Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Collective

In Struggle Against Left Sectarianism: Some Experiences with L.P.R.-M.L.


We have no pretensions or illusions concerning the sum-up and our ability to deepen our understanding at this time of our deviations or the deviations of the League for Proletarian Revolution(LPR)in particular and of the communist movement in general. Perceptually we view left-sectarianism as being the main obstacle holding back the unity of Marxist-Leninists, the establishment of ties with the masses and the building of the Marxist-Leninist communist party (we refer comrades to the book 2, 3 Many Parties of a New Type? Against the Ultra-Left Line, for a presentation on the danger of left-sectarianism within the communist movement today). In concluding this presentation we will, briefly discuss our main weaknesses and those of LPR, our views on the communist movement and how we see moving forward at this time.

We have had many negative experiences and have attempted to study the experiences of Marxist-Leninists both here and abroad, and one lesson to be drawn from these experiences is that the written word, though important, is not a sufficient basis upon which to build unity. In the final analysis we must judge, just as we must be judged,, on the basis of practice. For a Marxist-Leninist individual or organization, this practice must reflect three main styles or methods of work: The style of (l) integrating theory with practice, (2) maintaining close ties with the masses, (3) and that of practicing criticism and self-criticism. It takes time and hard work to grasp and be good at applying the three styles and they will not be achieved in a perfect way; errors are a part of life. However because of our semi-anarchist and ultra-leftist views, we have in the past, despite our intentions, phrasemongered about these methods of work or absolutized one (such as criticism) to the exclusion of the others; we are still struggling against this ultra-leftism. The ultra-leftist approach of all three methods of work is prevalent in the communist movement; from our experience it is also particularly characteristic of LPR-ML. We will briefly sum-up some of our experiences in light of these three styles of work.

The integration of Marxist-Leninist theory with practice is the fundamental problem. We have been unable to sink deep roots among the advanced elements and the masses in general or to repudiate incorrect views for so long precisely because we have treated Marxist-Leninist theory as lifeless and meaningless formula. A crude but very real example of this outlook is the method LPR-ML proposed for studying political economy: (1) comrades had to study political economy in “the abstract first” and not discuss political, economy by raising concrete examples (i.e. relating it to reality) before you grasp (memorize) the text in and of itself; (2) comrades could only raise or discuss questions that were directly related to the specific chapter under study; (3) and finally the procedure for discussing the text involved preparing written answers to LPR’s questions. With such an idealist theory of knowledge, it is impossible to analyze reality, to develop theory, and much less to turn theory into a material force. In studying political economy or anything else, it is true that we should do our utmost to know the general laws of the subject or thing, grasp its essence, and not mistake a particular aspect as being the whole. But, we must also strive to relate and apply what we study to the real world, to U.S. society in general, and to the particular area of work we are involved in. It is in this process that we can learn to be critical (and not just memorize), test what we have learned in practice, and rectify mistakes.

The break between Marxist-Leninist theory and practice (or, more precisely, the unity between our semi-anarchist outlook and adventurist practice) has been clearly manifested in our relationship to the masses. The Proletarian Unity League aptly characterised our practice as the “leaflet, forum, demonstration” style of work. Essentially, this is the style of work that we pursued under the ultra-left line and leadership of PRRWO/RWL/WVO and, most recently, LPR-ML. As LPR wanted to study political economy in the “abstract first”, so we approached the masses in the same way; distributing abstract leaflets, postering outside factory gates and subway entrances, setting up literature tables on street corners, and spewing empty slogans. We viewed making revolution as disseminating “revolutionary ideas”, which the masses would somehow be magically attracted to. The various activities that LPR or NLSSC sponsored were always attended by the same few individuals (excluding the third world organizations). To establish ties among the masses we have to work in the already existing trade unions and other mass organizations, in the work places, the communities, schools, etc. on a day to day and long term basis. We have to know the masses, where they work and live and strive to help them improve their living conditions. We must repudiate the outlook of expecting quick results, shunning reform struggles as reformist, “speaking in tongues” to the masses, and belittling their experiences.

The style of work of criticism and self-criticism is indispensible. Because of our own class backgrounds and outlook, and also due to the ultra-leftism in the communist movement in general, we have had to and still have to struggle particularly hard to boldly make self-criticism, to accept criticism, and systemmatically undertake the difficult task of rectification. A particular example is our initial attitude when we were breaking with LPR-ML. At that time, we were of the opinion that we should “expose” LPR-ML and show the communist movement how “opportunist” LPR-ML was. However, we were very reluctant to admit that we ourselves held ultra-left lines and views that were not fundamentally different from LPR’s basic line. By persistently striving to be open and above board, by listening to and considering all criticism objectively (no matter who criticizes us), by struggling against wishful thinking and studying the objective reality, by making timely criticism to cure the patient and striving to be modest, we have been able to make some headway in summing up and attempting to rectify fundamentally incorrect views. There is no final break with incorrect views; whenever we slacken our vigilance, the process of degeneration always sets in. Likewise, it remains a constant battle for us in guarding against the methods of dealing merciless blows, of criticizing for the sake of criticizing, or for the sake of covering up our own weakness and tendency to be silent for the sake of peace. It is the style of work of criticism and self-criticism that has made it possible for us to begin summing up our most serious errors in order to rectify them and move forward.

With regard to LPR-ML, we have tried to concretely explain our differences with LPR. We do believe that Marxist-Leninists can overcome their differences so long as they are open and above board and willing to acknowledge and rectify their mistakes. We cannot really contribute in a constructive way to the task of party building if we are unable to acknowledge mistakes as a step toward rectification. It is in this respect that we have the biggest problem with the LPR-ML leadership. The LPR leadership has, in our relationship with them, not only refused to acknowledge serious errors (this can undoubtedly take a long time and we all should be persistent and patient), but more significantly, the LPR leadership has resorted to the basest slanders such as accusing one of us of being an agent of the state (agent-provocateur) without attempting to give the least bit of evidence or proof of this. If the LPR-ML leadership has no proof, then the leadership should come clean. Such charges have and do cause harm in the movement when they are unfounded; we believe the charge is totally unfounded in this case. With respect to LPR’s ultra-leftism, we can only offer the lessons we have learned in struggle against our own ultra-leftism.

LPR-ML cannot repudiate its ultra-Leftism without delving into its past and present and summing up its history by reviewing the development of the organization in its: internal life and its relationship to the masses and the development of its line and the basis of the line. We have tried to show concretely how the LPR leadership squashed ideological struggle when contacts attempted to point out errors, and we believe this burocratic method cannot but be reflected in the internal life of the organisation. We have tried to show concretely why LPR has not been capable of sinking roots among the masses and we believe an objective summation by LPR will bear out that they have no political base among the masses even in the New York City area because of the ultra-left sectarianism. There are other serious Criticisms that other Marxist-Leninists have made (the criticism by the August Twenty-Ninth Movement (ATM) in regard to LPR’s history and their unities with the Communist League (CL), for example). The basic problem, which is a serious problem in the communist movement as a whole, is left sectarianism. With respect to the LPR leadership, this problem cannot begin to be dealt with so long as the organization refuses to even acknowledge its practice of spreading base and unfounded slanders.

In the main the major communist organizations today are not striving to unite the majority of the Marxist-Leninists nor with the other major communist organizations. This can be seen by the formation of a number of “Communist parties” such as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), Communist Party-ML (OL), Communist Labor Party (CLP), etc. All these party formations have taken place under conditions wherein the majority of Marxist-Leninist forces have not been united under one leading center and wherein none of the parties have elaborated a line as to how to unite the Marxist-Leninists under one leading center before the formation of the party. Furthermore, the parties once formed have in the main ceased any struggle to unite with other Marxist-Leninists and the “party to be” Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO) has even declared the rest of the Marxist-Leninists as degenerated. The remaining major organizations largely function as if the next organization does not exist. Workers Congress (WC) is building almost all by itself (with the exception of the San Diego Organizing Committee) the “Leninist trend” or “center” and its “Iskra”; and so on with LTM, LPR, Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee (MLOC) etc. The type of joint work needed to develop unity and strengthen our forces (such as the joint work of ATM and I Wor Kuen (IWK), and other Marxist-Leninists in the Anti-Bakke movement) is almost non-existent.

All the major Marxist-Leninist organizations, (and these major organizations are in a good position resource wise, to play the principal role in uniting the majority of Marxist-Leninist forces) agree that we need a single agitator, propagandizer and organizer in order to really win over and organize the vanguard. Yet each organization has taken its own independent path, not only publishing its own Iskra, so to speak, but acting as if by itself it can unite the majority of Marxist-Leninists, win over the vanguard, and accomplish all the various tasks necessary to establish the U.S. vanguard party. Furthermore, as another blow against unity, these organizations have all but ceased polemics with each other and have chosen instead to ignore the rest of the movement.

When we read about the attempts of ATM, WVO, RCP, OR, CP-ML to lead the spontaneous working class struggles, each organization presents their sum-ups as though they are the only communist forces engaged in this type of work or even in that particular area of work.

In ATM’s article (September ’77 paper) on the United Auto Workers (UAW) convention, ATM summed-up the importance of breaking with “small circle spirit which still sees our tasks as limited to one plant, one city or one region.” We agree with ATM that Marxist-Leninists cannot properly carry on communist work if they restrict themselves to one plant, or one city, or one region. However the solution to this problem cannot be found in one organizations expansion but by struggling for the unity of Marxist-Leninists across the country which must include the broadening of our base in the working class. It seems to us that to combat the small circle spirit through the nation-wide growth of one’s own organization is not to address one self to the problem of small circle spirit in the communist movement and what it means. The contradiction is not between small circle spirit and nation-wide organizational growth, it is a contradiction between small circle spirit and party spirit (on this question, see 2, 3 Many Parties of a New Type? pgs. 221-228)

The work of some of the communist organizations in the working class already shows how ultra-leftism is manifested within the working class. Two particular examples are RCP’s National Worker Organization (NWO) and WVO’s Trade Union Education League (TUUL), Both these mass organizations are being developed by winning over advanced workers in., the trade unions and then diverting them away from the trade unions into these “intermediate” organizations in order to “further deepen and broaden communist work in the trade unions and working class movements.”

In WVO’s article on the “Trade Union Education League”, WVO (see WVO’s newspaper Sept. 77 pg. 3) sees working in rank and file caucuses to build a T.U.E.L. type organization as way to “broaden and deepen communist work.” In our understanding, such mass organizations may be created where no mass organizations already exist (such as among the non-unionized workers in the south or among the unemployed) in order to facilitate organization. However, to counterpose “pure revolutionary mass organizations” to already existing mass organizations is to divorce the advanced workers from the mass of workers and thereby undertake a counter productive anarcho-syndicalist style of work in the trade union and working class movement. Furthermore, the development of these types of organizations can only serve to divide the class just as the communist movement is divided. It will lead to many NWO or TUEL type organizations each having “allegience to one or another “party” or communist organization, each going its own way, in competition with the other; in fact, each seeking dominance and hegemony over the working class Needless to say, this jig saw puzzle will confuse and alienate the workers. These NWO and TUEL type organizations in the trade union and working class movement are a manifestation, within the working class, of the left sectarianism in the communist movement am they can only serve to further divide the Marxist-Leninists and divorce the Marxist-Leninists from the working class. Just as ATM and IWK can do joint work in the anti-Bakke movement, so the Marxist-Leninist forces can do joint work within the trade union movement around agreed upon minimum programs.[1]

We have tried to show how the sectarianism in the communist movement limits our ability to organize and lead the spontaneous struggles of the workers and in fact, how it leads to further division and confusion among the workers. Left-sectarianism in the communist movement means left-sectarianism in the working class.

To continue the process of repudiation of left-sectarianism and other deviations, and help in the process of party building we are presently striving to determine the way forward in building unity with other Marxist—Leninists and establishing ties within the working class. It is our view that our unity with other Marxist-Leninists must result from joint study, research, and practice. At this time, we see determining whether we will work with other Marxist-Leninist, or Marxist-Leninist organizations on a case by case basis. This means that the areas of joint work we undertake will be based on our limitations (being realistic about what we can handle), what we see as the. most important tasks facing the communist movement, and whether or not engaging in a particular area of work with Marxist-Leninist organizations or other Marxist forces will help move forward the tasks of uniting Marxists-Leninists and winning the vanguard to communism.

To aid in the further development of unity we see the need of establishing channels of communication among Marxist-Leninists. In beginning this process we are sending this summation to all Marxist-Leninist organizations of which we have knowledge and requesting their views, criticism, etc. We also see utilizing the existing communist press-to express our views on particular questions facing the movement and to share our experiences and lessons from our areas of work. Also we see the need for the development of a theoretical journal open to all Marxist-Leninist and Marxist-Leninist organizations to express their views on questions, and the development of liaison work with other Marxist—Leninist and Marxist-Leninist organizations which will aid in the development of joint work, study, and research.

In striving to address the task of establishing ties with the working class we must honestly acknowledge our weak ties within the working class. At present, we see that the way to correct this is to establish areas of work within the working class, from which we can win the advanced and unite Marxists-Leninists. We recognize that involvement and development of work within the working proletariat is the most important area. We also see one of our tasks as undertaking investigation to determine in what other areas (housing, education, welfare, unemployment, etc.) we can and should be involved in.

In taking up the task of involvement in areas of mass work we see the need at this time to join existing mass organizations and go about the day to day work of understanding the needs of the people, learning what they already know, learning to give effective leadership being part of the ongoing struggle being waged by the people and aiding them in working towards improving their living conditions. We must begin to sum-up the struggle to the workers showing them from their own experience how restricting our fight to the confines of the reform struggle can only provide partial or temporary solutions. We must show the workers the necessity of overthrowing the capitalist system itself. Ongoing day to day work supplies the knowledge and experience to better be able to combat the capitalist system, educate the advanced fighters, and win them over to Marxism-Leninism.

We realize that there is much work ahead and that at this time our ideas and views are very general; but they are taking more concrete form as we continue to grapple with the tasks that we think will move the communist movement forward towards building the communist party. We are currently studying the book 2, 3, Many Parties of a New Type? Against the Ultra-Left Line by Proletarian Unity League. From this book we have drawn some ideas specifically around the current situation existing in the communist movement. We have examined the Proletarian Unity League’s presentation in relationship to our own experiences and knowledge of the movement. As its fundamental starting point and in its method of approaching the state of the communist movement, we believe, the book comes from and upholds the party spirit and can play a significant role in promoting the party spirit. We strongly urge all comrades to study the book, disseminate, discuss, and respond to it.


[1] Besides the joint work of ATM-IWK (August Twenty-Ninth Movement-I Wor Kuen) in the Anti-Bakke Movement, it is almost impossible to point out other situations where the major Marxist-Leninist organizations are doing joint work. We are not very familiar with the Anti-Bakke Movement, nor have we studies ATM-IWK’s line on the question. We do not know how ATM and IWK came to do joint work in this particular struggle, but their joint work is an unusual occurrence in the Communist Movement. Left-sectarianism, in our view, has prevented the communist forces in the movement from doing joint work which is necessary for the movement’s development.