Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Chairman Amiri Baraka

Sectarianism, Undermining, Secret Agents & Struggle


First Published: Unity and Struggle, Vol. III, No. 13, December 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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One extremely aggravating aspect of “left” politics is the amount of sectarianism (like unqualified Muhammad Ali-ism, i.e., I AM THE GREATEST!) that emanates out of the various “left” formations. Though I guess when you look at it, the formation that Brother Ali comes out of says pretty much the same thing that Ali do, and it is hardly left. But it is a sect! Which explains it. But the socialist organizations come on almost as strong, preferring most times, sectarian shoot-outs, word wars, than actual movement and work in the communities. For sure, you can always find people who will quote at you from forty paces, but look for the work, organizing rooted in community struggle, and the accomplishment slims down considerably. Many socialist organizations, so called, are content to talk only to each other defining and redefining obscure references, but have not dealt with the actual work of organizing PEOPLE in many many moons, if at all! (And for every position paper with one set of initials attacking another, how many documents are produced by the left aimed at bringing socialist theory to the masses!!)

In fact, trying to work with certain groups around any issue is almost impossible, because they would rather sit inside hassling each other about “certain certainties” than agree to struggle and go to the people and draw ideological completion from the work itself. We are not belittling theory, we are saying theory is useless without practice, for without practice, theory cannot be proven! It is very much like the sects which say that unless yall come through us you cannot get to heaven, or its blacker variations. Fortunately most of us are now confident no such places exist, and can afford to be more adventurous with our investigations of reality!

To deal with things in the world as they actually are, and in their interrelationship with other things, and in their constant change. That is what we have committed ourselves to, to see the contradictions, the opposing forces in all phenomena, to understand reality in other words, precisely enough to change it! Certainly, saying you have the holt card on everything, the absolutely correct view, untested by constantly changing reality, is not even to be a materialist. We expect this from sects, but from socialist organizations we expect materialist views, arrived at through dialectical analysis. And I AM THE GREATEST-ISM makes this impossible.

On the other hand, besides sectarianism, i.e., academic struggles characterized by verbal overkill, there is also another aspect of Left churlishness & infantilism that needs to be exposed, but actually it is part of the same sectarianism. That is the usual undermining, bad-mouthing behind the back of, belittling the work of, various groups by each other. Usually to innocents or the barely organized. Some groups go so far as to undermine certain formations to their own cadres, hoping opportunistically to recruit them, or simply to cast B.S. into the game, obstructions to the organizing work of the formation involved. Undermining takes many forms, it can be written, run at meetings, gossiped, questions at forums, & it sometimes even goes as far as planting people in other formations, something like the FBI does, to throw confusion into a group. The reason, sectarianism, opportunism, and even organizational careerism. Again, “we are the only ones who got the correct line-ism.” People say, for instance, and this might be exaggerated, that the CPUSA has more people in other formations and in spinoffs of themselves with other names than they have in the main party. Ditto SWP (again right and left opportunism ending up to be the same thing)!

There are some organizations that spend more time plotting how to undermine other socialist organizations than how to struggle against monopoly capitalism. But these groups probably have more problems with other socialist formations than they have with monopoly capitalism, if you get my meaning.

We do feel that it will be very positive when “multinational” organizations face the fact of their not really being multi, but predominately white, and also face the fact and need that they should be off in these working class white communities, among other places, organizing white workers beyond Louise Day Hicks, Anthony Imperiale, or Meier Kahane. They should be doing some day to day work rooted in key white working class communities, rather than only around universities or even only at the point of production (in true economist style). Sectarianism can only be defeated by practical work struggling to change reality. An endless line of abstract discussions without the benefit of the work, can only produce more and more intense sectarianism, i.e., directionless conflict rather than unity-criticism-unity. And clear movement toward Socialist Revolution!