Written and Distributed Privately: June 1970
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Comrades and Friends,
The following statement was written to provide documentation of deviations from Marxism-Leninism in the Progressive Labor Party which demand a thorough investigation and by our estimate, a rebellion by the party cadre and friends. We view this rebellion as a necessary and a good thing. As comrade Mao has said: “There are thousands of truths in Marxism-Leninism, but they can all be summed up with one phrase: It is right to rebel!” If we are to be able to serve the people, then all of us must investigate and rebel against all deviations from M-L which are appearing at an increasing rate in the party and which are partially raised in these statements.
We feel that in the process of investigation and rebellion, active cadre and friends will come to see clearly that the deviations from M-L in the party represent revisionism and that the revisionism is centered in the party leadership.
In this investigation and rebellion, we must rely on the people in a real way. We must involve not only party members but also people around the party. All of us have been both executors and victims of the revisionist leadership’s line. We must rely on the people to help us open our eyes and defeat servility in our ranks!
We must not forget to keep M-L politics in the forefront as we investigate and rebel. We must investigate all deviations which we see and get at the political root of the deviations.
Some of us who are in the party will surely be labeled “factionalist” and the like. This does not worry us because we understand that there is a class basis of factionalism. “Factionalism struggle is a manifestation of class struggle. If the class content of factionalism is taken away, it will be impossible to distinguish between right and wrong and will lead to erasing the distinction between the proletarian revolutionaries and the bourgeois reactionaries.” [Make a Class Analysis of Factionalism. (See references)]
In our judgment, the faction that now has leadership of the Party is a bourgeois faction that is in opposition to developing and carrying out a Marxist-Leninist line.
“Lenin said: ’The class division is, of course, the ultimate basis of the political grouping; in the final analysis, of course, it always determines that grouping.’ In class society, all class struggle is political struggle which is most fully developed in the form of struggle between parties and factions. Political parties and political factions are all instruments of class struggle.” (Make a Class Analysis of Factionalism)
The politics of our faction follows. Let the politics, therefore be judged by whether or not they are proletarian or bourgeois.
Feel free to reproduce and distribute this document. We can’t afford to distribute it to all party members and friends. In fact we would appreciate contributions to cover the costs so far.
Criticisms, questions, and contributions may be sent to the following address: P.O. Box 955 Manhattanvllie Station Harlem, N.Y. 10027
in collective discussion with:
P.S. We understand that the party chairman, in the name of the National Steering Committee, has written and circulated a "reply" to a rough draft which became a part of this document. Their "reply" is entitled "A Report to the Party from the National Steering Committee on Inner Party Struggle." This "reply" contains the "politics" of the leadership of the PLP. If you wish to obtain a copy, contact the PLP. The rough draft of this document which was circulated by the PLP chairman does not represent our collective political outlook, but was merely a conglomeration of various experience put into written form for collective discussion.
* * *
The contradictions within U.S. imperialism are growing sharper everyday. The student movement and the struggles on the campuses are growing and becominG increasingly Fierce. Members of the working class are more and more defying the union leadership and are fighting in their own interest against the bosses and against their “leaders.” The black workers are playing a much bolder and leadership role in many of the sharp working class battles around the country. And U.S. Imperialism, like a frenzied dog, is lining itself against the oppressed peoples of the world. It is becoming more isolated, and therefore, more dangerous. In order for it to continue to carry out its fascist foreign policy it has to whip its own people into line. We are beginning to see less of the carrot and more of the stick.
But the militant struggles of the students and the working class to change their conditions and fight U.S. imperialism is a contradiction that the ruling class has been unable, despite all its attempts, to gloss over. As a result, as the Party has correctly stated, the militant students and the working class are looking for leadership to take them out of these contradictions. They are looking for answers, and yes, they are looking for a communist party. Our job must therefore be to integrate with the working class and its allies, and with them, make the communist party a reality which can lead the struggle to overthrow U.S. imperialism.
These sharpening contradictions have forced U.S. imperialism to whip up racism as the “official” policy, as opposed to their attempts in the past to say “it’s the other guy, not us.” Because of the nature of U.S. Imperialism and the history of this country, a lot of this racism round fertile ground to grow in. They have increased their anti-communism by l) whipping up the jingoism against the Vietnamese people and all peoples fighting for their liberation, and 2) depicting the revisionist, anarchist, and petty-bourgeois elements of the “left” as “communists.” The imperialists are going all out to intensify the splits in the working clas3 by organizing the most right-wing section to work as “storm troopers” against the people. In addition to pushing racism and anti-communism and unleashing the “labor aristocracy” against the people, the ruling class has been pulling out all of the stops to increase male chauvinism. They are doing this by distorting in their press the women’s liberation movement, and by pushing pornography in order to deepen the contradictions between men and women and thus prevent the working clans from uniting. These contradictions have always existed but because of the nature or U.S. Imperialism they have reached new heights. Because the membership of the PLP has been drawn from this society these contradictions exist within each of us and within the party as a whole. The party to a large extent will mirror the society and it is because these contradictions exist in our ranks that we should find ways to combat them and change ourselves, our party and the society. If we don’t change, the working class is in trouble.
The PLP, in its fight against the classic form of revisionism in the U.S., made a tremendous contribution to the world communist movement. Our early work in the Black Liberation Movement and the student movement was very heroic, imaginative and was of a leadership caliber. In both of these fields of work we made many errors, but the errors were in the context of struggle and were a learning experience. Even though we were theoretically conscious that the working class was the key force for revolution in this country our party was, and to a large extent today is, a party of college students and Intellectuals. The thinking of the leadership is governed, to a large decree, by this essentially petty-bourgeois base, and by the petty-bourgeois leadership itself.
We are engaged in one of the most decisive battles that has ever faced the world proletariat. That battle is to overthrow U.S. imperialism. We display proletarian comradeship and love for the working class. This does not mean that we should be governed by bourgeois “feelings,” which would be contrary to the proletarian line. We can only accept and follow leadership based on its unalterable opposition to Imperialism and its love for the working class – nothing else. No “father images,” no bourgeois “respect for past contributions,” if in effect, the present actions are in contradiction to the working class. No slavishness!
Every one of us must closely examine how decisions are made and how we are asked to carry them out. Is it done in a democratic manner? What happens when we raise serious differences with the party leadership? Are the other two members of the Steering Committee independent thinkers or do they accept what the Chairman says because he is the Chairman? Do they make serious ideological contributions to Marxism-Leninism? We must raise these same questions with the other members of the National Committee – and ourselves! Comrades, are we governed by the Dictatorship of the party chairman?
The supreme principle for communists is revolution. Should any party leader betray the revolutionary principle of the proletariat, we must rebel against him and never ’subordinate absolutely and unconditionally.’ Sacrificing the Party’s political principle while engaging in extravagant talk about organizational discipline means betrayal. (Down With Slavishness; Strictly observe Proletarian Revolutionary Discipline)
The leadership has been, and is, unresponsive to criticism and suggestions. Criticisms are taken as being “anti-party,” and those people raising them are called anti-communist. Many of the criticisms that we are raising have been made by many comrades in the past. Obviously, either they were rejected or overlooked.
Discussions with friends and comrades, in and around the party, were held on the basis of our estimate that the leadership of our party is no longer Marxist-Leninist, is betraying the working class, has accepted and spreads bourgeois ideology and sees the working class struggle in the U.S. in the context or its own political “power.”
We feel that we have not broken democratic centralism because in our party today there is “centralism” without “democracy.” That centralism is centered, primarily, in the person of the party chairman. “There can be no correct centralism without democracy. Centralization means the concentration of correct opinions. Only on this basis can there be unified thinking and action. Erroneous centralization runs counter to democratic centralism. Opposition to erroneous centralization absolutely does not mean opposition to democratic centralism. On the contrary, it upholds democratic centralism.” (Down With Slavishness)
We are bound by M-L principles. Those principles tell us that it is right to rebel when the bourgeoisie has seized political power, whether it be on a national scale or in an organization. We are, therefore, not bound by the “laws” and “rules” set down by the bourgeoisie. “If the revisionist line assumes the dominant position in a party, the proletarian revolutionaries should rise up resolutely in rebellion, they should overthrow the revisionist rule or build a new, Marxist-Leninist Party and absolutely should not unite under revisionist leadership.” (Down With Slavishness)
“Democratic centralism” does not only mean that there is centralized leadership based on democracy, but that there is extensive democracy between the leadership and the cadre and that there is a constant flow of ideas, plans, suggestions, methods of work, etc., between the cadre and the leadership. Only with this will a flow between cadre and the people be encouraged.
At our founding convention and at our second convention (the next is not scheduled for three years) we made attempts to turn the party towards the working class and away from the missionary “community work.” We also attempted to turn the students towards the working class around the Worker–Student Alliance (WSA). The results have been, essentially, that the party is still a party of mainly college students and intellectuals. So now the party has adopted get-rich-quick schemes and political gimmicks to solve a basic political problem. That basic problem is, how do we transform a party into a party of the working class? And, how do we bring workers into the party? Since the leadership has taken the position that our students are not “good enough” to enter the working class, or better, only a select few can “make it,” we have to find other ways of coming into contact with workers and recruiting them into the party.
When did the leadership come up with the line that our students aren’t good enough? Some of us now see this idea in embryo in the party chairman’s Build a Base In the Working, Class. Underlying all the righteous talk about the party upping the ante for the members, is the petty-bourgeois notion that each one of us has a fixed potential for integrating ourselves into the working class in order to become communists. If most of us can’t make it at the “front lines,” even with the correct guidance, why try?
This contempt by the leadership for the people shows that they are typical revisionist leaders. They have pushed down on us the bourgeois line of blaming the people. Comrades and friends, “we have been executors of the bourgeois reactionary line and at the same time victims of that line.” (There is No Difference Between Early and Latecomers in Making Revolution)
This contempt by the leadership does not only apply to students but also to “Intellectuals” and “professionals.” If we can summarize the line, it would go something like this: Our line is a Marxist-Leninist political line that says that the working class is the key force for revolution. Without the working class it is impossible to make revolution. The workers are not in our ranks. The best way to get them into our ranks is the long, protracted struggle of sending our cadre into the shops, plants, and factories. Marxism-Leninism tells us that a communist integrated with the masses of the people should make a qualitative change in the lives of the people. Some of our cadre were sent into the shops and by and large their work has not been successful. The conclusion that is drawn is that students and “intellectuals” cannot integrate with the working class because of their petty-bourgeois background and then some “history” of what happened in the old revisionist CP is given as proof that it can’t work! But even more, the cadre whom we are trying to build as Marxist-Leninists are told that they are armed with a working class science and that still they cannot integrate with that same working class that we are trying to win to make the revolution! The leadership line is saying that members can’t change. What contempt for the rank-and-file! What contempt for the masses!
Since we are not good enough (or maybe too good) to enter the working class directly, the best we can do is hold down a job (preferably one not directly connected with the most oppressed sections of the working class) and sell Challenge to the working class. Well, this is a gross distortion of M-L and it is opportunistically using the party’s cadre!
Marxism-Leninism teaches us that our science is truth and the method for finding truth is in our science. Our students and “intellectuals” went into the shops and factories, armed with what they thought to be truth and M-L. When they were not successful they were told that It was their “background,” their “petty-bourgeois hangups,” their “inability to struggle” and on and on. This is bourgeois psychologizing! Since we will all probably agree that the answers to all questions can be found in M-L and that M-L is correct, a “M-L party” that cannot integrate with the working class either is not a M-L party or has an incorrect political line. A party integrating with the working class means that the members of that party must enter and integrate with the working class.
To sum it up – the blame was placed on the cadre and the leadership was not self-critical that maybe they incorrectly interpreted M-L and armed the students and “intellectuals” with something else other than M-L and that is the reason for the cadre not being more successful. Even more damaging is that it created in the party a feeling that “I am not good enough” and hence a great deal of servility. Nowhere in the history of working class struggles and the development of M-L was it ever said that Marxist-Leninists cannot integrate with the working class! In fact Mao said the opposite: “The majority or the vast majority of the students trained in old schools and colleges can integrate themselves with workers, peasants and soldiers, and some have made inventions or innovations; they must, however, be re-educated by the workers, peasants and soldiers under the guidance of the correct line, and thoroughly change their old ideology. Such Intellectuals will be welcomed by the workers, peasants and soldiers.” (On the Re-education of Intellectuals) If our students and “intellectuals” were properly armed with M-L then they would have no choice but to enter into and join the working class – and united with them help to lead that class to revolution and the seizure of state power.
Instead, our cadre have been told, essentially, that since they cannot integrate with the class that they agree will make the revolution, then the next best thing they can do is to sell that class Challenge and glve it leaflets, get their names, get to know them, get them in study groups, and eventually recruit them. And all through this process we are going to tell them to do in their shops what we, as Marxist-Leninists, were not capable of doing! What anti-working class trash! This does not only represent racism as far as those black workers are concerned that we may come into contact with, but it is opportunism towards our cadre and to the working class. Get-rich-quick? Yes! Elitism? Yes! Of the highest order!
But it goes even deeper than that! Since we are motivated by a philosophical world outlook our actions reflect whatever world outlook we have – either idealist or materialist. Everything that we do or say is based on either idealism or materialism. Idealism is bourgeois ideology and materialism is working class ideology. By the party leadership placing almost all of its political work on the sale or Challenge, and by leaflets, it is substituting the written word for class struggle. The written word may add to or supplement the class struggles in the shops, but it can never be a substitute. In fact, nowhere have we ever seen any working class make revolution or make struggle because of what they rend. It is materialism – their day-today experiences and struggles in the shops and factories and their oppression that moves them to struggle and to make revolution, united with and led by a Marxist-Leninist vanguard Party. The concept of winning people primarily through ideas is idealism, and idealism in the working class is being constantly challenged by the class struggle.
If we stand on the corner or in front of a plant gate for longer hours we will sell more Challenges. The workers in the main, we all agree, are looking for ideas to liberate themselves. The Black Panthers stand on 125th Street from river to river and go throughout the streets selling their paper. They claim they sell over 150,000 weekly. The Muslims claim a circulation around 300,000. It proves that they are “good” paper salesmen and that people are looking for some answers. And that is all!
The CPUSA claims they sold one million copies of their paper in 1945 (Sunday issue). What does that prove? It proves they spread a lot of revisionist ideas! And the working class and other sections of the people moved and reacted to these revisionist ideas. Look at the trade union movement. Some sections of it were largely influenced by the revisionist CP. Well, PLP is supposedly spreading revolutionary ideas. How many struggles have workers conducted or participated in mainly because they read Challenge? What evidence is there that Challenge is a guide to action for the working class to organize their shops and communities as base areas to conduct organized struggle against the bosses and overthrow imperialism?
Oh, we’ve heard the stories that light the road to upping the Challenge sales and the turn to the working class that the party’s “new” line represents and how many wonderful letters the party receives, etc. Tell us about how many PL cadre are in the shops where these papers are sold, conducting struggle against the bosses. Don’t tell us that this cadre or that cadre told the workers that they are “communists” and haven’t been involved in organizing those workers to fight the boss. Telling workers we are “communists” does not make us communists. It is our concrete actions against the boss and the corrupt union leadership, and our ability to mobilize and organize the workers to make revolution that makes us communists – not what we say and how many Challenges we sell! What will workers think of avowed communists, if they only see them selling papers, or only talk with them at home but never see them fighting alongside of them?
The concrete manifestations of this line is that we are told, here in N.Y., that as a result or the leadership’s “new line” nearly a hundred black and Latin workers are close to PL, reading and selling Challenge and “some” are ready to enter “study groups.” Just think, all of this in three months! They are being won to the Party through Challenge, but we haven’t heard once what struggles they are conducting. Isn’t that important? Are workers won to a party because they read and agree with Challenge? Or is the primary method of winning workers to a Marxist-Leninist party the class struggle?
Some of us as workers, and all of us as students of M-L, know very clearly that the above approach has nothing to do with M-L, but is pragmatism, opportunism – revisionism!
Above all, Marxists regard man’s activity in production as the most fundamental practical activity, the determinant of all his other activities. Man’s knowledge depends mainly on his activity in material production, through which he comes gradually to understand the phenomena, the properties and the laws of nature, and the relations between himself and nature; and through his activity in production he also gradually comes to understand, in varying degrees, certain relations that exist between man and man. None of this knowledge can be acquired apart from activity in production.”...“In all class societies, the members of the different social classes also enter, in different ways, into definite relations of production and engage in production to meet their needs. This is the primary source from which human knowledge develops.
Marxists hold that man’s social practice alone is the criterion of the truth of this knowledge of the external world. What actually happens is that man’s knowledge is verified only when he achieves the anticipated results in the process of social practice (material production, class struggle or scientific experiment). If a man wants to succeed in his work, that is, to achieve the anticipated results, he must bring his ideas into correspondence with laws of the objective external world; if they do not correspond, he will fail in his practice. (On Practice, Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Vol. 1)
How can we develop the correct strategy to make revolution? We must conduct class struggle at the point of production.
To some of us the concentration of Challenge sales in the garment district (primarily black and Latin workers) by primarily white comrades and students is anti-working class and also smacks or fascism. It is “missionary” work and paternalistic, because many of the comrades have never built a base or serious political struggle anywhere and are still in a petty-bourgeois privileged job, and yet will attempt to win these black, Latin, and white workers. The leadership says that we can recruit black and Latin workers through this method. If we do, we will be winning people in the same bad way as we did when we were doing community “missionary” work. Anyone who has ever seriously investigated the garment district knows there are many jobs that white workers hold – men and women. Then why are white comrades being encouraged to remain in or return to school? There is plenty of room for our cadre to do physical and political work and to transform themselves in struggle.
PL cadre, like cadre of every M-L party that is waging revolutionary struggle against the ruling class, can integrate with the working class; (in some countries it is the peasantry) and live and struggle with it for the rest of their lives. We as cadre, in the main, no matter what our background, can integrate with the working class and transform ourselves if we constantly engage in “struggle-criticism-transformation,” and arm ourselves with the science of the working class – Marxism-Leninism!
We agree that there must be political work conducted among most sectors of society for the proletariat to seize state power. But the working class is primary. If the working class doesn’t move towards M-L, then what’s going on in the other sectors of society means little. As the working class moves toward M-L, then allies within other sectors will come forth and we can work with them. They will work with “their” sector for a while and then they (through struggle-criticism-transformation) must move into the working class.
Racism does not only reflect itself in our style of work on the campuses, in the shops, where we live and work, in our personal lives and in the party, but it also reflects itself in the party’s publications. It is a rare issue of Progressive Labor (magazine) and Challenge that does not have at least one racist article. When these criticisms are made the response is often, “Oh, Milt (or Wally) read every article except that one”...or something like that. Strange, huh? When the latent issue of Progressive Labor was criticised for a racist poem (that was subsequently removed) the response was that the comrade who used to be in charge of putting the Progressive Labor out wasn’t very good politically and is now out of the party, and besides, “He didn’t want to build a base and he admitted it.” Did the leadership always know he was not very good politically? If so, why was he in charge of editing the major organ of a M-L party? Again, let us question the leadership’s role in all of this. We can’t put all of the weight on this comrade, who probably, and correctly s0, as he interpreted it, carried out the party’s line. Progressive Labor is the main “theoretical” organ of the PLP and Challenge is our mass publication directed mainly at the working class. If a racist political line is being pushed through these publications when we are selling a lot of racism to the working class. And to carry this absurdity further, the party chairman has personally selected a student who has maybe a total of six months of work experience to edit Challenge – a “working class” newspaper. Certainly a student, if he transforms himself, can develop to become an editor of a working class newspaper, but this particular student was leading the work on a major campus in N.Y. and systematically isolated PL from the student body. Out of six PL members on that campus four dropped out of the party and PL became the most hated group on the campus and obviously the most sectarian. One can only conclude that for the leadership to elevate this comrade to the editorship of the party’s mass publication, directed to the working class, they thought his work on the campus was good. What else? Maybe the “what else” is that this comrade is loyal to the party chairman and can give the “party line” at the drop of a hat. And this just may be what he did on his campus! The primary criticism is not leveled at this comrade because probably he was doing on the campus what he thought to be the Party’s line and if he is as efficient with Challenge, the working class is in trouble – thanks to the revisionist headquarters that appointed him!
At this point, seven black members of PL in New York have left the party or been expelled in the last few months. Scores of others who were close to the party are now alienated from it. Further, the “Internal bulletin” that discussed Desafio indicated that a series of Latin editors have all (every one!) left the party. The expulsions were covered up by the leadership’s saying that they were never party members! We have not heard of any attempt by the leadership to deal with this disaster except by slander, half-truths and out-and-out lies. For a M-L party In the U.S. this Is a severe body blow that cannot be answered by slander and lies. Many of us who have been around the “left” for awhile will recall that when the PPP (Peoples Progressive Party of Cheddi Jagan in Guiana) split along racial lines (Africans and Indians) we criticised the PPP for allowing this to happen. We did not criticize the Africans and the Indians. It was the fault of the leadership’s incorrect application of what they called “Marxism” that led to this split and set back the struggle of the masses in terms of years. We say that it is the fault of the leadership of PL that allowed, and yes, encouraged the current state of affairs in the party. But like many other developments in the party the leadership has turned truth on its head in order to hide its own political deviations and its racism.
Just recently I gave a report to a section committee making some of these points. The leadership says they have now decided to have a meeting to discuss it. And in fact, cadre are discouraged from doing their own investigation and analysis: “Don’t worry,” we are told, “the leadership is writing something up this week.”
We have heard for many years that PL was racist from our enemies and also from a few friends. We never took these criticisms seriously because we told ourselves we were building a M-L party in the heartland of U.S. imperialism. We should have listened more closely to those criticisms because in building that M-L party we allowed racism/ anti-communism/revisionism to be built into the party’s politics.
Those or us who are making these criticism now, including myself, must also be self-critical because it is our racism, male chauvinism, and elitism that allowed us to overlook the more glaring examples of racism that are now built into the party’s politics. These bad politics follow from the ruling class line of non-struggle which is carried out in the party’s work: Live and let live. As a result, our own fear and selfishness have not been significantly lessened. We have been perpetrators and victims of the revisionist line. Some of us must also be self-critical for having a slavish attitude toward the party and the party leadership. We took the attitude that the party leadership was Marxist-Leninist so how could it be racist? Without examining! In particular, I should be severely criticised for this kind of slavishness that often prevented me from correctly analysing the party line and from fighting more vigorously against all forms of chauvinism in myself, in the leadership, and in the ranks. I should not have covered up my political differences with the leadership when I left the National Committee. My inability to wage this fight can also be linked to elitism on my part, and my “privileged” position in the leadership of the party.
Many times in the course of the development of sharp political struggles, en event takes place that acts as a catalyst for that struggle. In this particular case the catalyst was the formation of the Black Workers Council, Since the PL leadership’s active racism and contempt for people is shown very clearly by its actions around the BWC, a long view of experiences with the BWC follows.
In a number of articles in Progressive Labor and Challenge, over the years, there have been articles referring to the various black workers organizations that have been formed to wage class struggle. In all of these articles it was concluded that this was a legitimate form – not in contradiction to M-L principles – organizationally to wage struggle against the bosses and the corrupt union leaders. Most of these organizations were national in form and working class in content. These organizations came into being because of the special racial oppression that black, Latin and other minority group workers faced in this country on top of their class oppression. They were formed primarily to fight against this dual oppression. The leadership in PL always claimed to see this as a valid organizational form for struggle and said it would encourage it. It was always said that this is what the party would try to build.
When the PLP arrived at the point where we had enough black members who had a working class outlook and sufficient black workers around us, the National Committee (NC) decided it was time to try to build some form of black workers organization. One of the primary considerations that we kept in mind was that we were trying to build a black workers organization that would be a rank-and-file movement and hopefully turn out to be a center-led organization. We also stated that since we were charting a “new” course we would only try to build it in N.Y. where we would iron out all of the wrinkles, try to solve whatever contradictions were to arise, and to generally experiment with it before we made any attempts to try it anywhere else.
Our first experience was that we started the organization in an incorrect manner. Not only did we learn this from our experience but the discussion held by the NC on building center organizations was helpful. We started this small organization with six PL’ers in it, which in essence made it a PL “front.” We made all the decisions, carried out all of the work, and generally dominated the “budding” organization. It was not a rank-and-file organization, and most assuredly, not “center.” The other people in the organization, in addition to the PL’ers, were people who were, at the time, relatively close to the party.
Fortunately, during the developing stages of the BWC we had many discussions and struggles with those workers around us and with party comrades about the BWC. This turned out to be a very important lesson for us because at about the same time the party sent out the report about SDS (it being not a center organization but a PL “front”), our friends in the BWC began to see the contradictions between what we were saying we were going to build, and what it was in fact. The initial move was made by the party.
Four comrades were asked to leave the BWC and do other party work so the BWC would not be “top-heavy” with PL’ers. That was a good decision and generally understood by everyone. But two of the comrades who left did it in what has become to be known as PL’s “customary sectarian fashion.” One was in a leadership position on the Social and Finance Committee and left without meeting with the committee and explaining the decision and the other was acting co-chairman of the organization and left the same way–just never showed up any more! When the decision as to why they should leave the organization was explained to a few people it was understood, but there was total disagreement with the method of leaving. A number of attempts were made by the organization’s steering committee to meet with the comrade who was acting co-chairman, but this meeting was never held.
At the same time that these developments were taking place in the BWC there was a struggle going on in some of the clubs in New York around the party’s reorganization plan, and some criticisms were beginning to be made about the racism in the party’s leadership. The other two comrades, construction workers who had left the BWC, objected to being put in a “garment concentration club” and these comrades raised political objections to the transfer and questioned if this was the way to build bases in the working class. The transfer meant that they would spend their time following up garment center contacts from Challenge sellers. One of the comrades was told to either accept the party’s decision or leave! This comrade left the party, as did the other construction worker. They wanted to do political work and were still loyal to PL so after a short absence they both returned to the BWC. When these comrades returned to the BWC it became common knowledge what had happened to them. This was heaped on to the earlier experience with the other two comrades and it left some of the members of the BWC uneasy about what they thought was PL’s manipulation of the BWC. As a result of these two experiences some of the members of the BWC saw the need to build the BWC and make it a truly ”center” organization so they could rid themselves of the “manipulations.”
So what happened, in effect, was that the BWC began to make a new start, but this time with only two PL’ers in the BWC, and the leadership of the BWC in the hands of people who were close to PL and others who were not familiar with PL. In the course of these developments people from various industries came around the BWC, worked with it, led or participated in struggles on their jobs, and some said it was because of what they experienced in the BWC. In the course of these struggles and in the course of the development of the BWC questions were being raised like, “What are we trying to build?” “How” and “Are we to be a “leadership type organization” or a “mass organization?” It was said by center workers that the name was too narrow because it seemed that we were excluding other workers, etc. The point is that we were beginning to learn through our contacts and experiences and daily working with workers more close to the center, in this form of organization, what some sections of the working class are thinking. The questions and discussions are coming from a broader base than we experienced before. That is a good thing!
While these debates and struggles were going on in the BWC the party leadership began a systematic campaign to slander the organization, spreading half-truths and lies about some of the members in it and trying to destroy it. The “reasoning,” as we were told, was that the party could recruit black workers directly to it and did not need an “intermediate” organization. There were other hints that it was “nationalist”, a center for “anti-party” activity, in “competition” with the party to win black workers, and other such slander. If anything, it was probably one of the best forms for bringing black workers into struggle and hopefully on the basis of these struggles, into the party.
No political investigation or political analysis of the BWC was carried out by the leadership with the two comrades working in the BWC. Instead, the leadership attacked the BWC by spreading slander among white comrades in the party. The party leadership sent out its emissaries to try to win the non-PL’ers who knew about the party away from the BWC. One friend in the BWC was approached by two party people in leadership positions and told that the best thing for the BWC would be to have it dissolved. She was approached a week later by a former student and questioned in detail about the BWC, and according to her, she was resentful of both or these discussions and saw them as an attempt to wreck the BWC. Another friend in the BWC was questioned in detail about the BWC by someone else in the leadership, who concluded that the friend was “too politically advanced” for the BWC and should be selling Challenges!
A student comrade in a leadership position told one of the construction workers in BWC that the “real” reason that he, the worker, left the party was that he was “loyal” to Bill Epton, and since Bill wanted to build the BWC, the worker quit the party to help Bill do that.
Another friend in the BWC who had been asking to join the party for nearly a year had met with the leadership of the section she was to work with, made a perspective, and carried it out to the letter. She attempted to creatively develop M-L in her work and win people to M-L, to the party, and to struggle. She also was the brunt of the party’s sectarianism. Her primary “deviation” was that all during this period she constantly raised criticisms of what she thought to be bad politics on the party’s part and attempted to struggle around these questions. Part of the attempt to “whip her into line” was to reorganize her into a “new” study group, that never discussed the science of M-L. At this point this friend decided that she was not going to join the party. The lie spread about her was that she wanted to build the BWC and not the party so that is why she is not now in the party.
Another friend, a female welfare worker in the BWC, was accused of winning another female BWC member to leave a party study group. What an accusation! Actually the BWC member who left the party reading group had realized on her own that the reading groups was not teaching M-L. And the welfare worker was not disloyal to the party; she was at that very time running for union office on a “PL” slate! Once more we see the party leadership’s competitive attitude toward the BWC and their attempt to avoid dealing with criticism, in this case, a criticism about, the absence of M-L study in many study groups.
Further! The leadership is spreading the lies that all of these black comrades have left the party or are being expelled because “they weren’t any good anyhow,” “they weren’t building; a base,” “they are unstable,” “they are anti-party” (of course, because they express a criticism or disagree with something), “we should not have recruited them in the first place,” “they are cops,” and on and on. Well, this ducks the fundamental political question as to how, in the only political formation on the “left” in this country, that had any black members – and workers at that – it came to pass that they are leaving and being expelled. We don’t recall any comrade being expelled from the party for racism or for male chauvinism or for sectarianism!
Some of these black comrades came from backgrounds similar to those of almost the entire party. Some left because they felt that it was impossible to struggle against the racism in the party since the leadership was not willing to hear it. Some left because of political differences. Others were expelled because they were wives of black members who left the party. (Obviously, the worst combination of male chauvinism, racism, non-struggle attitude and “guilt-by-association.”)
Accompanying the expulsion or the leaving of the party by a black or Latin comrade was a “dossier ” (sometimes in the way of rumors and sometimes as party “documents”) about all of their weaknesses and “deviations” that some of the comrades discussed in their clubs, thinking that is where it would remain while they are struggling to overcome them. Some of the comrades who left and some who were expelled had made serious mistakes and had weaknesses. Some were struggled with a little, some not at all, some strongly. But within the context of these weaknesses they did attempt to carry out M-L as they knew it and understood it. Is that a friend or an enemy? Obviously the party leadership saw these comrades as political enemies or else they would not have systematically circulated these slanderous stories about them. The purpose of spreading the slander was to cloud the political reasons for their leaving.
The evident logic behind this thinking is that the leadership cannot explain its racism and does not want to deal with it, and wants to continually hide it. The leadership is devoid of self-criticism, it covers itself by putting all of the blame on these black comrades and paints a picture of them being the worse bastards that ever walked on the face of this earth. This is in itself a racist response by the leadership to its own racism. It also helps to build racism in the party. When the leadership has sunk so deeply in the muck and mire of racism/revisionism, then it becomes like a “wild bull in the china shop.” The wholesale expulsions and driving away of friends from the party here in N.Y. (black and white) by the chairman personally attest to this fact.
It is plain that the depth and breadth of racism in the party did not spontaneously arise in the ranks of the party. Racism has been a conscious policy handed down by the “centralized” leadership of the party and has therefore infected the ranks. None of these events that are mentioned in this document could have taken place here in N.Y. without the consent and knowledge of the steering committee. In fact, we accuse the steering committee of deliberately and systematically carrying out this racist campaign against the black, Latin, and other minority comrades and workers around the party.
We can only conclude that the assaults on the BWC by the party leadership were the result or fear by the leadership of the development of this black workers organization independent of the party’s leadership. Doesn’t this bring to mind how we, in the party, along with the leadership, have gone on a binge in attacking every black organization that has come into being in the last few years? The logic of this thinking, and it must drift down to the membership, is that if PL does not lead and control it then it must not be right.
Male chauvinism, just like racism, is ruling class ideology in the ranks of the working class. Since half of the population in this country is women, and they represent a large section of the working class, then conceivably, the struggle to wipe out male chauvinism should be equal, at least, to the struggle to wipe out racism!
To advance this theory even further, male chauvinism probably was used as a weapon to divide the working class long before bourgeois ideology dreamed up the idea of dividing the working class along racial lines. If not, these two developments occurred very close to each other. The roots of male chauvinism are so deep in our society, and therefore in our party, that many times it is not even considered a political question – if any question at all. Although we have stopped joking about racism, it is still good manners in and around the party to make jokes about male chauvinism. Male chauvinism is accepted, condoned and participated in by the entire party leadership and the rank-and-file, men and women. Therefore it is encouraged in those sections of the working class that we are in touch with, through Challenge and through our personal contacts.
Although our party recognized the counter-revolutionary nature of male chauvinism early in its history, and took a few somewhat mechanical steps (like male dishwashing) to fight it, the party leadership has never organized a consistent fight against male chauvinism, just like they have never organized a consistent campaign to wipe out racism in our ranks. If we did one we would have to do the other! And even better, both together!
In a recent article in Challenge that was out and out male chauvinist (Feb., 1970, p. 12, Talking with Women) the party chairman said that he saw nothing wrong with the article. If that kind of article was written about black people we are quite sure that everyone in the party would have picked up (That speaks to how blatantly male chauvinist the article was!) The fact that so many PLP comrades are women does not mean male chauvinism in the party has been defeated; it means large numbers of militant women are looking toward Marxism-Leninism as the only solution to oppression.
The party leadership made an error in the past in its attempt to deal with the problem of male chauvinism (again mechanically) by adding three women to the National Committee a few years ago. This proved disastrous because all three of them left the N.C. and the party. We chose them because they were women and not because of their politics – which again is male chauvinism. So what we did was to “elevate” to leadership those women who shared our chauvinist ideas and who would, therefore, be servile on the issue.
There is no question that the inability of the leadership, and those that were in leadership, to involve their wives in party affairs and in M-L politics, speaks to the depths of chauvinism in our party. This then becomes what we show the party, the cadre and those workers and students that we bring close to the party. That is what we teach them and that is what they will carry out as the political line!
The inner-party struggle against male chauvinism is widely recognized as inadequate and superficial, and the party’s line on male chauvinism under imperialism is totally inadequate. Rank and file demand to rectify this situation was correctly taken through the national student collective to the steering committee, where the discussion was stopped without any report to the membership. Further rank and file discussion at this point was attacked as factionalizing. When the party’s convention resolutions, which state that party women should meet every six months and that there should be a standing committee on the special oppression of women, were brought to the attention of the leadership, the leadership replied that these positions had changed, but did not answer as to when and how.
Rather than engaging in self-criticism about male chauvinism and how it impedes the party’s work, the leadership has attacked the bourgeois attitudes of women comrades and driven several of them from the party. These comrades must be struggled with, not driven away! To cover male chauvinism with such attacks is to strengthen it.
In the early days of the black liberation movement, the ruling class quickly seized the initiative and attempted to divert every form of struggle toward cultural nationalism. As class struggle sharpens, women also recognize their special oppression and fight against it. Although working class women have a history of tremendous militancy, the ruling class is focusing its attention and publicity on the petty bourgeois women’s movement, hoping to prevent it from turning to working class politics. Marxist-Leninists must work in this movement, which is in fact coming into contact with large numbers of working class women through free health clinics, day care centers, etc., and win its members toward a working class political perspective through struggle, just as we have participated in the student movement.
One comrade was directed to defend to her base a woman comrade in leadership who publicly upheld prostitution – this in the name of democratic centralism! Centralism which permits the leadership to stop debate which has gone through proper channels, which changes lines without explanation, and which demands upholding anti-Marxist-Leninist ideas, is not democratic centralism, it is “erroneous centralization.”
Male chauvinism, like racism, is a disease in the party which must be rooted out. Our National Committee will not truly represent the working class by adding a few specially groomed women and black comrades, without proving in practice its dedication to wiping out racism and male chauvinism. Fear of meetings among women or black people, on the assumption that they cannot develop a working class perspective is elitism! It is chauvinism! All forms of chauvinism are reactionary!
The leadership has proven itself in practice to be afraid of any organization which they cannot directly control, including any all-black or all-female group. Their attitude is that only they can develop the correct line and only they can learn from errors. What effect would this attitude have but to encourage racism, elitism, and extended to a world-wide scale, national chauvinism! And it has been extended to a world-wide scale.
What has happened is that PL has set itself up as the world’s leading Marxist-Leninist party on all questions. Those parties around the world, and those liberation movements that happen not to conform with PL’s “line” are labeled as “revisionist,” “dupes,” not “serious revolutionaries” and on and on. If this is the attitude we take concerning all the internal movements in the U.S. then it follows that we should have a similar outlook about movements and parties outside of the U.S.
Marxist-Leninist parties abroad used to take PLP very seriously! They looked to us for guidance and class unity. A M-L party in the U.S. has a tremendous responsibility to the international movement, most of which is far deeper in struggle than we are! When World Revolution ceased publication, we were told that so little M-L literature was written which we could publish as is, that there could not be a quarterly publication devoted to it. This arrogance toward other M-L parties is seen as the worst kind of nationalism: U.S. chauvinism. To tell the U.S. working class that no other working class is engaged in M-L struggle, that they are all being sold out, is to reinforce the bourgeois ideology that people are no good, and will always sell-out or be sold out. Lengthy editorial attacks on Sihanouk, as the main enemy, at a time when China devotes the opposite attention to him, do not strengthen the fighting spirit of U.S. workers. The primary aspect of the struggle in Indo-China is the unity or the Indo-Chinese people to defeat U.S. imperialism. We must fight arrogance and build the united strength of workers and peasants everywhere against U.S. Imperialism!
The question will arise, “Are these deviations primary or secondary?” “Is the primary aspect the party’s work of building bases among the working class and are these only slight deviations?” That “once we recruit more workers to the party they will help to straighten things out.”
We conclude that these questions are primary. The party and the working class have no choice but to wage a fierce battle against this erroneous line, “bombard the bourgeois headquarters” and reestablish a Marxist-Leninist party, a Marxist-Leninist leadership and a Marxist-Leninist line. The struggle is against class enemies.
Others may conclude that these questions are secondary. Then the political questions would be of such magnitude that at any moment they will turn the party around and it will turn into its opposite. When the party and the working class would have no choice but to wage a fierce battle against these deviations immediately, to engage in never-ending “struggle-criticism-transformation” struggles, ta deepen and enrich the Marxist-Leninist line, and to build the revolution. The struggle would be against deviations by class friends.
And finally, if we are able to recruit workers and these deviations are primary then we will only increase the party’s isolation from the masses and further entrench racism, male chauvinism, national chauvinism, sectarianism and opportunism in the working class. (And if these deviations were secondary, it would be most probably that the recruiting would be on a very bad basis.) Yes, workers will be attracted to M-L and try to find a party that will help them to learn and use it. But if workers are recruited based on this anti-Marxist line then they will not be in a good position to struggle against that line.
Since it is our assessment that the top party leadership is revisionist, we expect to see these reactionaries use both the carrot and the stick to maintain “power” as all reactionaries do. In N.Y., the stick has been used frequently in the past year – expelling from the party, “asking” members to leave the party, isolating (through slander and other methods) party and base people who express disagreements with the line or who criticize the leadership. The use of the stick has, of course, produced several small rebellions. In an attempt to prevent further rebellions the leadership has shown, in practice, its willingness to expose, even in print, any and all personal weaknesses (which we all have!) of “dissidents.”
Just as all groups on the “left” must come out against racism, so the steering committee does – for pragmatic reasons. But when black, Latin, and other oppressed minority comrades and friends lead the way in struggling against the racism in the party, the steering committee feels threatened and attacks. The steering committee is not trying to defend M-L. The steering committee is trying to protect its own “power” and position. They can’t stand to hear criticism! The most oppressed, who struggle hardest against deviations in the party, are attacked the hardest by the steering committee (SC). The SC has also carried out attacks against female comrades and friends who have raised criticisms, who have struggled against male chauvinism in the party. And less severe attacks have been carried out against white male comrades and friends who have raised criticisms. There are recent signs that the steering committee now plans to extend the attacks even to servile comrades and friends in an attempt to cover up the obvious racist and male chauvinist aspects of the earlier attacks. Such is the course of revisionists!
There are now signs that the reactionaries are also going to use the carrot. The revisionist leadership, which all along has refused to deal with all kinds of chauvinism in the party, can be expected to put on a pretense of struggling against chauvinism for the most pragmatic reasons.
Marxism-Leninism is a living science that has the answers to all of the questions that we are confronted with. If we creatively use that science then we will be in a position to solve these questions and move with the working class to revolution. And we must never forget for a moment that our primary function as revolutionaries is to make proletarian revolution and therefore play our role in history of helping to liberate mankind from exploitation. In order for this to happen we must engage in wide open free debate using our independent and collective wisdom, free from slavishness and personal loyalties – for as Marxist-Leninists we have only one loyalty and that is to the fundamental truths of M-L, the international proletariat, and the American working class and its allies.
Everything must flow from the basic theoretical foundation that we lay down. The problems that have arisen in the party cannot be resolved by shifting the cadre around like checkers, and through constant reorganization without examining what that basic theoretical foundation is that we are working from and why most comrades have not built a base wherever they have worked. That’s a political and ideological question and not an organizational one. And until we re-examine the “Marxist-Leninist” principles that we have set down for ourselves and examine all questions from that framework we will continue to be playing at revolution and be irrelevant to the working class.
The criterion for party membership here in New York now is personal loyalty to the party chairman and not to the working class or to M-L. Our Chinese comrades call this “slavishness.” And Mao says more to the point: “Communists must always go into the whys and wherefores of anything, use their own heads and carefully think over whether or not it corresponds to reality and is really well founded; on no account should they follow blindly and encourage slavishness.” (Down with Slavishness) Comrades, we are governed by the dictatorship of the party chairman. Bombard the revisionist headquarters!
We are not about to declare ourselves the leaders of a new M-L party, and then go out to find the workers to follow us. That would be repeating the errors made in founding PL. Nor do we intend to declare ourselves a standing anti-PL committee and engage in endless debates with the PL leadership. The PL leaders are only a few of the many ruling class servants, and the exposure of them is only one of the many class battles we must fight against the bourgeoisie and the state. We see it as primary right now that we proletarianize ourselves and win workers to M-L through struggle at the point of production. To begin this process we intend to try to integrate ourselves into the working class at the point or production, learn from them, and struggle with them. Out of these struggles, and the ongoing class struggle all over the country, organizations and eventually a party will be created which will lead the working class to overthrow the ruling class and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.
We urge those comrades and friends who do not agree with our estimate to investigate these problems thoroughly and demand political replies from the leadership.
We would suggest the following forms for struggle around the document:
1) Form committees in your area of work with party and non-party people to discuss the document. Submit criticisms of the paper to us. Discuss how sectarianism, opportunism, racism, male chauvinism, national chauvinism, anti-working class elitism, and slavishness are hindering your work. Evaluate the party’s work with respect to these errors and submit criticisms to the party club.
2) Raise discussion of the document in clubs, study groups, and sellers’ collectives, and evaluate your work in this light. How have revisionist deviations affected the work of the party as a whole? Has the leadership been correcting or perpetrating this bourgeois ideology?
3) Form committees to develop a program for joining the working class at the point of production and proletarianizing ourselves.
4) Demand that the leadership solicit and publish opinions on these issues and general evaluations of PLP from other M-L parties around the world.
5) Carry the fight against all forms of chauvinism into the day-to-day struggles against the ruling class.
One may question that “many people are engaged in struggle,” “it may disrupt our work,” “while the ruling class is on the attack we are having debates” and so forth and so on. Our answer to this is that if our work is incorrect because the political line that we are operating from is incorrect then we are essentially irrelevant to the working class and to discuss these issues – no matter how long it takes – to seek and begin to get some clarification as to the task that is ahead of us is far more important and in the long run (short run also) indispensable if we are to make revolution.
DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN!
CREATIVELY DEVELOP MARXISM-LENINISM!
DOWN WITH SLAVISHNESS! BOMBARD THE HEADQUARTERS!
Mao Tse-tung, “Bombard the Headquarters,” Hongqi Commentator, “Completely Smash the Bourgeois Headquarters,” and Renmin Ribao Commentator, “Bombard the Bourgeois Headquarters”–all in Peking Review, August 11, 1967..
Lin Chieh, “Down with Slavishness; Strictly Observe Proletarian Revolutionary Discipline.” Peking Review, June 30, 1967.
Honqi Commentator, “Make a Class Analysis or Factionalism,” Peking Review, May 10, 1968..
Mao Tse-tung, “On the Re-education of Intellectuals” (pamphlet), Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1968..
Mao Tse-tung, quoted in editorial of Wenhui Bao, “There is no Difference Between Early and Latecomers in Making Revolution,” in a pamphlet entitled “On the Revolutionary ’Three-in-one’ Combination”, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1968..