Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Guardian Editorial


First Published: The Guardian, July 5, 1969
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The expulsion of the Progressive Labor party from SDS is a political development of extraordinary consequence. We support the expulsion because PL’s line and practice on the Vietnam war and the national question is incorrect.

At this point, as SDS is seeking to develop revolutionary politics for the years ahead, the continued toleration of PL could have had only a negative influence.

But to deplore PL and to laud the ouster does not suggest all is now well with the nation’s largest radical organization. While we basically agree with SDS’s development into a revolutionary youth movement and the growth of Marxist-Leninist politics in the organization, the present shape of SDS politics leaves a lot to be desired.

One of SDS’s most glaring deficiencies is the growing gulf between its leadership and membership, a circumstance which – if not repaired immediately – will create a danger that even if a theoretically correct revolutionary communist ideology is developed on the national level, there may be no membership left to put it into practice. At present, formulation of policy and major political debates are in the hands of small groups which hand down the line at national meetings.

Internal democracy must be understood to be a top priority. Now that the obstructionist PL tendency has been eliminated, there is no longer any excuse for ivory-tower decision making, if there ever was one.

Another evident shortcoming in SDS is an intoxication with sectarianism, dogmatism, obscure rhetoric and empty sloganeering which tends to permeate the upper reaches of its leadership. Such practice can only further isolate the leadership from a membership which has never enjoyed a serious, national educational program designed to eliminate gaps in political consciousness that exist on the chapter level.

Again related to the problem of leadership, we deplore the resurrection by some of “comrade Stalin” as a positive figure in communist history, leading to such distortions of past experience as that propagated by an SDS grouping which recently published a paper declaring that the Soviet people had “full democratic rights” during the Stalin era. Stalin is worthy of serious consideration by U.S. radicals insofar as we learn from his mistakes, as well as the mistakes of the Bolshevik party which enabled him to usurp the power of the collective.

Also, we question tendencies leading to the are application-by-rote of important and intricate concepts such as the dictatorship of the proletariat and vanguard party, without regard for the present nature of U.S. monopoly capitalism or to adjustments which would have to be made in these formulations to be applicable to the world’s most industrially advanced nation.

PL played a positive as well as negative role in SDS. PL helped SDS deal seriously with the working class as an agency for revolution, even if by the default of making mistakes which spurred SDS to develop a better perspective.

It would be regrettable if the role of the industrial proletariat were deemphasized now that PL’s influence is no longer a factor. Now that PL is gone, we can expect important political differences to become apparent among those who had been struggling against PL. This in itself is not bad if the resulting internal ideological struggle is conducted in a mass, not elitist, manner, and if the contradictions remain nonantagonistic and are handled in that fashion.

The new left as it has been known during this decade disappeared during the Chicago SDS convention. It is being replaced by Marxism-Leninism. It is not unusual that so important a turn in the road is accompanied by confusion and some bad practice. The impending struggle in SDS and the struggle between SDS and the ruling class could set the tone for revolutionary politics in the U.S. for the decade of the 1970s. This is too serious a matter to be left to a relatively few leaders and their associates. All of SDS must participate in the new revolutionary politics.