Published: The Communist, Vol. III, No. 2, December 23, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Have the conditions been prepared to form a party according to the revolutionary style of Marxism-Leninist? We don’t think so, and we think it is pretense to call for a party congress without preparing those conditions or calling for a struggle to prepare those conditions. It is an opportunist approach to party building that remains mired in the circle spirit.
The October League’s Organizing Committee (OC) claims that the conditions have been prepared. Here is their fundamental explanation justifying a party congress in the near future:
When we say that the communist movement has now become prepared to build a new, vanguard party, we mean that the ideological and practical struggle has developed to the point where it is now possible to identify, and to unite the Marxist-Leninists around a general line for the US Marxist-Leninist movement. We can now clearly distinguish between Marxism and revisionism on each of the main questions facing the communist and workers movement. (Declaration of the Organizing Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party.)
According to the OC, conditions have been prepared because the lines of demarcation have already been drawn between Marxism and revisionism.
This is a shallow view of the tasks required to build a party according to the revolutionary style of Marxism-Leninism. In a very important sense, we agree with the OC that fundamental lines of demarcation have beer drawn between Marxism and revisionism. In fact these lines were clearly drawn in 1963 when the Communist Party of China published a PROPOSAL CONCERNING THE GENERAL LINE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST MOVEMENT. This document and others by the Chinese and Albanian parties identified two basic trends – Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism headed by the Soviet revisionist party – and succeeded in recovering revolutionary Marxism for the orientation of comrades worldwide in the face of the revisionist onslaught. The line of demarcation drawn is the foundation of our party building effort. It is essential to keep division between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism to the forefront in all our work.
But while our stance toward modern revisionism defines the orientation of our movement, we disagree that lines of demarcation have been drawn adequately to overcome its confusion and vacillation or to purge it of opportunism and social chauvinism.
Neither theoretically, politically or organizationally have lines been drawn adequately to ensure the victory of an organization of professional revolutionaries over the economist and social democratic trends in our midst.
Recall that Lenin refused to join the call for a Second Congress of the Russian Marxist party until the conditions had be«n prepared for the victory of the revolutionary trend among the local circles and organizations of the loosely formed Russian Social Democratic Party. (See the HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THF SOVIET UNION, BOLSHEVIK page 32.) The guidance he gave to the young parties in the face of the betrayal of the opportunists of the Second International can also be applied to our struggle:
It is perfectly obvious that to create an international Marxist organization there must be a readiness to form Marxist parties in the various countries ....The immediate future will show whether the conditions are mature for the formation of a new and Marxist international. If they are, our Party will gladly join such a 3rd International purged of opportunism and chauvinism. If they are not, then it will show that a more or less protracted’ period of evolution is needed for that purging to be effected. (SOCIALISM AND WAR)
We are going through such a more or less protracted period of evolution in order to form a new party purged of opportunism and chauvinism. Lenin explains in WHAT IS TO BE DONE that this is a process of recovering the theoretical, political and organizational principles of revolutionary Marxism and of overcoming the tendency to confusion and vacillation in the application of those principles to our practical work. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, Peking Edition, p. 23.)
As a whole, our movement has taken important strides along this path. Yet the struggle begun in 1974, when communists took up party building as the central task has never been fully or adequately unfolded. There has been no consolidation on the need to prepare the conditions for a party. Instead there has been a hasty search in one direction after another for a party congress or organizing committee.
Comrades, what is the barrier to accomplishing the tasks required to build an organization of professional revolutionaries, firm and stable in principle, disciplined in method and deeply fused with the workers’ movement? The obstacle to accomplishing these tasks and consolidating the struggle to prepare the conditions for a new party according to the revolutionary style of Marxism- Leninism has been a failure to take up and pursue the struggle against primitiveness, economism and social democracy.
Our movement took its resurgence in a period of mass anti-imperialist upsurge sparked by the national rebellion of the Afro-American people and by the struggle against the Indochina War. It was not until 1974 that party building was broadly recognized and fought for as the central task of communists.
We can say that the struggle to defeat the stubbornly rooted social democratic tendencies which have historically plagued the American movement has begun, but by no means has it been fully unfolded. There has not been the ideological, political or organizational consolidation which would lay the basis for the defeat of these tendencies at a Party congress. That is why we say the conditions for a party congress have not been prepared, without the consolidation of a victory over primitiveness, economism and social democracy in our ranks, the lines of demarcation we draw between modern revisionism and Marxism-Leninism are hollow.
Some comrades think that the struggle against primitivism, economisn and social democracy is outdated because today the main form of opportunism is modern revisionism. These comrades think that Stalin’s statement in FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM that the defeat of the theory of tailism or bowing to spontaneity is a preliminary condition for the creation of truly revolutionary parties no longer applies. They limit the struggle today to drawing superficial lines of demarcation between Marxism and revisionism.
These comrades are wrong. Modern revisionism is the highest, the most concentrated and the most dangerous form of opportunism that has ever existed. But there are forms of opportunism that pave the way for modern revisionism, regardless of the intentions of the individuals or organizations that allow them to persist. As we said in a recent issue of THE COMMUNIST, our movement has not grasped the truth that it is through the right opportunist tendencies of primitiveness, economism, liberalism and all forms of bowing to spontaneity in our midst that the influence of modern revisionism penetrates our ranks. It is because of this relationship between the effort to Bolshevize our organizations and our ability to defeat modern revisionism and all reaction that we have called for a stand consistently rooted in orthodox Marxism-Leninism and for a struggle based on the lessons of WHAT IS TO BE DONE. The theory of tailism or bowing to spontaneity is the logical basis of all opportunism and the struggle summed up in Lenin’s polemic is the ideological foundation of every genuine Marxist-Leninist party.
Ideologically, the OL/OC’s failure to prepare the conditions for a revolutionary party built on Bolshevik lines has its roots OL’s line that, “left” opportunism was the main danger to the Communist movement. For years OL covered its own right opportunist errors on party building, trade union work and the united front with the line that “left” opportunism was the main dancer to the communist movement and in particular to the task of party building. “Leftism” and sectarianism were the barriers to our unity.
OL’s failure to repudiate its line on this question is no small matter. Marxist-Leninists remember very well that it was the revisionist parties during the 1960’s – and still today – which slandered as “leftist” dogmatism and sectarianism the efforts of young Marxist-Leninist organizations to recapture the revolutionary heritage of orthodox Marxism-Leninism. OL’s line on this question was not isolated but part of an international chorus.
Not only has OL failed to repudiate that line, instead they continue to maintain that the struggle against these errors prepared the conditions ideologically for the present party forming effort.
It is evident this line did not prepare, but diverted comrades from the tasks required to build a party purged of primitiveness, economism and social democracy. OL’s line that “leftism” was the main danger was fundamentally incompatible with the struggle to recover the revolutionary heritage of orthodox Marxism-Leninism and to prepare the conditions for a new revolutionary party by professionalizing our ranks ideologically, politically and organizationally. The effect of this line was to undermine some of the correct positions OL put forward in 1973 regarding party building as the central task.
For example, while OL made reference in 1973 to the importance of factory nuclei, they did not grasp the central role of nuclei to developing our work nor grasp the obstacles to this task raised by our primitiveness and backwardness. As a result, in 1974 their resolution on Communist Labor Work does not mention factory nuclei or the task of building factory nuclei. The whole emphasis was on building the mass struggle of the unions, rank and file caucuses and city-wide solidarity committees. There is no recognition of the fact that none of these things can be accomplished without stable Marxist-Leninist cells in the large mills and factories and that Marxist-Leninist nuclei could only be built on the basis of the fiercest struggle against amateurishness and bowing to spontaneity. Instead OL counterposed one incorrect form of caucus building to another. Criticizing the Revolutionary Union’s (RU) intermediate worker organizations as showing a tendency to dual unionism, OL distorted the principle that communists must work in reactionary trade unions and launched a call to build the left-wing of the labor movement and to move trade unions to the left, supporting Miller of the United Mine Workers and the “progressive1” labor bureaucrats in order to “stem the fascist tide”. And although OL has criticized some of these positions, they have never gone to the heart of the question – recognition that overcoming the errors of amateurishness and economism is the key to building factory nuclei and building factory nuclei is the key to stable, consistent and revolutionary work in the labor movement. OL’s newspaper, THE CALL, still fails to give practical guidance on the tasks of building factory nuclei so badly needed by our movement.
Furthermore, the OC’s position now that right opportunism is the main danger is not based on a thorough repudiation of these erroneous positions. Explaining why right opportunism is the main danger the OC argues that important ideological struggles have done much to isolate and discredit “left” opportunism in our movement – thus perpetuating OL’s bankrupt line – and that the growth and development of the movement have brought us into more direct conflict with the CPUSA – a stance which belittles the pervasive influence revisionism has long had on our work, especially in the anti-imperialist movement, and belittles the spontaneous tendencies to revisionism that emerge in our ranks. They also explain the importance of a “centrist” trend that is conciliating with revisionism in power under the cloak of Marxism-Leninism. They conclude:
Finally, our movement has begun to increase its work of mass agitation – particularly in beginning to give communist leadership to the developing mass upsurge against the conditions of capitalist crisis. This is a sign of our maturity and represents the process of breaking with the old propaganda circles that initially characterized our movement. At the same time, the motion towards increased mass agitation heightens the danger of right opportunism. (Declaration of the Organizing Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party.)
Unfortunately for this neat little scheme, it falsifies our history, as every comrade knows. OL, RU, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, the Black Workers Congress, etc. were not propaganda circles divorced from mass agitation. The main error of these organizations was consistently bowing to the spontaneity of the mass movement, characterized above all by the line that our chief task was to build the mass movement. This was also true of the OL, even though it put forward formally, but never fought for, the line that party building was the central task.
We will prepare the conditions to annihilate the influence of revisionism on the revolutionary movement of the working and oppressed masses, and create a new Marxist-Leninist party, by stubbornly fighting to overcome every tendency to bow to spontaneity which is the logical basis of all opportunism. While we must guard against “left” dogmatism and sectarianism, it is the right opportunist errors of economism, liberalism and petty bourgeois democracy which are the primary paths by which revisionism penetrates our ranks. These are the main errors which justify our primitiveness, backwardness and narrowness. Without a fierce fight against these tendencies we will be unable to consolidate an organization of professional revolutionaries capable of defeating modern revisionism and all reaction. The OL/OC lacks clarity on this fundamental principle of party building.
OL’s line on the main danger also accounts for their inability to struggle in a principled way for unity. To analyze our fragmentation and disunity in terms of “left” sectarianism did not identify the main errors in our work, which had to be overcome in order to unite, and the OC does no better today. A year ago OL spoke of a dozen Marxist-Leninist publications and the need to unite then into one. A year later the OC has reached none of them. No national communist organization has joined the OC. They boast in THE CALL about the extra miles they are going to walk in pursuit of unity, but they do not take one step, when asked at a public forum why they have been unable to win any national communist organizations to their unity trend, they mumble about being on with the WC. But the OC has taken no single initiative in this respect at any time. The only “on with” involved here is our initiative in setting up a pair of meetings with OL in the face of obvious procrastination and delay on the part of these mile-walkers. Yet while OL has consistently avoided principled discussion with national leadership for more than a year, they have actively maneuvered to seek our local contacts.
Their idea of preparing a party congress is opportunist maneuvering rather than an open and principled struggle to unite. Rather than seizing on points of unity with various organizations and relying on these points to overcome differences in an open and above board manner, they rely on intrigue, searching for weak links to break off and bring into their ranks. Unity with others is sought on the basis of weaknesses rather than a conscious and determined struggle based on strengths. Rather than investigation and open polemics, the OL/OC relies on slavishness and subjectivity. OL does this with the justification that breaking down democratic-centralism is a “good thing” at this time. We also think that breaking down the democratic centralism of smaller organizations to build the democratic centralism of larger Marxist-Leninist organizations is a good thing, but it must be done in a conscious and principled way. The OL/OC’s practice in this regard is just another example of their failure in practice to break with opportunism and social democracy.
Other activity of the OL/OC also shows that it has not unfolded the struggle to unite. There is no evidence of struggle in the OC and no evidence of struggle over the fundamental principles of party building. When one of the members of the OC wrote an article attacking one of the OC’s essential “principles of unity” – win the advanced to communism – OL ran it in CLASS STRUGGLE without any editorial qualifications.
OL’s party building forums are a joke. They present a couple of vague speeches about how badly we need a party and then take some questions. A party building forum should discuss in a formal way the burning questions of our movement. Majority and minority views on the national question, on social-imperialism, on the united front, on trade unions, etc. need to be fully exposed. The OL/OC’s party building forums are little more than pep talks.
OL’s inability to struggle to unite is based on their failure to make a materialist analysis of the barriers to our unity. They do not give any analysis of the emergence of circles in our movement or the road to overcoming this stage of our struggle. They say this stage is coming to a close. But they do not say why. Comrades in the OC should not confuse a bigger circle with the end of the circle period.
OL argued we could not unite because of our dogmatism and sectarianism. This they attributed to the petty bourgeois origins of the movement, ignoring that the petty bourgeoisie is also a potent source of right opportunism, especially in a large industrialized country with strong liberal traditions. Their analysis of the barriers to unity showed an idealist approach that ignored the material basis for fragmentation and disunity.
On a number of occasions we have spoken to the basis for fragmentation and disunity in our ranks (cf “ISKRA Policy” THE COMMUNIST, V. II, #8). Under capitalism the working class is divided by trade, sex, nationality, industry, skill, wage level, geography, etc. The contract of employment is an individual one and struggles limited to a single plant or industry reinforce the fragmentation of the class. These conditions can be overcome; nevertheless, the consciousness of the need for revolutionary struggle grows up in these conditions. In an industrial country like the US, bowing to the spontaneity of the mass movement perpetuates these divisions. Primitivism perpetuates the heritage of limited and partial struggles which do not take up the task of forging the revolutionary unity of the whole of the working class and its allies in the struggle not just against this or that employer or group of employers, but against the entire class of capitalists and the government that supports it.
Preparing the conditions for a party congress means taking up squarely the task of overcoming this fragmentation and disunity. This task is determined by the struggle against amateurishness and bowing to spontaneity. And, as we have emphasized, for reasons put forward by Lenin in WHAT IS TO BE DONE which are valid in our conditions today, this struggle is indissolubly linked to the struggle for a single, common newspaper that will lay a common line for U.S. Marxist-Leninists.
Proof that the OL/OC’s unity trend is not the result of a struggle required to prepare the conditions for a party congress by purging our ranks of opportunism and social chauvinism is demonstrated by the lack of a consistent and thoroughgoing Marxist-Leninist analysis on a question which is decisive for our revolution – the national question.
We have already spoken to the October League’s fundamental error on the Black National Question. While correctly adopting the position that the Black Belt South, the historic homeland of the Afro-American people, constitutes a nation entitled to the democratic right of self-determination, CL, like the RCP before it, cuts the heart out of this position by saying that they oppose secession at this time.
Why is defeating this position essential to the process of purging our movement of opportunism and social chauvinism?
Our revolution is made in a rising storm of resistance to national oppression. The struggle of the oppressed nationalities in the US is an essential component of our assault on the monopoly capitalist state. We place no obstacle in the path of that struggle. Where the storm of national liberation breaks out in the revolutionary demand for secession, that demand weakens our common oppressor – it does not weaken the revolutionary ranks. It is the US bourgeoisie, not the multi-national US proletariat, that fears a genuinely revolutionary movement for the secession of the Afro-American Nation.
On the other hand, for OL, the conditions of national oppression imposed on the Afro-American Nation by the imperialist bourgeoisie can be opposed only to a point. For OL the Afro-American Nation should not call into question the boundaries or state integrity of the US state.
Does a correct position on self-determination mean that communists must support any secessionist movement that arises in the Black Belt South? No. On the contrary, we are duty bound to oppose particular secessionist movements that strengthen reaction and weaken the revolutionary forces. That however is not OL’s position. OL does not raise the call to oppose particular secessionist movements. They oppose secession in general.
The position of the Comintern on this question is very clear. In resolutions adopted in 1930 under the guidance of Stalin on the Black National Question in the US, the Comintern said that while reactionary nationalist movements such as Garveyism must be opposed, communists can never come out in opposition to secession for the Black Belt South as long as there is capitalism in the US.
OL recognizes that this view is in conflict with their position on the question and says that the CI was wrong. In doing so they attempt to drive a wedge between Lenin‘s writings on the national question and the position of the CI. But OL cannot use Lenin against the CI in this way. By calling for self-determination but opposing secession they have fallen into the classic chauvinist position of Springer and Bauer which was criticized by Stalin in MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION – they refuse to call into question the boundaries of the multi-national US state.
On this question the program, of a genuinely revolutionary party built according to the revolutionary style of Marxism-Leninism will reaffirm the revolutionary principles of the Comintern: we call for self-determination for the Afro-American nation in the Black-Belt South up to and including the right of political secession. As US communists we will not come out against secession in general as long as there is capitalism in the US. We will, however, oppose every secessionist movement that strengthens the forces of revisionism, and reaction and weakens the revolutionary forces.
The consistency of OL’s opportunism on the national question is exposed in their position on the Chicano National Question. Once again, just as with the Black National Question, OL refuses to call into question the boundaries of the US multinational state. They arrive at this result only by fundamentally distorting the science of Marxism-Leninism.
OL says that the Chicano people in the Southwest do not constitute a nation but are a national minority. If this is the case, the correct demand there, as throughout the US, is for equal rights. However, for OL equal rights is not enough. They say that regional autonomy is a solution for the national question for national minorities. But according to the principles developed by the Bolshevik Party, regional autonomy, like political secession, is the political choice of a definite people on a definite territory which constitutes a nation. It is a solution for the national question for a nation that does not want to secede but chooses to remain within the framework of a multinational state. It is not the solution for the national question for a national minority. In other words, in order to call for regional autonomy, OL must adopt the position that the Chicano people in the Southwest constitute a nation. This however they refuse to do. We suppose the major reason is that this would again threaten the boundaries of the US state.
OL’s call for regional autonomy – lacking a basis in Marxist-Leninist science – is a call for pie in the sky without practical revolutionary significance. OL tells the Chicano people what it will do for them after the revolution. It does not raise the demand that will mobilize their movement for liberation and revolution under capitalism. If the Chicano people in the Southwest are a nation, they are entitled to the full democratic right of self-determination, without that right being watered down to regional autonomy only. If the Chicano people in the Southwest are a national minority, they are entitled to equal rights. These are the demands that mobilize the revolutionary struggles of oppressed nations and national minorities. Regional autonomy is essential to the solution of the national question for nations which decide not to secede but instead choose to remain within the framework of the whole.
Stalin’s REPORT OK THE NATIONAL QUESTION delivered to the Seventh All Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in April, 1917, makes this relationship between self-determination, regional autonomy and equal rights very clear:
Thus, our views on the national question can be reduced to the following propositions: (a) recognition of the right of peoples to secession; (b) regional autonomy for nations remaining within the given state; (c) special legislation guaranteeing freedom of development for national minorities; (d) a single, indivisible proletarian body, a single party, for the proletarians of all nationalities in the given state.
OL’s longstanding confusion on the questions of the main danger, their longstanding confusion on the national question and their failure to link the struggle against revisionism with a clear cut struggle against primitivism and bowing to spontaneity, the logical basis of all opportunism, demonstrates that opportunism and social chauvinism, confusion and vacillation on the principles of Marxism-Leninism have not been purged from the party building movement. The OL/OC has failed to prepare the conditions for a party of professional revolutionaries and has failed to lead the struggle against backwardness and amateurishness in our movement. In short, they have not prepared the conditions, for a decisive victory over the economist and social democratic tendencies in our ranks. Our movement stands on the lines of demarcation drawn between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism on the fundamental questions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the role of a vanguard party, armed revolution, class struggle and the science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought. But we have not carried out the thoroughgoing struggle required to ensure our victory over the economist and social democratic tendencies that cripple us in the fight against modern revisionism.
There is no short cut to that effort. No doubt OL also will declare itself a party. The struggle to prepare the conditions for a party of professional revolutionaries will be waged nonetheless. We call on comrades to join us in that struggle.