Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Carl Davidson

Which Side Are You On? [Critique of the CL’s International Line, Part 2]

First Published: The Guardian, July 10, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Is the Communist League practicing Marxism-Leninism or Trotskyism in its approach to the struggle of the third world countries and nations for independence and liberation?

CL’s “International Report” in the May issue of People’s Tribune shows that it is taking the latter path on this question by liquidating, under a “left” cover, the anti-imperialist united front.

A fundamental aspect of Marxism-Leninism is its theory of the two-stage revolution in the colonized countries. In the first stage, or the national-democratic revolution, the task of proletarian revolutionaries is to unite all patriotic classes and strata in a national united front led by the working class. Its aim is to carry out the agrarian revolution against feudalism and the national revolution against imperialism and its comprador lackeys through the strategy of protracted people’s war.

The fundamental alliance in the national united front is between the workers and peasants. But it also includes the urban petty bourgeoisie and a section of the national bourgeoisie which is itself in opposition to imperialism and feudalism.


As the revolutionary forces move to consolidate their victory in the first stage by assuming power throughout the country, the revolution immediately and uninterruptedly passes over to the second stage, or proletarian socialist revolution. The main question then is whether the country will take the socialist road or the capitalist road and the main antagonism on the domestic front is between the working class and the bourgeoisie.

All this has been elementary to Marxist-Leninists for at least 50 years. What is more, it has been borne out in practice of the Chinese, Albanian, Korean and Vietnamese revolutions and is still bearing fruit throughout the third world today.

The line has been under attack for just as long. The revisionists hit from the right, liquidating the prospect of consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat in the second stage by denying the necessity of the working class to fight for the leading role in the first stage. The Trotskyists hit from the “left,” denying the necessity of the first stage altogether. Instead they insist on a pure “socialist” revolution with its main target being an undifferentiated national bourgeoisie from the very beginning. In this way they sabotage the national united front, isolate the proletariat and prevent it from ever reaching the second stage.

This latter path is the one put forward, both implicitly and explicitly, in CL’s “International Report.”


CL makes no mention at all of the two stages of the national liberation struggle in its entire report. Nor does it mention any progressive aspect to the roles of the bourgeoisies of the third world countries, instead painting a one-sided picture of them as “butchers.” What CL does run down is the following:

“Today,” it says, “even in the most backward areas of Oceania capitalist production and exchange are now deeply rooted and consequently the colonial question is transformed into the national-colonial question with the proletarian revolution and the next step on the historical agenda. ...”

Then CL blasts “the pursuance of an incorrect line on the part of some revolutionaries” which “supports the reactionary block of compromising bourgeoisie in the colonies and semi-colonies.” CL is not being above board here. Who are “some revolutionaries” whose line, according to CL, is helping “the ability of the imperialists to secure their hegemony”? Surely it can’t be the Soviet social-imperialists, since they can hardly be termed revolutionary in any sense. Nor can it be any tendency within the U.S. left, since CL has never been bashful about naming names in this regard. The real target, of course, is the Chinese Communist party.

CL shows this by stating “the truth [is] that the only way for the bourgeoisie of the dependent countries to escape from the dependence upon Soviet imperialism and to preserve themselves is to rely on USNA imperialism and vice versa.”

This is basically the same line being pushed by the two superpowers themselves throughout the world today, although in different words, and it is no more an absolute truth because they utter it than because CL mimics it. In fact it runs counter to the developing historical trend of the third world countries, including the socialist countries, to strengthen their unity in fighting superpower hegemonism.

But CL says, “There is another path, the only real path, the path of carrying the revolution on to its conclusion, on to emancipation. This can only be accomplished by the overthrow of all imperialism and all capital, including the national capital.”

But this is to substitute final aims for immediate tasks and actually do away with both. It’s CLs way of saying, “If you can’t swallow revisionism, maybe you’ll swallow Trotskyism.”


CL tries to back up its line with a quote from Stalin on the necessity for the proletariat to contest the bourgeoisie for leadership of the national movement. But the quote actually refutes the main thrust of CL’s position by starting out stating that “the national bourgeoisie has split into a revolutionary party and a compromising party” and that “fire must be concentrated on the compromising” sector so as to “break this bloc” with imperialism.

In other words Stalin, like Mao Tsetung, set down a policy of making distinctions among the capitalists of the colonies, a policy of both “alliance with” and “struggle against.”

CL, on the other hand, under the guise of opposing an “all alliance, no struggle” rightist line, actually advocates a “leftist” line of “all struggle, no alliance.” Stalin blasted this position in his own report on the “International Situation” in 1927:

“Only people who do not understand and will not admit that there is a difference between revolution in the oppressed countries and revolution in the oppressor countries can talk like this, only people who are forsaking Leninism and joining the followers of the Second International can talk like this.” This will be shown to apply to CL in more detail in the next installment of this column.