Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Hammer & Steel on Anti-Revisionist Struggles in the US Since 1956

First Published: Hammer & Steel Newsletter, No. 1, January 1965.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In our last issue we greeted the organization of the New England Party of Labor. One of its first actions has been a leaflet condemning U.S. imperialist aggression in the Congo. We are sure this Party will overcome all obstacles, uphold Marxism-Leninism, and contribute to the development of a nation-wide Marxist-Leninist Vanguard Party. We would like to sum up some experiences in the struggle for a Marxist-Leninist policy and Vanguard Party in the United States. This will help explain why a regional Marxist-Leninist Party comes into existence.

The 16th Convention of the CPUSA was held in 1956. The Browderites took advantage of the confusion in the international Marxist-Leninist movement caused by Khrushchev’s slander of Stalin. The 16th Convention endorsed counter revolution in Hungary. It repudiated the teachings of Lenin, Stalin and Mao on all major questions. It capitulated on the nature of U.S. capitalism and became a champion of bourgeois democracy and peaceful transition. It threw all revolutionary experience and theory on the Afro-American question out the window. It endorsed the labor lieutenants of U.S. imperialism. To top it off, the revisionists designated left-sectarianism as the in danger.

William Z. Foster led the opposition to the revisionists. Despite opposition and sabotage by many hidden Browderites in the leadership, he had led the Party against U.S. imperialism in the Korean War. His prestige was high. But Foster’s leadership was not effective in cleansing the CPUSA of revisionism because:

1. He had made compromises after World War II with revisionism on peaceful transition and on the Democratic Party as a lesser evil.
2. He mistakenly regarded the expulsion of Browder as the end of Browderiam.
3. He did not grasp the full counter-revolutionary implications of Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin.
4. Foster tended to regard the struggle to uphold Marxist-Leninist ideology as the sole task of the titular leaders; the theoretical capacity of the membership was downgraded. Foster placed formal organizational unity over genuine Marxist-Leninist unity based on principle.

Thus we had the contradiction of the leading theoretician in the CPUSA putting ideology in second place. Those struggling against revisionism had no choice, since Foster had this attitude, but to remain in the Communist Party and try to correct its line. Not to have done so would have split the many rank and file forces that supported Foster, who then offered the best base for a Marxist-Leninist Party.

The forces following Roman left the C.P., or allowed themselves to be expelled, shortly after the 16th Convention. The isolation (via the left exit) from the struggle against revisionism by POC leaders weakened those fighting revisionism and strengthened the Browderites.

The period between the l6th and 17th Conventions (late 1956 thru late ’59) was characterised by the spread of revisionism both programmatically and organizationally. Traditionally, struggle for a Marxist-Leninist line in the U.S. had merged with respect for the CPSU leadership. Those fighting against certain aspects of revisionism were confused and weakened by Khrushchev’s policies.

In this period several of those now on the editorial board of HAMMER & STEEL were disoriented by Khrushchev. We failed to utilize our Marxist-Leninist experience in order to understand what Khrushchev was doing. We incorrectly accepted ideological handouts without real study. We did not do enough of our own thinking on “peaceful co-existence” and on the full implications of the slanders against Stalin.

Thus we were unable to fight revisionism with full effectiveness at the 17th Convention. The revisionists around Gus Hall cleverly paid lip service to certain aspects of Marxism-Leninism–they confused the issues with long, vague, contradictory resolutions and described as disruptive efforts to take a Marxist-Leninist position on Hungary, against labor opportunism, on the Afro-American Question as a national question.

At the first National Committee meeting after the 17th Convention a National Executive Committee was elected. It was a Browderite faction.

The CPUSA leaders’ policy was oriented to reforming U.S. imperialism via the electoral path. The organization naturally conformed to the ideology. The CPUSA degenerated into a Party concerned with electing representatives of imperialism to office, with encouraging capitulation to U.S. imperialism. The Communist Party of China was slandered and Khrushchev was praised to the skies.

The chief resistance to the CPUSA national leaders after the 17th Convention was in New England. The majority of the District Committee and of the District Board refused to surrender to revisionism. This majority had read the Chinese editorials in LONG LIVE LENINISM. They understood that their partial struggles were interconnected with efforts to uphold Marxism-Leninism and defeat modern revisionism throughout the world. After a conference in New York between Dennis and Khrushchev the CPUSA national leadership sent Bart, Organizational Secretary, Lumer, Educational Secretary, Flynn, Chairman, and Aptheker, intellectual hatchet man to take over the Party organization in New England. Bart, Lumer and Elsie Piper–FBI agent who recently testified for the government in McCarran Act hearings–worked closely together. The national leadership had refused to establish a control commission, would not allow one in N.E. They protected the FBI agents in the Party. Despite all this, the efforts to oust the N.E. leadership failed for several months. Finally in December, 1960 the revisionists gained control of the Party organization in New England.

Revisionists claim that upholding Marxist-Leninist ideology means isolation from the masses. Yet it would be hard to find a more isolated and discredited group than the New England revisionists.

The New England Party of Labor, a product of the struggle against revisionism, has ties with the people, can listen to, influence and lead the people. The N.E. experience is: when a break in substance, in ideology, is made with revisionism, when Marxist-Leninist respect for criticism and self-criticism is developed, then correct relations with the people can be established.

POC has emphasized their early formal break with the CPUSA and claim this gives them immunity to revisionism. Their leadership has claimed, since their composition has been mainly Afro-American and Puerto Rican, that they automatically have a Marxist-Leninist line on Latin America and on Afro-American liberation. However, when the Afro-American people defended themselves last summer, when it was correct to win support from white workers and Puerto Ricans for Afro-American defense against the armed agents of U.S. imperialism, what happened to POC? They condemned those who supported Afro-American defense. Gus Hall picked this up word for word and used it to push his concept of peaceful transition. The organizational break between POC and the CPUSA leaders means nothing in itself–their ideology under stress is the same. POC and the CPUSA peacefully co-exist in New York City.

Progressive Labor started out with a statement that they wanted no fratricidal war with the Trotskyites and the CPUSA. In the October 29th edition of Challenge we read a signed statement by M. Rosen, PL leader, using the phrase “Stalin’s cultist mantle.” In the same editorial, discussing Khrushchev’s ouster, he asks, “What is the nature of an institution whose leaders cannot practice criticism and self-criticism alter 40 years of Socialism?” Rosen almost condemned the revisionists, but decided half way thru the editorial to join their attack on the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Rosen and the Trotskyites jointly organised a number of youth to travel to Cuba. Rosen publicly seeks to identify himself with the international Marxist-Leninist movement and the national liberation struggles. In practice, Rosen unites with the U.S. Trotskyites who peddle state department trash on Hungary, on Stalin, in support of Tito.

Progressive Labor has gone into Eastern Kentucky. Monroe, N.C. and into Harlem without ideological preparation and been repudiated by the people. PL has made an organisational break, has set up a Party form of organisation, has copied bureaucratic methods from the CPUSA leaders, but no ideological break has been made with revisionism.

Some conclusions are:

1. That U.S. imperialism needs revisionism, produces and cultivates it. We must have contempt for U.S. imperialism strategically, respect and guard against it tactically. This means that constant struggle must be waged to guard the purity of Marxism-Leninism in the U.S. and to apply the truths of Marxism-Leninism to U.S. conditions.
2. The concept of U.S. imperialism as the main enemy should, mean an end to illusions concerning bourgeois legality in our country. We should consider the price paid for the publication of the WORKER which the revisionists and the State Department are citing as proof of “democracy” in the U.S. Every editor of the WORKER for the past 25 years has been either an FBI man or a revisionist scabbing for the FBI. Depending on time, conditions and place, there is a role for public spokesmen in a Marxist-Leninist Party. But to consider “open” work as the main tactic is to compromise Marxism-Leninism to the interests of U.S. imperialism. For many years Milt Rosen has been insisting that U.S. Marxist-Leninists identify themselves especially in the trade unions. Rosen has no time for developing Marxist-Leninist policy in the trade unions, his time is spent urging people to identify themselves as Marxist-Leninists without a policy.
3. Some people feel that a Marxist-Leninist Party in the U.S. will come into existence by subjugating important ideological differences between those, who for one reason or another, are out of the CPUSA. These people also tend to stress numbers in the present stage rather than ideology. Such people have failed to study the steps that led the CPUSA leaders to serve Johnson and U.S. imperialism. Among these steps were great stress on numbers and little regard for ideology.
4. U.S. Marxist-Leninists can only fulfill their obligation to our working class if we familiarise ourselves with the teachings of those in the front lines of the battle for Marxist-Leninist truths, with the writings of those routing revisionism in their nations and the world.

It is necessary to study the works of the Chinese and Albanian comrades. It is necessary to learn from the Latin American, African, Indonesian, Japanese, New Zealand and Australian comrades, to mention only a few. ANTITHESIS on the West Coast, AD HOC COMMITTEE FCR A MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY in the Midwest and HAMMER & STEEL in the East are stressing such study and urging it on all those seriously interested in building a Marxist-Leninist Party.
5. PL & POC may take a positive position on one or another question; they may champion certain necessary reforms, but their aversion to self-criticism, their dislike for theoretical discussion, their contempt for theory, guarantees that they cannot develop a Marxist-Leninist Party in a thousand years. By exposing revisionist and adventurist errors in PL we hasten the development of a Marxist-Leninist Party. We trust there are forces in both PL & POC who will contribute to developing the struggle for a real Marxist-Leninist Vanguard Party by insisting on discussion and changes in their organisations.
6. In 196l, many battles were fought and won over U.S. imperialism and revisionism by national liberation forces, by the Socialist Camp, by the class struggles in capitalist nations. In the U.S. many important struggles have been carried out by Afro-Americans and the unskilled and semi-skilled in the labor movement. These battles have been waged without a Marxist-Leninist Party in the U.S. What a great future for the Afro-American liberation movement, for the U.S. working class and its allies when our struggles are united with a revolutionary goal–for the defeat of U.S. imperialism–for the dictatorship of the working class–for a Socialist United States.