Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Collective

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


In the development of the political economy study group, differences between LPR-ML and the contacts emerged over several important questions. The questions were: 1) the method of study of Marxist-Leninist theory; 2) cadre training; 3) how knowledge is acquired; and 4) the correct method of resolving non-antagonistic contradictions. In outlining the development of the political economy study group we will attempt to deal with these four questions.

As a result of contacts recognizing the need to study political economy, the League for Proletarian Revolution established a political economy study group. The goal of the study group was to provide its members with a basic understanding of political economy and to aid them in better understanding the workings of the capitalist economic system. LPR-ML did not present guidelines for the study group. The initial guidelines reached through the suggestions of comrades in the study group were: l) the study group should meet weekly; 2) the person making the presentation would serve as chairperson and be rotated each week; and 3) a11 members should strive to relate the material studied to the real world, bringing in current events, questions, experiences from places of employment, etc.

The unity we reached on the method of study was very superficial. From the onset of the study circle differences cropped up regarding the method of study that was being carried out by LPR-ML. For example, the LPR-ML comrade making the first presentation read her notes which had been taken word for word from A. Leontiev’s Political Economy text. Disagreement was raised with this method due to its mechanical approach to studying Marxist-Leninist principles in the abstract, not related to our day to day real world struggles. Marxist-Leninist principles can only be learned when they are integrated in the day to day practice. LPR-ML disagreed saying that the way to study was from the abstract to the concrete.

At the following two meetings we attempted to relate the study to problems faced in our day to day struggles by raising some specific questions. Why do some workers manifest reactionary ideas and others progressive ideas? What is the material basis for the conflict of ideas? Why are there different levels of consciousness within the working class itself? Other questions were raised about the deviation of Trotskyism on political economy, why each social system is necessarily replaced by the particular system that follows it (e.g., slavery followed by feudalism), and the difference that cities did not come into being with the advent of capitalism as was presented in the text (it was pointed out that Rome was a city). During our study of commodity production questions were raised pertaining to the consciousness of the working class. Concerning the differences in the consciousness between service workers and industrial workers, the contacts hell the position that the industrial sector of the working class is historically more conscious because of its relationship to production and its history of class struggle, LPR-ML maintained that we have not researched the differences in the consciousness of the two sectors and therefore, cannot take a position. However, LPR-ML went on to say that the industrial proletariat is not historically the most conscious sector; rather, it is a question of relativity. On the question of whether or not the working class understands it is being exploited, the contacts thought that the working class has some level of perceptual understanding that it is being exploited because of its relation to production. In opposition to this, LPR-ML said the working class has no understanding of being exploited, not even a perceptual level. According to LPR-ML, exploitation is a Marxist-Leninist concept that can be understood only by those who understand the theory of surplus value and contacts were therefore vulgarizing Marxism by stating that workers perceived or knew they were exploited (contacts, using concrete examples, tried in vain to prove this fact to LPR-ML).

At the following meeting LPR-ML attempted to re-orient (read: squash developing struggles) the study group by presenting contacts with a summation that stated, “first, there is not a good attitude toward learning in the study group; second, Marxist-Leninist theory is not open to question; third, tactics can be discussed but theory you learn–if one has questions he should investigate it and not start a discussion of it; and fourth, to say workers understand they are exploited is to say Marxism-Leninism comes from within, the working class.” LPR-ML continued by stating we were not studying enough and talking off the top of our heads. Its refusal to correctly discuss the problems and differences from the standpoint of unity, struggle, unity led to its onesidedness and a formalistic approach that was used in an effort to squash the struggle. This formalistic approach manifested itself in several ways. For example, LPR-ML decided to chair all the meetings, make the presentations, and draw up the questions. Further, the ten question that LPR presented to the study group as an instrument to aid our study were taken straight from the text and were not in accordance with the guideline of relating the material to the workplace or current events; that is, objective reality. Finally, LPR-ML stated that questions had to be raised and answered in the order that the material was presented in the text (in particular, the question regarding exploitation should not have been raised or discussed until chapter 4 – The Essence of Capitalist Exploitation).

As the struggle sharpened around the question of the consciousness of the working class, LPR-ML changed its position, stating that maybe workers can perceive they are exploited but knowing indicates a Marxist-Leninist understanding of exploitation. When criticized for changing its position without doing self-criticism for the errors made in the struggle and for not explaining why it was changing its position, LPR stated that the position was no different from what it had been saying all along. This was LPR’s method of struggle throughout the course of the study group; engaging in word games, not dealing with the question as stated, and changing its position after the struggle sharpened but declaring that their position had never been different. LPR’s response rather than be open to criticism and suggestions, was to raise that the primary reason the study group was not moving forward was our unwillingness to accept their method of study, which was to say their analysis of the contradictions was the only analysis worthy of consideration. Further, LPR stated that, “Line struggles on tactical questions or questions relating to particular time, place, and conditions are not to be misunderstood with the study of Marxism Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought or the approach we must have toward it. Once we call ourselves Marxist-Leninists we accept Marxism Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought.” In justifying its view and method, LPR stated, “Marx said that the study of political economy had to be from the abstract to the concrete.” LPR-ML would have had us follow their lead on the study of political economy blindly, never questioning them or being critical of the application of Marxist-Leninist principles.

We think that from the very beginning of the study group, there were two fundamentally different views: on how it should have developed; one held by LPR, and the other held by the contacts involved. Although we do feel there was weakness on our part in doing independent investigation on some of the questions raised we do not feel this was the principal reason the study group failed to develop correctly. While there is an over-all weakness in the ability of the anti-revisionist communist movement to give political and ideological guidance to the developing Marxist-Leninists and advanced elements, we have seen through our practice with LPR that they have particular weaknesses coming from a history of left-sectarianism from which they have never broken. Although the struggles that broke out in this study group were themselves important struggles (i.e., the level of consciousness of the masses, what sector of the working class is the most revolutionary, what should be our approach to the studying of Marxism-Leninism) we feel that the stand, viewpoint, and method adopted by LPR in dealing with these issues came from an essentially bourgeois view on the study of theory... From the beginning of the study group, the contacts actively pushed for the theory we were learning to be integrated with the problems faced on the job, and with issues that are key today. Although LPR assured us that they also wanted to integrate theory with practice, as time went on it became more and mere obvious that this was not the case. The method used by LPR in dealing with the contradictions that arose did not strive for principled unity, to clarify what the contradictions were so that they could be resolved. Instead, they first tried to say there were no differences, and when it became apparent that there were fundamental differences, LPR created only more confusion by not stating their positions clearly and openly and by treating struggle as a bad thing. They resorted to the ultra-left method of just taking quotes from books to attempt to defend their view, the view which negates the perceptual level of understanding that comes through the objective realities of everyday life, by putting forth that the only knowledge is rational knowledge.

This view of LPR’s has not only been manifested in this study group, but has, of necessity, been carried out in all phases of their political work. It says that since the masses do not possess Marxist-Leninist consciousness, they know nothing of class struggle and must await the instruction of a few bookworms. Also, since we as Marxist-Leninists are at a low theoretical level, we must wait until we absorb (memorize in a bourgeois fashion) Marxist-Leninist theory from books, before we reach the level of understanding it enough to question it. To quote LPR: “On certain occasions the great teachers of Marxism Leninism Mao Tsetung thought who have enriched the science have done so through investigation of concrete conditions, and through their masterly grasp of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung thought. They were able to determine at certain points where certain principles no longer applied. We are certainly not at this level.” Not only is this the treatment of Marxism-Leninism as a lifeless dogma, but it is also a manifestation of the view that the Marxist-Leninists should first be cultivated in a greenhouse, away from the thick of class struggle, before they come forth to “rouse” the masses.

Throughout the course of the study group, LPR refused to engage in above board criticism and self-criticism, repudiation, and sum-up. It has not dealt with contacts’ individual weaknesses, but raised vague criticisms and unprincipled personal attacks which became more slanderous as time went on (e.g., one contact considered himself “a great Marxist-Leninist”, another was a splittist, and a third supposedly accused an LPR cadre of being an agent). When it became apparent that there was no basic unity left to continue the study group in the face of these contradictions and slanders, LPR and the contacts resolved to sum-up the study group and discuss the differing views. LPR did not carry this out and disbanded the study group, stating that it would meet with the contacts to present its views on the study group at a later time. It has not done so to this date.