Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

History of the Motor City Labor League

Issued: n.d. [1974] as part of a longer document prepared by the Detroit Continuations Committee entitled History of the Communist Labor Party – USNA, Detroit Section.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Motor City Labor League grew out of the Motor City Coalition which originally included the Detroit Organizing Committee (DOC). The principle political motion that brought the coalition together was the leadership being exercised by the Negro national minority factory workers at that time through the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW). The Motor City Coalition, and later the Motor City Labor League accepted the formulation that “whites should organize whites” and saw itself in primarily a ’support’ role of the LRBW struggles. Thus, it was at the initiative of the LRBW that the Alliance was first organized as a progressive organization for Anglo-Americans in the technical and white collar sectors of the working class.

At the time of the dissolution of the LRBW, the MCLL continued to function, bound together by what was then an ambiguous notion of “democratic centralism” and a continuing practice of militant activity. The contradictions which had surfaced in the LRBW did not by-pass the MCLL and in the early fall of 1972 the MCLL experienced its first split when the opportunist social democratic elements in the organization, which had been aligned with the opportunist elements in the LRBW, left the MCLL after the political defeat of their line. After the split, the MCLL moved away from electoral politics, away from an emphasis on the lumpen proletariat and increasingly toward the working class. Without the science, however, the motion zig-zagged between militant economist struggles (Jordan Sims’ campaign at Local 961-UAW), anarcho-syndicalism (the organization of “Common Sense”), concentration on organizing in the more bribed sectors of the working class (the Alliance, the People’s Peace Treaty) and superficial “educationals” that were empiricist and dogmatic and were often anti-Stalinist and influenced by Trotskyism. Factions within the organization flourished – for without the science as a guide, power rested with those who held the most information, could rally the most loyal supporters or who had the “best connections.”

Despite these contradictions, revolutionary commitment to the working class struggle remained a general principle of the organization and the practice of the organization led to the development of a substantial base, primarily in the service and technical sectors of the working class. The range and extent of the work done by MCLL cadre was significant and provided an important base of experience and history of principled struggle. In this period, the cadre of MCLL were leadership in the Welfare Employees’ Union; Metropolitan Hospital; Medical Aid to Indochina; People’s Peace Treaty and Indochina Peace Campaign; church work and a Marxist-Religious Dialogue; the Three for Three Food Cooperative; struggles at Local 961-UAW, the AFT and MEA, the National Lawyer’s Guild, Detroit Area Research Group, the Journey newspaper and bookstore, the Alliance, Coffeebreak, Latin American anti-imperialism; the Briggs Plant closing; and Control, Conflict and Change. Cadre began to move into a “concentration area” – the State Fair area. In all of this activity, MCLL cadre struggled against the CPUSA and the Trotskyites, understanding the bankruptcy of their revisionist theory.

The strikes at Jefferson and Forge occurred in late summer ’73 and MCLL cadre encountered the developed Marxist-Leninist leadership of the Communist League. Many CL comrades were individuals that MCLL cadre knew from the late sixties and early seventies. It was obvious that enormous changes had occurred in these former LRBW members – changes that could only be explained by unity with the science. During that summer MCLL had organized a coalition which sponsored a Labor Day celebration – again an attempt to move to working class organizing. Labor Day was a qualitative step forward, as for the first time MCLL seriously listened to the political line of a Marxist-Leninist organization and began to integrate that line into MCLL activity.

Contact with that line precipitated intense internal struggle within the MCLL. Some cadre united quickly with the necessity of the science and the party-building line. Other cadre, wary of “leftist sects” after years of experience in the “New Left” approached the CL line cautiously. And some cadre quickly understood that the line threatened their revisionist tendencies, and struggled against it. The internal struggle began in the Central Committee following Labor Day and by Christmas had reached throughout the entire organization. But lacking a clear and correctly organized education program (although one was attempted) it was difficult to understand and clarify the emerging tendencies. Thus, in late January the MCLL began a difficult and agonizing “convention” process that would last over a period of two months. Cadre studied, wrote papers, and developed positions that eventually led to the emergence of two clear political lines. For a period leadership in the ”center” attempted to heal the approaching split in the organization, not understanding that there can only be two ideologies. As the convention proceeded the revisionism of what was to become the minority position became obvious, and the center united with the line of Marxism-Leninism.

Following the convention, and the split of about one-fourth of the former organization, the MCLL began an intense internal study program, benefitting greatly from the CL experiences in study. MCLL sent representatives to the Continuations Committee, locally and then nationally. Given the long and principled practice of MCLL cadre in the working class movement, the grasping of the science was an exhilarating experience – for here was the theory to guide and direct what had seemed to be an unending and fragmented task! As cadre began to understand the power of the political line, the impact of the line on organization, and the real nature of democratic centralism, it was possible for the first time to exercise proletarian discipline within the organization and achieve unity of will.