Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

1 Step Forward 2 Steps Back

First Published: Class War, No. 3, Fall 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Under the pressure of the world-wide general crisis, most of what has been calling itself the “Marxist-Leninist” movement in this country has collapsed.

We realise that many, if not most, of the adherents of the various M-L groupings will protect vehemently against the above statement. According to their publications, they are part of the “main tread in the world”, and isn’t that enough? Whatever the leadership of these groupings tells their members and supporters, the truth is that every one of these tendencies has exhibited its complete political bankruptcy in the face of the most important questions facing the working class.

Every one of the self-described Marxist-Leninist or Maoist tendencies, with the exception of Class War, has either remained silent, “neutral”, or openly hostile in relation to the launching and building of the National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organisation (NUWRO), as well as the completely principled and unprecedented Operation Mop-Up carried out by the National Caucus of Labor Committees against the scab and social-fascist “Communist Party U.S.A.”. Both of these events have already had international implications, which will become clearer and clearer, making it less and less possible for either a silent or “neutral” stand to be taken.

Not a single one of these would-be Marxist-Leninists displays the slightest notion of the strategy and tactics of slave-labor and the recycling of workers and unemployed in an ever-downward plunging spiral, which, combined by the CLA and KGB “labor experts” with the insidious “workers’ control” and “community control” constitutes the essence of Fascism and counter-revolution in this period. By ignoring, or even attacking NUWRO, they likewise display their ignorance of the only means to defeat the fascist and social-fascist drives–creating and building up the New Organs of Struggle, uniting the now-divided sectors of the workingclass, organising directly the struggle for power. The mystical adulation most “Marxist-Leninists” bear for either Trade Unionism or its junior partner Rank-and-Filism paralyses them in terms of the leap that must be made, that must be actively and consciously introduced by revolutionaries, in the consciousness and activity of the advanced workers.

For all their talk of “building a multi-national communist party”, they have all averted their gaze, with few exceptions, from the “dreadful spectacle” of the revisionist police dogs of the CPUSA getting smashed by the Labor Committees. Although they do not hide under the protective blanket of ’workers’ Democracy’ and ’free speech in the movement’ like the Sparticists, most of the Marxist-Leninists have looked upon Operation Mop-Up with a guilty apprehension, aware that some of they own petty scabbery is as deserving of political and physical punishment as the larger-scale treachery of the CPUSA.

Although they have nothing but spite for each other, the would-be party-builders of the Communist League, the ACWM (M-L), the Revolutionary Union and October League share a common instinctive fear and dislike of NUWRO. This is not only because NUWRO, with whatever admitted weaknesses deriving from the NCLC’s Luxemburgism, is more advanced than their various attempts as “mass organisation” and united fronts. It is also because, to deal with NUWRO seriously, the party-builders would have to confront their own shallow, philistine, and even anti-intellectual viewpoints, many of which do not even bear a superficial similarity with Marxism.

In the pages of the Guardian, Palante, The People’s Tribune, and the Call alike, there is little room for practical theory or theoretically-guided practice. For the “orthodox” M-L groups and “orthodox” trotskyite groups alike, it is “business as usual”, a little quantitative increase or decrease here or there, a recital of catch-words, no grasp of dialectics, of the totality of things, of the potentially active role of consciousness, of what must be done. The reaction of these pathetic rags is to become, for the most part, more and more anti-intellectual, vulgar, and boring, this, in the face of the most severe general crisis in the development of capitalism, the most revolutionary period in history.

The collapse of the Marxist-Leninist movement has given rise to two general trends, the one softening up, becoming more compromising and right-opportunist, the other “hardening” up, not to prepare to expand and organize, but more in retreat, towards a purely sect-like existence, a would-be revolutionary cocoon, promising but never giving forth, its contents already dying before birth.

The former trend is the Fosterite centrist amalgam typified by the Guardian, the Revolutionary Union, October League, Black Workers’ Congress, and Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers’ Org. This is populated by droppings from SDS, Black and Latin nationalists posing as “socialists”, and flotsam and jetsam from the shattered CPUSA, including the “original” Fosterites from the “Ad Hoc Committee for a M-L Party” in Chicago. This first general trend is the largest in numbers and the most inter-connected by numerous ideological and financial threads with the petty-bourgeoisie, such as it is now, at the beginning of the second world depression. This trend is likely, in part or in whole, to enter into an open alliance with the CPUSA, despite its sometimes vociferous “anti-revisionism”, and has already proved this in numerous instances, notably in the current wave of relative growth of “rank-and-file caucuses” and “left” union bureaucrats, and the Fosterites’ uncritical adaptation, alongside their Browderite and trotskyite rivals, to this tendency, including its worse aspects.

This centrist tendency around the Guardian also, significantly, the “scene” that at present has the greatest access to travel in and contact with the People’s Republic of China, including meetings with high-ranking officials mentioned in Peking Review and close relations with the petty-bourgeois China Friendship Associations, riddled with McGovernites. Their opportunist appetites have been fed by the recent errors of the Chinese leadership, by the detente-ism implicit in the policies adopted at the recent Tenth national Congress of the Communist Party of China, which none of these tendencies has yet openly discussed.

The second general tread is most clearly represented by the “regroupments” developing around the Communist League, primarily, but also including, to a lesser but noisier extent, around the American Communist Workers’ Movement (M-L). Both of these groups, the Communist League with much greater success, carried out “North American Marxist-Leninist Unity Conferences” this year. The ACWM(M-L) now calls itself the “Central Organisation of U.S. Marxist-Leninists”, whereas the Communist League maintains a unity committee with several groups–both of them will eventually declare themselves to be the new Communist Party in this country, which will in no way relieve the stifling political atmosphere in these groups which invariably drives the best elements out of then, often towards the Spartacists, who have already received unto their covenant many similar repented “Stalinist” sinners from decomposing Progressive Labor.

Initially, the Communist League and the ACWM(M-L) intended to collaborate with each other, but the ACWM(M-L) idiots demanded to turn the Chicago conference into one of their “mass democracies” drawing in every possible person,, making it quite impossible, as the Communist League correctly pointed out, to carry out the tasks implied in the name of the conference itself, not a general “mass conference”, but a meeting of organized groups to discuss important political questions and tasks.

Class War did not participate in either of the “unity” conferences which is partially due to a deliberate policy on the part of both the C.L. and ACWM(M-L) to not inform us concerning the time, place, transportation, etc. of these conferences. This policy became, we believe, deliberate, following our intervention in a preliminary meeting, held February 4th in New York City, co-sponsored by both the C.L. and ACWM(M-L), where Class War demanded an open discussion of the political differences between, to begin with, the Communist League and the ACWM(M-L), as opposed to the ritual chanting and all unity–no struggle atmosphere in the meeting, we were subsequently denounced by both the CL and ACWM(M-L) as “splittists”, although their own subsequent split proves our demand for discussion of differences, for principled polemics, to have been entirely correct.

The Communist League, which is a much more serious group than the ACWM(M-L), is certainly to the left of the Fosterite centrists. The CL has made contributions on the National-Colonial Question and has produced a press which is relatively on a higher level than the rags produced by the R.O., O.L., and ACWM(M-L).

However, like the centrists, they remain largely paralysed in the face of the present-day general crisis, particularly as it has developed over the last crucial six months. A prime example of this paralysis is the C.L.’s reaction to Watergate. Although they admit, in People’s Tribune May 1973, that this is “the biggest governmental crisis in the history of the U.S.N.A.”, in the end of the article, they declare that we must make two “demands”–the first, build a new communist party, and the second,–hold new elections! They say:

“We must demand that the arch-criminal, Nixon, not simply be replaced by the equally-arch-criminal, Agnew; but that the whole government resign and new elections be held to determine who should run the country.”

How is this different in some way from the CPUSA’s pathetic “impeachment petitions” or the S.W.P.’s suing of the government? Is this not a capitulation to the “populism” which is rampant among the petty-bourgeoisie and the most backward sectors of the workingclass, a populism which, overtly or covertly, serves the direct interests of the capitalist class, divides the workers against themselves, and prepares a base for outright-fascist and “radical” populist movements? Taking their places, alongside the revisionist auxiliary-police of the CPUSA, as the “true defenders” of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the C.L. despite its constant rhetorical quotations from Lenin and Stalin, has only the most popular of all the present populist “demands” to offer in relation to Watergate––hold new elections!”

Class War, in the “Report on the Election Boycott”, in issue no. 1 had already exposed the miserable vacillations of the Fosterite centrists on the question of the elections. Ranging from outright support for McGovarn to a pathetic silence, the centrists showed their true colors as the left-flank of the revisionists and the twin-partner of the various trotskyite groupings. Now, we are witness to the spectacle of the Communist League, the most “hardline” of all the M-L groups with a nation-wide structure, responding in the same manner as the Fosterites on this question.

Both of these trends contain large numbers of revolutionary workers, unemployed, students, etc. who have been attracted to too revolutionary movement in this period of general crisis, and, in many cases, have simply joined the first tendency or group which they came into contact with. There is also a minority of older persons, many of than ex-CP’ers, in both of these trends who carry with them both much valuable experience as well as a lot of useless baggage. Class War will continue to polemicize with both of these trends, the centrists and the sectarians, with the understanding that the step forward they have taken, away from the CPUSA-dominated “Old Left”, has been followed by two steps backward–their failure to criticize the right-turn of the Chinese leadership, and their hostility towards NUWRO.

We sincerely hope that the serious revolutionaries in the ranks of both the centrist and sectarian groupings will aggressively challenge the dead-end policies, and if no other course is possible, break from these groupings, and join us in the building of the revolutionary movement around the world.