Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L)

Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity

First Published: Forward!, No. 1, June 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The struggles over the past year within the communist movement have crystallized the task of party-building as never before. Conscious forces everywhere are united that what is now needed to move all work ahead is the program for proletarian revolution in the U.S. This will be the basis for development of strategy and tactics, for finally and fully fusing the communist movement to the workers movement by winning the advanced to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought.

The question which divides the movement is no longer, “What is the focus of the party-building task?” On this we are united. The question which divides us into two trends is, “How are we to develop the program?” This, more precisely, is a question of how to resolve the contradictions within the communist movement, on the one hand, and between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement, on the other.

It is upon this practical question that two lines have emerged in our movement. And it is upon this question that we must focus the struggle.

–Contradictions in U.S. Society–

Many problems confront U.S. society; however, there are three main problems. All problems in our society are particular fronts of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

1. The contradiction between M-L-M Thought and sham socialism and opportunism within the communist and workers movement in the U.S.

This is the ideological struggle in the superstructure. Thus, we witness the bourgeoisie in their attempt to mislead the people while whipping-up anti-communist sentiment. Examples are the preoccupation of the bourgeois news with the Communist Party of Italy covering for the bourgeoisie’s real fear that the balance of forces in Europe’s “soft underbelly” is shifting to Soviet social-imperialism. The entrance of the CPUSA into the ’76 elections with a platform a little to the left of the Democrats, the PSP leadership of the July 4th Coalition, and the raising of the alarm of “terrorism.” Add to this the confusion over the situation in Chile, Angola and Portugal and the rise of the line “turn back to non-monopoly capitalism,” and we have the entire spectrum of revisionism and social utopianism to defeat in order to win the masses to proletarian revolution and scientific socialism.

2. The contradiction between the proletariat and its allies on the one hand and the bourgeois state apparatus on the other.

This is the political struggle within the superstructure. Here we have gun control, S-1, forced busing, pornography, women’s rights, Native American treaty rights, Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican and Asian democratic rights and union busting. This is the fascist offensive to win the allies of the proletariat to the side of capitalism.

3. The contradiction between the proletariat and all oppressed and exploited people on the one hand and the owners of capital on the other.

This is the economic struggle in the economic base. This is the trade union question, the national question, the woman question and the military question in particular, and the Marxist-Leninist stand on the nature of imperialism, whose basis is the private ownership of the means of production, in general.

External to the U.S. the contradiction between the superpowers on the one hand and the oppressed nations on the other is intensifying class struggle on all fronts in the U.S.

–Principal Contradiction–

The principal contradiction at this time in the U.S. is that between M-L-M Thought and sham “socialism.” This contradiction is principal because only through its resolution can the communist movement rapidly consolidate communists, win the advanced to communism, take initiative against the social props of the bourgeoisie and assume initiative against the fascist offensive.

The principal contradiction in the U.S. at this time takes particular form in the struggle to establish the vanguard party of the proletariat— the communist party. Because the party represents the first (the leading, most essential; institution of the emerging proletarian superstructure, the bourgeoisie and revisionists, externally, have focused all their attention on preventing its consolidation while the opportunists within our movement objectively serve the interests of the bourgeoisie by sowing confusion and disunity. Thus, the most intense class struggle in the U.S. is concentrated on this question. Without solving this problem, Marxist-Leninists cannot resolve any of the other problems facing U.S. society.

Corresponding to the general form of the principal contradiction in the U.S., the struggle to establish the vanguard party of the proletariat has two aspects. The first is the ideological struggle within the communist movement. The second is the ideological struggle between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement (primarily the advanced elements and secondarily the broad masses). Because the struggle against all forms of bourgeois ideology within the spontaneous movement must be led by communists, and because the two-line struggle within the communist movement has yet to produce a leading line (program, strategy and tactics) for proletarian revolution in the U.S., the contradiction within the communist movement continues to be the principal contradiction in the development of the party.

Strategically in party building, we must completely and fully expose, isolate and defeat those “revolutionary” trends who are hostile to Marxism and firmly and definitely delineate within our movement the correct ideological and political lines and those of the opportunists. We must do this while merging scientific socialism with the spontaneous movement. However, some communists currently have things turned on their head.

Fully reflecting the disunity of the objectively emerging spontaneous movement, as manifested in the labor aristocracy, the labor bureaucracy, rampant chauvinism, bourgeois illusion, all forms of bourgeois ideology and individualism, the communist movement is tailing behind, mistaking general theory for grasp of the concrete conditions (ideological line). This why right opportunism is the main danger in the communist movement today, built upon the “privileged position” of U.S. imperialist superprofits. Various organizations appear to be “left” while others appear to be right, but for the movement as a whole, belittling ..theory is the main danger. The “left” error is dogmatism whereas the right error is bowing to spontaneous consciousness. However, both are errors in going from our current level of theoretical unity to its application to the particularity of the revolution in the U.S. Both are errors of ideological line.

–Two Trends–

Our movement has long been dominated by that trend which advocates “practical” activity based on incomplete knowledge of objective conditions and aimed not at developing knowledge, but rather at building the mass spontaneous upsurge. This is the trend which has consistently failed to make a priority of establishing our knowledge of the objective conditions and, instead, has lagged behind the spontaneous consciousness.

The revolutionary trend correctly identified the errors of the opportunists and put forward the call to develop the program, strategy and tactics as the immediate task. Then the opportunists took up this call too, but without changing the essence of their line.

In the struggle for correct revolutionary practice with regard to the development of program our trend has once again divided into two. This time we find a “left” line being put forward. This “wing”, while talking loud about the necessity of “political line” puts forward a jumble about revolutionary practice. Instead of clearly identifying principal and secondary tasks, the wing runs them all together and, in their confusion, isolates themselves from both the advanced and other communists.

The emerging revolutionary trend correctly puts forward that theoretical work and ideological struggle around program, strategy and tactics is primary at this time. We must first have a firm ideological line in order to fully develop a correct political line. Secondarily, communists must participate in the mass movements to test the developing ideological line and to provide a basis for perceptual knowledge, winning the advanced to communism in the process of exposing sham socialism. This is the current development of the two-line struggle within the communist movement.

Currently there has been alot of talk about “thoroughly exposing, isolating and defeating revisionism” and about “showing the full face of opportunism.” There is even talk of two firmly established delineated trends within the communist movement. However, a survey of the communist press refutes these assertions. There is certainly alot of space devoted to polemics. This is a good thing. There is certainly a scarcity of consistent theoretical work as pertains to the ideological struggle presented in these polemics. This is a bad thing. This shows that the most advanced are still primitive and amateurish. And yet some comrades are so excited about bringing forth the party. Well, where is the plain everyday work?

The party is something to be excited about, but we must not confuse our enthusiasm with objective reality. On this subject Mao stated “WHAT WE NEED IS AN ENTHUSIASTIC BUT CALM STATE OF MIND AND INTENSE BUT ORDERLY WORK.” Our review of the communist press and practice reveals that there is indeed much enthusiasm and intense work. However, without a firm grasp of our tasks there can be no orderly work and there can be no direction In our work. Certainly democratic-centralist organizations will have their own order and direction, but for the movement as a whole the full development and consolidation of the subjective factor has been held back. This is certainly an error, costing the revolutionary movement time, space and human life. Thus, it is necessary for us to discuss what communists mean by practice—as it relates to the main task of party-building.

Our task is to develop and consolidate our proletarian ideology, correctly grasp the objective factor and subjective factor as it is unfolding, put forward the party program and strategy for the immediate stage of socialist revolution, fuse the communist and spontaneous movements and forge the party of the proletariat. To do this we must investigate, research, analyze and put forward solutions to problems both in theory and in practice. This is a question of consolidating the subjective factor as our primary task and of merging the subjective factor, the proletarian vanguard, with the spontaneous movement as our secondary task. We must seek and develop genuine communist consciousness, leadership and organization. This is hew the communist movement and the spontaneous movement can best be developed and consolidated both presently and in the future.

Among our ranks are those who are confused as to what constitutes revolutionary practice. There are those who see practice as strictly mass work. This is incorrect. Practice assumes many forms— including work among the masses of people, but it is not strictly mass work. Practice is not a phenomena in and of itself. Dialectically, the nature of practice is that it serves both as a basis of knowledge and as a test of knowledge. As such revolutionary practice must be seen in its interconnection with proletarian consciousness.

Unguided by theory practice loses its revolutionary content; it becomes purposeless. For communists this means that revolutionary practice must serve as the perceptual basis and the rational test of revolutionary theory. For communists engaged in party-building this means that revolutionary practice must further develop and consolidate the founding of a genuine anti-revisionist communist party. On this there is no disagreement. The correct leading ideological and political lines come from revolutionary practice and in turn serve revolutionary practice by changing the world in conformity with objectively unfolding conditions. As such, theoretical, ideological, political and organizational work and struggle are all forms of revolutionary practice. This is the general statement on practice.

We must now examine practice in its particularity. We must now analyze practice according to the ideological and political lines being put forward by the two trends in the communist movement. In this discussion it is imperative that we keep in mind the principal contradiction in the U.S.—that between M-L-M Thought and all forms opportunism and sham socialism in the communist and workers movements. The question is that of merging the communist movement with the movements of the workers and all oppressed peoples. This merging of the subjective factor with the objectively arising spontaneous revolutionary movement is what Lenin called “bringing consciousness from without.”

–Two Kinds of Practice–

The opportunist trend within our movement in both its “left” and right forms views mass work as the primary link for consolidating communist forces. Thus, the organizations within this trend see merging the communist movement with the spontaneous movement as the basis for founding an anti-revisionist party.

The most representative organization of the right tendency within the opportunist trend and currently the main danger, the October League, has stated that the theoretical work and ideological struggle in the most recent past has set a firm foundation for the organizational consolidation of communist forces. They call for a coalition of communist organizations around the principles of unity which have been forged in the struggle to defeat opportunism and revisionism. They have just begun to state the organizations which they consider communist. Through this higher form of organization communists must develop a party program, strategy and tactics.

The basis for this work is cooperation in mass work. This mass work is characterized by coalition, the alliance of working class organizations and the organizations of the oppressed masses under minimal communist demands. This coalition should in no way unite with the other sham “revolutionary” trends, but should maintain its independence while standing juxtaposed to the coalitions of the sham trends. In this manner the correct line will be put before the masses. In this manner the opportunist trend believes the masses will be won over to communism and the sham “revolutionaries” will be exposed.

The emerging “left” wing of the opportunist trend calls for the development of the program, strategy and tactics but puts forward no plan for doing so save fusing the communist movement with the workers movements and engaging in open polemics. Thus, while in words making the development of program, strategy and tactics the key link, this wing liquidates the task and raises winning the advanced as the principal task. In mass work this wing fails to raise maximum demands before the advanced, but instead raises its line on party-building, attempting to win the advanced not to M-L-M Thought on the strength of the developing program, but rather to a line on the central task of Marxist-Leninists. This confusion causes the wing to attempt to use mass organizations as a basis of party-building. It also causes the wing to view all who strive to win the advanced to M-L-M Thought as opportunists tailing the spontaneous movement, and, like the rights in our movement, these “lefts” assert “no united action with opportunists!”

Thus, the task of all communists according to the opportunist trend is to put forward the minimal political demands of the emerging proletarian party or a line on the central task of communists and organize workers into strictly communist mass organizations. In practice communists should denounce the opportunists and revisionists, but they should not work among them. This is practice as the opportunist trend in our movement sees it.

The genuine revolutionary trend in the communist movement views practice differently. Ideologically we see the necessity for further theoretical work and ideological struggle on ideological line and then political line to develop the program, strategy and tactics and found a genuine anti-revisionist communist party. The organizations within this trend view ideological work among communists and advanced elements as the primary link for consolidating communist forces. The organizations within this trend see the necessity for clearly demarcating Marxism-Leninism from sham “revolutionary” movements and the necessity for clearly delineating the two-line struggle within the communist movement in full view of communist forces, the proletariat and the revolutionary peoples. This trend states that assertions about “left phrase mongers” and “right opportunism” are no substitute for clear and concise polemics to expose, isolate and defeat revisionism and opportunism. This trend states that organizational consolidation must proceed along the lines of theoretical and ideological unity based upon work in developing knowledge of the objective conditions for proletarian revolution and of the tactics for the immediate period. Accordingly mass work is working among the masses in their spontaneously arising struggles which at this time is primarily investigating and studying objective conditions as they unfold while winning the advanced to communism.

Thus, the task of all genuine communists according to the revolutionary trend is to engage in theoretical work and ideological struggle within the communist movement and to investigate and study the workers and revolutionary peoples movements in order to deepen and widen our ideological line, identify and consolidate advanced elements and to develop appropriate forms of struggle. In practice genuine communists should demarcate Marxism-Leninism from sham socialism, should identify and consolidate advanced elements, should investigate all political lines being put before the masses and should expose the principal enemies of the people before the masses. Genuine communists should certainly work among all classes of the people. This is practice as the genuine revolutionary trend sees it.


What, then, are the differences between the emerging revolutionary trend and the two opportunist trends in our movement, which is still a contradiction among communist forces? The difference is that the revolutionary trend demands genuine proletarian consciousness, leadership and organization while the others call for tailing the masses. This is a question of leading the revolution to victory or following the spontaneous upsurge. This question is answered by posing the contradiction between the maximum and minimum demands of the proletariat and by examining the nature of coalition work.

Objectively, the working class and all oppressed peoples seek and demand the overthrow of capitalism, the seizure of state power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the maximum demand of the millions of the masses of people in the U.S. The minimum demand of the working class and revolutionary peoples are the demands of complete and total bourgeois right which politically leads the assault against the bourgeois state. Open political work is one aspect of the conscious activity of the independent party of the proletariat in the contradiction between the political assault and military seizure of state power. Communists must always raise the maximum demands before the millions of masses of people while putting forward the minimum demands to the bourgeois state. In this work our practice must also serve as a perceptual base for furthering the development of our revolutionary consciousness.

However, our right opportunist comrades have things turned on their head. Organizationally, they take the path of least resistance by putting forward minimal demands to the masses of people or liquidating the placing of maximum demands altogether, and by calling on all communists to act as their consort while developing the maximum program. This is certainly incorrect.

The “lefts” liquidate the raising of all demands and instead raise a particular line on party-building. This ignores winning the advanced to communism through reliance on the maximum program. It also ignores raising the minimum demands to the bourgeois state and liquidates the emerging united front against monopoly capitalism while one-sidedly focusing on party-building.

The spontaneously arising revolutionary movements require consciousness, leadership and organization. The consciousness of the masses can best be raised by ideologically consolidating communists and advanced elements and by developing and putting forward our maximum demands before the millions of revolutionary people. The latter is our party program which guides our strategy and tactics. The leadership of the spontaneous movement can be won by first consolidating communist forces, demarcating Marxism-Leninism from sham socialism, and by providing clear leadership to the already existing organization of the emerging spontaneously conscious elements. The organization of the spontaneously arising movements can be insured by working among the masses of people, identifying and consolidating the advanced and relying them to win over the middle and advance the backward. Comrades, to bring consciousness, leadership and organization to the already unfolding revolutionary movement we must, not expend our energy in creating conditions as we would like them to be. Rather, we must organize, mobilize and transform the existing concrete conditions as they are. It is our duty to understand and change the world as it is objectively developing. This is a question of the subjective being in alignment with the objective. We cannot be one-sided in our approach to this task. This is how genuine communists see practice.