First Published: Red Flag Vol. I, No. 3, May-June 1966
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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There is presently some confusion concerning the Progressive Labor Party. We aim to clear up this confusion and show that the P.L.P. is not a Party of the proletariat. It is in fact a Party of the radical petty bourgeoisie and the aristocracy of labor.
Not only will we show the class outlook of P.L.P. but also expose P.L.P.’s opportunist position on questions affecting the American workers today: on nationalism, on the trade union question and on the students. Further, we will prove that the P.L.P. is an open conciliator of the revisionist C.P.
On the Negro question, P.L.P. refuses to recognize the national-colonial question as essentially a class question: this is the key to understanding the Marxist-Leninist approach to the Negro question. The Communist Party U.S.A. (Marxist-Leninist) points out that the Negro nation in the South is a direct colony of U.S. imperialism. What constitutes a nation? A nation is “a historically evolved, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and a common culture” (J.V. Stalin, MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION, p. 16). The Negro nation in the South meets these qualifications. The Communist Party U.S.A. (Marxist-Leninist) stands for the right of self-determination for the Negro nation.
P.L.P. refuses to recognize the Negro nation as a direct colony of U.S. imperialism. Rather, P.L.P. speaks of dozens of Negro “colonies” in all the northern cities (e.g. Watts, Harlem, etc.) thus distorting the question of the Negro nation. How can P.L.P, speak of “colonies” without regard to the fact that colonies are oppressed nations? There is one Negro nation – not many Negro nations in the U.S., and it is located in the South.
P.L.P. refuses to see the Negro workers in the American nation as an integral part of the American working class. It refuses to use class as the basis of its analysis. If uses only color, thus serving the dictates of U.S. imperialism’s racist ideology. P.L.P. takes the stand that “whites work with whites” and “blacks work with blacks”, divorcing the Negro workers from the proletariat! This position is a refusal to advance the interests of the proletariat and is a complete betrayal of proletarian internationalisms. This is tailism – khvostisn – in its most obvious form, tailing after the bourgeois nationalists.
P.L.P. has consistently taken up bourgeois nationalist ideology as the basis of its political line as do the Trotskyites. P.L.P. even practices bundism or federalism and divides its organization by color: it has “black” clubs and “white” clubs and even “black” and “white” Vice Presidents as regular posts. Further, P.L.P.’s position on the Harlem rioting and on the Watts uprising serves to reveal P.L.P.’s tailing position.
What position did P.L.P. take in Harlem? After the spontaneous developments, the P.L.P. issued leaflets explaining how to make a “Molotov Cocktail”. What political position did P.L.P. take? P.L.P, issued a call for terror divorced from any political program. After the situation in Harlem was over, P.L.P. then called for “black cops, black firemen and black judges”. Here is a perfect example of the successive use of adventurist and reformist positions which is a specific feature of P.L.P.’s petty bourgeois class outlook. First came a call for terror, then a call for reform – in each case as an end in itself and completely divorced from any consistent agitational political program in the interests of the proletariat.
P.L.P. merely tailed after the spontaneity of the masses. The C.P.U.S.A. (M.-L.) points out that the use of terror in itself or of reform in itself is meaningless. These tactics have meaning only when employed as part of a consistent agitational, politics employing both legal and illegal means of struggle.
P.L.P.’s flip-flop action is similar to the action of the Russian petty bourgeois “economists” and “terrorists.”
V.I. Lenin stated, “The economists and the terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity: the economists bow to the spontaneity of the ’pure and simple’ labor movement while the terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of the intellectuals who are either incapable of linking up the revolutionary struggle with the labor movement or lack the opportunity to do so. It is very difficult indeed for those who have lost their belief or who have never believed that this was possible, to find some outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy than terror.” (V.I. Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE, p 73).
Further, Lenin pointed out that “calls for terror and calls to give the economic struggle itself a political character are merely two different forms of EVADING the most pressing duty that now rests upon Russian revolutionaries (American revolutionaries, too – Ed. namely, to organize an all-sided political agitation.” (Ibid., p, 75).
Four days after the Harlem riots, P.L.P. staged a side-show performance. Bill Epton appeared at a demonstration and was arrested and charged with “unlawful assembly”. Along with him was his attorney, Conrad Lynn, of the Trotskyite S.W.P. The charge was later changed to “criminal, anarchy” when the ruling class saw fit to build up the Progressive Labor Movement as the “new Communist” alternative. The publicity of U.S. imperialism made Bill Epton and P.L. a cause celebre among anti-imperialist forces, much as the ruling class had intended. The imperialists have, picked a sham enemy – the P.L. P. – to confuse the anti-imperialist forces internationally. P.L.P.ís lack of a consistent political program and its tailing of the spontaneity of the masses place it in a position to be used by the imperialists as the Imperialists see fit, since P.L.P. constitutes no threat to the U.S. government.
Concerning the Watts uprising, P.L.P.’s analysis by their “expert” Bill McAdoo came to the conclusion that the “black people in the South Los Angeles ghetto will shut down the factories, stop production and demand eighty percent of the industrial jobs” (CHALLENGE, April 19, 1966). P.L.P. also made a general call to “arrest the nazi Police Chief Parker, Governor Brown and Mayor Yorty and bring then to trial for murder”. (PROGRESSIVE LABOR, October, 1965).
Compare P.L.P.’s opportunist analysis of the Watts uprising to the Marxist-Leninist analysis by the PEOPLE’S VOICE (Los Angeles) and by the PEOPLE’S DAILY (Peking). The PEOPLE’S VOICE stated on August 23rd 1965, “The Los Angeles uprising is a heroic expression of the working class and of its most exploited and oppressed section, the Negro and Mexican American workers who rose together to strike at their immediate enemies – the imperialist state and its instrument, the police.” The PEOPLE’S DAILY stated, “as Chairman Mao Tse-tung pointed out, “In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle.”
P.L.P. is incapable of using class as the basis of its analysis of a working class uprising! P.L.P. is too busy tailing after the nationalists to notice class as a factor. P.L.P.’s petty bourgeois class outlook is revealed in such actions. It is in the interest of the petty bourgeoisie to obscure the class question ” especially when the nationalists are involved!
On the trade union question, P.L.P. similarly takes an opportunist position. It tails the “left” labor bureaucrats. It takes the revisionists’ “lesser evil” theory and applies it in the same manner as does the Gus Hall clique. It sides with Jimmy Hoffa and Harry Bridges in their sham battle with George Meany. The P.L.P. covers up for the fact that all these class traitors are part of U.S. imperialism’s labor front. Further, P.L.P. uses its protestations of support for these “left” labor fronters as an excuse for not conducting any work in organizing rank and file committees in the unions.
The C.P.U.S.A. (M.-L.)’s position is to organize rank and file committees to oppose the labor front. The C.P.U.S.A. (M.-L.) states that on certain occasions it would support “left” labor fronters in order to expose their class collaborationism to the rank and file and to expose them as traitors to the working class, to “support’ them “in the same way as the rope supports the hanged man” (V. I. Lenin, “LEFT” WING COMMUNISM, p. 69)
Regarding the students, P.L.P. has been a party of students ever since its inception. P.L.P. concentrates on the college campuses, not among the proletariat. In the San Francisco area, P.L.P. concentrates upon the University of California at Berkeley; in the New York area, P.L.P. concentrates upon New York University, Columbia University and City College of New York.
The C.P.U.S.A. (M.-L.) is not opposed to students as such, but it is opposed to tailing after the students – as exhibited by the P.L.P. The C.P.U.S.A. (M.-L.) takes the position of winning those interested students to the side of the proletariat and of concretely involving them in the agitation and organizing among the proletariat.
On the question of the building of the proletarian party, P.L.P. has remained silent in the four and one half years of its existence as the P.L.M. and the P.L.P. But judging from P.L.P.’s practice, we observe the following on P.L.P.’s approach: that P.L.P. is organized along bourgeois federated lines NOT along centralized lines; that P.L.P. sees no need for a party organized along Leninist lines; that P.L.P. is not interested in advancing the interests of the proletariat but seeks only to follow the spontaneity of the struggle.
Similarly, P.L.P. has said nothing about the building of the united front against U.S. imperialism. In practice, P.L.P. enters into relations with the nationalists (e.g., the Organization for Afro-American Unity and the Trotskyite Freedom Now Party) and takes the lead from the nationalists.
P.L.P. has similarly maintained regular collaboration with the revisionists and the Trotskyites – specifically with the Socialist Workers Party, Workers World Party and its Youth Against War and Fascism, the Spartacists and the revisionist Gus Hall clique. P.L.P. has during all this time, refused to expose the American revisionists or the Trotskyites. Their open collaboration in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and their collaboration in the Vietnam Day Committee are cases in point.
P.L.P. is a conciliator of revisionism. Its opportunist position is one that allows it to tail at the same time the Nationalists, the labor fronters, the students and the revisionists. P.L.P. uses its claims of support for certain anti-imperialist struggles to cover up for its consistent refusal to expose American revisionism, P.L.P.’s “pro-China”, “pro-Cuba” and “pro-Vietnam” labels are aimed to confuse honest revolutionary forces and to hide P.L.P.’s conciliationist position. P.L.P.’s consistent refusal to expose revisionism, either American or Cuban, is the exact opposite of the position taken by the Communist Party of China: the Chinese comrades have undertaken energetically to expose revisionism of all kinds.
Singly stated, P.L.P. has refused to expose revisionism in order not to expose their own conciliationism. Their own position of indifference to principled struggle reveals their petty bourgeois outlook on the socialist movement.
CHALLENGE, April 19, 1966.