First Published: Unite!, Vol. 1, No. 1, August 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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American communists today face a turning point.
On the one hand, this is a period of great revolutionary storms in the world. The struggles of the last twenty-five years have born the fruit of one of the greatest realignments of forces the world has ever known. Many of the historic predictions of Marx, EngeIs, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung have come true before our very eyes, In the last few months alone, with the just recognition of the PLO in the United Nations, the liberation of Vietnam and Cambodia, and the independence victories of Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Angola, we see the foundations of five hundred years of exploitation and oppression being turned into ashes.
The exploited and oppressed peoples of the capitalist and revisionist countries are advancing steadily on many fronts.
The workers of the capitalist countries are taking the field, particularly through strikes, against capital.
Revolution is the main trend in the world today!
On the other hand, where there is revolution, there is counterrevolution. Although imperialism is moribund capitalism (in a dying state), it is not yet dead capitalism. The two great superpowers are pursuing a strategy (1) to intensify the exploitation and oppression of the Third World, (2) to extend and intensify the domination of the secondary capitalist powers, and (3) to shift the burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of the workers.
Everywhere, we can see the bourgeoisie preparing for even greater battles ahead, in its doomed but desperate efforts to preserve the rotten hegemony of monopoly capitalism worldwide. Historically, all reactionary forces on the verge of extinction carry on a last desperate effort against revolution. It is the nature of every dying and decadent class to become every bit more ferocious as it sings its final swan song. Fascism and war are no idle threats, but a great danger to the people of the world.
In numerous capitalist countries the reformists and revisionists, working hand in hand with bourgeois reaction, maneuver for influence and control of the state apparatus. In Italy, the revisionist Communist Party of Italy equates socialism with making the trains run on time and speaks of sharing power with the bourgeoisie. In the United States, the revisionist CPUSA pushes the reactionary line of detente as its “anti-monopoly coalition” denies the necessity for armed struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The sharpening of each of the four basic contradictions in the world brings with it both revolution and counterrevolution. In the age of imperialism, when the objective conditions are already rotten ripe for revolution, it is the development of the subjective factor (leadership, organization and revolutionary consciousness) which will determine whether revolution or counterrevolution will win out in the immediate period ahead.
All the tremendous class struggles in society as a whole are reflected in the two line struggles going on within the workers and communist movement. The development of the workers and communist movement grows strong everywhere in combat against reformism and revisionism – the main ideological influence of the bourgeoisie upon the masses.
While the struggle against opportunism dates back to Marx, with the historic failure of the subjective factor in the Soviet Union, the revisionist degeneration and the restoration of capitalism, modern revisionism became the greatest obstacle to revolution, and required that the struggle against opportunism be elevated to a new plane.
Old ideas don’t just fade away; they must be smashed!
Internationally, Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse-Tung Thought is engaged in a life and death battle with revisionism, trotskyism, anarcho-syndicalism and centrism for the ideological allegiance of the masses. In this struggle the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labor of Albania, together with other genuine Marxist-Leninist parties, have provided shining examples of proletarian leadership, and continue to lead the international communist movement toward the final victory over all forms of opportunism.
The tremendous realignment of forces worldwide that has occurred since 1949 – and recently with a lightning pace – brings with it increasing responsibilities for American communists. To begin with, we must deepen our solidarity with and support for the struggles of the exploited and oppressed people of the world against U.S. imperialism and Soviet social imperialism. Second, and most important, our primary obligation as Marxist-Leninists is to take the field against monopoly capitalism here in the United States. The main blow that we can strike in this battle today is the formation of a genuine communist party of a new type. Today, this constitutes a dual task of waging a fierce struggle against all forms of revisionist ideology – politically, theoretically and organizationally – and, in the process, uniting Marxist-Leninists into a single vanguard party.
From the standpoint of world history, the tasks of American Marxist-Leninists are decisive, and provide us with the glorious responsibility of dealing the final, ultimate death blow to imperialism and reaction worldwide.
But the exact hour we will be called upon to strike that blow may well not be determined by the pace and pronouncements of communists, but by the objective conditions themselves. A genuine revolutionary situation requires both that the exploited and oppressed masses are no longer willing to live in the old way, and that the rulers are no longer able to rule in the old way. But at this point, revolution is not the only course available; there is also fascism and war. The qualitatively new alignment of forces around the world brings with it the increasing danger of fascism at home and war around the world. The main blow we can strike now to prevent both war and fascism is the formation of a genuine communist party in the U.S., to lead the masses in proletarian revolution.
The road traveled by Marxist-Leninists in the U.S. over the last fifty years has been a constant struggle against opportunism and revisionism. In the last few years, after a long period in which economism and opportunism dominated the progressive movement, almost every honest Marxist-Leninist has come to recognize the need to build a party – a recognition that lags behind that of many other communist movements in many other countries. The question now for true Marxist-Leninists is not whether or not to advance, but exactly how to build the party.
Precisely because we face this turning point, it is not surprising that two lines emerge as to which road to take. In the last several months two line struggles between Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought and modern revisionism have been carried on in many organizations, collectives and progressive groups. The most obvious recent struggle was in the former Black Workers Congress. But throughout the movement, struggles have raged and continue to rage to determine which class will gain hegemony.
There are two ways to look at these struggles. On the one hand, there have been setbacks.
The communist movement has known setbacks before. The rise of the Second International under Bernstein and Kautsky; the bourgeois efforts of Trotsky and Zinoviev to turn the Soviet party toward opportunism after Lenin’s death; the revisionist road of Yugoslavia; and the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. In the U.S. communist movement, there, likewise, have been many setbacks: the rise of factionalism in the CPUSA; the rejection of the Comintern’s position on factory nuclei and on the Black National Question; the dissolution of the CPUSA; the expulsion of genuine Marxist-Leninists from the party in the late forties and fifties; the degeneration of the Provisional Organizing Committee and Progressive Labor Party; the revisionist influence of the RU on the national question, etc.
But these setbacks only illustrate the fundamental law of all development: that in a communist party or organization, as in everything else, one divides into two. The rise of Marxism-Leninism as the world shaking force that it is, necessarily is accompanied by its opposite. The entire history and growth of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought is the history of struggle against its opposite. This is true not only in one country, but in all countries and in all genuine communist parties.
Within the U.S. communist movement, ours is a long and tortuous heritage of struggle against opportunist and revisionist trends, dating back to Lovestone, Pepper, Browder, Dennis and down the line to Gus Hall. The number of such renegades, however, is small comparison to the large number of honest and genuine revolutionary proletarians.
On the other hand, amidst these and other setbacks, our movement has taken important strides forward, and Marxism is the leading aspect of the struggle between Marxism and revisionism. The most important victory for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought is the widespread recognition of the need for a vanguard party – a recognition which but a few years ago was held by a scant few.
The turning point we face now is not unlike that faced by other Marxist-Leninists at other critical points. Lenin described the situation well in 1902:
We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road! Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, donít clutch at us and donít besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh! Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, CW, vol. 5, p. 355).
* * *
Those that would direct us back toward the marsh speak with many voices, but all speak one language, and that is the LIQUIDATION of the genuine Marxist-Leninist party of the proletariat and of the leading role which the party must play in the revolutionary struggle.
On the one hand, there is the camp of those who have concluded, based upon the last couple of years of direct experience, that there has been enough discussion and that the party must be built now, regardless of who it leaves behind; who admit to no mistakes of any significance and have been “correct since the beginning”; who believe that what’s lacking is one more “mass movement” and a little more tailing the spontaneous actions of the masses; who fail to recognize the split in socialism at all, denying the bribery of anybody; who attack narrow Black nationalism or Chicano bundism as the main problem in the communist movement – not white chauvinism; who openly belittle the role of Comrade Mao Tse-Tung in their draft party program as less than that of Lenin; and who believe that a petty bourgeois party under the banner of Marxism-Leninism can lead the masses to revolution.
The economist line that calls for us to “build the mass movement” at a time when party building is the central task is the essence of the opportunist position in this period, for it states that the tasks of the proletariat are not socialist.
On the other hand, standing in the same camp but speaking a different voice, are those renegades who after tasting the task of party building, recoil and call for us to go “back to the masses”, stating that a party cannot be built until we have a mass base. For those who speak in the name of “the masses”, it is not possible to build a party at this time. They hold that it is the non-revolutionary character of the working class which prevents them from doing revolutionary work. They appeal to the masses against the necessity to build a revolutionary party led by revolutionary theory. This opportunist trend speaks in the name of the “masses” or “workers” in order to oppose the communist party of a new type altogether. This was the right opportunist line in the Black Workers Congress.
This liquidationist position regarding the relation between the party and the masses was demolished by Lenin himself:
it is to enable the mass of a definite class to learn to understand its own interests and its position, to learn to conduct its own policy, that there must be an organization of advanced elements of the class, immediately and at all costs, even though at first these elements constitute only a tiny fraction of the class. (LCW, vol. 19, p. 409)
In addition to the liquidationists, there are the centrists. This right opportunist line belittles not only the need to build a party, but the struggle against revisionism altogether. This line raises to a principle the position of taking no sides on any burning issue – whether in regard to bribery in the U.S., or the ideological struggle in the international communist movement. This camp is growing, has been underestimated in the past.
In opposition to every shade of opportunism and American exceptionalism is the genuine revolutionary trend within our movement. This growing number of comrades – by no means limited to one or two organizations – have recognized the poisonous presence of right opportunism and revisionism within our ranks, and have taken up the banner held high by the Chinese Communist Party, the Party of Labor of Albania and other genuine Marxist-Leninist Parties, against modern revisionism, as the greatest danger facing the international communist movement, and the U.S. communist movement. In particular, this struggle has been directed against economism, belittling the role of revolutionary theory, and the white chauvinist deviation on the national question. This trend recognizes the existence of the Black nation with the right of self-determination up to and including secession; the importance of building shop nuclei; the importance of study and the revolutionary transforming role of advanced theory. This revolutionary trend has struggled to recognize the scientific character of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought and to apply it to our own concrete conditions; to root ourselves in the international heritage of the communist movement, in the traditions of Marx, Engel’s, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and the Communist International.
But within this revolutionary trend there are many contradictions, all of which can be summarized in the struggle for a principled, Marxist stand toward our revolutionary tasks. Not only does this require a genuine desire and all out commitment to make revolution, but a ceaseless effort to apply the international experience of the communist movement to the concrete conditions of the U.S.
In looking back, or in considering the present moment, it is obvious that among genuine revolutionaries there has been a great deal of passivity toward these two requirements. This passivity has on many occasions handed the initiative over to the opportunists, such as the RU’s position on the Black National Question, but also on the party program and many other tasks. This passivity among Marxist-Leninists must be smashed, but, first, we must understand some of the causes for it.
The task of reconstituting a genuine vanguard party of the proletariat is a difficult and protracted struggle in this country, for the struggle to consolidate the break ideologically, programmatically and organizationally with modern revisionism has been carried on, for the most part, in the context of being cut off from the revolutionary heritage of the working class in this country. We are faced with the dual task of not only reconstituting the communist party, but of rediscovering the historical legacy of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought in this country. While the struggles against right opportunism are not new in the communist movement, almost all those comrades now taking on this crucial battle are relatively unfamiliar with the nature of similar struggles in the past. As a result, unlike other new Marxist-Leninist parties in other countries, where older comrades with long years of historical experience and tested proletarian outlook have carried through the historical struggle against revisionism, our movement is mostly comprised of young comrades, without historical roots, and with little revolutionary experience.
It should go without saying that one of the tasks taken up by the opportunists is precisely to seize the leadership of movements by taking advantage of the lack of experience in class struggle of young comrades and of their general inability to distinguish true Marxism-Leninism from sham Marxism-Leninism.
We are faced with the dual task in this period of smashing the old, and building the new. By smashing the old is not meant starting fresh again and relying only upon our own direct experience – as the economists contend – but smashing what is dying, what is decadent, what is moribund in the communist movement. That means smashing revisionism.
By building the new, we mean bringing to the forefront all that is vibrant, correct and most revolutionary in the historic struggle against revisionism. We must take up the slogans out forward by Comrade Mao Tse-Tung, “Be resolute, fear no sacrifice, surmount every difficulty to win victory” and that “the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything”.
This is exactly the spirit which has led the advances of Marxist-Leninists through the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, and toward the vanguard party in the past few years. In the current period, now, it is particularly important for us to pay special attention to exactly what it means to build the new, and what is required of those who set for themselves this high responsibility.
In the last few years we have seen a tremendous influx of comrades into our movement. This, as everything else, has its good and its bad aspects. This has been positive in that it demonstrates the irresistable force of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought among the revolutionary masses, and the rising nature of our struggle against the monopoly capitalist class. On the other hand, this rapid growth – without adequate training of new comrades – has had the negative effect of, at times, discarding scientifically proven methods of work and bowing to the spontaneous, impetuous desire to make revolution.
For this reason, as the polarization within the communist movement intensifies, and the bourgeois state promises to unleash the full fury of its force against genuine revolutionaries in the not too distant future, we must pay special attention to sharpening our criteria for distinguishing genuine from sham, for determining who is a genuine successor to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat.
According to principles advanced by Mao Tse-Tung, there should be five requirements for successors to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat. They are:
(1) They must be genuine Marxist-Leninists, taking the outlook of dialectical and historical materialism and the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought as a daily guide to action,
(2) They must be revolutionaries who wholeheartedly serve the overwhelming majority of the people of this country and of the whole world,
(3) They must be proletarian statesmen capable of uniting and working with together with the overwhelming majority; uniting not only with those with whom they agree, but those with whom they disagree, and even those who formerly opposed them and have since been proven wrong;
(4) They must be models in applying democratic centralism, must master the principles of leadership based upon “from the masses, to the masses”; and cultivate a democratic style and be good at listening to the masse;
(5) They must be modest and prudent and guard against arrogance and impetuosity, they must be imbued with the spirit of self-criticism and have the courage to correct mistakes and shortcomings in their work. (TRAINING SUCCESSORS FOR THE REVOLUTION IS THE PARTY’S STRATEGIC TASK, Foreign Language Press, 1965)
To train revolutionary successors to the cause of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought is a most important question facing American Marxist-Leninists today, for without such cadre as the nucleus of the leadership of the party, and thus the proletariat as a whole, our revolutionary cause is placed in great jeopardy. In the present period, it is not always easy to distinguish genuine from sham. No doubt many today who claim to follow the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought will tomorrow, as the struggle takes an unexpected turn, fall by the wayside, if not wind up on the other side. That is why it is very important for us to establish firm solid principles as to our goals, as well as to what is required of us on the march ahead, for only those who actually adhere to the five basic principles outlined – which will be expanded in further articles – can claim to be genuine successors to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat.
It is not enough to espouse anti-revisionist “theory” while the method and style of work are revisionist. A correct political line must lead to a correct organizational line. To set our compass directly on the building of a genuine communist party of a new type, and then to veer off course at every twist and turn in the journey, to make constant excuses and treat comrades and friends in a petty bourgeois, democratic liberal manner, is bound to lead to failure. Revolution is not a tea party. Formal politeness and rotten employee attitudes must be smashed. Liberalism, after all, is nothing but a manifestation of revisionism, of seeking unprincipled peace.
Our struggle to make revolution is both a struggle to change the world and to change ourselves. The only means we have to resolve contradictions among the people is through criticism, self-criticism in order to build unity, struggle, unity.
First and foremost among the demands placed upon American communists today is that Marxist-Leninists Unite! Not tomorrow, not at some distant date, but at the very earliest possible date, based upon the correctness of the ideological, theoretical and political line. Marxist-Leninists must unite around concrete material objectives, on the basis both of theoretical presentations of questions and political tasks required to carry out the line. We must recognize that the material basis for unity among revolutionaries is greater than the subjective basis for disunity.
Ho Chi Minh, the great and beloved patriot and leader of the Vietnamese Workers Party, spoke of “Unity, Unity, Broad Unity; Success, Success, Great Success.” It is time that Marxist-Leninists pay attention to this correct revolutionary line.
Genuine unity must be fought for, consistently, at every step along the way, against all manner of opportunism and revisionism.
The present two line struggles taking place within the communist movement must be hailed as important steps forward in our effort to smash the old and build the new. But advances on the theoretical front must be consolidated politically and organizationally. Marxist-Leninists must take concrete action to unite – the longer this takes, the greater the danger of fascism.
It is the political line which is decisive in building the unity of Marxist Leninists. Political line is the sum total of tasks an organization sets for itself in order to advance its overall strategic and tactical work. Political line consists both of theoretical clarity on issues, as well as clarity on the program necessary to carry out the line. The greatest obstacle to uniting Marxist-Leninists around a correct political line today is the lack of theoretical clarity. The extent to which we are able to provide clear precise theoretical understandings of each of the most important questions facing the revolutionary movement – coupled with clarity of line on the tasks that must be carried our to hasten the forward motion of the revolutionary movement – is the extent to which Marxist-Leninists will be able to unite into a single vanguard party of the proletariat.
Comrades, now is the time to take giant strides in building the revolutionary unity of Marxist-Leninists into a single vanguard panty, in order that the communist and workers’ movements can be welded to one another in an insoluble bond – a bond which will lead the exploited and oppressed people of the United States toward emancipation, socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and a society void of all oppression and exploitation of man by man, communism.
WIN THE VANGUARD TO THE SIDE OF COMMUNISM!
DEEPEN THE STRUGGLE ON THE THEORETICAL FRONT!
BUILD THE VANGUARD COMMUNIST PARTY OF A NEW TYPE!