Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Collective

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


To celebrate International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) the LPR brought together a number of contacts four weeks before the date of the activity to work together as a core to give leadership to a so-called mass coalition that would be formed to carryout the celebration. During the course of work for the IWWD celebration certain struggles developed that stemmed basically from LPR’s left sectarianism toward Marxist-Leninists and its failure to understand how the celebration of IWWD or any working class celebration should serve to unite communists and address itself to educating and winning over working class men and women, particularly the advanced elements at this time. Furthermore, LPR did not see IWWD as an integral part of its work as a whole, but rather it viewed this holiday, as a thing in itself.

LPR’s stated position on the core is “a core is established with the purpose of providing communist leadership in a particular area, give communist leadership to established mass organizations, or to establish and lead such organizations. The core, acting under the leadership of our organization, is responsible for bringing the line of the organization to that particular struggle, mass organization, etc.” (RESISTANCE, Jan ’77, vol. 8, #1, p, 2). “...that the building of cores should be seen in the context of party building” (RESISTANCE, April ’77, vol. 8, #3-4, p. 10). A core must have principles of unity and fundamental unity with the organization. In dealing with the question of fundamental unity LPR states “Neither do we mean unity on a series of general formulations or abstractions” (RESISTANCE, Jan. ’77, Vol. 8, #1, p. 2). From the very beginning the IWWD core did not have principles of unity nor did we discuss our understanding of cores to make sure we understood the framework in which we were working; i.e., what exactly is the fundamental unity between LPR and the core members on the woman question, how does the core arrive at decisions, what is the relationship of the core to LPR, etc. At the time, contacts (core members) raised criticism to LPR for the manner in which the core was established (no principles of unity, etc.) but were not able to understand that given LPR’s stated position no core should have been built (once the work for IWWD was summed up contacts realized this and criticized LPR. LPR did not unite with the criticism.) Later LPR did self-criticism and admitted it should have discussed the principles of unity, fundamental unities, and the decision making process before the formation of the core; however LPR maintained that those points could not be dealt with at that particular time because the work for the activity would suffer. The contacts incorrectly united with this but felt we should find time to deal with the points.

The line, “everything in the interest of the work”, consistently came up. On the question of line struggle LPR consistently implemented, ”two-line struggle is the exception, not the rule.” LPR’s stated position on the core is, the communist propaganda and agitation developed by the core, the training of its members on how to provide leadership, the study of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought (MLMTT) both by the core members and the advanced and intermediate elements that are recruited to the mass organizations etc. are concrete forms in which we carry out our central task. The practice of the IWWD core makes a mockery of this statement. There was a minimum of line struggle and each time there was, LPR said we were “struggling over every point”, or “emphasizing struggle to the exclusion of living out leaflets.” We shelved the discussion on cores “in the interest of the work; we shelved the discussion on protective legislation “in the interest of the work”; we shelved the discussion on working in the women’s movement, whether to build a mass organization or to enter existing ones, all “in the interest of the work.” This is a clear example of LPR’s sectarianism towards the masses and its outright refusal to carry on line struggle in order to concretely deal with developing ties politically and organizationally with the working class.

We now see LPR’s practice with the core as a means for artificially testing its line on cores and LPR saw utilizing its contacts (core members) in order to further its image among communist forces. LPR did not bring contacts together to work in the core in order to train them in communist work and raise their political understanding of the woman question in the US in general and how to address the needs of women in the work places in New York City in particular. LPR brought the contacts together to work only for the activity. This can be seen in several ways: 1) LPR did not present to the contacts its position on the woman question in the US and New York city and how it saw doing communist work in the women’s movement and the workplaces; 2) LPR maintained the position that there was not enough time to have political education in the core; 3) LPR held the position that principles of unity and fundamental unity would have to wait to be discussed since there was not enough tire for both discussion and the work for the activity; 4) LPR put forth that struggles in the core were holding back work for the activity (core members should follow LPR blindly without asking questions); and 5) LPR asserted it was enough to unite contacts in the core on generalities (the woman question is a class question, women’s liberation is linked to the struggle of the working class, and the need for socialist revolution) as it was not necessary to do ideological and political preparation in order to give leadership to the contacts.

LPR saw its contacts in the core only as a means to accomplish its desired effect of placing the IWWD activity under a bogus front of the ”Committee for the Celebration of IWWD” in order to give the impression that LPR had gained influence over a number of communist forces in New York City. In reality the committee consisted of LPR and some of its contacts. The left-sectarianism and hegemonism of LPR summed up from the examples is that it viewed the training and political education of its contacts as subordinate to the IWWD activity, it saw uniting Marxist-Leninists as subordinate to LPR’S own interests (the activity) and Marxist-Leninist two-line struggle was in practice the exception since time did not permit it (two-line struggle was subordinate to the activity and contacts were to follow blindly and negate their own political experience and consciousness). LPR did not see the need to develop principles of unity or state what it saw as the fundamental unity on the woman question in order for contacts and the organization to function as a core. All that could wait until after the activity; yet, the core was formed only for the activity!

There was no democracy practiced in the core; either points of difference were not struggled out or we were accused of taking things out to lunch. In one struggle a contact was accused of splitting LPR and its cadre and coming from opposition to the organization for asking, one of its cadre his opinion on whether he thought LPR should finish the presentation for IWWD or if the contact responsible should finish it (the contact did not unite with the criticism). In the struggle that followed, LPR stated it might have fundamental disunity with what the contact stated in the presentation (which does not say too much for the basis upon which the organization brought the contact into the core, since all core members were to have fundamental unity with the organization). The organization was forced to state that, “contacts must have fundamental unity with the LPR and not the other wry abound” (LPR did not have to have fundamental unity with the contacts); and that, “contacts should trust the organization” (but, LPR need not trust the contacts). Another instance showing the lack of democracy occurred when LPR refused to answer a question concerning what should be the focus of IWWD literature (that is, who is the propaganda and agitation directed toward: Marxist-Leninists, advanced elements, or the masses in general?). The LPR cadre said the contacts were, “trying to set a trap for her.” (LPR later accepted criticism for this.) At the time, it was raised that the core itself should have taken initiative on this question of focus when it was clear the LPR did not have a position (if it did it was not stating it). The issue was whether a core engaged in a particular area of struggle must wait for the organization to put forth its position on a question that is before the core, when the organization has no position. Some contacts stated that we do not have to wait for the organization. The core being a democratic organization, discusses issues, and comes to a decision whether the LPR has or has not a position or suggestion to make. Fundamental unity, principles of unity, and Marxism-Leninism are the generalities that guide our work and should in general rule out the possibility of being in fundamental disagreement with the LPR. The question of what happens once a core or members of a core are in fundamental contradiction is another question and should not be confused with the ability of a core to take initiative-action, make decision when the LPR has no position. But, LPR disagreed and stated that this is making the core an independent organization and that the core should not be taking positions on questions.

LPR’s view of training coincided with the theory of cadres because we were ”trained” in total isolation from our participation in the mass struggle. During the work for IWWD it was raised by some contacts that training of cadre/contacts in how to do communist work should be primary and not the activity itself. LPR charged that saying training was primary was advocating the theory of cadres and that the activity was primary. At that time we felt the activity could serve as a means for training; i.e., believing that handing out leaflets, writing speeches and newspaper articles was giving contacts and cadre training in communist work. This was and remains the view of LPR on training contacts and cadre. The preparation for and the activity itself did not involve doing work for the building, and/or consolidation of an existing base; that is, supplementing on-going community, factory work, etc. We now think that in connection with doing communist work in general and around the woman question in particular that our past view on training and the continuing view of LPR is narrow and did not address the training of cadre/contacts as to how to do propaganda and agitation concerning the woman question at the work place, in what areas do we work to win advanced women to communism, and how do we identify the needs of women at the work places and address those needs. But, we cannot take up those points unless we are involved in the mass struggle. Training cadres/contacts to give leadership to mass struggles is not the Trotskyite theory of cadres, but is the Marxist-Leninist method of training. It is the Trotskyite theory of cadres to organize Marxist-Leninists totally divorced from the struggles, of the masses and then say this training Marxist-Leninists to do communist work. LPR later claimed that training in IWWD was primary but it was distorted since we didn’t do enough leafleting, pestering, etc. (LPR did no self-criticism nor did it explain why it changed its position on whether training or the activity was primary). Exactly what we wore trained to do is to show disdain and paternalism for the masses; that we could and should organize activities for the masses without doing work among them, without knowing the problems they face in their clay to day lives; that we can give leadership to them once we have been groomed in how to give leadership without participating in their struggles and learning from them; that they will follow us not on the basis of on going work that allows them to judge us based on our practice and words but because our leaflets, newspapers, and posters sound or look good. We learned to go out and light the spark that will bring the masses to the streets.

We think the celebration of IWWD should have been celebrated in relationship to the tasks facing us today in party building; that is, uniting Marxist-Leninists, winning the advanced, and carrying on fusion. The focus should have been on correctly approaching the woman question in our areas of work and how this can help us in building a base at our workplaces. We could have honestly utilized an educational campaign with the above as its purpose that took the form of a closed forum or informal discussion group aimed at contacts and cadre. LPR’s practice for IWWD showed its isolation from the masses and its perpetuation of this isolation. This isolation isnít just a question of the objective lack of fusion of the communist and working class movements, but is a manifestation of how LPR sees doing work among the masses.

LPR’s premise of forming a core for IWWD was from its inception divorced from having any on going work among the masses. We were supposed to give leadership to a mass coalition but LPR has no base in any mass organization so that they would be able to draw such an organization to an activity. Therefore its choice of ”mass organizations” were virtually all third world anti-imperialist organizations (Ethiopian Student Union of North America, Iranian Student Union, 18th of May, Hostos, MPR, LineaRojas) whose main work is mobilizing support for struggles outside the US. The choice of organizations did not reflect a “mass coalition” of US forces but was an attempt to gain prestige by leeching off the established third world anti-imperialist organization.

During the work for the coalition it became clear that the only forces from which LPR could draw people was itself and its Marxist-Leninist contacts (the core). In the hope of attracting more forces LPR suggested that a letter stating the principles of unity of the coalition be distributed. This hope was not based on doing concrete work among the masses before the activity so that the letter would supplement the work already in progress and people would know what IWWD was and come to the event based on the correct practice and respect gained by the cadres or contacts in the workplaces. The letter could not and did not work. LPR did not take the initiative at this point to sponsor the activity in its own name, (though this option was raised by contacts) but, instead called for a committee in order to continue the deception of a mass celebration and make it appear as though LPR was working with many different forces and had substantial influence in the New York city area. The truth of the mass nature of the committee was evident: we did not have mass participation, there was no one to lead. But, LPR wanted to continue to have a “mass celebration” with “principles of unity of a mass character”. The principles of unity were intended to be principles all women could unite around: 1) The woman question is a class question; 2) Fight for full equality of women; 3) Oppose all manifestations of oppression of women. The contacts united with this point and allowed LPR to dishonestly portray IWWD as part of their “mass” work without any work before, during, or after the event, in factories, schools, daycare centers and communities concerning the woman question.

The leaflet LPR wrote for IWWD reflected this lack of work as it was nothing but abstract phrasemongering with absolutely no concrete analysis and line on the women’s movement in the US today. In fact there could not be, since LPR does no work among women to develop a line. Yet, LPR said at one point they had gained clarity on protective legislation and on how to approach the masses on the woman question. This is an interesting trick; gaining clarity on how to approach the masses without doing work among them. The way that LPR sees doing communist work, building a base among the masses is by so-called “organizational work.” By “organizational work” LPR is referring to leafleting, postering, selling newspapers, etc. This is a completely incorrect view of organizational work. LPR sees organizing people by leafleting, etc. rather than having a plan for entering the spontaneous movement to give leadership to the concrete struggles in the different areas. They see that the so-called correctness of their line will win over people without doing concrete work to prove themselves among the masses. This is why they see winning over people through so-called organizational tasks, such as setting up tables, distributing newspapers, etc., when they have no base in the factories, schools, communities, where they are doing this “organizational work”. This is a complete narrowing of the concept and scope of organizational work. We cannot expect to bring the masses to any event without doing work among them. Leafleting factories in which there is no base work will not bring the masses to any activity in this period of low fusion. No amount of “organizational work” can accomplish this before a base is built. LPR urged us to bring people from our workplaces but did not concentrate on building a base within these workplaces first. In fact during the preparation for the activity some contacts were already in work places and trying to develop work in their areas, but LPR’s position was that this work was/is not primary and consequently did not develop it, thereby perpetuating their isolation from the masses.

At the time of the work for IWWD we were under the mistaken notion that LPR had areas of base work with which to draw people to this activity. When these forces did not show up LPR criticized the contacts for not doing enough “organizational work” (leafleting, distributing papers, etc.). According to LPR no one came to the activity because the contacts were lax in “organizational tasks”. Instead of getting to the root of why there were no forces at IWWD, LPR used organizational work as a cover for its own lack of ties among the masses.

In reviewing the work done for the IWWD celebration under LPR’s leadership, left-sectarianism toward the communist movement is clearly reflected in the negation by LPR of placing this activity in the service of moving forward the central task of party building by striving to unite Marxist-Leninists; i.e., seeking to do joint work where possible with other Marxist-Leninist organizations. The following points show how this was reflected.

LPR initiated the International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) core in the first week of February 1977, but prior to this (January 1977) the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO) had established a coalition for IWWD. The organizations proposed by LPR to be involved in the mass coalition were the Ethiopian Student Union of North America (ESUNA), the Iranian Student Union (ISU), Revolutionary Collective, 18th of May, Hostos, MPD, and Linea Rojas. It must be noted that at the precise time that the LPR was suggesting ESUNA and ISU, these two organizations were already in a coalition with the WVO. LPR was aware of this fact, although contacts were not. The sectarianism was demonstrated in that when the IWWD core was initiated there was no discussion by the LPR nor by the contacts as to whether or not we should attempt to work with the WVO coalition or any other coalition which may already have been in existence so long as we united with the principles of unity. As LPR was in a leadership position its responsibility was to investigate the possibility of doing joint work for the celebration of IWWD, since a coalition already existed, and to put forth its reasons for not participating on the basis of not being able to unite on the principles of unity (of which contacts were not aware) of that WVO coalition. But, this is not the way it happened. One month before IWWD, LPR organized its own separate celebration for IWWD without a discussion on participating in the WVO coalition for IWWD. The contacts did not struggle that we should investigate it but united with the unspoken; since WVO has been summed up as an “opportunist” organization we do not need to consider doing work with it. This type of thinking is a manifestation of LPR’s and our left-sectarianism of not even considering coalition work on a particular issue with organizations that have been summed up as “opportunist.”

A struggle developed as to whether only Marxist-Leninist organizations or student, anti-imperialist, and mass organizations should speak at the IWWD activity. As the event had been defined as a “mass celebration”, LPR exposed its left-sectarianism by not placing the activity in the service of accomplishing the central task. (We now view the struggle as a question of principle in light of the fact that LPR had/has no base in factories, communities, schools, etc., in New York city from which mass, student anti-imperialist organizations would come to speak in solidarity with IWWD, nor had any work been done toward involving these organizations and other Marxist-Leninist organizations in the work for celebrating IWWD.) LPR held the position that only Marxist-Leninist organizations (not student, anti-imperialist, mass) should speak; some contacts held the position that all organizations should be allowed to speak with a time limit. LPR then challenged why should we allow the opportunist organizations – October League (OL), WVO, Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), etc.– to put forth their views on the woman question at “our” activity, (it was already agreed that no Trotskyites would be allowed to speak.) In effect it was putting forth that only LPR should speak, it being the only “genuine” Marxist-Leninist organization. LPR later repudiated (in response to criticism from contacts) its position that only Marxist-Leninist organizations should speak and restated its position as only “genuine” and no opportunist Marxist-Leninist organizations should speak. At the time, some contacts united with LPR’s restated position. Later LPR stated it would take up the task of inviting other organizations to give statements at the activity but LPR was in fact the only organization to speak at the activity.

Currently we feel that both of LPR’s positions at that time and their view toward other communist organizations was not coming from the stand point of seeking to do joint work where possible but was a manifestation of left-sectarianism. It did not want to engage in joint work with other Marxist-Leninist organizations to celebrate IWWD by building on the unities and working out the differences regarding the woman question; instead LPR claimed the case was closed (although, both LPR and WVO do not support the Equal Rights amendment and neither has addressed the question of how to do work in the women’s movement). In fact, LPR used this leftism to intimidate other comrades by asking them why we should let opportunist organizations into our activity to speak and give their views on the woman question (insinuating that honest Marxist-Leninists do not allow opportunists to speak at their activities and that it was acceptable to us to put the masses at the opportunists’ disposal). We were also affected by left-sectarianism and this was shown by our inability to grasp at the time that the principles of unity: (l. The woman question is a class question; 2. Fight for full equality for women; 3. Oppose all manifestations of oppression of women.) for the coalition and the bogus Committee for the Celebration of IWWD were so general that any communist organization in the movement could have joined and that by labeling them as opportunist we were creating an artificial wall that prevents us from building on our unities and working out our differences.

This type of attitude of isolating ourselves from other Marxist-Leninist forces cultivates sectarianism, not the striving for principled unity and struggle among communist; that is, working to unite Marxist-Leninists by doing joint work, having theoretical, ideological, and political exchanges based on our concrete work in the communities, factories, the women’s movement, etc. LPR put its own interest above the interests of the communist movement; this was incorrect. LPR saw this activity as a means for demonstrating its ability to draw a lot of forces (mainly third world anti-imperialist organizations) to an activity; its primary purpose was not to further the cause of party building. LPR’s work for this activity was done in isolation from building or consolidating a base in the communities, factories schools, etc.

The celebration of this working class holiday should have been approached in relationship to the tasks we face today of party building, uniting Marxist-Leninists, winning the advanced, and carrying on fusion of the communist and working class movements. The primary focus should have been giving leadership in gaining an understanding of the woman question in the US in general and New York city in particular and training contacts and cadre in how to do propaganda and agitation concerning the woman question, in summing up and addressing the needs of women in the work places, and what areas we should work in to win advanced women to communism, including the development of the existing areas of work.