Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Carl Davidson

Which Side Are You On? [Critique of the CL’s International Line]

First Published: The Guardian, June 26, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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What is at stake in the criticism currently being directed at the political line of the Communist League (CL), particularly as it is manifested in the “International Report” in the May issue of CL’s newspaper, People’s Tribune?

In essence it is a battle between genuine and sham Marxism, a struggle between two lines on imperialism, proletarian revolution and national liberation that has occupied the attention of communists for at least 50 years.

It remains so today, both on a world scale and within the U.S. communist movement, particularly as it draws closer to the achievement of its principal task: the building of a new Marxist-Leninist party.

In the party-building struggle, the differences between Marxism-Leninism and various types of right and “left” opportunism often first appear as “nit-picking” over certain theoretical nuances, over different approaches to practice and the implementation of line, or even over important disagreements on one or another key question of policy.

All of the disputes are important, especially at the earlier stages of the movement. For there is no other way for the correct line to develop except in struggle against the erroneous line and in the testing of the two through the past and present summation of revolutionary practice.


In the process, some differences are resolved and some errors are corrected. Other errors, however, flower more fully, become transformed into poisonous weeds and finally drop their cover and attempt an all-out assault on the general line of the international communist movement.

This is exactly what the Communist League is doing today.

Since the October revolution in Russia all communists would agree that the present era is that of the decline of imperialism and the eve of proletarian revolution. But what are its essential features? Here there are two completely different answers to this question. Marxism-Leninism states the following:

“An essential feature of imperialism,” said Lenin, “is the rivalry between several Great Powers in the striving for hegemony.” He added that ”’world domination’ is, to put it briefly the substance of imperialist policy.”

“This striving for hegemony and the carving out of “spheres of influence” for the export of capital and the barbarous plunder of superprofits soon creates its own antithesis. Wherever there is oppression there is resistance and the struggle of the dependent countries and the oppressed nations and peoples, which previously were the reserves of imperialism, now become the allies of the proletarian revolution. The revolutionary significance of this development was also stressed by Lenin:

“What is the most important, the fundamental idea of our theses?” he asked the Comintern’s Second Congress. “The distinction between the oppressed nations and the oppressing nations. We emphasize this distinction—in contrast to the Second International and bourgeois democracy.

“The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonies and backward countries,” he also noted, “but must not merge with it, and must unfailingly preserve the independence of the proletarian movement. ...”

Stalin also insisted on this distinction. In fact, in 1924 when the proletarian state power extended over one-sixth of the globe, he sharply stated: “The world is divided into two camps: the camp of a handful of civilized nations, which possess finance capital and exploit the vast majority of the population of the globe; and the camp of the oppressed and exploited peoples in the colonies and dependent countries, which constitute that majority. . . . The victory of the working class in the developed countries and the liberation of the oppressed peoples from the yoke of imperialism are impossible without the formulation and consolidation of a common revolutionary front. ...”


Today this legacy of Lenin and Stalin is being continued and applied to present conditions by the Chinese Communist party. Writing in the Nov. 30, 1973 Peking Review, Wu Chun states:

“The struggle against the power politics and hegemonism of the superpowers has become the common demand of the people of all countries. All countries and peoples who are subjected to aggression, subversion, control, interference and bullying by the superpowers are forming a broad united front. ... To fulfill its historic task of eliminating all exploitation and oppression and realizing communism throughout the world, the proletariat must rely on the correctness of its political line and the unity and struggle of the proletariat and the oppressed peoples and nations of the world. The class nature of the proletariat determines that it will never seek hegemony and at the same time resolutely oppose any country lording it over others.”

This is a brief summary of the Marxist-Leninist general line in relation to the international situation. It is diametrically opposed to the line of the Communist League.

The CL also sees the world divided into two camps. There is the “socialist camp,” made up of China, Albania, North Vietnam and North Korea. And then there is the “imperialist camp,” made up of all the remaining countries, including those of the third world.


Lenin used the term “several Great Powers” to describe one camp in the world while Stalin used the term “colonial and dependent countries” to describe the other. Yet CL rails against China’s use of the term “two superpowers” as shielding the class character of imperialism and rejects China’s use of the term “third world” as a revisionist maneuver.

Does China mean something else by these terms than those used by Lenin and Stalin or is it saying, as CL incorrectly charges, that this is a “new era” other than that of the decline of imperialism and the eve of proletarian revolution? Certainly not. As Teng Hsiao-ping said in his recent UN speech:

“What is a superpower? A superpower is an imperialist country which everywhere subjects other countries to its aggression, interference, control, subversion or plunder and strives for world hegemony.” And what is the third world? “The developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions make up the third world.”

So who is shielding the character of imperialism and who is engaging in a revisionist maneuver? It would be a mistake to view CL’s “International Report” simply as the expression of “fraternal differences” with the Communist party of China. What is actually under attack is the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism, a replacement of Lenin’s “Imperialism” with Kautskyism and Stalin’s “Foundations of Leninism” with Trotskyism. CL in fact liquidates the national question on a world scale and tries to drive a wedge between the international proletariat and the struggles for independence and national liberation in the third world, as will be shown in the next installment of this column.