First Published: The Worker, Vol 11, No 7, April 26, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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This is a continuation of the critique of the U.S. Progressive Labor Party’s Road to Revolution III
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Some years before the publication of Road to Revolution III (RTR III) PLP had already begun to deviate from the Marxist-Leninist line on national liberation. This occurred in the first place around war in Vietnam. As the Marxist Leninist Party in the country of the imperialist aggressor, PLP had a special responsibility to expose U.S. aggression in Vietnam. Instead of this PLP devoted most of the space in its publications to attacks on the Vietnamese for their alleged deviations.
These virulent attacks on the Vietnamese victims of aggression became an obsession with PLP, and PLP “forgot” its primary duty to expose U.S. imperialism. In the second place, at a time of high tide in the Black struggle PLP equated white racism with the nationalism of the oppressed minority and condemned them both – but not equally. Once again PLP devoted the majority of its time denouncing Black nationalism and almost as an afterthought denounced white racism with much less virulence.
Naturally, given these deviations in its practice, PLP could not help but condemn all who adhere to the Bolshevik line on national liberation. RTR III claims that Lenin made unnecessary concessions to nationalism:
What difference does it make to workers and peasants that their oppressors call themselves capitalists or “communists” if a national ’liberation’ movement can achieve liberation only for local bosses?
Another problem with Lenin’s strategy is that it presupposes an impotent, deaf-dumb-blind and stupid national bourgeoisie (and a perpetually sleeping imperialism.
To abstain from national liberation struggles only confirms the national bourgeois leadership of these wars and puts the communists in objective alliance with imperialism (which is what happened to the French CP in Algeria.) PL’s line of attacking national liberation leads to social-patriotism and conforms most closely to the wishes of the imperialist bosses. The truth, as Cuba, Algeria, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau convincingly prove today, is that national liberation does provide a dramatic and sharp improvement in the lives of the workers and peasants and if communists want to go further toward socialism they have to have been involved in the struggle for national liberation. This is scientific socialism that deals with the real world. Only utopian socialists, like PLP, pretend to see no difference in the workers’ standard of living between Batista’s Cuba or Castro’s Cuba, Portuguese Angola or the Angola of the MPLA, French Algeria or independent Algeria. Yet, that is the exact meaning of the PLP statement that it makes no difference “to workers and peasants that their oppressors call themselves capitalists or ’communists’.” Only communists who support the national liberation struggle 100 per cent will have footing among the people to go on to fight for socialism.
It is the PLP anarchists who are “impotent, deaf-dumb-blind and stupid,” not Lenin. Even with their limited outlook the national bourgeoisie can see what PLP cannot. The national bourgeoisie knows it has to make concessions to the working class in order to unite with them in common struggle against imperialism. Important reforms are conceded to the workers in the course of struggle. This does not negate the inevitable class struggle between the national bourgeoisie and the workers.
Indeed the working class must be in the forefront of the democratic struggle, the stuggle against national oppression. Whatever the stance of the national bourgeoisie, the working class must wage the fight and, if they win the leadership and make a socialist revolution in the process that is all to the good. There is no mechanical “stage” that must be gone through. The democratic fight can only be finally victorious when the working class has achieved socialism.
But, of course, this is the last thing the anarchists want. And PLP reserves its greatest wrath for Lenin for this “collaboration” with “Bosses” in a “false united front strategy.” – More on this in our next column.