Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Proletarian Unity League

On The “Progressive Role” of the Soviet Union and Other Dogmas: A Further Reply to the PWOC and the Committee of Five

I. That Handy Little Word, “Dogma”

What a handy little word ’dogma’ is! One need only slightly twist an opposing theory, cover up this twist with the bogey of ’dogma’ – and there you are! (Lenin, “Revolutionary Adventurism,” CW 6, p. 197)

...it is dogmatism which prevents these organizations from correcting their errors by analyzing their own practice. (“Dogmatism, the Main Enemy, and ’Left’ Opportunism,” p. 3)

Finally, only it [the so-called “Marxist-Leninist trend”] has demonstrated the potential for rigorous self-examination, a forthright confrontation of errors and the unswerving pursuit of their rectification. (“Draft Resolution for an Ideological Center,” signed by the PWOC and three other organizations)

What is the “ideological essence” (p. 1), “nature” (p. 1), “key element” (p. 1), “central feature” (p. 2), “theoretical basis” (p. 2), “root error” (p. 6) and “methodological deviation” (p. 8) of the main danger to the present-day communist movement? According to Comrade Newlin, one size fits all: dogmatism is the answer to each of these very different descriptions. Comrade Newlin proceeds to try to prove this in two ways: through a description of the effects of dogmatism on the communist movement, and through various references to different historical experiences of the international communist movement. In the process, he lands himself in one contradiction after another.

Before examining this argumentation, we want to point out the two central issues in this dispute.

The first and most immediate issue concerns whether or not the point of unity stating that “the main opportunist danger is presented by modern dogmatism” constitutes a correct line of demarcation. Since September 1, 1976, we have argued that it does not, and presented our reasons why. We offered the alternative point of unity, “the main danger to the building of a new M-L party in the U.S. comes today from the ’left’.” (“Response of September 1, 1976”) Anyone who has read our papers cannot miss this issue. Comrade Newlin misses it. On page two of his paper he says that “our dispute is secondary to a more fundamental unity,” and cites our common agreement that “the main opportunist danger which is sapping the strength of the communist danger [should read: movement] is ’left’ in form.” It was precisely with this consideration in mind that we argued for a change in the original point of unity, as presented in the June 9, 1976 letter and then again in the January 26, 1977 points of unity. For two years, the comrades of the Committee of Five have held fast. But buried back in the next to last paragraph of a twenty-three page paper, we read:

Whereas the latter is a necessary line of demarcation to even take the initial steps towards developing a stable anti-’left’ trend, the former is not. It is sufficient at this point to recognize that the main danger comes from the ’left.’...it would be sectarian to demand complete unity on the nature of the ’left’ line at a time when our anti-’left’ tendency is only in embryo.

We will come back to this “anti-’left’ tendency” [our emphasis] which is suddenly “only in embryo.” For the moment, consider that last sentence: “it would be sectarian...” WOULD BE SECTARIAN, comrades? Don’t you mean, Comrade Newlin, it was sectarian for the PWOC to put this forward, and to cling to it for all this time, despite criticisms of this point? Is this what is meant by “rigorous self-examination, a forthright confrontation of errors and the unswerving pursuit of their rectification”?!? Did you or did you not promote this line? If “dogmatism” “prevents” organizations “from correcting their errors by analyzing their own practice,” and since you can hardly be accused of downplaying the struggle against dogmatism, what exactly accounts for your failure to even admit that you have made an error, much less go on for “rigorous self-examination” and the rest of that rhetoric? Since the original points of unity were set “not so high as to eliminate those that could make a positive contribution at this point,” (January 31, 1977 letter from the Committee of Five) how do you explain that some of those excluded apparently managed to make some positive contribution? This is apparently the closest that the PWOC gets to self-criticism, so we suppose we should be grateful...

The second issue concerns the nature of the main danger, and the key expression of this danger.

In our previous papers and in our book, we have presented our position on these questions. In brief, we have argued that the main danger comes from the “left,” not the Right, that the ideological roots of the main danger lie in anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism, and that “left” sectarianism, which we define in our book as “’left’ opportunism in party-building line,” constitutes the key expression of this danger. We hold that party-building line is the key site of struggle in the fight against the ultra-left line and we term “left” sectarianism the main danger to the communist movement.

The real character of Comrade Newlin’s response to this position can only be understood against the background of the PWOC’s previous positions, and the views we and others have set out in articles and in our book. Against that backdrop, it is apparent that Comrade Newlin’s views represent a half-hearted attempt to defend a position he and the PWOC are, with good reason, slowly trying to bury.


Comrade Newlin’s definition of dogmatism does not say anything really new, and our earlier objections still pertain to it. He goes on from there to cite a series of historical experiences of the international Communist Movement which supposedly illustrate his thesis. But they do nothing of the kind.

Three of these quotes don’t deserve much comment. One is a long quote from Stalin about the Mensheviks in 1920, which Comrade Newlin says “accurately summed up their dogmatism (and that of our ’lefts’).” But the use of this quotation to sum up the dogmatism of our “Lefts” proves the point we have been making right along. As Comrade Newlin knows, the Bolsheviks characterized the Mensheviks as a Rightist trend departing from revolutionary Marxism. The Bolsheviks never claimed that the Mensheviks’ dogmatism constituted the “ideological essence,” “nature,” “key element,” “theoretical basis,” etc., of the Menshevik deviation. How then can a quotation which “accurately sums up the dogmatism” of the Mensheviks also accurately sum up the “ideological essence,” “nature,” “key element,” “theoretical basis,” etc. of our present-day “Left-Wing” Communists??? This quote merely shows what we and others have said for two years:

Dogmatism figures as a feature of many opportunist lines, just as its “cohort,” sectarianism, may characterize many opportunist forces. But it does not define a distinct form of opportunism. For example, modern revisionists are generally dogmatists, Trotskyists are invariably dogmatists, anarchists have their special dogmas, and so do Social-Democrats. Dogmatism usually marks both “Left” and Right deviations. (“Response,” p. 2)

A description which can serve to “accurately” sum up “the ideological essence” or “theoretical basis” of both a Right revisionist trend like the Mensheviks and present-day ultra-leftism in the U.S. is not very scientific or useful analysis of the “nature” of the main danger.

The second of these examples is that of the German “Lefts” in the early ’twenties, “who attempted to use Lenin’s writings on the struggle against economism to justify their repudiation of work in reactionary trade unions and bourgeois parliaments.” (p. 7) This example also goes completely against Comrade Newlin. We refer interested comrades to Lenin’s book “Left-Wing” Communism and other articles he wrote at the same time (particularly, “Speech in Defense of the Tactics of the Communist International” and “A Letter to the German Communists” in CW 32). In those writings, Lenin analyzes both the errors of the German “Lefts” and the roots of those errors. When he discusses the “theory of the offensive” concocted by the “Lefts,” or the slogan, “Get out of the trade unions,” does he claim that the ideological essence of those errors, their “theoretical basis” or “roots” lie in dogmatism? No, somehow this discovery of the PWOC escaped him. In fact, Lenin begins “Left-Wing” Communism by stressing the need for a more diligent study of the Russian experience, and only incidentally warns comrades not to apply it mechanically. Near the end of the book. Lenin does refer to the “doctrinairism” of the “Lefts,” but there he expressly demonstrates that doctrinairism figured as a feature of both the “Lefts” and the social-democratic lines of that day. In the earlier theoretical section (section IV), by contrast, he emphasizes repeatedly that anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism lie at the root of the ultra-Left’s errors, and that the mistakes of the “Lefts” derive from their having imported anarchist principles into revolutionary Marxism. Describing the Bolsheviks’ long years of struggle against petty-bourgeois revolutionism, he says it “smacks of anarchism, or borrows something from the latter.” (p. 32) To underscore this point, his articles from 1920 time and again refer to the “Lefts” as “semi-anarchists.” In our book and other publications, we turned to the phrase “Left-Wing” Communism in order to emphasize the common semi-anarchist foundations of contemporary ultra-leftism and of the ultra-leftism analyzed by Lenin. The PWOC now brandishes terms like “Left-Wing” Communism, but it ignores or attempts to distort the theoretical tradition from which they come. In this regard, it is significant that the PWOC has seen fit to paraphrase one of Lenin’s best-known epigrams, one coined in the struggle against the German and Dutch “Lefts.” Lenin said, “anarchism was not infrequently a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. The two monstrosities complemented each other.” (Left-Wing Communism, CW 31, p. 32) (By opportunism, Lenin meant the dominant form of opportunism of his time, social-democratic revisionism.) The PWOC, on the other hand, has decided to “update” this quote, and rewrites it as “dogmatism originated as a reaction to the sins of revisionism.” (p. 6)

Third, Comrade Newlin cites a quotation from Lenin to support his definition of the “ideological essence” of the ultra-left line (p. 3). This quote comes from one of Lenin’s speeches to the First All-Russian Congress on Adult Education, delivered in May of 1919. The quote itself occurs in a passage directed against Kautsky’s attacks on the Bolsheviks--once again, then, in a polemic against a social-democratic trend. So every one of- these three citations (as well as the Chinese example discussed below) undermines Comrade Newlin’s argument. For we must remember that the debate between the PWOC and ourselves does not concern whether dogmatism (or metaphysical dogmatism) accompanies the ultra-left line and serves to support it. The controversy concerns whether dogmatism constitutes the “ideological essence,” “nature,” “key element,” “central feature,” “theoretical basis,” etc., of contemporary “Left-Wing” Communism. And nothing the PWOC points to indicates that it does.

The most significant example cited by the PWOC is the description given by the CPC of its struggle against the three “left” lines in the “Resolution on Some Questions in the History of Our Party.” We discuss this “Resolution” in our book, and the PWOC now tries to find some support for its views in the “Resolution.”


For an organization which constantly warns everyone against the danger “of argument by quotation, historical analogy, and pedantry,” (p. 3) the PWOC has an odd way of putting these sentiments into practice. In this connection, three points need mentioning.

First, the formulations of the “Resolution” and the Tsunyi meeting of 1935 (at which the Political Bureau affirmed the correctness of Mao’s line) have to be weighed critically and carefully. Most Marxist and bourgeois historians agree (including Mao in some of his unpublished writings) that elements within the Comintern had an important responsibility both for the Right capitulationist line of 1927 and for the “left” lines of the period of 1928-1935. The chief exponents of these “left” lines were in fact often referred to by the Chinese as the “returned students” faction, so named because they had studied in Moscow and returned to China to assume important places in the Party leadership. Styling themselves after the CPSU and the Comintern, these returned students even sometimes took to calling themselves the “28 1/2 Bolsheviks.” At the same time, representatives of the Comintern played important roles in the Chinese Party Congresses, and in all leading bodies of the Party. Further, the Chinese Party was in theory subordinate to the Executive Committee of the Comintern. At this time, the Comintern held that the main danger to the individual Communist Parties came from Right opportunism.

In this situation, Mao and his supporters had to conduct themselves with some circumspection. Around 1930, at the time of the pamphlet “Oppose Book Worship,” Mao used the term “book worship” against the partisans of the “left” line. Later, he was to use the term “doctrinairists.” But at the same time, he avoided directly criticizing the “left” line in the Comintern which supported the “left” line in the Chinese Party. As an example of this tactical subtlety, the “Resolution” says early on:

In the first period of China’s new democratic revolution, i.e., during 1921-7, and especially during 1924-7, thanks to the correct guidance of the Communist International and to the influence it exerted, and to the impulse given and the agitation and the organizational work done under the Chinese Communist Party’s correct leadership, the great anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution of the Chinese people made rapid progress and scored great victories...Nevertheless, the revolution ended in defeat...particularly because in the concluding period of the revolution (about six months) the Right viewpoint in our Party, with Ch’en Tu-hsiu as its exponent, developed into a line of capitulation, and the Party’s leading body, in thrall to this view, refused to carry out the wise directives of the Communist International and Comrade Stalin on the one hand and rejected the correct proposals of Comrade Mao Tse-tung and other comrades on the other... (pp. 172-3)

Yet from the period of the Tsunyi meeting onward, once Mao’s line had defeated that of the “Lefts,” the Chinese Party no longer functioned as a section subordinate to the ECCI, as Mao explains in his speech on the dissolution of the Communist International (Schram, Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, p. 423). It was only years later, after the death of Stalin and with the widening divergences between the CPSU and the CPC, that Mao began to criticize before the world communist movement some of the “left” errors committed by the Comintern, openly calling them “left.” He did so in articles like “On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” (1956), in which, among other things, he criticizes Stalin’s and the Comintern’s conception of the “main blow.” (We will return to the “main blow” in the context of the PWOC’s completely undocumented claim that the CPC calls for directing the “main blow” against the Soviet Union at the international level). And in later writings, Mao refers to Wang Ming and other leading advocates of the “left” line as “left” opportunists (see for example, Vol. V, p. 104 and 107).[1]

Second, though the tactical situation existing at the time of the “Resolution” makes an assessment of certain of its formulations difficult, it is crystal clear that the “Resolution” nowhere says that doctrinairism is the “key element,” “central feature,” “theoretical basis,” “root error,” etc., of the “left” opportunist line. Comrade Newlin boldly claims that the Chinese say that “the ’ideological essence’ of” the Wang Ming line “was dogmatism,” (p. 8). But since he quotes the “Resolution” at several points earlier, isn’t it curious lie doesn’t give any citation here? Surely such an unequivocal statement on the part of the Chinese Party would help bolster his argument.

The reason Comrade Newlin fails to cite the “Resolution” at this point is because while the “Resolution” does refer to “ideological essence,” it does not say that the essence of the “left” line was “dogmatism.” The nearest the “Resolution” comes to pinpointing that essence is in another quote that the PWOC gives, but gives only a part of:

...all the political, military and organizational mistakes stemmed invariably from the ideological violation of Marxist-Leninist dialectical materialism and historical materialism... (quoted by Comrade Newlin, p. 5)

Comrade Newlin has left off the words that complete that sentence: “... Marxist-Leninist dialectical materialism and historical materialism, from subjectivism, formalism, doctrinairism and empiricism.” Finally, Comrade Newlin has inserted the phrase “(of ’left’ opportunism)” in his quote on the bottom of page 5: “...it was chiefly dogmatism that ’spread the poison (of “left” opportunism) throughout the Party.”’ The Resolution says only, “without the collaboration of empiricism there would have been little chance for doctrinairism ’to spread the poison throughout the Party.’” (This is found on page 209 of the Resolution, not page 195 Comrade Newlin indicates.)

Third, while the PWOC contrasts dogmatism to revisionism (in phrases like “dogmatism originated as a reaction to the sins of revisionism”), and claims that “in the Chinese context dogmatism developed as a reaction to the conciliationist errors of the CPC’s united front policy of 1927,” the Resolution, and the Chinese Party, do no such thing. The Chinese Communists did not contrast dogmatism to revisionism or Right opportunism, nor dogmatism to conciliationism. They contrasted dogmatism to empiricism, another philosophical error. Contrasting dogmatism to modern revisionism or arguing that “dogmatism developed...in direct reaction to the growth of medern revisionism” (July, 1977 Organizer article by Comrade Newlin) is like adding apples and oranges: the two things are not of the same kind. True, empiricism is more commonly associated with Right opportunism, and dogmatism more commonly with “left” opportunism, but either philosophical error can accompany and further either type of opportunism. We have made this point for a long time in relation to dogmatism, and the Chinese “Resolution” states it very clearly in relation to empiricism. It insists that empiricism served “as the main collaborator and accomplice of doctrinairism,” but it is clearly talking about both in the context of a “left” opportunist line. For this reason, the “Resolution” speaks of the “ideological common ground for the collaboration between comrades belonging to these two categories.” If we think of our own movement, we can think of many examples of both dogmatist and empiricist errors accompanying the “left” line of organizations like the RCP. (Of course, the PWOC considers the errors of the RCP and those organizations with similar lines on the relationship between reform and revolution, on the role of theory, etc., as Right. See the articles in the July and September, 1977 Organizer. We have devoted a great deal of space in our book and in our pamphlet on busing to explaining why their opposition to busing and other reforms like the ERA is “left” opportunist, not Right opportunist. We invite Comrade Newlin to either refute those arguments, or explain his position.)

To demonstrate the continuity of some Chinese Communist thinking on this question, we have only to look at one of Mao’s criticisms of the “gang of four.” Describing the “gang of four,” a Chinese editorial held:

They opposed the Party’s basic line formulated by Chairman Mao and, going against Chairman Mao’s teaching that revisionism is the main danger, they asserted that empiricism was the main danger today and proposed taking the opposition to empiricism as the ’key link’ instead of taking class struggle as the key link. Chairman Mao criticized them, saying: ’It seems the formulation should be: Oppose revisionism which includes empiricism and dogmatism. Both revise Marxism-Leninism. Don’t mention just one while omitting the other.’ ’In my opinion, those who are criticizing empiricism are themselves empiricists.’ (Peking Review, December 3, 1976)

In the same way, while not forgetting the serious philosophical errors which support the “left” line – among which what we have called “metaphysical dogmatism” occupies a prominent place – we should not elevate these errors into the main danger.[2] Just as the revisionism from the Right includes empiricism and dogmatism, so the opportunism and revisionism of the “Left” includes both as well.


As we have seen above, none of the historical analogies or Marxist-Leninist quotations invoked by Comrade Newlin bring a shred of theoretical support to the PWOC’s view that dogmatism is the “ideological essence,” “nature,” “key element,” “root error,” etc. of the ultra-left line. In fact, each such analogy only points up the weakness of Comrade Newlin’s argument. But the real point is now what others have meant by dogmatism, but what Marxism-Leninism does and what Comrade Newling does. And if we look at Comrade Newlin’s argument as a whole, and at recent statements of the Committee of Five and the PWOC, we see that they provide the real proof of the flimsiness of the PWOC’s position.

As we indicated above, the debate between the PWOC and ourselves (as well as other organizations) has concerned both the ideological roots of the “left” line, its source, and its key features. The PWOC incorrectly alleges (and as usual, without providing a single citation to prove it), that we think “sectarianism is key.” (page 1) And then suddenly they say, “While from an ideological standpoint, the current ’left’ opportunism has its foundations in anarchist ideology its theoretical roots lie in dogmatism.” (p. 3)

On the one hand, because they failed to pursue a Marxist method they were unable to break with their petty-bourgeois ideological baggage – mostly borrowed from the anarchist tradition. On the other hand because they deviated from the proletarian standpoint, they were inevitably forced to draw on a non-proletarian ideology – in our case anarchism. (p. 8)

Apparently Comrade Newlin has been doing some reading. Having ignored or fought the view that “left” opportunism has its ideological source in anarchist ideology, he now tries to embrace it, while claiming that he was, of course, quite correct all along, because otherwise, in the tradition of the “Marxist-Leninist trend,” he would undergo “rigorous self-examination, a forthright confrontation of errors, and unswerving pursuit of their rectification,” and all that other good stuff. But this abrupt turnabout just lands Comrade Newlin in another contradiction. Because on page one he told us that “the ideological essence” of the ultra-left line was dogmatism, and spent a great deal of time unsuccessfully trying to show that the Chinese said so too. Now he says that, oh yes, from an “ideological standpoint,” the current “left” opportunism has its foundations in anarchist ideology.

In the fourth part of his review of Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type?, Comrade Newlin expands on this point:

The theoretical base of an incorrect line and its ideological foundation are two different things. The theoretical base of an opportunist line is that deviation from correct methodology which allows those developing the line to depart from Marxist-Leninist principles and borrow their ideas from an alien ideology. From the Marxist standpoint, the twin departures from scientific method are dogmatism and revisionism; in the name of upholding Marxism-Leninism, dogmatism refuses to make a thorough study of concrete reality whereas revisionism renounces scientific principles in the name of modern conditions. Either deviation inevitably leads to subordination to anarchist ideology on the ’left’ or reformism on the right. (April, 1978, Organizer)

This position raises a number of very serious theoretical problems. It depends on two theses:

(1) that Marxist-Leninist theory is independent from proletarian ideology. Comrade Newlin says that “...because they deviated from the proletarian standpoint, they were inevitably fourced to draw on a non-proletarian ideology.” Presumably, if they had not deviated from the proletarian standpoint, they would have drawn on proletarian ideology. What, then, is proletarian ideology for Comrade Newlin?

(2) that there is a single “Marxist method,” common both to Marxist philosophy (dialectical materialism) and Marxist science (historical materialism). Comrade Newlin reduces Marxist science to Marxist philosophy, saying for example that “A correct application of scientific socialism calls for starting from the principles of dialectical materialism on the one hand and the objective content of the class struggle on the other.” (p. 7) In this way, he reduced revisionism to simply a methodological error. “For like dogmatism, revisionism is also, strictly speaking, a methodological error and thus can manifest itself in both left and right forms. (Lenin referred to syndicalism as ’left’ revisionism).” Like Comrade Newlin, we have read the books, and Two, Three Many Parties of a New Type? devotes some discussion to the relationship between “left” opportunism and “left” revisionism (see particularly, “’Left’ Opportunism and ’Left’ Revisionism,” pp. 185-187). Perhaps by “strictly speaking,” Comrade Newlin means “from the point of view of Marxist science.” But as we stated above, from the point of view of Marxism, dogmatism and revisionism are not twin methodological errors, but phenomena of very different kinds. Revisionism is not a “methodological” error which then results in reformism – revisionism, whether of the “left” or the Right, is an ideological, political and organizational trend, an established, consistent set of views on all major questions of revolution, counter-revolution, and socialism, with a definite social basis. Dogmatism, on the other hand, is a philosophical error, like empiricism, formalism, subjectivism, etc., and not a distinct form of opportunism, as the PWOC party-building resolution, other PWOC material, and Committee of Five literature would have it.

It is clear why Comrade Newlin makes this new mistake. Having identified himself with a line which says that dogmatism is the main form of opportunism, he now wants to abandon it, but quietly. So he says, “strictly speaking,” dogmatism isn’t a form of opportunism, but then “strictly speaking” revisionism is only a methodological error too. In doing so, he ties his argument up in knots, first claiming that dogmatism is the “ideological essence” of the ultra-left line, then claiming that while it is true that the ideological source of ultra-leftism lies in anarchist ideology, it’s not the ideological “essence” or “source” that is important, but instead the “theoretical basis.” But the theoretical basis of the ultra-left line lies in its compromise with the theory and practice of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism. This is why the international Communist Movement, stretching back to Marx and Engels, has ignored the PWOC’s discovery about the “theoretical basis,” “ideological essence,” “nature,” etc. of “left” opportunism, as well as its thesis of “dogmatist opportunism.” This is why that tradition speaks of the roots of ultra-leftism as lying in anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism.


These evasive tactics on the part of Comrade Newlin bring to light the last and most damning piece of evidence against the “dogmatism as the main danger” or “dogmatism as the theoretical basis,” etc., position: Comrade Newlin doesn’t even believe in it anymore himself. Today we witness the most obvious backpedaling on the part of the PWOC, which reduces its references to dogmatism with each passing week. At one time, the PWOC devoted whole series to discussions of dogmatism, the “essence of the ultra-left trend,” “the root of the opportunism in our movement.” (July, 1977, Organizer article by Clay Newlin) Then Comrade Newlin wrote:

While there is general agreement as to the symptoms of this ultra-left disease, there are differences on how to correctly characterize it. We have used the term dogmatism. Others think that “’left’ opportunism” or “sectarianism” are more appropriate. (ibid)

The sub-head of this section poses the alternative, “ULTRA-LEFTISM OR DOGMATISM” (ibid; our emphasis).

Today, after two years of polemics with ourselves and other organizations over its incorrect formulations, the PWOC sings a very different tune. Not only does the PWOC quietly change the point of unity for the Committee of Five efforts.[3] But it basically has abandoned its own perspectives on the main danger. With the exception of Comrade Newlin’s rear-guard action, trying to convince everyone that of course he has been quite correct all along, the good ship “ANTI-DOGMATISM” has apparently been lost with all hands. There are many references these days to ultra-leftism, but few to the alternative Comrade Newlin posed back in July, 1977. Gone is the “anti-dogmatist trend,” replaced with, of all things, the “anti-’left’ tendency”!! (p. 23) Comrade Newlin’s polemic defends “dogmatism as the main danger” for eleven pages, and then, once he gets through with that, hardly refers to it. And to top it all off, the latest paper from the Steering Committee of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center, the successor to the Committee of Five, is entitled “Theses on a Line of Demarcation with ’Left’ Opportunism,” not dogmatism. And it contains not one reference to dogmatism or anti-dogmatism! Instead this remarkable document has 24 references to “left” this or that: 8 to ultra-leftism, 7 to the “Lefts,” 6 to “left” opportunism, 4 each to “left-wing” and “anti-leftism,” and 3 to “leftism.” Not one reference to the “nature,” “key element,” “ideological essence,” (p. 1) “central feature,” “theoretical basis,”(p. 2) “root error” (p. 6) of “opportunism in our movement.”!!!

Comrade Newlin then repeats this impressive feat for the benefit of The Organizer readership. In the June, 1978 issue, he authors an article entitled “Lines of demarcation with ’left’ opportunism.” It has 16 references to “ultra-left,” 13 to “left” this or that, 9 to “left” opportunism, 7 to ”lefts,” 4 to “left-wing” communism, 5 to anti “leftism,” and 1 each to “left-wing” and “leftism.” It literally contains no reference whatsoever to “dogmatism,” “anti-dogmatism,” or “dogmatist opportunism.” Yet these are the same Organizer readers who were told by Comrade Newlin back in July, 1977 that “while some may consider a discussion of which term most accurately conveys the essence of the ultra-left line not worthy of debate, a correct resolution of this discussion is essential to the future of the Marxist-Leninist movement.” (our emphasis) And they were told that dogmatism, not “left” opportunism or ultra-leftism, most accurately did so. Within less than a year’s time, a question whose resolution is regarded as nothing less than “essential” for the future of the Marxist-Leninist movement is answered in two completely different ways, with no explanation given for this utter reversal. Does Comrade Newlin think that as events recede into the past, no one will remember what views he formerly supported? Yes, this is truly “rigorous self-examination” at its most “unswerving”!!

The PWOC can hardly pass off this about-face as a tactical compromise around a point of unity for the sake of other objectives. For the PWOC has not simply agreed to a different point of unity – in articles like these, it has abandoned its entire conceptual framework for thinking about the main danger. It has abandoned this framework because it explained nothing.


[1] Similarly, Chinese references to “dogmatism” during the early 1960’s have to be judged in relation to the tactical situation of that time. In their early polemics, the Chinese (like early anti-revisionists in the U.S., such as those in the POC) gave a good deal of attention to the CPSU’s and other revisionist parties’ open flaunting of the Moscow Statements of 1957 and 1960. Those Statements both represented compromises between the theoretical positions of the modern revisionists with the Khrushchev clique at its core and the Marxist-Leninists. The use of terms like “dogmatism” have to be weighed in that light. Obviously, the Chinese and Albanians meant something very different by dogmatism than did the CPSU, or revisionists like the French Party’s Maurice Thorez or the Italians’ Togliatti.

[2] For more on metaphysical dogmatism, see Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type?, pp. 181-196.

[3] Compare the old point of unity to the new one.

The old reads:

While in the long run the main opportunist danger to the developing Marxist-Leninist forces is presented by modern revisionism as manifested in the CPUSA, in the present period, within the forces struggling to build a new revolutionary party, the main opportunist danger is presented by modern dogmatism. Modern dogmatism in the U.S., which is “left” in form, right in essence, must be seen as the wages for the sins of revisionism; it is an over-reaction to the revisionist capitulation to the bourgeoisie. Modern dogmatism fails to apply dialectics to the U.S. reality; it seeks to transform living science into a set of lifeless dogma. It has failed to understand both the generalities and the particularities of the class struggle; and it has failed to see any creative tasks for Marxist-Leninists. It is this dogmatism which provides the theoretical foundation for a political and organizational practice of u1tra-left ism and sectarianism.

The new reads:

Presently, within the working class movement the main opportunist danger is posed by reformism and right opportunism. Within the party-building movement, however, a different situation exists. While in the long run the main opportunist danger to the developing Marxist-Leninist forces is presented by modern revisionism as manifested in the CPUSA. in the present period, within the forces struggling to build a new revolutionary party, the main danger takes the form of “left” opportunism. Dialectics teaches us that a thing can easily turn into its opposite, and so it is with a “danger.” In the struggle against ultra-leftism, the potential exists for going over to the standpoint of right opportunism.