Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Carl Davidson

Which Side Are You On? [Critique of the CL’s International Line, Part 3]

First Published: The Guardian, July 24, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Who makes history? Particularly in view of the important changes that have swept the world in the last decade, is it the masses of the world’s peoples or a handful of imperialist chieftains?

There are two entirely different answers to this question being posed for the revolutionary movement in the U.S.

One is the position of Marxism-Leninism. It asserts that revolution is the main trend in the world today and that revolution is made by the masses themselves. Their activity is being expressed in the rising tide of national and class struggles which aim their spearhead against the hegemonistic aims and class rule of the two superpowers.

The other is the position of the Communist League. It is “left” in form and rightist in essence and has recently been exposed by the CL itself in its “International Report” published in the May issue of People’s Tribune.


It is a line rampant with pessimism disguised as “sober materialism.” It characterizes the present period as marked by one victory after another for U.S imperialism. To back up this claim, CL presents the biggest advances in national and class struggles, most importantly the rise of the third world and the cultural revolution in China, as events that have strengthened the hand of the U.S. ruling class.

“Far from entering into its immediate doom,” says CL, “USNA imperialism was expanding its hegemony and tightening its grip on the dependent areas of the world. . . . We must be careful to see that while USNA imperialism is consolidating its position, it is also moving into a crisis. This crisis is the result of the real solid victory of USNA imperialism.”

The only connection this statement has with the real world is the obvious fact that the U.S. imperialists are faced with a general crisis. As for everything else, the exact opposite is true. Beginning with the Korean war and most decisively since the Indochina war, the U.S. bourgeoisie has in fact had its hegemony contracted and its grip loosened over the colonized and dependent countries. The present crisis, where monopoly capital is attempting to bail itself out by shifting the entire burden onto the backs of the working and oppressed peoples at home, is the result of some real solid defeats rather than CL’s fanciful “victories.”

The only thing CL’s “analysis” proves is that once Marxism is abandoned, it is possibly to string together any assortment of contradictory nonsense and label it “dialectics.”


To what factor does CL attribute U.S. imperialism’s ability to make these “real solid victories?” The answer given is as baldfaced as it is wrong:

“Today everyone must admit,” says the International Report, “that the situation between the USSR and China, which is growing daily more dangerous, made it possible for the USNA imperialists to consolidate. And consolidate they have.”

But what is the essence of “the situation between the USSR and China?” Is it not, in fact, the product of a tremendous victory against the efforts of the Soviet social-imperialists, in league with their Chinese counterparts, to both restore capitalism in China and to snuff out the struggle against imperialism everywhere?

To be sure, the Soviet revisionists will never be totally resigned to defeat and will constantly make trouble wherever they can until their doom. But any anti-imperialists who think that the “Sino-Soviet split” has helped U.S. imperialism should ask themselves these questions:

Would the theory and practice of people’s war be as widespread as it is in the world today if China had not taken its stand? Would the line of “peaceful transition” and “the constitutional path” to socialism have more or less currency? Or which view would have more influence in the third world, the Brezhnev line of “limited sovereignty” or the line upholding national independence and liberation? Finally, which would be more prevalent as the avowed strategic aim of proletarian revolutionaries, the dictatorship of the proletariat or “the state of the whole people” in one disguise or another?


The questions answer themselves and the issues involved boil down to this: Is imperialism weakened or strengthened by the struggle against opportunism? Lenin set down the only revolutionary answer some 50 years ago. “The struggle against imperialism,” he said, “is a sham and humbug unless it is combined with the struggle against opportunism.”

In this context it is easy to see that the main thing “consolidated” by the “Sino-Soviet split” is the sham Marxism and humbug leadership of the Communist League.

The few experiences Marxist-Leninists have had with CL in mass work have indicated this. At the time demonstrations were being planned around the Mideast crisis, for instance, the question was raised as to whether or not agitational propaganda should be aimed at winning U.S. workers to support or to oppose the Arab oil boycott. In the New York City March 2nd Coalition CL stood alone in opposition to the boycott, concretely taking the stand of the ruling class in the people’s movement and trying to drive a wedge between the joint struggle of the American and Arab peoples.

Now things are even more clear. Genuine Marxist-Leninists throughout the country are repudiating CL’s social-imperialism. Its so-called ”Continuations Committee” is in a shambles and the continuing struggle against its erroneous line is having the effect of clarifying and strengthening the correct line, the key link in building a new communist party.