First Published: In Struggle! No. 250, May 12, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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To begin with, why an international conference? The proposal responded to the need to develop a collective political debate in the international communist movement. The Appeal issued by our third congress declared that such a debate would be necessary to intensify the struggle for international unity. Unity around a communist programme will move ahead the quickest if collective frameworks are set up that permit communists to learn about and criticize the views of others and thereby draw out the political bases for uniting communists. One or several international conferences could, in our opinion, be a very good way to move in that direction, although it is not the only framework within which debate can take place.
When we first put out the proposal in August 1979, we sent it to some 60 parties and organizations, most of which belonged to the trend which had demarcated itself from Soviet, Chinese and Eurocommunist variants of revisionism. Since that time, we have come to know many other organizations that have fought against revisionism in their own country. The positions held by these other groups are not always 100% in agreement with the lines that have been traditionally dominant in the international communist movement. Their experiences and their approach to the present crisis in the international crisis in a number of cases to be quite worthwhile indeed. Thus, the responses to our proposal whcih we detail below are mainly the responses of the first group of clearly demarcated anti-revisionists.
A dozen organizations expressed support for the proposal. They are: “Gegen die Stromung” and “Westberliner Kommunist” in Germany; the Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria, MLPO; the PCR (L’Exploite) in Belgium; Movimiento d’Accion Popular Unida/Partido de Trabajadores (MAPU-PT) and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile in Chile, the Communist Party of Cyprus (M-L), the OCML En Avant Proletaires in France, the Peykar Organization in Iran, the Movimiento d’Accion Popular (MAP) in Nicaragua, the ECH-CHOOLA group in Tunisia and the Communist Party of Turkey (M-L).
In addition other organizations said they agreed with our analysis of the crisis situation in the international communist movement and support our efforts to organize a collective debate. These include Unidade Communista in Portugal, the Communist Party of Greece (M-L) and the Bandera Roja Party in Venezuela. However, they judge that our specific proposal might lead to the creation of another pole in the international communist movement and perhaps to more confusion in a situation which is already fairly critical. That is why they would prefer to see multilateral meetings held at first. Finally there were a few organizations which said they found the proposal to be a worthwhile one but who also insisted that participants in any such event would have to meet all sorts of preconditions to be admitted.
It should also be said that some of the 60 organizations we appealed to simply refused to answer. Most notable among this group were the Party of Labour of Albania and a good number of those organizations whose politital positions are very close to the PLA’s views.
As for the organizations which are presently trying to establish themselves in opposition to the grouping led by the PLA, their response was to label the proposal as centrist (i.e. as an attempt to unite two opposing trends). At the same time, they tried to find common ground between it and their own effort at uniting those who want to see a resolute defence of Mao Tsetung Thought. In January 1980, in response to a request by the RCP of Chile and the RCP of the U.S.A. we took part in a three-party meeting aimed at combining the two proposals for an international conference (one by IS! and the other by the RCP-USA). We oppose the RCP-USA proposal because we disagee very strongly with the approach the two RCP’s have to the struggle to unite communists.
In the spring of 1980, we suggested a meeting of the 5 organizations (including ourselves) supporting the proposal to work out a way to conduct a more collective defence of the idea in the movement. The meeting resulted in the “Appeal for an international conference of Marxist-Leninists” signed by 4 of the 5 in September, 1980.
The new call supported the idea of a thorough and widespread debate in the international communist movement without the setting of a series of preconditions to participating in the debate such as the condemning or praising of the Chinese revolution and the teachings of Mao Tsetung. This attitude is a good one and we continue to support it.
However, the organizations which signed the appeal did not share the same understandings on how to struggle for the unity of the movement. And many had difficulties in terms of lack of resources holding them back at times too. These limitations eventually prevented the carrying out of a more collective defence of the proposal.