Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

OCIC Steering Committee response to the request that PUL be included in the conferences which are planned around Principle 18 as a line of demarcation with “left” opportunism

First Issued: August 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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There is a contradiction within the OC between those that hold that Principle 18 is a proper line of demarcation with “left” opportunism and those who hold that it is not. On the one hand, the great bulk of the OC has decided that unity around Principle 18 is needed for the OC to move forward. The proposal which the OC adopted to guide its activity explicitly calls for discussion (both internal to the OC and external to it) on the importance of unity on Principle 18 in order for the OC to take a step forward. On the other hand, a small minority within the OC has taken a strong stand that not only is unity around Principle 18 not needed by the OC, but that its adoption has been a serious error which jeopardizes the entire OC effort.

This is an untenable situation for the OC to maintain. The OC cannot effectively engage in the process of rallying the forces of the anti-“left” tendency to its general perspective on how to organize the struggle against “left” opportunism while a small but active minority within the OC is both (objectively) obstructing the internal consolidation of the OC and, as members of the OC, openly attacking the perspective which the OC is attempting to project. The manifestations of the contradiction will only become sharper and more disruptive. Therefore, we must reach unity on whether Principle 18 is a correct line of demarcation with “left” opportunism or not. Either the minority must be won over to the perspective of the OC, the perspective of the OC must change and the OC reconstituted on a different basis, or the differences must be clarified to the point where it is clear that the two lines cannot coexist in the same formation.

To this end, the SC has formulated theses on why Principle 18 should be a line of demarcation with “left” opportunism, has organized an exchange of papers on the question and discussion of those papers, and has planned several regional conferences around the question following discussion of the papers.

The SC has been requested to include PUL in this process so that the most developed position in opposition to Principle 18 as a line of demarcation with “left” opportunism is put forward. Before we respond to this request, it is important to review the history of the treatment of Principle 18 by the OC and the formation which preceded the OC (the organizations which met last August – which we’ll call the pre-OC for convenience). The OC and the pre-OC have already taken certain steps forward in consolidating around Principle 18. It is not the SC’s intention, nor the SC’s prerogative, to ignore these advances. We will also review how the contradiction over Principle 18 has already manifested itself as an obstacle to the development of the OC.

The history

At the meeting of the pre-OC in August 1977, there was an extensive discussion of the draft principles of unity which had been circulated by the Committee of Five. Two votes were taken over Principle 18. The first was on a proposal to postpone voting on the principles for six months. The argument in favor was based on an assessment that insufficient discussion had taken place to “call the question.” The vote was 14 against and 5 in favor (BOC, BPO, El Comite, FTP, and WUO). A large majority of the pre-OC had decided that it was not premature to come to a decision on whether or not Principle 18 should be adopted by the pre-OC.

The second vote was on the adoption of Principle 18. The vote was 16 for, 2 against (BOC and BPO), and one abstention (WUO). The overwhelming majority of the pre-OC had voted to adopt Principle 18 as a principle of unity for the pre-OC. Several different arguments were put forward in support of Principle 18 but the common thread that ran through them was a recognition that opposition to Principle 18 was an error which was an important aspect of the overall ultra-left line. No position was taken on whether it was the primary aspect or not, or exactly what role it played in the overall ultra-left line.

The point that was not made precise at the August meeting was exactly what level of unity was being demanded around the principles of unity. This was clarified at the February meeting which established the OC. It was decided unanimously at that meeting that:

As long as an organization does not have a consolidated position in disagreement with the principles of unity (meaning either they are not sure they agree with all of the 18 points or do not agree that certain points should be a line of demarcation), they should be allowed to continue to participate in this effort as long as they agree to uphold the spirit of unity of this embryonic trend.

And it was the “sense of the body” that:

if an organization cannot uphold the principle embodied in the above, it is incumbent for the organization to state such and formally withdraw.

Furthermore, the proposal which was adopted to guide the work of the OC also contained explicit reference to Principle 18. (Only El Comite cast a negative vote on the proposal and it was on grounds unrelated to Principle 18.) One of the secondary tasks of the OC which the proposal specified was:

Organize a broad discussion (internal and external) on why the 18 points are the proper basis of unity for a step forward in the development of our emerging trend, particularly highlighting the importance of point 18.

The contradiction over Principle 18 is not an abstraction but has already manifested itself concretely as an obstacle to the development of the OC. First, in the exchange of papers (centered on responding to five key questions which had been chosen to focus the discussion) which the Committee of Five organized in preparation for the February meeting, the BPO failed to address the questions which had been chosen. They preferred instead to concentrate on trying to rectify what they saw as the errors that had been made in adopting Principle 18 at the August meeting. The concrete result was that the overall discussion was partially diverted from its focus on what the goals, tasks, and nature of an ideological center should be and what preconditions had to be met before a center could be established. The BPO made no contribution to this discussion. Second, the BPO and CUO played an obstructionist role at the February meeting in not allowing the Principle 18 question to rest, even though the body had overwhelmingly affirmed that the adoption of Principle 18 was not a subject of struggle at that meeting.


The debate within the anti-“left” tendency over Principle 18 has two aspects:

1) Is Principle 18 correct?
2) Is Principle 18 a proper line of demarcation with “left” opportunism at this time?

The first aspect is not a major contradiction within the OC. Indeed, it is incumbent upon an organization which disagrees with Principle 18 to withdraw from the OC. It is the second aspect of the question that represents the major contradiction within the OC and it is on this aspect that the present process of consolidation must focus if we are to proceed with clarity and in an orderly way.

It is for this reason that the SC has decided that PUL should not play a major role in the process. PUL sharply disagrees with the content of Principle 18. In fact, they support the “theory of the three worlds.” The inclusion of PUL would inevitably alter the character of the discussion from ideological struggle over whether it is correct for the OC to demarcate from “left” internationalism to ideological struggle over whether or not Principle 18 is correct. That struggle must of course be carried out with PUL (and many other forces) at some time, but the contradiction which is presently hampering the development of the OC must receive our immediate attention.

Some comrades will no doubt say that PUL’s arguments that Principle 18 should not be a line of demarcation with “left” opportunism at this time are general and do not involve the content of any particular lines. It may well be true that PUL may wish to avoid entering into struggle over the content of Principle 18. Given the stand of most of the organizations in the OC on Principle 18, it would make a certain amount of sense for PUL to avoid this struggle.

But most comrades in the OC who oppose PUL’s views on how to organize the tendency in opposition to “left” opportunism locate the source of PUL’s error in PUL’s incorrect assessment of how “left” opportunism manifests itself in our movement. In particular, in PUL’s failure to recognize “left” internationalism. For these comrades, a discussion of strategy for opposing “left” opportunism that did not begin from a level of common agreement on at least the main manifestations of “left” opportunism in our movement would be an abstract and futile exercise. So that even if PUL itself wanted to avoid discussion of the content of Principle 18 others would be forced to enter into struggle with PUL over this in order to counter their view of how to oppose “left” opportunism.

There will be ample opportunity for the ideological struggle over the content of “left” internationalism to take place with PUL. But this process is not the proper place.

SC/OC, August 78