From the pamphlet: Party Building in the Heat of the Class Struggle, February 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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EROL Note: This article originally appeared in the January 1976 issue of Palante.
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Recently, our comrades of the ATM sponsored a series of forums for our organization on the most turning tasks facing our movement, party building. Along with the rest of the genuine wing of the communist movement: the ATM, Worker’s Viewpoint Organization and the Revolutionary Bloc – and other honest organizations like the Revolutionary Workers League, we understand that we must, on the basis of political line, engage in a process of unity-struggle-unity, so that we can intensify our collective efforts to complete our central task. These forums, which were part of a nation-wide series, were one step in this direction, which has been developing from lower to higher levels.
The main focus of the forums was on the theoretical presentation of the process of development of the party building motion. It is our view, and we think it is a reflection of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought applied to party building, that since 1957 (the complete and total sell-out of the “CP”USA at their l6th National Convention), the central task has been to build the party, but that the completion of this task must be viewed in a dialectical and historical materialist manner. (Note: In the original article, we incorrectly indicated 1956 as the date of the “CP”’s 21st Party Congress. Further investigation has shown that the internal struggle during 1956 finally culminated in the consolidation of revisionism at the l6th National Convention in January 1957.) party building is a task which covers the ideological, political, and organizational spheres. Of the three, the ideological tasks are fundamental and ongoing; because if we do not base our work on the world view of the proletariat, we are bound to slip into the more dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie. In this whole process of party building, theory plays the principal role in the relationship between theory and practice; because we must give our movement a planned, conscious character and this is impossible without the power of orientation which only Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung can provide.
In the first period of party building, we hold that the fundamental ideological tasks were also the key link because of the revisionists’ treacherous role of robbing the revolutionary essence of Marxism-Leninism by distorting its most basic principles: the state, the need for armed struggle, the nature of a Bolshevik Party, the stance on imperialist war, etc. It was the task of the communists to place our movement on a firm ideological foundation, to guide all our work. To reach completion of this period in party building, we had to defeat two main alien class trends, one, the trend of eclecticism–a mish-mosh of different theories, including Trotskyism, Bakunin’s Anarchism (lumpen-vanguard of the revolution), Fanon, and Che mixed in with a smattering of Mao Tse Tung Thought.
The organizations of this period were plagued by eclecticism. 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 group Marxism-Leninism, and although they too were 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.
The next trend we had to defeat was the dangerous economist trend, which under the guise of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought, continued to revise some basic principles of Marxism-Leninism; this trend was led by the Revolutionary Union. This could be seen by:
1) Their complete distortion of the central task of Marxist-Leninists as seen by their “Build the unity, consciousness and organization of the working class,” when the central task was to build the party.
2) Revision of the National Question–The “Nation of a new type,” without territory–revising the 5 principles laid down by Stalin.
It was in the heat of the struggle to put an end to this stage of the first period that two wings emerged–those “Marxist-Leninists” who could not and in fact refused to grasp the tasks of the time, who continued to create theoretical justifications for their bowing to spontaneity, (today this is seen in the total degeneration of the Revolutionary Union to the Revolutionary Communist Party, signifying their turn to revisionism and placing them outside the communist movement to build a new party; and within the communist movement –October League, Guardian, I Wor Kuen, Revolutionary Workers Congress, and the Workers Congress); and those who, committed to the task of party building, moved forward in the struggle to grasp the tasks demanded of us in building our party. From this struggle and all that went on before it, our understanding of party building went from a lower to a higher level; from a perceptual, fragmentary, illusory stage to a more rational and comprehensive, concrete stage. It was in the heat of this struggle that the focus of the key link shifted. Ideology remains fundamental, but now our movement has, in the main, set itself on the ideological foundation of Marxism-Leninism. The focus, now interrelated to the ideological and organizational tasks, is the hammering out of the political line and program of action of the party– the application of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions. It is here that we will be able to identify who is applying Marxism-Leninism and who is not, and what are the main ideological deviations that gave rise to this incorrect application. It will also strengthen us organizationally, because the key to organization, most especially democratic centralism, is voluntary union on political line. We feel the two main tactics in party building, which will flow from the key link is Marxist-Leninists Unite and Win the Advanced to Communism. This is a crystallization of the fusion of the communist and working class movements, which is a prerequisite for party building. The two tactics must not be separated because they are part of an integral whole–building the party.
The above is a brief summary of our line on party building. The theoretical presentation given at the forums, of course, gives this burning topic much more in-depth analysis, and for this purpose we will be printing up the presentation as our pamphlet on party building, which will come out soon.
We feel that our views on the central task are essentially a synthesis of the views of the genuine wing, although we certainly realize that all the comrades in the revolutionary wing of the communist movement have played a role in the development of our understanding of party building. Our analysis is an attempt to sum up the experience of our movement and synthesize it. In the main, we feel we have made a successful attempt as witnessed by the response of the communists and advanced elements to our line at the forums. The audiences of the forums reflected the universality of why there is a genuine wing; because there was a high level of consciousness and discipline, and a definite grasp of the recent developments and struggles in the communist movement. This was an example of the good work being done by our comrades across the country, most notably the comrades from ATM.
The attitude of the overwhelming majority of the audiences at the forum was that of unity-struggle-unity. There were many good questions asked, most of them related to our presentation on party building, which showed genuine interest to deepen the understanding of the task of party building by struggling for clarity or expressing disagreements so that as a result of comradely polemics, more unity could be reached. Some of these questions centered around:
1) On what do we base our analysis that an organization is opportunist, placing them in the opportunist wing? This is a key question because if we know that in order to unite we must draw clear and firm lines of demarcation, there must be clarity and unity on the criteria to draw those lines of demarcation. We feel that an organization’s attitude towards criticism and self-criticism and repudiation, disclosing the social and ideological basis of their errors and outlining a method of rectification, is the hallmark of whether or not that organization is genuine or sham.
In fact, failure to do criticism and self-criticism and repudiate errors thoroughly is one of the reasons that led to a wing of our movement failing to grasp the tasks of the movement and creating theoretical justification for those failures, thus bringing into being the opportunist wing of our movement–OL, Guardian, IWK, RWG, WC. We differ with the comrades of ATM on their analysis of OL, IWK, RWC, WC not being opportunist. They feel that as long as an organization does not revise Marxist-Leninist principles, they are Marxist-Leninists. We feel the comrades are making a mechanical error in not seeing a thing in its process of degeneration. The opportunist wing are in motion towards revisionism because of their refusal to apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought in real life.
2) Do the principles laid down in “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social Democracy” apply today in the definition of advanced worker? This was a continuation of an ongoing comradely polemic within the genuine wing of the communist movement, specifically with the Workers Viewpoint Organization. We feel that the essence of the principles laid down in the “Retrograde Trend” do apply. That is, that the working class in every country brings forth those with an advanced level of consciousness, who through the course of their relationship to the class struggle dedicate themselves to making revolution and set for themselves the goal of organizing and educating the class and masses, and that this dedication drives them to seek scientific answers to the many phenomena we are faced with in this dying system. Therefore, they actively seek out and are the most receptive to the one thing that can deal with the essence of our problems and what to do about them–and that is Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought.
We feel that WVO is not recognizing that there are advanced workers such as Lenin described, makes an empiricist error, based on their own experience alone, not learning from the indirect experience that has resulted in a process already begun, which we must complete–the fusion of the communist and working class movements. Our task is to win these advanced elements to communism on the basis of a concrete political analysis.
3) Of the three tasks–ideological, political, and organizational, which is the key link and why? This was in the main, a further struggle for clarity and/or difference with the position as stated both in the theoretical presentation and articles in Palante. The main struggle was around the view that ideological-political, and in essence, ideological reaffirmation, is what’s key in this period. We feel this view negates a period of development we’ve already been through and tries to take us a step backward so that we can move forward. We feel this is a right line on the question.
We also had comradely polemics with the comrades of WVO on the question of the United Front from Above and Below, a principle guiding our trade union work in this period. Essentially, we feel placing attention to the United Front from Above flows from defensive tactics, which are implemented in a period when the proletariat is on the defensive, like during a fascist offensive. We feel this is related to WVO’s view that instead of revolution being the main trend in the world today, revolution and fascism and war are contending trends. From this, WVO sees the use of offensive and defensive tactics interchangebly not basing it on what is principal. We do not rule out defensive tactics such as the United Front from Above even in this period, but we must be clear that we are on the offensive because revolution is the main trend in the world today, and our organizing must reflect this. In trade union work, this means that the united front from above–uniting with the labor hacks to expose them–is not generally applicable under this time, place and conditions.
We would like to state clearly that the struggles with the comrades of the ATM and WVO were of a qualitatively different nature than those with the opportunist wing, which we will now get into. PRRWO, WVO and ATM struggled from unity-struggle-unity to help each other in the interests of building the genuine party of a new type. It is idealist to think that the genuine wing is pure or that there is absolute even development; this would deny dialectics. Our task in the genuine wing is to unite all our strengths to overcome our weaknesses by struggling over our differences in a non-sectarian manner and build the unity based on political line, that will result in the creation of our party.
With the opportunist wing, as we shall see below, the task is to draw clear lines of demarcation on the ideological and political fronts, exposing the nature of the lines of these organizations, uncovering the main ideological manifestations, and in this way call on the cadre of the opportunist wing to break with these organizations–to make the rupture with bourgeois ideology in its main distinct forms–i.e., economism, reformism, centrism, pragmatism, voluntarism–on the basis of political line.
There was a struggle with the OL, which now constitutes the main danger in the communist movement, with their get-rich-quick party-in-six months-campaign. The OL claims that we mechanically separate ideological, political, and organizational tasks and that discussing such issues as the advanced, key link, etc., are a waste of time since the OL has conveniently furnished us with a plan for party building already.
The OL, in their typical centrist fashion, is trying to be “all things to all people.” They say that political line is key and in the same breath say organization is the decisive factor. In fact, they plan to call the party together and then hammer out the party’s line and program over a period of time. (Of course, in the meantime, that party will be guided by OL’s line and program.)
This is a classic example of modern-day Menshevism; the OL wants a party with such a loose structure and such minimum unity that “any striker” can join. According to these right opportunists, communists can enter into a democratic centralist party without the necessary struggle to achieve unity on political line. It is clear that this is not the party the proletariat wants or needs; it is a party that from its beginning will be infested with careerists, and opportunists of all shades who will flock to the “class peace” party building call of the OL.
The OL “basis for unity” is on general principle–like the need for the party, United Front, armed struggle, and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. These general principles as put out by OL need to be examined very closely. For example, the OL says the “CP”USA has a “reformist” line on the dictatorship of the proletariat and that we must have a revolutionary line on’ the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a clear cover-up of the treachery of modern revisionism; because in fact, the “CP”USA, like all revisionists does not even raise the dictatorship of the proletariat! They hold to the state of the whole people. Why does the OL distort the nature of revisionism in this way? Because to be ruthlessly scientific means that you get to the essence, and if the OL ever got to the essence of revisionism, right opportunism, and reformism, it would of necessity call for its own liquidation.
The OL’s attitude towards political line as the key link is clearly reflected on certain questions.
A) National Question–although they do not revise the fundamental principles, as laid down by Lenin and Stalin, the application of these principles to the concrete conditions in the U.S. finds them tailing behind the liberal bourgeoisie and comprador Black bourgeoisie with their line on busing–calling on the ruling class to ”integrate” school children and thus lay the base for further unity of the class, to the point of calling in the National Guard, the state apparatus, to enforce the forced busing plan. In its essence, this is a revisionist position, because the revisionists say that this stage of capitalism sees the “integration process”–through the development and expansion of “the productive forces” laying the basis for the resolution of the national question.
B) The State–again, the OL does not openly revise the fundamental thesis regarding the state, but in its political line, application of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought to the concrete conditions, we see their reformist essence. The example of calling in the National Guard in Boston; the willingness of OL cadre to openly discuss the nature of their “cadre organizations” with the bourgeois press, resulting in a whole spread being written about the relationship between the terrorists and the “cadre organizations” in a San Francisco newspaper; the recent position taken by the OL that “police are part of the working class” which has led to the exposure of many communists, advanced elements and contacts to the state because the line would have to be manifested in recruiting policies; the open exposure of their cadre schools to discuss State and Revolution, even to the point of publishing how many cadre attended in their last publication of The Call; the fact that their internal documents concerning security and structure and rule of discipline can be found in the Congressional Record; their nerve in calling for a contingent of undocumented workers in a deportation rally in L.A., thereby facilitating the work of the bourgeoisie in rounding up these workers. All these things are manifestations of slavish social pacifism, reformism, and Menshevik traditions that we must eliminate if we are to build our party strong. This is not the time to go into more full exposure of the OL’s right opportunist, reformist line. We bring this up in light of the OL hegemonic push to promote themselves as the true party, taking an open Menshevik approach which differs only in form from the underground approach of the Revolutionary Union. We must thoroughly expose them not only in forums such as the ones recently held, but most importantly on the shop floor, in the communities and in the schools.
There was also struggle at the forums with the opportunist Workers Congress who continued to dogmatically insist that the key link to party building is an Iskra type organization of a “network of agents.” Refusing to accept that in essence, this position holds that organization is the key link, outstripping the development of the party because it says the line “has been determined, the WC tried to create the impression among many comrades that we were involved in a smear campaign, when it is our responsibility to show the clear relationship between this left opportunist force in our movement today and how it is no accident that these same forces represented left opportunism before the development of the Workers Congress. This is particularly true in the case of the Black Workers Congress. The “Genuine Lefts” in the Black Workers Congress split had indeed constituted the main danger–left opportunism in the BWC, represented by hegemonic, dogmatist activities that played a leading role in the split of the BWC. We will be publishing a deeper analysis of the BWC split soon.
These forces do see organization as the key link and nothing they can rave about will change the truth. They would love to suck up the communist movement into an idealist Iskra scheme and deviate us from the task of hammering out the party’s basic line and program, which is key at this time.
We would also like to note that at the forums, the I Wor Kuen did nothing more than read off a statement saying that they finally hold to party building as the central task, although they see ideology as the key link. They also claimed to have historically struggled against opportunism, narrow nationalism, etc., and were opposed to us calling them an opportunist organization. When we responded by asking them why they have never done self-criticism and repudiation for a number of lines they have held–among them their placing work with the Asian-American national minority as primary over party building and holding the line of intercommunalism as formulated by Huey P. Newton in the old period–and then asked them to share their experiences with us so we could learn from their mistakes, they politely refused. This is just further proof of the opportunist nature of the IWK and why we call on honest comrades to break with them.
There was also discussion in the forums as to the role of revisionism in the Puerto Rican national movement. For further explanation of our position, see Palante, Vol. 1, #11. We discussed how we must battle the revisionists, especially the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, tit-for-tat to bring the national movement under the hegemony of the proletarian line, and that this means thorough exposure of PSP to win over honest comrades whose development is being stunted by PSP’s revisionist treachery, and hard work by the genuine communists to hammer out a correct line and program of action for work in the national movement.
In particular, we must carefully analyze the results of PSP’s Second Congress–where their revisionist leadership has deepened the process of the total and complete degeneration into a revisionist and therefore, an essentially bourgeois party. In these documents, the PSP attempts a sugar-coated bullet attack on the Peoples Republic of China by “recognizing” the Chinese Revolution as “significant,” but calling on China to take a “more proletarian internationalist stance” on certain questions. This, coupled with their rejection of the fact that the USSR is social-imperialist, calling the USSR and its Communist Party “strong basis for the socialist camp,” show even further proof of the utter bankruptcy of PSP. The masses of people of Puerto Rico, led by the conscious element, must thoroughly expose and smash these “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and send them scurrying back to their imperialist masters.
These were just some of the many questions and struggles which occurred at these forums. We feel that they were a definite step forward in uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning the advanced over to communism on the basis of political line in the struggle against falsehood. Our understanding that communists and advanced elements throughout the country are in a forward motion in the battle against falsehood was reconfirmed by this rewarding trip.
The features of our party are indeed outlined, although in embryonic form. Let us intensify our efforts to sharpen those features, nurture and develop this embryo and build the general staff of the proletariat!