Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Union

Red Papers 4


Truth develops through its struggle against falsehood. This is how Marxism develops. Marxism develops in the struggle against bourgeois and petit bourgeois ideology, and it is only through struggle that it can develop.

This statement by Mao Tse-tung concerning how truth develops is in itself a truth of profound significance. For instance, in today’s U.S. revolutionary movement, this struggle between Marxism and bourgeois ideology is going on and in fact is greatly intensifying. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the U.S. revolutionary movement – whether or not it can link up with and lead the American people to liberation – depends on the correct resolution of this struggle.

Basically, this ideological struggle comes down to the central question of the class nature of revolution in capitalist society. More specifically, it revolves around the question of which class in capitalist society is the most thoroughly revolutionary class, and why it is this class and no other which can, will, and must lead all exploited and oppressed people to victory over their enemies.

Marxists, of course, have maintained for over 125 years that this class is the working class, and especially the industrial working class. Furthermore, Marxists point to reality, to the concrete world, as proof of their assertion. In the era of monopoly capitalism, the only successful mass revolutions have been led by the working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party, and the most powerful revolutionary movements today are under working class leadership.

This fact is so overwhelming and irrefutable that few revolutionaries anywhere in the world dare to challenge it openly, and these few are rapidly wearing out their welcome. But while few dare to challenge this truth overtly, there are many revolutionaries who in fact do challenge it. In the U.S. revolutionary movement, for example, there are many groups which claim to recognize the leading, revolutionary role of the proletariat and to “represent” its revolutionary interests. The important thing to determine, however, is whether such claims are reflected in these groups’ political ideas and practice. It is easy to say you represent the working class, understand why it must lead, etc. The question is: in reality do you? The proof is in the pudding.

The ideological struggle between truth and falsehood, between Marxists and pseudo-Marxists – those who cloak their fundamental opposition to Marxism and the interests of the working class in the finery of Marxist rhetoric – has been a powerful, ever-present’ factor in the four-year history and development of the Revolutionary Union. As we have tried to develop our organization by linking Marxist-Leninist theory with the practical day-to-day struggles of the people, we have increasingly recognized the need to carry out consistent, systematic struggle within our own ranks against various kinds of wrong ideas and activities. For the most part, this internal ideological struggle has been carried out through criticism and self-criticism, based on the spirit of seeking a higher level of unity through comradely struggle.

From time to time, however, a small number of RU members have refused to correct erroneous ideas and activities even after they were thoroughly criticized and rejected by the organization, and instead raised their errors to the level of a full-blown opportunist line. By opportunism we don’t mean just the dishonest practice of shifting one’s position to suit the occasion, and seeking short-term and narrow interest at the cost of sacrificing basic principles and long-term and general interests. We mean specifically, as stated above, the practice of cloaking in Marxist rhetoric ideas and policies that are fundamentally opposed to Marxism and the interests of the working class.

Opportunism in the Marxist movement generally takes two forms: right and “left” opportunism. Right opportunism is the attempt to cut the revolutionary heart out of proletarian ideology, to deny the need for the armed overthrow of the reactionaries and the establishment of the armed rule of the working class, the dictatorship of the proletariat – all the while, of course, insisting that you stand with Marxism and the workers’ movement. Right opportunism, or revisionism, tries, in the name of Marxism, to reconcile the interests of the working class with the interests of the bourgeoisie.

“Left” opportunism itself takes several forms – dogmatism, sectarianism, anarchism, and adventurism. But in any of its forms, “left” opportunism puts forward ideas, slogans, programs, and actions that isolate the revolutionary forces from the masses. “Left” opportunists pose as “super-revolutionaries,” but they never join in a consistent way in the struggles of the oppressed masses themselves and help the masses to learn, through their own experience, the need for revolution.

In the RU’s earliest period, we had to struggle against right opportunists in our ranks who argued that we should discard the history of the Communist movement, and pay little attention to the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, which sum up the historical lessons of this movement. They wanted to “start all over,” to create a “new revolutionary theory” which, they said, would be better suited to the “unique” conditions of the U.S. In fact, their “theories” were not new at all. They were the same old revisionist ideas that have plagued the revolutionary movement from the beginning.

Theirs was just another version of the theory of “American exceptionalism,” developed most thoroughly by Earl Browder, revisionist leader of the U.S. Communist Party during the late 1930’s and the years of WW II. Before he was ousted in 1945, Browder became the forerunner of the modern revisionism of the Communist Party today, developing the line that, because of the “prosperity” of the U.S., and with the temporary strengthening of U.S. imperialism through WW II, there would be a prolonged period of “class peace” in America. According to Browder and his followers, the fundamental truths of Marxism – the impoverishment and suffering of the masses of working people under capitalism, the hostile antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the inevitability of class struggle and the inevitable outcome of this struggle, the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the seizure of power by the proletariat-all this did not apply to the U.S.

The R.U. overwhelmingly rejected this same kind of line. The handful who raised it and fought for it left the RU, but most of us increased our understanding of the need to uphold and apply the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. In the following months, while most of us grasped the fact that we must integrate with the U.S. working class and oppressed people, a small group came into being that resisted this development.

As the organization struggled with them, they concocted a political rationalization for their wrong ideas: our job as communists, they argued, was not to join with the oppressed people, help them get organized and fight against imperialism, and, through their struggles, raise their level of consciousness and train the most active and advanced as revolutionary cadre. Our job was simply to carry on “Marxist-Leninist propaganda,” by which they really meant lifeless dogma, from the sidelines.

They attacked our strategic line of building a broad united front of the American people – led by the working class and working class ideology – to oppose U.S. imperialism and bring about its eventual defeat. Despite their fine phrases and their frequent recitations of Marxist-Leninist writings, their real fear of “dirtying their hands” in actual class struggle, their actual contempt for the working class, soon became clear to everyone. These dogmatists soon left the RU, but as before, the organization was strengthened by this ideological struggle and came to understand even more thoroughly that real revolutionaries must base themselves on a living application of Marxism-Leninism to the practical struggles of the U.S. working class and oppressed people.

The more we actively tried to apply Marxism-Leninism to these practical struggles, however, the clearer it became that our ideological understanding and unity was not as strong or deep as it had appeared. There were still very important differences, which surfaced and crystallized in the fall of 1970, when a section of the organization headed by Bruce and Jane Franklin tried, as the two previous groups had tried, to turn the organization away from its principal task of integrating with the proletariat. As conditions changed and developed, and as the question of linking ourselves closely with the workers became an immediate and practical one, the Franklins brought forth and argued strenuously for a line that would have taken us down the path of military adventurism and terrorism and, consequently, away from the working class.

The struggle against this adventurist line lasted several months and ended when a section of the organization, led by the Franklins and centered mainly in Palo Alto, left the RU. Because the struggle against this line was the most fundamental and most thorough our organization was involved in, it contributed more than the others to our understanding of the central principle that the industrial proletariat must be the backbone of socialist revolution. Clearly, this understanding is still very limited, and we are just beginning to grasp what it means in practice to integrate ourselves with the working class and become a useful tool in their great and heroic fight for liberation.

The purpose of quickly summarizing three major ideological struggles in the RU is not to put down a few opportunists or to blow our own horn. The point is that each of these struggles, and especially the last one, reflects the major struggles that have been and are still going on in the U.S. revolutionary movement as a whole. We believe and hope that the major lessons we have drawn from these struggles can be of some service in carrying out and bringing to a correct resolution these same straggles that are going on everywhere. We think this is particularly true of the last struggle, which in fact centers around most of the basic questions of socialist revolution in the U.S.

It is with this idea in mind that we are publishing, in this Red Papers, the major documents from both sides of that last struggle. We are presenting these documents as they were presented to the organization during the struggle. We have edited some of our own documents (grammar, punctuation, etc.), but have made no changes of political substance. We have not edited the Franklin group’s material at all.

The documents are also presented in the order they were circulated within the RU-with one exception. Our short statement explaining the basis of the expulsion of the Franklins and a couple of others from the RU (which appears right after two newspaper articles written by one of those expelled, giving their reasons for splitting) was actually circulated publicly several months after the rest of the documents included here. Since it was written as a short answer to those two newspaper articles, it follows them in this Red Papers.

The first document, “The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” was the Franklin document that initiated the ideological struggle. As it was being replied to in “Revolutionary Adventurism or Proletarian Revolution,” the second document in this RED PAPERS, the Franklins rewrote their first paper and entitled it, “On the Military Aspect of the American Revolution.” Before this paper could be fully answered, the Franklins shifted the focus away from the “military aspect.” They came out with another paper, “Revisionism or Proletarian Revolution,” in which they made the main issue the national question. Shortly after our reply began to be circulated – “Marxism vs. Opportunism, The Class Struggle in Our Organization” – the split took place.

The Franklin group’s outlook on the role of the working class can be clearly seen in the two newspaper articles explaining their reasons for leaving the RU. The second article was only necessary because, as the writer herself admits, she forgot to mention the working class in the first article. The final two documents – “Report on Democratic Centralism” and “Proletarian Ideology, Proletarian Revolution” – were presented to a leadership meeting which summed up the lessons of the struggle.

In presenting these documents, we would also like to state briefly our present understanding around the question of military strategy that initiated the struggle. We strongly oppose the adventurist line of the people who left the organization because it tries to divorce armed struggle from the mass movement, to substitute the “heroic actions” of a few revolutionaries for the real heroic struggle of the masses of people.

While a full military strategy for the proletarian revolution in the U.S. does not yet exist, we are firmly united around basic principles we believe should guide the development of that strategy. We take as our starting point the position summarized by Mao Tse-tung:

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another ... The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and highest form of revolution.

This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally .. . But while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to varying conditions.

In the concrete conditions of the United States, revolution means the violent overthrow of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class by the multi-national working class in alliance with other strata of Third World peoples and all other forces that can be united in struggle against monopoly capitalist rule. It will be accomplished through the organization of the armed struggle of the millions and millions of oppressed and exploited people in the U.S., and not through the individual, terrorist actions of revolutionaries who are divorced from the masses.

Before the final overthrow of monopoly capitalism, there will be a long period of struggle, which will mainly take the form of strikes, demonstrations and other mass actions. During this entire period, and especially in the Third World communities where violent repression is most intense, an important form of mass struggle will also be hitting back at the counter-revolutionary violence of the state with the revolutionary violence of the people. During this period, armed struggle will be a secondary form of struggle, and it must be guided by the principle that it is integrated with the mass political movement, helps to build and advance that movement, and to raise the consciousness of the masses of people. As the mass movement grows, and as revolutionary forces take part in all aspects of this struggle and win leadership of it, they must organize the revolutionary violence of the people as part of the overall struggle, and direct the struggle toward its final goal: the violent overthrow of imperialism (monopoly capitalism) and the establishment of the state of the armed working class and its allies: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This position provides the background to the documents that follow. We hope these documents prove useful.