Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Milwaukee Alliance

Rectify the Communist Movement, Re-establish the Communist Party!


This appendix consists of two parts. The first is a sum-up of the Mass Socialist Organization concept. This was particularly important for our organization because we adhered to the concept for years. We include it, especially, for the MLists within mass socialist organizations, but we feel that it will be of interest to other MLists as well. The second part, is a short, chronological history of our organization. We include this because we think it will help other MLists to understand our past and present thinking if they are somewhat aware of the history we emerge from.


In arriving at MLism as the basis of unity for our organization, we found it necessary to analyze the past conceptions we operated under, and the errors of the Wisconsin Alliance/Milwaukee Alliance (WA/MA). Primarily, we are interested in summing up the theory of the mass socialist organization, and use examples from the WA/MA to illuminate this theory. This is difficult to do because the WA/MA never had formal unity on the MSO concept. Several different papers were written on it.

We analyze the MSO concept as a party building strategy. The essence of this strategy was that party building was a deferred question. It believed that now was not the time to discuss or plan for a future party. As such, it was not explicitly anti-Leninist in that it never denied the necessity for a party. Only that it was premature to discuss party building.

Strengths of the MSO

The central strength of the MSO was its generally correct analysis of dogmatism and sectarianism in the anti-revisionist, ML movement. The MSO analysis was that, due to the revisionism of the CPUSA, and underdevelopment of the new communist forces, any attempt to form a party or pre-party formation – that essentially acted as a party – would be premature and would meet with failure. The anti-revisionist forces were limited by their partial experience in the mass movement, and a low level of theoretical understanding on several key issues.

The MSO saw the consolidation of pre-parties, which attempted to act as parties, and the consolidation of various “vanguard parties” by groups such as the Revolutionary Union and the October League to be, by necessity, dogmatic and, at times, flunkyist, due to the partial experience of these groups, the petit-bourgeois class backgrounds of the vast majority of their cadre, their limited experience in leading the working class in day-to-day struggles, and their almost all white racial composition. Similarly, because such organizations didn’t objectively represent the advanced detachment of the working class, they had to subjectively declare themselves the vanguard. Because they consolidated prematurely, however, this forced them to try to act as a vanguard, even though they weren’t; leading such organizations further into the sectarianism and dogmatism that has plagued the movement.

This general analysis of the inherent limitations of a pre-party period, and the danger of premature consolidation on the basis of partial experience, still holds true today. This is the reason our organization doesn’t affiliate, at this time, with a national “party” or pre-party organization; but rather, seeks to build with ethers a non-dogmatic, non-sectarian trend in the anti-revisionist movement.

The correct aspects of the MSO analysis were overshadowed, however, by its error in political line as to what to do about this problem. The MSO’s line of non-involvement in the ML movement, and the deferral of major questions prevented it as a theory from coming to grips with the dogmatism and sectarianism that it sought to struggle against. It is only by rejecting this dead-end political line that we will be able to seriously challenge the dogmatism and sectarianism that continue to plague our movement.

We move now to an analysis of the flaws in the MSO conception. There were three central concepts guiding the MSO conception.

I. ML unity is not possible organizationally at this time

The MSO concept thought we shouldn’t have MLism as a basis of unity in a revolutionary organization because this would inevitably lead to dogmatism and sectarianism. The line of thinking put forward that the experience of MLists was too partial to consolidate into an organizational form. It stated that there had to be a qualitative leap in the mass movement in order to give MLism a practical base and keep it from becoming dogmatic and sectarian.

Another reason that the MSO concept did not believe that organizations needed MLism as a basis of unity was that it had an idealistic vision of the party and of ML unity. This vision thought that ML unity meant that most questions must be answered immediately, and so, overestimating the development necessary for party building. It also had a spontaneous view of party building in that it expected the MLists to emerge more or less spontaneously and informally from an upsurge in the mass movement.

We now reject this thinking and put forward that MLists should unite and work together organizationally in all periods of the revolutionary movement. Their specific level of unity should be determined by the specific historical conditions and tasks, and guided by an understanding of essential and deferred questions. This error was made by not understanding the centrality of ML unity and theory at any given point in the revolutionary process, and by an over-reaction to the dogmatism and sectarianism plaguing the ML movement.

Several problems resulted from the error, or at least did in our practice in the WA. Foremost among them was that those who developed into MLists was purely an informal affair. Furthermore, the development of MLists followed no specific, scientific plan, and was carried on individually. This led to extremely uneven development in the organization, with those people who had the most skills and individual initiative developing into MLists, and others not developing at all. It also tended to create informal leadership patterns.

II. Unity among MLists nationally is not an organizational task of revolutionary organizations at this time

The MSO concept put forward that it was not important to relate to the national ML movement in an organizational way. Individuals within MSOs participated in the ML movement to a certain extent (reading and writing articles, etc.), but the organization as a whole only related to the national movement around questions of mass work.

This is an error because the question of who related to the national ML movement is left entirely up to the individuals. It tends to retard many members of revolutionary organizations, who, for one reason or another, do not individually relate to the ML movement.

This view attaches too much significance to direct practice and tends to downplay the importance of theory, which is developed increasingly in a national and an organizational way.

Finally, in an over-reaction against dogmatism and sectarianism, this view tends to deny the ability of the ML movement to grow and develop through discussion and debate.

III. Building the mass movement for socialism in the working class is primary

Because party building was a deferred question, and because we did not see the need for MLism as a basis of unity, the MA merely called for a mass movement for socialism. It put forward that building the mass movement for socialism within the working class was our primary task.

By putting out this general call without ML unity, several problems occurred in our mass work in Wisconsin. These same problems are not necessarily true of all MSOs. This was particularly true in Wisconsin because our MSO had no ML core to it. Some MSOs may have had an ML core, in which case, these problems may be less severe.

Because we did not use the MLists scientific method, we had no clear approach to the working class. We had no definitions of the advanced, what were the main contradictions, how to define middle forces or our approach to them. Most importantly, we had no concept of the-tighter-the-core-the-broader-the-front in our mass work. This resulted in ah unprioritized organization with a low level of unity.

Finally, we were unable to win working class people over to becoming conscious revolutionaries (we clearly couldn’t win them over to MLism because we didn’t see this as a task.). We were able to win some people to a vague concept of socialism, b but without MLism, we had no science or strategy of revolution. This view differed from economism in that it tried to raise some revolutionary ideas, but stopped short of MLism. It also represented a paternalism toward the working class, because we thought individuals could grasp MLism, but we did not try to win working class people over to it.

IN SUMMARY – The MSO makes several ideological errors

1) The most important error was not grasping the fact that MLism is the leading ideology at any point in the revolutionary struggle, and should be applied in an organizational manner at all points in the struggle.
2) The MSO mis-assessed our relation to the masses. The MSO overestimated the ability of revolutionaries to lead working class struggle and build bases for socialism without a conscious and organized ML core. It also underestimated the ability of the advanced to grasp MLism by not promoting that level of unity in the organization, and leaving the question of who developed into an MList up to the individual chance.
3) It downplayed the importance of ML unity nationally by not relating to the national ML movement organizationally, and fostered individualism among its members in so doing.
4) It tended toward a spontaneous conception of party building in that it did not scientifically assess the steps necessary for party building, but left this planning up to the individual MLists. In addition, the specific application of the MSO in Wisconsin led to two additional ideological errors:

a. We did not grasp the idea of class struggle within the organization. We had incorrect attitudes toward struggle within the WA/MA. Sometimes we avoided it by trying to make everything a deferred question. At other times, a moralism about workers developed, causing people to be judged by their ’style’ or class position, instead of by the political line they put forward.

With little unity around political line or democratic centralism, an “I’m OK, you’re OK” approach developed within the organization. Without the higher level of unity or the conscious and systematic struggle to achieve it, liberalism emerged as the dominant form of relations between individuals, committees and chapters. Differences developed objectively, however, so sectariansim became the dominant form of struggle. Thus we learned the unity of liberalism and sectarianism, from our own negative experience.

b. We didn’t grasp the-tighter-the-core-the-broader-the-front concept within the organization. We had no leadership core consciously leading the organization, and lacked priorities within the organization. We are just now developing the conscious leadership core in a scientific manner.

We conclude that the primary contradiction in the WA/MA lay in not grasping the fact that an ML level of unity was necessary to overcome the low level of ideological, political and organizational unity. Rejection of ML unity was represented by the MSO concept, which calls for unity around socialism. We feel that if the WA/MA had grasped this, it could have overcome weaknesses that existed in the organization. Instead, it adopted the MSO concept, which opposes ML unity. This represented the consolidation of a weakness into an error.

In addition, the WA/MA also suffered because there was no ML core to the organization. An MSO organization may be appropriate at some time, but it will never be correct without an ML core to it. We don’t think MLists should form MSO organizations at this time, even if they do have ML cores to them. This is because party building is our central task and a revolutionary socialist organization is more suited to carrying out party building and fusion (which is the primary task in this period of party building).