Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Formation of a Leading Ideological Center – comments by the Buffalo Workers’ Movement

Issued: As a typewritten document, n.d.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Our organization recently conducted an internal study group on Party-Building. Among the documents read were the “draft resolution for a leading ideological center” prepared by PWOC, SUB, PSO, and DMLO and a response by El Comité, “Party Building and its relationship to the Masses”.

We find positive elements in both documents and we believe that the contradictions between the two positions are not as great as they might seem. Some sort of unity is not only possible but should be actively sought.

Our trend has advanced sufficiently so that we need some kind of national presence. This would help us gain new allies from the ranks of the presently independent Marxist-Leninists as well as consolidate and strengthen the political development within our trend. Here we agree with the draft resolution. However, wo agree with El Comité that the time has not come to think about pre-party formations. If the history of the last ten to fifteen years teaches us anything, it teaches us that we must be cautious – for one “trend” after another has come and gone without establishing itself in the working class.

We propose the publication of a journal, as well as the organization of speaking tours and conferences. We do not agree with national coordinated activities beyond this. The national center, through its journal could “project a common line for work in mass organizations” but at this time there cannot exist and should, not exist any mechanism requiring members of the center to adopt such a common line in their work. The national center could, nevertheless, act as a kind of clearinghouse to help put people in contact with each other when they are doing work in the same area – e.g., people working within the UAW, or Teamsters, or in S. African or Puerto Rican Solidarity groups.

In drawing our conclusions about the two documents we found that one common problem is that they are both frequently not sufficiently concrete about what is actually boing proposed. Much of the debate seems to be about what the draft resolution implies rather than what it actually says.

For example, on the one hand, the draft resolution says: “Clearly, a real leading ideological center can no more be imposed on our trend than a vanguard party can be imposed on the proletariat. Any attempt by a small group of organizations to declare themselves a ’center’ by secret agreement, and to then, using organizational means, promote the hegemony of a line that has not been subjected to a really widespread and thoroughgoing critique is doomed to failure.” We feel that El Comité does not really appreciate that statement, since they repeatedly argue against the “imposition” of a national center. For example, quoting the El Comité document, “PWOC bases its positions on the weakness of a fragmented movement and proposes to overcome that weakness by imposing an organization on constituent groups”. Or again, “Furthermore, the imposition of an authoritative “ideological center” means the liquidations the autonomy and initiative of the constituent groups.” This idea of imposition is repeated several other times. We believe that this fear of an imposed control from above is not warranted.

Another point, El Comité correctly criticizes the Guardian’s position as “elitist” and overly theoretical, pointing out that a newspaper such as the Guardian cannot give leadership to the party-building movement, and that the Guardian launched its own party-building proposal without exhausting debate within the trend. El Comité then criticizes PWOC as “empiricist” because PWOC (and hero we assume that SUB, PSO, and DMLO are also the target of El Comité’s criticism) sees an objective situation (the fragmented and unequal development of organizations in the embryonic trend) and proposes to solve it mechanically through the ’formation of a national center.’ El Comité criticizes: “Unfortunately we have been concentrating or the problems of the “trend”, neglecting the need for a more extensive and definitive analysis of the objective situation within which we must operate to serve the working class, and wherever possible, to lead it. This is, unhappily, the same subjective preoccupation which led the dogmatists to the arrogant presumption of leadership, with its divisive and sectarian consequences. We must assimilate past experiences raising the level of our political development to at least the common denominator of an understanding that, as Marxist Leninists, we cannot usurp leadership of the working class; we can achieve leadership only by distinguishing ourselves in the experience of the working class; that is: by serving it well.” We agree that vanguards do not proclaim themselves, they prove themselves in practice. But we believe that this common understanding exists in the trend. What El Comité is calling for is, in our minds, what PWOC is calling for when it speaks of fusion. We think that El Comité’s criticism of PWOC is unjustified. PWOC is not calling for a mechanical imposition of a national center on the groups in the trend, but is looking for a route forward, recognizing present problems.

On the other hand, other parts of the draft resolution make suggestions with which we disagree. We have already mentioned the idea that the national center should not take on an “activist” role beyond the publication of a journal and the setting up of speaking tours and conferences, or acting as a clearinghouse. We agree with El Comité that this position, although not explicitly stated, implies a degree of coordination of mass work which is neither possible nor desired at this time. We also agree with El Comité that many more regional and bilateral exchanges need to take place (we have had precious few), before any coordination of mass work on a national scale. It is not time to look at the national center as laying “the foundation for a national pro-party formation” as proposed in the draft resolutions Furthermore it states, “for the center to play a leading role, it must have a higher basis of unity than the lowest common denominator of the trend as a whole...” For certain groups to be excluded, it is necessary explain what exclusion means, or for that matter what membership in the national center would mean. We agree that the national center must begin to lead, that the journal must present the best of our work and theory, that conferences should be prepared by the most developed groups in the trend. But there is no discussion about what the higher basis of unity would be nor how “exclusion” from the national center would be decided.

We would hope that further discussion of this question be accompanied by proposals which are as concrete as possible. What follows is a practical proposal. Obviously our proposal is only a sketch, the details of which need to be filled in.

1) Our view is that a conference should be held to form this national center, and that this conference would elect leadership. This would mean basically determining who would edit the journal, and in what manner. The journal should be published with enough time in between issues (3-4 months) so that articles could be circulated across the country to an editorial comm. which would be representative of our trend nationally. Editors should meet before each issue to determine what is to be printed. The journal should contain theoretical articles and also descriptions of practical work, tying theory to practice. The journal should be representative of the members of the national center, and yet should represent the best work, theoretical and practical, of those members. Members of the national center would have the responsibility of supporting the journal, financially and otherwise (printing, distribution). Members would have the privilege of being consulted prior to the organization of conferences and speaking tours, and should have some privilege of publication in the journal of their views to the exclusion of non-member groups.

2 a) The organization of conferences in the past around specific issues has been valuable and should be continued. Such conferences would help consolidate ideology and practice of all center members.

b) Speaking tours, like the journal, can be used to put forward the views of our embryonic trend to independent Marxist-Leninists. Both the tours and the conferences should be organised by the edit. Board.

3) Bilateral exchange should be coordinated by the national center. These exchanges have been limited to this point, frequently involving only the most developed groups.

Final Comments

We are among the more underdeveloped and weaker groups in the trend. We make our proposals modestly with that fact in mind. Yet we are discussing the formation of a national center which would help precisely groups like ours to move forward. So we do not hesitate in putting forward our views. Also, our criticisms are put forward as comrades with what we consider a high degree of political unity with both groups in the debate (El Comité and the authors of the draft resolution). Both groups should be urged to continue working together to form a national center, and to work out disagreements.

In our experience, struggle within our embryonic trend has boon conducted on the basin of unity-struggle-unity. The highhandedness and tactical maneuvering that characterized our experience with the sectarian groups has not been present. We see this as a healthy development, a sign of maturity of our movement as a whole.

Do each of us have to lead our own separate path of development, making the same mistakes, losing comrades along the route because of the overwhelming theoretical and practical tasks before us? We think not. This is why we support the development of an ideological center within the guidelines we have mentioned above. We will give our all to carry out such a task and will abide by the decision of the body based on full democratic discussion, debate, and vote.