Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Janet Weiss

It Is Right to Rebel, Self-Criticism

First Published: THE FREE YOU, a Palo Alto, Calif., newspaper, December 1970. Reprinted in Red papers 4.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. – Mao, “Serve the People”

The December 16 issue of the FREE YOU newspaper carried an article which I wrote explaining why the entire Revolutionary Union between San Francisco and San Jose has become an independent organization.

After the story appeared, many comrades criticized me for it, pointing out several serious errors. The most basic of these is that the article almost completely leaves out the working class. It only mentions the working class in terms of support for national liberation struggles, and implies that the new organization does not consider “regularly employed factory workers” a part of the proletariat. One would hardly know from this article that the organization exists to serve the needs of the proletariat and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, the rule of poor and working people. I think it’s important not only to clarify what our position actually is, but to understand why I would write an article with such basic mistakes.

I became a revolutionary because of the national liberation struggles of the Vietnamese people and the Black nation. As I tried to oppose the Vietnam war, I learned that the problem was the economic system of imperialism, in which capitalism oppresses whole nations. As I tried to fight against racism, I learned that Black people are not just “discriminated against,” but are a nation oppressed in the same way Vietnam is.

But as I began to understand imperialism through Marx-ism-Leninism, what I learned was that the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations of the world is based on the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, the contradiction between the owning class, the bourgeoisie, and the working class, the proletariat. That was when I really began to understand the situation within the United States, who the enemy was, who the friends were, and how we could win. I realized that a revolution is necessary before I became a Marxist-Leninist, but Marxism-Leninism showed me that the only form that revolution can take is proletarian revolution. I joined the RU because I agreed with its analysis that the way the American revolution will take place is through the United Front Against Imperialism, by uniting all the people from all classes whose interests are opposed to imperialism, under the leadership of the proletariat. And this means, more particularly, under the leadership of the most advanced sections of the proletariat, which are from the oppressed internal colonies, because they experience a dual form of oppression, national oppression and class oppression.

When we say that national liberation struggles unfold into proletarian revolution, I can see that in a pretty basic way, because that’s how my own development took place.

For the last several months, we have been struggling within the RU against the development of a line which is opposed to-that analysis. The new line, which is now held by the majority of the top RU leadership in the Bay Area, sees the class question, not the national question, as primary within the U.S. They are developing toward saying that Black people are not a nation; some have already said that “it’s an open question.” They are saying that for Black people, the class question should be primary, and their struggle must be a part of a proletarian revolution in the U.S. as a whole, instead of supporting the right of Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Native American people to decide at any time that they want’ their own nation-state, and organizing people in the mother country to fight for that right. They are saying that if the struggle of Black people is not basically a class struggle, it is not “correct,” and that Black people must hold off until the majority of White Americans are ready to pick up the gun and fight for socialist revolution. To do this, of course, they must say that the Black people who are already fighting for liberation are not proletarian.

When people say that the class question, not the national question, is primary, they not only don’t understand the world situation today, they also don’t understand the class question within the U.S. The proponents of the line we were fighting are saying that the proletariat consists only of the employed workers in basic industry. They say these workers are in a different class from the “unemployed masses,” who “lack the largeness of mind of the proletariat” and tend to be “destructive.” They say revolutionaries must base themselves on the forms of struggle developed by what they understand as the proletariat. What this means is that they refuse to be a part of what are now the most advanced struggles of the proletariat.

We understand the proletariat to consist of the poor and working people in this country. Our job is to unite the proletariat around its class interests – and this means uniting the proletariat from all the nations within the geographical borders of the U.S., uniting the employed proletariat with the unemployed proletariat, uniting women in the proletariat with men in the proletariat, and uniting the proletariat with its class allies. It means uniting them around all the five main spearheads of anti-imperialist struggle in the country now, against imperialist wars of aggression, in support of national liberation struggles within the U.S., against fascism, for the liberation of women, and for the right to a decent standard of living for all people. And it means being willing to fight around all of those spearheads. It certainly does not mean basing an organization only on one section of the proletariat, the regularly employed workers in basic industry, and fighting mainly or only around their immediate economic interests. But to say that doesn’t mean we don’t base ourselves on those workers; we do.

The consolidation of this revisionist line within the RU will mean that it is no longer a revolutionary organization. Already the people holding that line are backing off on the commitment to armed struggle now, the RUís firm statement of support for the Black Panther Party, giving concrete support to national liberation struggles, the need to fight against the consolidation of fascism (they say this is unnecessary because the U.S. is not a developing fascist state), and the importance of the liberation of women and the women’s movement. This is why we left, because we wanted to be part of a revolutionary organization developing the line of RED PAPERS 1, 2, and 3, and willing to fight around all these issues until the people have all the power.

But the mistake I made would be equally dangerous, and it is one that people from the student movement are very prone to make. In firmly supporting the right of self-determination for oppressed nations, we must never lose sight of the fact that only the united proletariat can lead the fight to liberate all people.