusions are promoted. On the other hand, Leninism says the more complete democracy, the clearer it is that capitalism, and not the lack of rights, is the problem. PRRWO says that to demand equal rights in the form of the ERA turns women against men, rather than capitalism. Leninism says that to demand equality for the oppressed serves to unite both working men and women in the struggle against imperialism.
It seems clear enough. But PRRWO and RWL, picking up on a theme of their former partner, Worker’s Viewpoint, make one last attempt to muddy the water.
They admit, in words, that there may be some point in struggling for reforms under capitalism. But, they say, there are (allegedly) two separate and distinct kinds or categories of reforms and reform slogans, the “real” and the “sham.” Though the “Wing” to date has not come up with any proposals that–they consider “real reforms,” they keep yelling that school integration and women’s equality belong in the pigeonhole labeled “sham.” To try to give authority to this scholastic way of looking at reforms, they quote the following passage from Lenin:
“The advanced class must pursue independent revolutionary tactics. We shall never reduce our tasks to that of supporting the slogans of the reformist bourgeoisie that are most in vogue. We pursue an independent to the interests of the revolutionary struggle, they undoubtedly enhance the independence, class-consciousness and fighting efficiency of the proletariat. Only by such tactics can reforms from above, which are always half-hearted, always hypocritical, and always conceal some bourgeois or police snare, be made innocuous.
“More than that. Only by such tactics can real progress be achieved in the matter of important reforms. This may sound paradoxical, but its truth is confirmed by the whole history of the international Social-Democratic (communist–ed.) movement. Reformist tactics are the least likely to secure real reforms. The most effective way to secure real reforms is to pursue the tactics of the revolutionary class struggle. Actually, reforms are won as a result of the revolutionary class struggle, as a result of its independence, mass force and steadfastness. Reforms are always false, ambiguous and permeated with the spirit of Zubatovism (“socialism” advocated by police agents to sabotage the struggle–ed.), they are real only in proportion to the intensity of the class struggle. By merging our slogans with those of the reformist bourgeoisie, we weaken the cause of revolution and, consequently, the cause of reform as well, because we thereby diminish the independence, fortitude and strength of the revolutionary classes.” (“Once Again About the Duma Cabinet,” Collected Works, Vol. 11, pp. 71-72.)
By citing this passage the “Wing’s” polemicists have once again picked up a rock to drop it on their own feet.
First off, there is no support in this passage for the “Wing’s” effort to try to compare reforms in the abstract. The “Wing’s” method is metaphysics, idealism. This is why they vacillate wildly, at one moment denouncing reform struggles that do advance the cause of the proletariat, at the other making the completely right-opportunist claim that there is such a category under capitalism as a “real reform.”
Lenin, by contrast, says under capitalism “reforms are always false.” The only thing that gives them reality is the nature of the struggle. Does the reform “enhance the independence, class-consciousness and fighting efficiency of the proletariat”? Are the tactics used in the struggle “the tactics of revolutionary class struggle’? This is how Lenin judges reforms, not the abstract, phrasemongering way of the “Wing.”
The “Wing” could not easily have picked a more self-damning passage than this one from Lenin, showing that reforms “are real only in proportion to the intensity of the class struggle.” For where does the “Wing” stand in relation to this struggle? Ninety-nine and 44/100ths percent of the time they stand on the outside, looking down on it with contempt thinly wrapped in “super-revolutionary” rhetoric. The only thing they have intensified is their volume of phrasemongering and their level of distortion of Marxism-Leninism.
The struggles for women’s equality, (including for the ERA) and for school integration, (including through busing), target the segregation and discrimination that divide the working class, separate it from its strategic allies, and weaken it, The struggle to draw women more deeply into social production, and to strengthen the multinational unity of the working class undoubtedly enhances the strength and fighting efficiency of the whole working class.
As for the tactics: To listen to the “Wing”, one would think the OL made a regular practice of lobbying in Washington and backing reform Democrats. But everyone knows this is not the case. We have always mobilized independently of the reformists, we have put forward our independent line that none of these reforms can solve the real problems, that the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the imperialist system has to be put forward in the course of the mass struggle. No amount of distortion from the “Wing” can cover this up.
The ultra-“left” anti-party bloc’s attacks on the October League’s line on the international situation have not (yet?) taken the form of the Guardian’s shameful open echoing of every revisionist, social-imperialist slander. In fact, on some points, such as Angola, it was possible to have at least momentary unity with “Wing” groups, even though it quickly became apparent that their premises were not ours.
While maintaining formal unity with the Marxist-Leninist view of the world situation on most main points, the “Wing” groups are more and more openly putting out a line on the basic world situation that is incorrect and misleading. As is typical of the “Wing,” the error presents itself in an ultra-“left” form, but ends up merging with centrism and revisionism. It is also typical that the “Wing” should announce its difference first in the form of a caricature of the October League’s line and only later in the form of a more or less systematic position paper.
Here is the caricature, in the formulation given by RWL: Everyone should note “the frenzied, petty-bourgeois madness of the OL” which consists of “trying to scare others into this Menshevik formation by raising up the danger of war and fascism.” Today the charge that the OL is trying to scare people into uniting because of the war danger is a chief stock-in-trade of the ultra-“left” bloc’s “polemics.”
What is the content of this accusation?
Firstly, it is a cheap distortion of the October League’s line. As anyone knows who cares to read, the OL maintains that in the world today both the factors for war and the factors for revolution are on the rise. To listen to the “Wing’s” version, one would think the OL was calling for the rebirth of the anti-war movement, not of the communist party. People who have to resort to such cheap stuff to score a point expose that they have no serious arguments.
Secondly, it is not the October League but the “Wing” itself who sees the war danger as something to scare people with, or that people ought to be scared of. War, especially modern inter-imperialist war, causes unspeakable devastation and destruction, and rains terror down on the masses on an enormous scale. No one wishes for war. We must fight to prevent it if possible, or if not possible, to delay it as long as we can. But when it comes, our attitude toward it is the same as Mao Tsetung’s attitude toward the German fascists’ war of aggression: first, we oppose it; secondly, we are not afraid of it. We must get prepared for it. That is the point. The danger of war, for us, is something that stimulates us to work more urgently for revolution. The “Wing’s” view, that looks on the danger of war as just something to scare people with, stems from bourgeois pacifism, not Marxism-Leninism.
Behind the “Wing’s” cowardly distortion of the OL’s line is a serious underestimation of the war danger, even denial that this danger is real. This becomes fully clear from the most recent RWL publication, in an article entitled “Revolution is the Main Trend.” In this piece, RWL launches an attack on the correct view that the factors for both war and revolution are increasing in the world at the present time. The attack is disguised as a polemic against the Worker’s Viewpoint Organization’s revisionist distortion of this correct line. But the real target is clear enough.
RWL’s method would do proud to any academic sophist. In order to “prove” that there is no need to get prepared for a rising danger of world war at the present historical moment, they fill page after page with selected quotations from the classics which prove that not reaction but revolution is the main trend of the entire general historical period of imperialism, which nobody is trying to deny. They use the universal truth of our historical epoch as a smokescreen to try to conceal a vital part of the particular situation today. “Our dogmatists are lazy bones.”(Mao Tsetung)
All Marxist-Leninists, you would think, agree that “the road is tortuous but the future is bright.” Not RWL! They see only the future, not the road toward it. In response to all concrete analyses of the objective situation today, in answer to all proposals on how to take the necessary steps to march forward on that road through its twists and turns–including war–to the final destination, RWL just stands there and keeps repeating like a broken record that “the future is bright, the future is bright.” Only people who are so deeply frightened that they are unable to act have to keep reminding themselves so constantly of this truth.
In an effort to lend prestige to its views, RWL cites scattered quotes from Chinese statements back to 1963, which allegedly prove, according to RWL, that “the Chinese have not put forth the line that revolution is no longer the main trend.” It is plain from this that RWL can cite quotes, but cannot grasp what they say. RWL’s own quotes show that the Chinese comrades have been stressing for two years that the forces making world war (which, it is obvious, have never been absent) are now growing, along with the revolutionary forces. This growth of the war danger is the new element in the world situation; and that is why it is necessary to lay extra stress on it. No waving of generalities can obscure this.
In RWL’s view, the Chinese comrades have been stressing the war danger in the recent period purely as a tactic in the debate with the Soviet revisionists over “detente.” What does this mean? It means that the central points of the Chinese comrades’ line on the world situation, in RWL’s view, are not so much based on objective reality as on the desire to score points against revisionist propaganda. How does this accusation differ from the slanders of the centrists or the revisionists? Only in being phrased in a more subtle way.
The point at bottom, however, is not what the Chinese comrades say but what is objectively true. The rapid sharpening of contention and of the danger of war between the two superpowers is an objective truth. RWL denies that objective truth, seeks to cover it up with phrasemongering.
To say “revolution is the main trend” sounds very revolutionary–more “revolutionary” than Peking. To pronounce this general truth over and over again when what is needed is particular guidance is dogmatism. But the end result of this line is that the danger of war is minimized to the point where it disappears–and where all the world’s revisionists and centrists stand up to applaud. Minimizing or denying the war danger is a key link in the chain of social-imperialist propaganda on “detente” designed to lull people to sleep in the face of superpower war preparation, especially the preparations for further aggression by the USSR. It is not by coincidence that Irwin Silber of the Guardian also goes around “agreeing” that “revolution is the main trend” in order to conceal the war danger, and in particular the main war danger, Soviet social-imperialism. In this way, RWL’s “leftism” covers up, merges with and reinforces revisionism.
We must point out sharply that all the ultra-“left” groups are deficient in their criticism of revisionism and Soviet social-imperialism. By criticism is meant more than shouting and repeating phrases. Although their development is uneven, none of the anti-party bloc’s groups has gone much deeper than that, or has really pondered the consequences of the rise of Soviet social-imperialism for the world situation as a whole. This fact is closely connected with the neglect of the war danger, and with other opportunist errors they commit regarding the world situation, which we take on at another time.
Many criticisms have been made of the original plan for organizing the party put forward in the OL’s November appeal, “Marxist-Leninists Unite.”
Some of these criticisms have been correct and others not. Some have been put forward in unity with the appeal to unite the Marxist-Leninists, while others have been put forward as a cover for sabotaging the party building efforts.
But regardless of where a criticism comes from, if it is correct it should be acted upon. This is what the October League has done in regard to the part of the original plan that called for the party to be formed a year prior to the adoption of its program at its first party congress. During this year there would have been only “temporary leadership” and a general statement of principles.
As the Central Committee of the October League stated in its report published in the March 1976 issue of The Call, this aspect of the plan would have encouraged disunity and federationism in party building. The October League has raised its theoretical understanding as a result of criticizing this rightist error, and has corrected the plan accordingly. It was a correction made in good time, before the damage caused by the error got out of hand.
What is the relation between the October League’s error and the position of the “Wing” on party building? The “Wing” has tried to use this error to create the impression that their own line on party building is a correct one by comparision. But this conclusion won’t stand up to examination for one minute. There is a sharp difference between those who criticized the OL’s error in the interest of overcoming federationism on party building and those–namely the “Wing”–who criticized in order to cover up their own federationist and right-opportunist line.
This ultra-“left” opposition bloc’s lack of common Marxist-Leninist principles has led to its formation from the very beginning as a federation.
This federationist approach to communist unity is a scandalous rerun of the Communist League (CL) and the Revolutionary Union’s approach to “party building.” For all their so-called “polemics” against these trends, the PRRWO and others in this anti-party bloc have defeated the opportunist line that led them to unite with the opportunist line of RU and CL in the first place. Now they are repeating these past errors themselves.
What is the opposition bloc’s plan for party building?
PRRWO outlines the course of the opposition’s work for the next year: “We will continue to be narrow in scope because our line is not developed sufficiently to reach the advanced elements even in places where there is no significant communist presence, like in the southern US. By the end of the year, most of the organizations in the “Wing” will have a national newspaper... Let’s unite on a division of labor, which must be guided by a centralized plan.”
This statement quite conveniently sums up the classic Menshevik federationist approach. Comrades, the “Revolutionary Wing” of our movement admits that it does not have a line to reach the advanced workers. Strange indeed! Further, they call, not for a Leninist method of party building (as in What Is To Be Done?), striving for a common press, the welding of a single organization of professional revolutionaries around the scaffolding of a newspaper. They call for each of their grouplets building their own separate newspapers “by the end of the year.” This federationist political line on organization goes hand-in-hand with the opportunism of the “Wing” on all other matters of principle. What’s more, without agreement on any principles they call for a “division of labor” in the federation and throw in for good measure “the need for a centralized plan”–someday.
This is the backward, primitive plan, the opportunist method of party building, that the opposition wants us to follow. “Maintain the sectarian circles at all costs” is their theme.
This shows how the “left” sectarian approach characterized the “Wing’s” work on the surface leads directly to and covers up for the right-opportunist line of federationism. A federation of sectarian circles is what the “Wing” is and what it aims to stay.
Instead of fighting against this primitiveness, they strive to cling to it. “Maintain the circles,” they plead in effect, “because we have to hammer out political line.” Very peculiar! We “broke” with the CPUSA, they say. We “broke” with the petty-bourgeois mentality of the student movement. We “broke” with CL’s neo-Trotskyism; we “broke” with the RCP’s economism; we “broke” (recently) with WVO. But we have yet to develop a political line!
This is the cry of the opposition bloc. In fact, they have not developed a genuine political line because their “breaks” have not been made on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. In some cases they have even “broken” with the one aspect of these organizations’ line that was correct, or led in the correct direction, and failed to break with their opportunist lines! Thus the “Wing” carries around with it, instead of a political line of its own, a ton of political garbage inherited from its opportunist former friends.
This brings us to the “Wing’s” line on the national question in organizing a party. The opposition bloc pays lip service to a multinational party. But when we look at the list of organizations that these “geniuses” call sham, we are forced to ask, is it an accident that the “Wing” considers “genuine” the organizations made up entirely or overwhelmingly of oppressed nationalities (except, now, WVO).
How should we analyze this phenomenon?
Here is the “Wing’s” answer, in the words of PRRWO: “Organizations like the Young Lords Party, Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, reflected advanced elements from the working class and national movements. Organizations like SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) were progressive, but were composed of progressive elements of the petty bourgeoisie, providing a more fertile ground for opportunists. The former, however, were part of a developing motion to grasp Marxism-Leninism, and although they were too plagued by eclecticism, they did put forward independent socialist theories (i.e., the programs of these organizations). These could not yet be scientific socialist theories because this understanding only comes through the study of socialism as a science. SDS, on the other hand, reflected a motion bound to split up and move away from Marxism-Leninism.” (Party Building in the Heat of Class Struggle, 2/76, PRRWO).
In other words, the present-day organizations whose early history goes back to SDS, which was an overwhelmingly white organization, were “bound” to “move away from Marxism-Leninism.” But the present-day organizations that trace back their origins to oppressed-nationality groups were bound to become Marxist-Leninist.
This is certainly not a Marxist-Leninist analysis of these organizations. History has shown that all these organizations produced some people who advanced to Marxism-Leninism and a host of opportunists who degenerated into reformism (and in some instances economist terrorism.) There was certainly no ”immunity” from opportunism among those groups emerging from the national movements.
Further, no Marxist-Leninist will deny that the leadership of the national movements were overwhelmingly members of the intelligentsia, students, etc., and it was the lack of communist leadership, the lack of a genuine communist party, that was the main reason for the temporary decline of the movement.
As Lenin so often pointed out, communist consciousness “will have to be brought to them (the workers–ed.) from without.” (What Is To Be Done?, p. 37).
What the “Wing” is putting forth by their own view of certain organizations being “bound to become Marxist-Leninists” is economism pure and simple.
The “Wing” more than anyone else should know this. Yet in the present period they raise this erroneous line as a justification for their failure to build real multinational unity and as part of their opposition to the OL’s “Call to Unite.”
The fact is that some communists have made advances in building multinational unity while others have not. This can only be the result of two lines on the question of multinational unity.
What is the line that the “Wing” groups have been carrying out in practice?
It is the principle of each oppressed nationality maintaining its own national forms of organization (in substance if not theory), instead of merging into a single multinational democratic-centralist party.
WVO, now that it has been “purged” from the opposition, confesses that “narrow nationalism was the glue that held us to PRRWO, despite broad political differences and many serious conflicts that came up in practice. ..”
This primitivist line is what lies behind the “Wing’s” slanders against the OL on this question.
The RWL accuses the OL of trying “to slide in an appeal for communists emerging out of the national movements” and “conciliation towards Marxist-Leninists emerging out of the national movements.” ATM echoes the same charge, adding that the OL “co-opted national forms to give the appearance of being multi-national.”
Everyone knows the October League is multinational and (unlike our opposition bloc) has carried out this principle of communist organization in practice and not just provided “lip service” on the task. Of course the task of building multinational communist unity is far from complete (and will be for some time to come). The underhanded gossip of the “bloc” about “sliding in appeals” and “co-opting national forms” is no service to Marxist-Leninist unity and is aimed only at whipping up national distrust and obscuring their own opportunism on matters of principles. Marxist-Leninists take class and national backgrounds into account, but in judging communists, political line is the decisive factor.
We mention finally the opposition bloc’s stance on the question of fusion of the communist and workers’ movement. We exposed earlier their “struggle for socialism, not for reforms” gimmick, which covers up their right-opportunist line of failing to take Marxism-Leninism to the workers. For all their phrasemongering about “fusion,” what have they done to contribute to this fusion?
The bulk of the “Wing” groups arrogantly oppose communist work among the masses and brand any attempts at this work as “reformist.” Their view of communist work in building broad mass organizations is apparent from their shouting and wrecking behavior: they oppose such work. (Examples: Black Women’s United Front, African Liberation Support Committee, National Fight Back Organization, etc.)
If the “Wing” groups engage at the point of production and in the trade unions, it is not visible in 95 percent of their newspaper coverage. The only real “fusion” work they are doing is to try to fuse various opportunist lines together into their unprincipled anti-party bloc.
The opposition bloc admits that they have not even the beginnings of a program for communist work among the masses, their line being “too narrow” to reach even the advanced workers. In unity with the right-opportunist types such as the Guardian, they claim that the past two decades of struggle against modern revisionism and opportunism has left the Marxist-Leninists with no political line, no basis for a common program, no foundation for Marxist-Leninists to unite.
If what the bloc claimed was merely that Marxist-Leninists still need to continue the struggle around ideology and political line, we would agree. We hold that over the past years of struggle against revisionism and opportunism, the principles of Marxism-Leninism have been re-established, and that these provide the foundation for unity and struggle on a higher level. The question is how to go further. As Lenin put it: “The point at issue is whether our ideological struggle is to have forms of a higher type to clothe it, the forms of a party organization, binding on all, or the forms of the old disunity and the old circles.” (“One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”) The charges that the OL “seeks hegemony” are only a cover for sectarian opportunists trying to maintain their own little “mountain stronghold.” We are calling for an end to the old circles and pre-party formations, including the October League. The fact that our proposals are correct in principle and workable in practice and that they are overcoming the old period and bringing the new party into life, is at the root of the opposition’s attack.
Principled unity among Marxist-Leninists is the main trend today, as the diehard opportunists in the “Wing”–and of the Guardian trend– are discovering and will discover to their dismay.
The price of uniting without firm, clear and correct principles is political and organizational degeneration. This especially describes the “Wing” today.
The bloc began with PRRWO naming certain groups as bona fide members. “The genuine wing of our movement is ATM, Workers Viewpoint Organization, Revolutionary Bloc and PRRWO,” it said in February 1976. (“Party Building in the Heat of Class Struggle”) It placed other groups in the category of “honest.” They were Resistencia Puertorriquena, El Comite and the RWL. That same month, WVO was “exposed” and purged–and PRRWO now refers to this former bedmate as “snakes in the grass.” RWL, meanwhile, has won promotion to the “genuine” category. Little has been heard about the Revolutionary Bloc, and El Comite is listed as a sponsor of the opportunist “July 4” Committee actions. As for Resistencia, it doubts whether there really is a “Wing” at all. Further splits are probable.
Meanwhile the groups making up this opportunist bloc are also in turmoil internally. RWL has purged some of its leading members and cadre; so has PRRWO. Others are in disarray inside.
To those who say that this only shows that their political unity is rising in the course of sharp ideological struggle should examine the recent split in PRRWO, in which goon methods prevailed, putting a number of cadre in the hospital. The level of political unity of those who continue to uphold the “Wing” is sinking, not rising. Sinking also is the morale of the remaining cadre as the opportunism of the leading lights of the “Wing” becomes more glaring and its consequences more disatrous.
The “leftist” opposition bloc is breaking up and will break up. This is inevitable. In a passage directed against a similar opportunist bloc in his day, Lenin aptly describes also what the “Wing” is and where it is headed:
“In order to build unity it is not enough to be able to shout ’unity.’ It is necessary, in addition, to have some sort of political program, a program of political action. The bloc of liquidators, of Trotsky, the Vperyodists, the Poles (...) etc., etc., was foredoomed to a scandalous downfall because it was built on a lack of principles, on hypocrisy, and empty phrases.”
Is there a way out for those who do not want to share the “Wing’s” scandalous downfall? Yes, there is.
Unite on the basis of Marxism-Leninist principles, organize the struggle for the party in a pre-congress period, submit resolutions on the party program, attend the party congress, let all party members be bound by democratic centralism.
Renounce the unprincipled “unity” of the anti-party opposition, both the “Wing” and the Guardian types.
“In its struggle for power,” Lenin says, “The proletariat has no other weapon but organization. Disunited by the rule of the anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labor for capital, constantly thrust back to the ’lower depths’ of utter destitution, savagery, and degeneration, the proletariat can, and inevitably will, become an invincible force only through its ideological unification on the principles of Marxism being reinforced by the material unity of organization which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class.”
 The current Chinese position, says RWL, “must be seen concretely in the struggle against the sham illusion of ’detente’ pushed by the ’CP’SU and parts of the U.S. bourgeoisie.” Or again: ’They [the Chinese] have struggled against the notion that detente is the main trend, and in doing so raise the growing danger of war.” This is to accuse the Chinese comrades of subjectivism. (“Bolshevik,” May 1976, p. 91)
 The concept that there is a “genuine wing,” says Resistencia, (Vol. 7, No. 3) “will not withstand a concrete analysis of concrete conditions of the communist movement in the U.S. What does the concept of a genuine wing signify? It means the establishment of a hegemonic center for the organizational center of the party, that is to be built. This, in the absence of a clear and defined political line of the so-called genuine wing on fundamental issues such as strategy and tactics, the national question, the woman question, the trade union question, the struggle for reforms (such as ERA and busing) seems to us to rush ahead of the situation. . . to view reality as we would like it to be and not as it is.” With the lucidity characteristic of some cases of insanity–and Resistencia is probably more deeply infected with the sectarian malady more than all the others–Resistencia continues that the “Wing’s” claim to genuine existence leads to “a repetition of the errors committed in the previous stage–a step back to National Liaison Committee [the RU’s federationist scheme–ed.] and other committees and coalitions of the same type.
Onward: “Nor having scientific criteria, clearly defined lines, that allow us to determine who is or who is not part of the genuine wing, opens the door to the possibility of excluding honest and genuine forces, while we include those who neither in theory nor in practice has proven to be a genuine organization. The case of WVO, which up to the last month was considered party of the genuine wing and is now outside the wing, speaks eloquently in this respect, given the fact that WVO’s line has not changed fundamentally in the last year...
“The second case that speaks eloquently of this situation is that of the Revolutionary Bloc (RB)–one of the organizations that according to PRRWO and the RWL is part of the genuine wing...[But] this is pure idealism...There are no sufficient basis to determine that RB is a genuine organization, much less part of a genuine wing. What we are dealing with is a declaration based on an ’article of faith’ that this organization exists and that it is genuine. But fideism is anti-scientific, anti-Marxist-Leninist and we reject it.”