Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Proletarian Unity League

The Ultra-Left Danger and How to Fight It. Three Articles on “Anti-Dogmatism”


The three articles printed here concern certain ideological and organizational questions related to the present struggle against ultra-leftism within the Marxist-Leninist movement. All three treat current tendencies within the anti-revisionist camp and the need to combat its disunity by organizing a struggle against the dominance of the ultra-left line. All three do so in the context of dealing with problems raised by the program and activities of those groups and individuals who identify themselves as the “anti-dogmatists.”

In the past two years, ideological confusions, organizational dispersion, and political indecision have grown in the communist movement. The centrifugal forces tearing the movement apart have continued largely unchecked, scattering Marxist-Leninist energies and increasing demoralization in a number of quarters. Existing divisions have hardened and new ones have emerged. The growing number of groups in different sections of the movement having splits provide one sure symptom of these troubles.


For the last couple of years, the communist movement has divided into two big groupings. On one side we have those organizations in and around the “Left-Wing,” or largely relating to its perspectives. It was from this section that a number of groups slipped into semi-Trotskyism and “left” revisionism (groups like the Workers Viewpoint Organization, Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, Revolutionary Workers League, etc., not to mention the Communist Labor Party). It was also from this section that the two biggest organizations emerged who today consider themselves the anti-revisionist communist party in the U.S., the RCP and the CP(M-L).

Within this first grouping, a new major division has arisen just in the last year, with potentially far-reaching consequences. This division counterposes those organizations who adhere to the basic view of the world balance of forces summarized in the Three Worlds concept to those who oppose it. Among the latter, the most prominent group currently is the Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee. The RCP’s views share a number of major features with those openly opposing the Three Worlds concept.

The second major grouping includes those organizations who consider themselves a part of an emerging anti-dogmatist trend or even an anti-dogmatist movement: groups like the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee, El Comite/MINP, the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Organization, the Guardian newspaper, the Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective, and many others. Though considerably smaller overall than the “Left-Wing,” this grouping grew relative to other sections of the communist movement in the past while. Like the “Left-Wing,” it contains a number of sharply differing perspectives.

In the past year and a half, alongside of our general analysis of the problems in the communist movement, (Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type? Against the Ultra-Left Line) we have concentrated a certain amount of attention on our unity and differences with the “anti-dogmatists.” We have done so for several reasons. In the first place, the anti-dogmatists’ view of the problems in the communist movement comes close in some respects to our own view. These groups recognize the general isolation of the communist forces from the working class and national movements. They see more clearly than the “Left-Wing” just how far we are today from having a viable revolutionary mass movement or entering into a revolutionary situation. They call for a break with the characteristic errors of our movement, with the erroneous policies, practices, and styles which have reigned among Marxist-Leninists. They often see these errors as stemming from the “Left,” not the Right, though not always; but their analysis of “dogmatism” as the main danger covers over a number of contradictory positions. This unity does not extend to a number of other very important questions, where we have serious differences with some of the leading groups among the “anti-dogmatists.”

In the second place, this segment of the communist movement has seen the most important recent effort to attempt to organize ideological struggle at a national level. Following the failure of the October League’s Organizing Committee to rally a single one of the established organizations in the communist movement to its founding congress, the “Left-Wing” generally has run up against the obstacle of its own theories and policies. Despite ringing proclamations to the contrary, the “Left-Wing” has lost confidence in its own ability to unify Marxist-Leninists around a correct line and has consequently lost momentum. The few attempts at unifying initiatives, such as the MLOC’s “struggle over program” or the ATM(M-L) comrades’ call for country-wide political agitation, have produced little or no concrete results. Within the “anti-dogmatists” grouping, on the other hand, there has been a serious attempt to organize ideological struggle among a relatively large number of organizations. This came through the initiative of DMLO, El Comite/MINP, the Potomac Socialist Organization, PWOC and the Socialist Union of Baltimore – what has become known as the Committee of Five – who raised the possibility of organizing “a conference of Marxist-Leninists based on two points of unity: 1) that dogmatism and its cohort, sectarianism, are the main forms of opportunism within the party-building movement and 2) that U.S. imperialism is the main enemy of the peoples of the world.” (letter of June 1976)

Since the Committee of Five first raised this proposal, a great deal of struggle has occurred. We originally wrote an article criticizing these two points of unity and some other features of the Committee of Five’s perspective (“Response of September 1, 1976”). In that article we proposed alternative points of unity on the key issues in contention. Through the circulation of our response, we sought to organize a pamphlet which would allow an exchange of views among a number of comrade organizations. These negotiations took a long time, and during that period, the Committee of Five produced a new document, the Draft Unity Principles for a Marxist-Leninist Conference, as well as several other papers. We wrote three other articles.[1]

“More on Dogmatism...” was written in response to some of the questions and criticisms raised by our first “Response.” Some of these – a comment by the Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective and an article by the Lexington Communist Collective – are found in the forthcoming pamphlet. In “More on Dogmatism...” we try to explain further why we had put forward the three alternative points of unity we had around the key questions at issue. Those points of unity were: 1) The main danger to the building of a new Marxist-Leninist party in the U.S. comes today from the “left.” Serious advances on the struggle against “left” opportunism will be required in order for our movement to form a unified Communist Party; 2) The U.S. communist movement is presently relatively isolated from the workers’ movement. To overcome that isolation, it must put an end to the dominance of “leftism” within its ranks; 3) The unification of the communist movement requires in the first place the creation of a “common literature.”

We wrote “On the Small Consequences of Sectarianism” to criticize certain continuing sectarian features of the Committee of Five’s initiative, and to counter the argument that the point of unity around the main enemy to the world’s peoples need not be changed because it allegedly does not exclude many anti-“left” Marxist-Leninist groups.


The basic thrust behind these articles might be summarized in the following way: the contradictions among and between the “Left-Wing” groups, and the “anti-dogmatist” groups, as well as other contradictions, continue to grow. They have grown to the point where the communist movement gives the appearance of three of four separate movements, besides the parties’ view that basically the movement has ceased to exist altogether. But in fact, a materialist analysis shows that the communist movement has a certain objective existence, that the many groups and individuals share similar historical, social, and to some extent ideological roots, and that these common roots favor the continued growth of ultra-leftism. This means two things. First, that the defeats and demoralization brought on by the ultra-left line are bound to set off a broad reaction to that line. Opposition to “left” opportunist hegemony in the communist movement is inevitable because most Marxist-Leninists are basically good, desire unity, and seek to serve the people and make revolution. Conscious opposition to ultra-leftism as the main danger within the Marxist-Leninist movement represents nothing more or less than a more correct application of Marxism-Leninism to some of our concrete conditions. The task before the conscious anti-“left” Marxist-Leninists in regard to the communist movement then is to propagate the need for defeating ultra-leftism, to unite with the developing anti~“left” reaction, and to organize it while continuing to carry out our tasks within the workers’, national revolutionary, women’s and anti-imperialist movements.

Second, ultra-leftism is not just the “Left-Wing’s” problem – it is a problem before the entire Marxist-Leninist movement. For this reason the struggle to unify the Marxist-Leninist forces does not consist in isolating and smashing all those groups who today identify more or less with the program and work of the “Left-Wing.” Instead it consists in a movement-wide struggle to unify the Marxist-Leninists around a Marxist-Leninist line.

Some of the leading groups among the anti-dogmatists do not treat ultra-leftism as a problem before the entire communist movement, and in fact do not deal with the Marxist-Leninist movement as a whole very much at all. This reflects some incorrect ideological tendencies of the “left” and Right and the definite influence of ultra-leftism within the “anti-dogmatist trend,” and shows that you don’t need to be an alleged “dogmatist” in order to have sectarianism as your “cohort.” In our reply to the Guardian (paper two), in articles responding to the Committee of Five and in our book, we have cited a number of analyses by the Guardian, the PWOC or other anti-dogmatist groups where they characterize errors in the same way the “Left-Wing” does. This includes the general similarity between the definitions frequently given of dogmatism by the anti-dogmatists and those provided some years back by the Revolutionary Union.

So far of course the centerpiece of the “anti-dogmatist” perspective has been their critique of the alleged “class-collaborationism” of the “dogmatists.” This critique, like “anti-dogmatism” itself, has a contradictory character. A few groups have addressed the central strategic basis for the Chinese, Albanian and other Marxist-Leninists’ international analysis, namely the analysis of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR. In taxing Mao Tsetung’s thesis that “the rise to power of revisionism means the rise to power of the bourgeoisie” as “idealist,” groups like the PWOC strongly imply that the united front against the two superpowers’ line errs in the direction of “left” opportunism. But prevailing anti-dogmatist opinion points in the opposite direction, as the choice of words itself implies. While we think that some “Left” groups have made some Right errors in this area (not defining and carrying out their specific responsibilities as Marxist-Leninists within one of the two superpowers, and not rendering support to Third World revolutionaries in some specific cases), overall we reject the blanket charge of “class collaborationism.” Where the “anti-dogmatists” have declared that the main danger in the communist movement stems from the “Left,” they have made little attempt to reconcile their critique of “class collaborationism” in international line with this general analysis of ultra-leftism. They have not shown how the ultra-left premises and semi-anarchist ideological basis of the “left” opportunist trend leads to this “class collaborationism.” In this sense, their mistaken characterization of the RU/RCP’s errors around reform and revolution as basically Rightist is consistent with their critique of dogmatism and flunkeyism. But neither is consistent with how we understand the Marxist-Leninist analysis of ultra-leftism.


Pointing to these errors, some comrades in the “Left-Wing” criticize us for “conciliating” the “centrists and revisionists,” just as some comrades among the ”anti-dogmatists” criticize us for “conciliating” the “dogmatists.” At issue between us and our critics in both sections is how to go about establishing a genuine, revolutionary multinational communist party in this country. At bottom this consists in a struggle between Party spirit and group spirit. The establishment of a revolutionary vanguard party will not be the work of a small section of the communist forces. It can only be the work of all honest Marxist-Leninists, both those presently in organizations and those who have yet to come forth from the workers’, national revolutionary and women’s movements. It can only be the work of all revolutionary elements in the U.S. If we restrict it to the work of a few, it will not get done.

Some people...act as though the fewer the people, the smaller the circle, the better. Those who have this ’small circle’ mentality resist the idea of bringing all positive factors into play, of uniting with everyone that can be united with, and of doing everything possible to turn negative factors into positive ones...Mao Tsetung

Different sections of the communist movement have different experiences and different strengths as well as weaknesses. We recognize the severity of many current disagreements, and that some of these disagreements reflect major differences in principle. Resolving them on a firm Marxist-Leninist basis will take a protracted effort. At the same time, we stand for the different sections of the communist movement using their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. To surmount the disunity and relative isolation of the Marxist-Leninists, we have to unite all who can be united and mobilize all positive factors in the Marxist-Leninist camp and in those sections of the mass movements interested in Marxist-Leninist work. The demands of the current period in U.S. history are too great and the tasks facing communists too enormous for us to indulge in sectarianism and closed door tactics. The work of building a unified Communist Party cannot afford that luxury.

January, 1978


[1] A number of these papers will be included in a forthcoming pamphlet, which includes our “Response” of September 1, 1976; the Draft Unity Principles by the Committee of Five; our paper of November 1, 1977, in reply to the Draft Unity Principles, entitled “Bring Home the Struggle Against ’Left’ Sectarianism: A Further Reply to the ’Committee of Five’”; a response by the Committee of Five to these papers of ours; and four statements or commentaries by the Boston Organizing Committee, the Communist Unity Organization, the Lexington Communist Collective, and the Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective. We agreed together with the Committee of Five not to include the first of the papers reprinted here – “More on Dogmatism and the Main Danger” – and the other, “On the Small Consequences of Sectarianism,” was not available at the time of this agreement.