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

II. Facts about the World Balance of Forces

From dogmatism, Comrade Newlin passes to the second of the three major differences between us (Comrade Newlin conveniently forgets about a third, to which we will return). This concerns the main enemies of the world’s peoples, and the role of lines of demarcation around this question at this time.

From the opening paragraph, Comrade Newlin wantonly distorts our views and the real issues. He says, “in their opinion it is not necessary to demarcate on international line in order to consolidate our forces against ’left’ opportunism.” (p. 11) He repeats this charge in several places: “A correct position on the question of the main enemy of the world’s peoples, however, is not just of concern to those who might ’organize a conference to raise arms for some liberation organization overseas’ as PUL seems to think, but a vital and immediate question facing all those concerned with laying the foundation for a new communist party.” (p. 14); “they do call for unprincipled unity among our forces.” (p. 22); “PUL’s desire to avoid struggle around international line.” (p. 23). Aside from one short phrase taken out of its context, Clay Newlin fails to quote us saying any of these things. Is he missing a good opportunity to make his charges stick? No, he is making up our positions in order to cover over his own.

Let us go back to the original issues. The June 9, 1976 joint letter from the Committee of Five says the following:

...we understand that defining this trend, the unities and the differences existing within it, requires that we attempt to contact and have principled discussions with other organizations and individuals throughout the country. Within this context we have discussed the possibility of organizing a conference of Marxist-Leninists based on two points of unity... (our emphasis)

Our paper of September 1, 1976, then, addressed itself to this proposal. It argues that in order to define the unities and differences among the anti-“left” forces, the point of unity around international line should be left open for struggle and discussion.

The second principle of unity says, “U.S. imperialism is the main enemy of the peoples of the world.” We disagree with this as a procedure for building a trend or conducting discussion; and we disagree with this point. In the context of organizing a conference, the former disagreement takes precedence, (p. 4, mimeod edition; our emphasis)

In Comrade Newlin’s paraphrase, all talk of “procedure for build a trend or conducting discussion” and the “context of organizing a conference” disappears:

PUL’s objections are twofold. First, in their opinion it is not necessary to demarcate on international line in order to consolidate our forces against ’left’ opportunism. Second, PUL disagrees with the formulation that ’U.S. imperialism is the main enemy of the peoples of the world.’ At present, we are in agreement with PUL that their first objection takes precedence. (“Dogmatism, the Main Enemy, and ’Left’ Opportunism,” p. 11)

The paraphrase has us disagreeing that any unity on international line is necessary in order to consolidate forces against “left” opportunism and claiming in general that this Newlin-manufactured objection takes precedence. We never said either. We re-emphasized our two actual points in a paper written two months later:

In the case of the conference, they chose to make political line on the international question the key link for a meeting on party-building. They did so without establishing why international line plays such an absolute role in discussion of party-building; and they did so without establishing why the opposing line on the main enemies of the peoples of the world represented dogmatism. We do not think disagreements over international line, even important ones, should act as a barrier at this time to joint discussion of party-building line...

...we should start from the unity we have and struggle over our differences in the spirit of unity/criticism and self-criticism/unity. We can agree that revisionism represents the interests of the bourgeoisie. We can agree that the CPSU is a revisionist party, and that the CPSU exercises state power in the USSR. With that agreement in hand, let us explore together what the rise to power of revisionism represents, economically and politically, for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the construction of communism. From there we can discuss what it would mean for a country as centralized economically and politically and as powerful militarily as the Soviet Union to restore capitalism. And from there we can discuss its position in the world today.

That struggle should take place. But that struggle should occur in the course of struggling over party-building and the tasks of Marxist-Leninists, and in the course of deepening our understanding of “left” opportunism. (“More on Dogmatism and the Main Danger,” p. 17, 18-19; published in The Ultra-Left Danger and How to Fight It; emphasis added.)

We take up this issue again in a paper written a year after that:

The point is that these differences exist, they are real and will not go away, and even the apparent unity of those who subscribe to the letter of point 18 is somewhat superficial. It is therefore imperative that we debate these differences and organize the struggle around them, a struggle which can occur in a disorganized or an organized fashion, but will occur nonetheless. This can only mean leaving the question open, which again means dropping point 18. (“Bring Home the Struggle Against “Left” Sectarianism,” November 1, 1977, p. 9 in mimeod version.)

Further, in our book, Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type?, we make our own position very clear:

Communist unification will require basic agreement around this last analysis.[the view that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union, that it constitutes a Social Imperialist power, and one of the two main enemies of the world’s peoples] (p. 218)

As the Committee of Five initiative has developed, and as criticisms have mounted of its line, the rationale given for the organizational exclusion of different groups has continually changed.

In their statement of January 31, 1977, however, something new appears: the aim of this conference has become establishing ’an ideological center for the Marxist-Leninist wing of the party-building movement.’ While the idea of an ’ideological center’ is not spelled out in this statement, it has come to have a special place in the minds of some of the conference organizers. For them it relates particularly to the level of unity necessary for this conference: we have been told several times that this is not simply a ’conference on party-building,’ as we have put it, but a conference to establish an ideological center which is narrower than the trend itself. Therefore we must set the highest level of unity possible. But possible for what? (“Bring Home the Struggle Against ’Left’ Sectarianism: A Further Reply to the ’Committee of Five’,” pp. 2-3)

At that point, the conference no longer occurred “in the context” of “...defining this trend, the unities and differences existing within it...” as the joint letter of June 9, 1976 had put it. And now we read that “there are differences in the Committee of Five” on “the character and nature of an ideological center and whether it should be forged now or not.” (p. 2) Evading entirely this whole issue, the steering committee says in its recently issued “Theses” that those who fail to adopt their position cannot even participate in building the “anti-’left’ trend” at all, let alone join in an effort to construct a “center” for such a “trend.” So to cover its tracks, the PWOC now talks not about a conference to help define unities and differences, not about a conference to set up an ideological center, but about the necessity “to demarcate on international line in order to consolidate our forces against ’left’ opportunism.” (p. 11: note “left” opportunism, rather than “dogmatism,” which Comrade Newlin used to think “most accurately conveys the essence of the ultra-left line,” rather than “left” opportunism; see again July, 1977 Organizer.) And to help cover the PWOC’s tracks behind this new formulation, Comrade Newlin raises the bogey-man of PUL calling for “unprincipled unity among our forces,” or “PUL’s desire to avoid struggle around international line.” But the facts show – and unlike the PWOC, we believe in quoting what other comrades say – that the PWOC has steadily upped the ante in order to justify its own sectarian exclusionist policies, and to protect from open, organized struggle its own line on “dogmatism as the main danger,” the “anti-dogmatist trend on the threshold of maturity,” and the U.S. as the only main enemy.

Comrade Newlin then proceeds to lay out the reasons why the anti-’left’ forces should insist on agreement with the position that the U.S. alone is the main enemy of the peoples of the world. It is a monument to doubletalk.

In the first place, the statement that U.S. imperialism is the main enemy of the world’s peoples – i.e. that, it provides the major block to social progress on a world scale – does not stem from any “agnosticism” as PUL implies; it is a statement of fact. We...base our position on an analysis of the present world situation, its main contradictions., and its balance of forces... In short, it is the summation of the concrete experience of the proletariat and its democratic, and revolutionary allies in their actual struggles for national liberation, socialism and peace. (p. 11)

But as every Marxist-Leninist knows, we can only point to facts within the framework of given Theories. What is a “fact” to one framework is nonsense to another. For us, it is a fact that the Indochina wars were imperialist wars: but to liberals, no matter how opposed they were to those wars, the wars did not have that character. Similarly, the facts about who represents the main enemy or enemies to the world’s peoples depend upon the theoretical framework within which we analyze the “main contradictions and balance of forces” in the world today. If we think that the Soviet Union is an imperialist country, then our understanding of the contradictions between the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and Western Europe, the Soviet Union and the U.S., the Soviet Union and the socialist countries like China, the Soviet Union and the peoples and countries of the Third World, or the Soviet Union and the world-wide anti-revisionist movement is very different than if we think the Soviet Union is a socialist country, an ally of the national liberation struggles, and a member of the world-wide united front against imperialism. Likewise, our sense of the world balance of forces also changes. For this reason, we argued in our first paper of September 1, 1976, that “while they [the conference organizers] present arguments in opposition to the results of the application of the CPC’s line, they Remain silent on its theoretical basis – namely, the analysis of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR.” (p. 4, mimeod edition) We termed this silence Agnosticism.

Now the PWOC knows relatively little about how the Communist Party of China and a number of other Marxist-Leninists actually formulate their analysis of the world situation, and apparently cares less. We don’t know what periodicals Comrade Newlin has been reading, but it’s clear that someone has given him a certain amount of bad information. But Comrade Newlin and the PWOC do know some things about the Chinese and other Marxist-Leninists’ views on certain basic questions, even if Comrade Newlin occasionally likes to pretend he doesn’t.

Comrade Newlin protests that

...we are not as PUL has said, attempting “to push through without discussion, the view that the Soviet Union is a socialist country and does not pose a threat to the world’s peoples.” The question of the class character of the Soviet Union, whether it is an ally or an enemy of the working class, and the character of its foreign policy are all open questions – as is the question of whether the united front against two superpowers or the united front against imperialism is the correct international strategy. It is conceivable to argue – as the Chinese Communist Party did in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s – that the Soviet Union is state capitalist, that it poses a major threat to the peoples of the world and that its relation with oppressed peoples and nations are characterized correctly, in the term ’social-imperia 1ist’ and at the same time uphold that U.S. remains the main threat to the peoples of the world, (p. 12) (the quote comes from the paper ’’On the Small Consequences of Sectarianism.” p. 36 in The Ultra-left Danger and How to Fight It)

From this it would appear that not only has the PWOC continually changed the goal (“conference,” “ideological center,” “trend”) around which lines of demarcation are being drawn, hut also the lines themselves. Because the united front against the two superpowers position flows from the view that there are two main enemies in the world today, requiring a united front aimed at both. The reference to the Chinese position of 1968-1970 only confirms this, since once the Chinese characterized the USSR as social-imperia1ist, they called for a united front against U.S. imperialism and Soviet socia1-imperialism.[1] In our view, this sudden openness to the united front against the two superpowers position (which we have held and continue to hold) is for public relations purposes, though we’d be happy to be convinced otherwise.

Comrade Newlin’s main purpose here is to disassociate the “U.S. is the main enemy” position from any consideration of the character of the Soviet Union, claiming that the two have nothing necessarily to do with one another. We don’t think this, and neither does the PWOC. The June, 1977, issue of The Organizer puts the opposite case very plainly: “The bottom line of the dogmatist position is, of course, their contention that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union.” And Comrade Newlin himself has put the case for the link between these questions in even plainer terms. Arguing against The Guardian’s view (which combines an analysis of the USSR as a social-imperialist power, an unspecified type of “united front against the two superpowers,” yet regards the U.S. as the “main enemy of the world’s peoples”), Comrade Newlin says quite frankly: “You can’t have it both ways. Either the Soviet Union is an imperialist country which strategically calls for the united front against the two superpowers, or it is not and we must advocate the united front against imperialism.” (p. 18 of Newlin’s Presentation for the PWOC at the International Question Forum, hereafter, “Presentation.” This presentation has circulated in xerox for some time.)


The theoretical basis of The “two main enemies” or “united front against the two superpowers” position lies in three related analyses. First, as The Organizer points out, the view that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union. Second, the analysis that the restoration of capitalism has resulted in an imperialist power, as Comrade Newlin recognizes. And third, the view that the Soviet Union and the U.S. are the only two imperialist powers with the interests in and economic, political and military capabilities for contending for imperialist hegemony on a world scale. Unless revolution breaks out in one or both of the superpowers, this contention will lead sooner or later to a third World War. The struggles for independence, national liberation, and revolution can postpone to some extent the outbreak of this war, and thereby strengthen the ability of the revolutionary forces to seize initiative within the war and put an end to imperialism once and for all.

Obviously, the U.S. contends for hegemony at the world level. Increasingly, however, a section of the U.S. bourgeoisie recognizes that the Soviet Union has objective interests in extending its economic domination, and does not have economic holdings commensurate with its political and military strength (i.e., with its demonstrated ability to contend at the world level). At the same time, the U.S. does not have the political and military strength to defend all its economic holdings, as well as to maintain an aggressive posture to what the Soviet Union holds. In other words, the U.S. bourgeoisie perceives a major shift in the world balance of forces, and is now trying to work out the foreign policy which will best advance U.S. imperialist interests in the present world situation This is the meaning behind a whole series of U.S. policy pronouncements which would have been simply unthinkable during the 1950’s and even during the 1960’s: the so-called “Sonnenfeldt” doctrine, which declared to the Western European imperialist countries that the U.S. regarded the Soviet Union as having legitimate interests in Eastern Europe which the U.S. would respect (it was Gerald Ford’s attempt to explain this policy in ways acceptable to right-wing forces that resulted in his famous “Polish joke” during the last Presidential election campaign); Carter’s declaration that the U.S. should not and would not exercise any military options if the Soviet Union invaded Yugoslavia; the U.S. military’s semi-public policy of ceding one third of the Federal Republic of Germany in the event of war in Europe; Andrew Young’s statements on the stabilizing influence of Cuban troops in Angola; and in general, the current foreign policy crisis in the Carter Administration. These represent attempts on the part of the U.S. bourgeoisie to work out a coherent policy of some concessions towards Soviet political and military might coupled with a commitment to defend aggressively its holdings elsewhere, and of course a commitment to defend its empire from revolution.

Just as obviously, the Soviet Union distinguishes itself from second-rate imperialist powers like the Federal Republic of Germany or Japan in its ability to contend for hegemony at the world level. The FRG or France can attempt to secure or extend their positions in Africa; Japan may do the same in Asia. But none of these countries can contend for influence all over the world simultaneously. The Soviet Union can, yet it does not have the economic share of the world’s resources and capital to show for it. This imbalance between the two superpowers structures their contention, and accounts for the Soviet Union’s more offensive stance in the world, and the U.S.’s more defensive, but nonetheless thoroughly bloodthirsty posture.

The uneven development of imperialist powers, and the consequent necessity to redivide the world periodically in accordance with their respective strengths, is a fact as old as imperialism. In the imperialist epoch, it has frequently taken the form of a wide disparity in the economic weight of a country in the world and its military and political strength. This was the case of Germany in the years immediately preceding the Second World War, and a similar situation exists on a smaller scale in the relation between Japan and the FRG on the one hand and the U.S. on the other. In relationship to the U.S., Japan and the FRG are far weaker militarily than they are economically. Japanese investments and trade approach and even sometimes exceed those of the U.S. in a number of specific Asian countries. Yet Japan has weak military capabilities compared to its economic position, just as the FRG does (apparently the FRG has the best -trained and armed troops among Western imperialist powers, but their total force is simply not that of a world-class power). In fact, the economic successes of the FRG and Japan stem in some part from their not having poured vast sums of money into the unproductive military expenditures necessary to build up world-class military capabilities. In the short term, this was a great advantage in their relations with the U.S., but over the long term, were it not for the U.S. need to contend with the Russians, it would have proved a great disadvantage.

The two superpowers’ interest in and ability to contend for hegemony at the world level, and the inevitability of world war unless revolution breaks out in one or both of the superpowers underlies the two main enemies position. The economic position of the two superpowers is obviously unequal, and there are many places in the world where the U.S. alone is the main, immediate enemy of a given people. But we have to look at the motion of history, at the main tendencies taking shape before our eyes. And those tendencies have the Soviet Union increasingly attempting to penetrate every corner of the globe in its contention with the U.S. Those tendencies also show the Soviet Union approaching or exceeding military parity with the U.S. in most important weapons categories.

Comrade Newlin ignores the whole question of superpower contention and world war, and their inseparable relationship with the two main enemies position. He must do so for reasons which have to do with the PWOC’s analysis “of the present world situation, its main contradictions, and its balance of forces.”


Marxist-Leninists have identified four fundamental contradictions at the world level: (a) the contradiction between the oppressed nations on the one hand and imperialism and socia1-imperia 1 ism on the other; (b) the contradiction between the imperialist and social-imperialist countries and among the imperialist countries (most especially, the contradiction between the two superpowers); (c) the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries (which include the countries ruled by revisionist parties); (d) the contradiction between socialist countries on the one hand and imperialism and social-imperialism on the other. In his presentation to the International Question Forum on behalf of the PWOC, Comrade Newlin subscribed to these same four contradictions, but without any of the references to social-imperialism or revisionist countries. In other words, he subscribed to the four fundamental contradictions as presented by the Chinese Party in their Proposal for a General Line for the International Communist Movement in 1963. This difference has far-reaching significance for one’s analysis of those contradictions and of the world balance of forces.

The PWOC regards the Soviet Union as a socialist country. In his polemic, Comrade Newlin puts quotes around the Soviet Union’s socialist character, as if the idea has never occurred to him (see page 11). But in their written material, the comrades of the PWOC state their views quite plainly: “The Soviet Union is a socialist country, and for this reason has a very definite built-in antagonism with imperialism,” (The Organizer, October, 1977). “In the first place, the Soviet Union, while clearly not a model for socialism, remains a socialist country.” (page 9 of “Presentation.”)

...that you have a socialist base to the economy and you have on the other hand a revisionist party in power. Now the revisionist party has its own aims, it acts as a sort of aristocracy of labor, it tries to conciliate imperialism, it has specific narrow self-interest. But it also has to deal with the socialist base, which is a reality of the foundation of the country. And so it has to make concessions to the laws of that base. And the concessions it makes provide the foundation for the Soviets’ generally progressive role in the world, (p. 11, Presentation)

As The Organizer would put it, this is the “bottom line” of the PWOC “concrete analysis” of the supposed “fact” that the U.S. is alone the main enemy of the world’s peoples. It affects their characterization of every major contradiction in the world today.

(1) The contradiction between the oppressed nations on the one hand and imperialism and social-imperialism on the other.

The PWOC regards the USSR as the ally and “sort of friend” of the national liberation movements, because of its “built-in antagonism with imperialism.” It further regards the USSR and the other “socialist” countries of Eastern Europe as part of the world-wide united front against imperialism. We realize that comrades may be confused by this point, since Comrade Newlin again puts quotes around the idea that the Soviet Union is an ally of the national liberation movements, as if that idea had never occurred to him either (page 11), and since he says straight out that the USSR is “a secondary enemy in the camp of the reactionaries” (page 12). But by now comrades will have learned something of his methods. There is no room for ambiguity in the PWOC’s written statements of this position. “From the standpoint of the world’s peoples, the Soviet Union is an ally, hut it is stretching the point to call it a friend.” The PWOC proceeds to stretch that point: “If the USSR is a friend, it is the sort of friend who cannot be fully trusted to give his all in a battle and who might turn and run” (The Organizer, October. 1977), Comrade Newlin himself puts the matter even more explicitly:

But we think on balance that it has been demonstrated that the Soviet Union is an ally of the world wide struggle for national liberation and that this is clearly one of the lessons of Angola. So that when we talk about the contradictions in the Soviet Union, when we talk about contradictions in the world one thing that is incumbent on us as Marxist-Leninists is to decide which is predominant –is it the Soviet’s role as a hegemonist, as a meddler in the internal affairs of other countries, or is it the Soviet Union’s role as an ally of the liberation movements? And I think we can take some instruction on this question from those that are in the best position to answer, from those who have been directly involved in national liberation struggles. Listen to what they say about what is the predominant role of the Soviet Union, and I think that we will see that it is the opinion of the most significant national liberation forces in the recent period, the Vietnamese, the North Koreans, Frelimo, MPLA, that the Soviet Union is an ally.(Presentation, pp. 10-11)

U.S. Marxist-Leninists especially must study seriously the revolutionary experience and perspectives of the national liberation movements around the world. But they have to look at the sum total of facts concerning the world situation, and they have to reach conclusions by relying on their own forces. We do not consider a decision of a Chinese or Albanian Party Congress as binding on ourselves, nor would either the Chinese or the Albanians have it that way. Similarly, while we believe in listening seriously to the views of the Vietnamese, the Koreans, the Mozambique people and to the MPLA (which Marxist-Leninists have regarded as a legitimate national liberation movement), we also recognize that there are some large differences of opinion.

Because not only do the Parties mentioned consider the Soviet Union as an ally of the national liberation movements, but they believe it is a socialist country led by a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party, and they maintain Party to Party relations with it on that basis. We respect and admire the heroic struggle of the Mozambique people led by FRELIMO, but U.S. M-L’s do not plan for that reason on having representatives of the CPSU and other revisionist parties of the Warsaw bloc at our founding Congress, as FRELIMO did. Besides listening to these Parties and movements, we believe in taking some instruction from others as well: from the Kampuchean Party, which led a heroic struggle against U.S. imperialism, and whose struggle suffered and continues to suffer from sabotage at the hands of that great “ally,” the Soviet Union, which tried to prop up the Lon Nol clique until the final liberation of Phnom Penh; from the Communist Party of the Phi1lippines, which leads the New People’s Army and helps govern zones liberated from the Marcos clique and U.S. imperialism, and whose struggle to dismantle U.S. bases and expel all U.S. troops we must militantly support; from the Communist Party of Thailand, which also leads a people’s war against a reactionary regime supported by U.S. imperialism; from the Communist Party of Burma and that of Malaya, which also leads people’s wars; from Ethiopian revolutionaries, whose “allies” and “sorts of friends” like the Soviet Union and Cuba hunt them down in the streets; and from the Eritrean liberation organizations, which are fighting guns in hand against the Cuban and Soviet-backed Mengistu regime, and indeed against Soviet-manned destroyers, and for the complete expulsion of thousands of Cuban troops and many Soviet advisors from their national territory. (For even if the Cubans now think better of trying to forcibly “pacify” a genuine people’s war themselves, they have already Played an important support role for the Mengistu regime’s drive on Eritrea.) These Parties and movements too have something to tell us about the nature of the Soviet Union.

If you think that the Soviet Union is an ally of the national liberation movements, then it follows that the Soviet Union belongs in the united front against imperialism. Comrade Newlin now talks about the Soviet Union as “a secondary enemy in the camp of the reactionaries.” (page 12) We would be happy to hear that the PWOC has changed its incorrect view on the Soviet Union as a member of the united front against imperialism, and anxious to know what other changes this would imply for the PWOC. But as Comrade Newlin has recognized in the past, the Soviet Union’s place in the united front against imperialism comes together with any view that the Soviet Union is an ally of the national liberation movements:

We cannot hide from the implications of what we are saying. And that is in the first place, that the Soviet Union must be seen as an ally of the national liberation struggles. It must be included in the world-wide united front against imperialism. This is not to say that we should have any illusions, that it would be a consistent ally or a steadfast ally, but that our general strategic approach to the world situation has to include the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries of Eastern Europe within the united front against imperialism. (Presentation, p. 12)

(2) The contradiction between the imperialist and social-imperialist countries and among the imperialist countries (most especially, the contradiction between the two superpowers).

Because they view the Soviet Union as a socialist country, the comrades of the PWOC obviously group the contradiction between the USSR and U.S. imperialism as one between a socialist country and an imperialist country:

We cannot just examine the policies of the revisionists, we must look at the base for these policies. And it’s not a question of super power contention that causes the Soviet Union to act one way at one point and one way at another. It is the contradiction between the revisionist ruling elite and the socialist base. That the socialist foundation demands that the ruling elite speak to certain questions, that it provide a front of aid to the world struggle, that it carry through in certain ways. Even if the revisionists wanted to, even holding political power as they do, they could not overcome the demands of that socialist base without materially transforming the character of the production relations of the society. (Presentation, pp. 11-12)

As we have said, the PWOC sees no substantive change in the nature of the Soviet Union, its posture in the world, and the fundamental contradictions structuring this epoch since the early 1960’s. Instead of applying themselves to the study of the international situation in all its concrete features, the PWOC continues to repeat phrases from the early 1960’s. In particular, they see no change in the relationship between the U.S. and the USSR. Other Marxist-Leninists have rejected this dogmatism, and for a number of years recognized the shift in that relationship, from one characterized Principally by the defensive posture of the Soviets in their relations with the U.S., and consequently by co1lusion between the two superpowers, to one characterized principally by an offensive posture on the part of the Soviets, and consequently principally (though not exclusively) by contention between the two superpowers. This change signals the growing danger of world war. But the PWOC does not see it. “A direct clash between the Soviets and the U.S. is not too likely given the balance of world forces, and particularly given the Soviets’ accommodation policy.” (Presentation, page 13) In the “unlikely” event that war did break out between the two superpowers, the PWOC says we should support the Soviets, but critically. “We think that if there was to be a war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that our policy would have to be one of giving critical support to the Soviet Union.” (ibid, page 14)

(3) The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries (which include the countries ruled by revisionist parties).

Since Mao Tsetung first formulated the problem in these terms in 1964, many Marxist-Leninists have held that the rise to power of revisionism heralds the rise to power of the bourgeoisie. A number of other understandings of this contradiction exist. The modern revisionist parties in Western Europe, including the “Eurocommunist” ones, believe that the main contradiction in Soviet society runs between the advanced socialist base, and a superstructure which has not “caught up” to these socialist developments. The orthodox Trotskyite tradition understands this contradiction as one between an entrenched “bureaucratic elite,” with its own independent interests, and the working class, or sometimes, the socialist base.

The PWOC borrows elements of both these analyses, on both a theoretical and a more empirical level. With the Trotskyites and the modern revisionists, they share a fundamental economism, which holds that the productive forces themselves can become “socialist.” and that this socialist base will enforce its “will” on both the relations of production, and on the political level of society, regardless of who holds state power or what they do.

...but basically understand and analyze what is the economic base because if we are Marxist-Leninists we must recognize that the economic base is in the long run determinate over the superstructure and that one basic principle of Marxism-Lenin -ism is that only for short periods of time can the political superstructure not be in conformity with the economic base. In the long run the laws of the economic base will demand certain actions on the part of the superstructure regardless of the will of those who rule, (ibid, p. 9)

This vulgar determinism contradicts the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism, not only as regards the transition to communism, but also concerning the need for revolution itself. The proletariat, in alliance with other revolutionary classes, must seize power and lead the transition to communism because, other modes of production in their combination do not grow over into communism, nor do they “demand” revolutionary “actions on the part of the superstructure regardless of the will of those who rule.” Proletarian and new democratic revolutions consist in the “seizure” of the “superstructure,” if you will, and then the struggle for a transition which brings the “economic base” “in conformity” with the political superstructure. Socialist revolution means a radical “unconformity” of the superstructure with the economic base. To think otherwise is to adopt the Kautskyite notion that capitalism will centralize and concentrate the productive forces to the point where it has itself created the socialist base, and all that remains is to take control of the economic apparatuses of capitalist society. Capitalism does create its own gravediggers. and the crisis of capitalism does contribute to a revolutionary situation (though we know from Lenin that the revolutionary situation results principally from the conjunction of certain political factors – the inability of the ruling classes to rule or the exploited classes to live “in the old way.”) But while the “laws of the economic base” can rule out certain types of economic and political developments, and can make possible others, they cannot and do not “demand” specific developments “on the part of the superstructure regardless of the will of those who rule.” The peculiar combination of modes of production, of conflicting imperialist interests, and of forces present in China ruled out certain options (the development of a slave society or a modern capitalism, for example), and allowed for others (new democratic revolution) . But the differences in the “laws of the economic base” in China and in India cannot account for the fact that the Chinese people liberated their country in 1949, and the Indian revolution still does not loom on the horizon thirty years later.

The economism to which the PWOC subscribes stands out just as sharply against the tasks of the socialist period. Polemicizing with Bukharin and Trotsky, Lenin puts forward a revolutionary, anti-economist thesis:

I said again in my speech that politics is a concentrated expression of economics, because I had earlier heard my “political” approach rebuked in a manner which is inconsistent and inadmissible for a Marxist. Politics must take precedence over economics. To argue otherwise is to forget the ABC of Marxism. (CW 32, p, 83)

Why must politics take precedence over economics? That is the central question of the entire transition to communism. Mao returns to it when he launches the slogan “politics in command.” Without an understanding of the theses of Lenin and Mao, we cannot understand the tasks of the transition period.

On one level, Lenin and Mao emphasize politics as the site in which different classes struggle either to maintain and strengthen their domination over other classes or to overthrow that domination. Politics is then the “concentrated expression” of the economic interests different classes have in the strengthening or in the overthrow of a given class society. The decisive class struggles over their opposed economic interests therefore occur in the political realm. For this reason, communists must attach decisive importance to politics.

But on a more fundamental level, politics must take precedence over economics for Marxist-Leninists because there are no “socialist economics” to take precedence over communist politics. In this connection, we must draw the full significance from the conditions in which Lenin and Mao both formulated this thesis. Those conditions were those of periods in the transition to communism (or, in the case of NEP, what Lenin called the “transition to socialism”). At first sight, Mao’s slogan has an obvious or banal character to it. Obviously, some politics will take command, we think, either correct ones or incorrect ones. But Mao opposes this slogan to “economics in command,” not to “incorrect” or “bourgeois” politics in command. The opposition politics/economics, which we find in both Lenin’s and Mao’s slogans, translates the opposition proletarian/bourgeois into the conditions of the transition period, into the conditions of socialism. And in each case, they implicitly identify “economics in command” or economics taking Precedence over politics with the bourgeoisie taking Precedence or command over the proletariat. They do so because no “socialist economics” exist to take command for the proletariat, because there is no socialist mode of production, with its own particular laws, which can operate somehow for the benefit of the proletariat. Only an unstable transition exists, between a capitalist mode of production, and a communist mode of production. To give precedence to economics in the transition period means giving precedence to that capitalist mode of production and to the bourgeoisie.

The PWOC reasons just the opposite. For them, socialism has its own economic laws, which can enforce the will of the proletariat on the revisionist dominated superstructure “regardless of the will of those who rule.” For them, revisionist politics can never “take precedence” or take “command” – nor can communist politics. Instead, “socialist economic laws” assert themselves on behalf of the proletariat, and force either the proletarian or the revisionist state into line.

...that you have a socialist base to the economy and you have on the other hand a revisionist party in power. Now the revisionist party has its own aims, it acts as a sort of aristocracy of labor, it tries to conciliate imperialism, it has specific narrow self-interest. But it also has to deal with the socialist base, which is a reality of the foundation of the country. And so it has to make concessions to the laws of that base. And the concessions it makes provide the foundation for the Soviet’s generally progressive role in the world. (Presentation, p. 11)

This view – that socialism constitutes a specific mode of production with its own laws of reproduction – represents the very heart of the revisionist and Trotskyite conception of socialism, as well as that of such hybrids as the Communist Labor Party.

Sharing this theoretical framework with the revisionists and the Trotskyites, the comrades of the PWOC pick and choose among their descriptions of the contradictions of Soviet society. Trotskyite literature analyzes the ruling class in the Soviet Union as a bureaucracy, and explicitly patterns their analysis of this bureaucracy on the trade union bureaucracy in the capitalist countries. The PWOC likewise describes the ruling class in the Soviet Union as a “labour aristocracy,” and they lump this aristocracy together with that found in the capitalist countries, “...the Marxist Leninist position includes the Soviet Union and its aligned parties as vacillating and unstable allies in that front. It sees them as representatives of a world aristocracy of labor.” (ibid, p. 17) This confusion of the revisionist parties in power with those not in power in fact complements that of the ultra-lefts, who catalogue both together and refuse to undertake any united action with either. The PWOC groups them together and advocates the same tactics towards both. Such a confusion could have disastrous practical consequences, since revisionists in power have no use for Marxist-Leninist representation of the proletariat, and resort to ferocious repression to eliminate it. (In this regard, as long as the PWOC advises us to “take instruction” from Parties and national liberation movements around the world, they might consider the experience of anti-revisionist communist parties and groups such as the Communist Party of Poland, the various groups that have surfaced from time to time in the Soviet Union, and the Organization of Communists in Angola, a split-off from the MPLA). We also might consider why we have not heard of more anti-revisionist organizations in the revisionist countries. Even the PWOC would agree it’s not because there’s no need for anti-revisionism. Finally, from the revisionist, particularly Eurocommunism tradition, the PWOC takes the other pole of their contradiction, the “socialist base,” which in their view plays the principal role in the Soviet Union, providing “the foundation for the Soviet’s generally progressive role in the world.”

The PWOC’s analysis of the Soviet Union has also important consequences for its conception of the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat in other capitalist countries. In their polemics with us and in other PWOC literature, the comrades spend a great deal of time on the supposed “objective alliance” of many Marxist-Leninist Parties and organizations throughout the world with imperialism headed by U.S. imperialism. The PWOC sees this charge vindicated in the response of many Marxist-Leninists to a number of world events, but again it rests on certain theoretical assumptions. To evaluate the truth of this charge, we absolutely have to uncover these assumptions.

Put quite simply, the PWOC’s charge of “objective alliance” with U.S. imperialism comes down to this: you must align yourself with the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries, or else you align yourself with U.S. imperialism. A preposterous charge? Not at all. Bearing in mind the PWOC’s characterization of the Soviet. Union and the Eastern European countries headed by revisionist parties, consider the following:

Thus it is impossible to correctly develop a revolutionary strategy anywhere in the world without seeing the fundamental and determinate contradiction as being one between the handful of imperialist countries headed by the U.S. and the world’s working class and oppressed peoples headed by the socialist countries. Every national liberation struggle, every democratic struggle and every working class struggle will inevitably align itself with one pole or the other. Either a conscious alliance with socialism or an objective alliance with imperialism. These are the only possible choices. (Presentation, p. 6)

If you believe the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, etc., are socialist, and if you must align yourself “consciously” with the socialist countries or else fall into an objective alliance with imperialism, then you must align yourself with the revisionist countries or else you fall into social-chauvinism.

That the converse is also true shows the consistency of the PWOC’s thinking on this point. In other words, if you believe that the Soviet Union has restored capitalism, become a social-imperialist superpower, emerged as one of the two main enemies of the world’s peoples, and entered into a contention for hegemony with U.S. imperialism which will eventually lead to world war, then you are ipso facto a “class-collaborationist.” It does not matter what views you hold on specific world events – if you believe the above, then you have fallen into an objective alliance with U.S. imperialism. As proof, we only have to look at Comrade Newlin’s review of our book, Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type? In the fourth part of that review, he writes,

And yet PUL can discern no “left” opportunism on international line. The reason for this is that, unfortunately, PUL – like BACU before it – is, itself, an advocate of “left” collaborationism. (see ibid, p. 218)

From there, the reviewer goes on to discuss dogmatism. So the documentation of our class collaboration lies solely in this reference to page 218 of Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type? With it, Comrade Newlin claims to prove that we advocate “left” class collaborationism. We refer anyone to the page in question. It only lays out the four points mentioned above concerning the Soviet Union. It says nothing about any particular struggle in the world today. Yet for the PWOC this analysis of the Soviet Union as a social-imperialist country and a main enemy of the world’s peoples is enough to prove class collaborationism (which can only mean an objective alliance with U.S. imperialism).

Both the above features of the PWOC line – their notion of the CPSU as representing a “labour aristocracy,” and their call for the working class and oppressed peoples to align themselves with such “socialist countries” as the Soviet Union – throw light on the “anti-dogmatist” critique of “’left’ internationalism.”

Just as on the national level, the “lefts” have continuously elevated the fight against reformism and revisionism over the struggle against their “own” ruling class, so internationally they elevate the fight against revisionism over the struggle against U.S. imperialism. (“Theses on a Line of Demarcation with ’Left’ Opportunism,” by The Steering Committee)

In our book, we dealt at some length with the ultra-lefts’ exaggeration of the struggle against revisionism (see Chapter III, the sections “Anti-Revisionism or ’Left’ Opportunism,” “A Caricature of the Struggle Against Modern Revisionism,” and “Shadows of the Past”), and we have criticized the line “no united action with revisionism” both here and in our February, 1976 pamphlet On the October League’ Call for a New Communist Party. But the relationship between the correct stance towards revisionism in the U.S. and towards the international revisionist trend with the CPSU at its core is nowhere near as simple as the Steering Committee suggests. We surely would have differences with the PWOC’s analysis of the CPUSA and pursue different tactics towards it, based on our completely different understandings of the Soviet Union today. But these differences pale beside the implications of our opposite views for the international situation. According to the PWOC, anyone who thinks that the Soviet Union has restored capitalism, or fails to align themselves “consciously” with the Soviet Union and other countries of the Warsaw pact has clearly exaggerated the struggle against revisionism.

Lastly, these differences relate to a number of problems with little practical significance for U.S. communists, but enormous practical importance for revolutionaries in some other countries. These concern the correct strategic framework and tactical line adopted towards revisionist parties who either exercise state power or are making a serious bid for it. Whatever some anti-revisionists may think of the Soviet Union, the revisionist parties who actually exercise state power have very little use for them. The revisionists don’t want to play with you; the CPSU does not seek “critical support” from any organized section of its population. In the countries where the revisionists exercise state power, only one party exists; there are no bourgeois democratic rights, like the very curtailed but nonetheless real right for Marxist-Leninist Parties to organize themselves, print newspapers, conduct agitation, or run for public office. Bourgeois democracies have legal cases concerning the right of anti-revisionist communists to hold trade union office, but the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc., handle such matters in different ways. Once in power, the revisionists have not proved very “accomodationist.”

This is a very separate issue from modern revisionists simply entering into or forming governments in capitalist countries. In a number of situations, as Chile demonstrates to some extent, the entry of the modern revisionists into government can actually provide favorable conditions for revolutionaries both to advance the revolutionary mass movements and to displace the revisionists among the masses. General tactical recipes don’t exist, and a number of concrete situations may call for critical support for a modern revisionist attempt to enter into a bourgeois government. But Marxist-Leninists cannot confuse this with the question of the exercise of state power by modern revisionism. They must not minimize the dangers of such a situation, or dismiss the complex problems of tactics raised by the existence of the revisionist parties, as both the ultra-lefts and some “anti-dogmatists” do.

The Soviet Union’s present offensive posture underscores the importance of these questions. Supported ideologically, politically and militarily by the Soviet Union, putschist tendencies have grown among certain pro-Moscow revisionist parties. “The attempted putsch by the revisionist party in the Sudan (1971) gives a foretaste of what modern revisionism may have in store for the late ’70’s and ’80’s.” (Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type?, p. 180) In these cases, we witness not an attempt, however flawed, to mobilize the masses and make something the revisionists call a revolution, but instead outright military coups, which Marxist-Leninists have to oppose. The Afghanistan coup of 1978 provides a recent example, as does in a different way the Ethiopian coup of 1974 which, although not led by revisionists, now receives glowing accolades from the Soviets and Cubans as the “February revolution.”

(4) The contradiction between socialist countries on the one hand and imperialism and social-imperialism on the other.

As stated earlier, the PWOC groups the Soviet Union among the socialist countries. Correspondingly, the PWOC does not see the contradiction between the socialist countries and the USSR as a fundamental one.

And secondly, and this may be even more shocking to some people, but it is the obvious implication that we must view the contradiction that exists between the Soviet Union and China as fundamentally non-antagonistic. This means that the long-run interests of the Soviet Union and China lie in harmony as socialist countries. This is not to argue that there is not an antagonistic aspect to the contradiction between China and the Soviet Union. The millions of Soviet troops on the Chinese border, the provocative Soviet actions against the Chinese clearly show a degree of antagonism exists. However it is our position that if this contradiction is correctly handled on both sides it can be resolved peacefully. That there exists the economic foundation, the material foundation to resolve the contradiction. (Presentation, p. 12)

Again, the “laws of the socialist economic base” step in to resolve those “superstructural” problems. We hope that the PWOC will bring this discovery to the attention of those Soviet troops, but we also hope that nobody else becomes convinced of it, because otherwise it can impede the necessary preparations for war, particularly on the part of the Chinese people. Happily, in the event of war between the Soviet Union and China, the PWOC pledges itself “to be prepared to support China”:

A final possibility, and one which would have a disastrous impact on the world situation, is the possibility of armed conflict between China and the Soviet Union. In this context the war threat clearly comes from the Soviet Union and we would have to be prepared to support China. We do not think that armed conflict between the two is very likely at this point but it is an eventuality which cannot be totally ruled out. (ibid, p. 14)

Some anti-dogmatists would not even go this far. Since a greater likelihood now exists that the Soviets will open up on the Chinese than that U.S. imperialism will do so, another problem arises which the PWOC does not address. What if the Soviets attack the Chinese and also become involved in a world war with the U.S.? At the present time, the Chinese very explicitly rule out the possibility of a Chinese/U.S. coalition. “Of course, in the world today there is no such thing as a new Italo-German coalition or a new Anglo-Soviet-American coalition.” (Peking Review #45, 1977, p. 15) But if world war breaks out, and the Soviets attack the Chinese, we hope that the anti-dogmatists will pass the test of that difficult situation, and not end up “aligning themselves consciously” with such “socialist countries” as the USSR, giving it “critical support.”


The above review of the PWOC’s “facts” about the world situation brings to light another feature of their position. We have said that the “two main enemies” perspective rests in part on the thesis that the two superpowers are locked in contention for world supremacy and that this contention will inevitably lead to world war. In one sense, we could say that this contention, with its growing threat of war, makes the two superpowers the two main enemies of the world’s peoples. The PWOC position, as well as that of some other anti-dogmatists, downplays the threat of world war as it downplays the danger posed by the international revisionist trend with the CPSU as its core. If we recall the PWOC’s exposition of the world’s major contradictions, we see that they effectively belittle the possibility of war between U.S. imperialism and the Soviet Union, between China or other socialist countries and the Soviet Union, and between the Soviet social-imperialists and revolutionary Parties or national liberation movements. (Meanwhile the Soviets and Cubans hunt down Ethiopian revolutionaries and attack the Eritrean liberation forces). To some comrades, all this may begin to look suspiciously like the theory of detente.

To review, the pro-Moscow revisionist parties as well as the CPSU itself describe two major roles for the Soviet Union. First, its ability to bring its weight to bear on the international arena can eventually prevent Western imperialism and Japan from resorting to war. This is the meaning behind the slogan bandied about by the CPUSA and other such parties, “Make detente irreversible’.” Second, the aid of the “socialist camp” allows the national liberation movements to succeed and then to undertake the transition to socialism. In other words, the modern revisionists claim that war is no longer inevitable in the imperialist epoch, and that the victory of the national liberation movements depends on their consciously aligning themselves with the “socialist camp.”

The PWOC does not become as wildly enthusiastic about detente as the modern revisionists do. It does oppose, however, the Marxist-Leninist line of exposing detente for what it is, a cover for collusion and contention between the two superpowers.

The dogmatist position also opposes detente on principle. We think that it is wrong to exaggerate detente, to say that detente is the pivot of the worldwide struggle, but on the other hand to oppose detente is silly. That detente is a good development which is consistent with Lenin’s attitude towards peaceful coexistence, it’s not something that we should oppose...(Presentation, p. 16)

In a typical burst of PWOC logic, the comrade goes on to explain that a failure to align oneself with detente means an objective alliance with reaction, etc., etc. “...it’s not something that we should go out and jump up and down in the streets about, but it’s not something we should make a principle of opposing. It’s incorrect. Because it plays into the hands of the right wing opponents of detente. It plays into the hands of the Reagans and the reactionaries who are attacking detente from the right. So that those who attack it from the left objectively are allying with those very people that attack it from the right. (ibid., p. 16)

From this, we can see that the PWOC understands detente as a form of peaceful coexistence, as part of the struggle for peace, which are precisely the claims the modern revisionists (and organizations like the CLP) make for it. But in fact detente expresses a particular relationship of forces, a period in which the U.S. began to move on the defensive and the Soviet Union began to take the offensive. As the Soviets conduct a more aggressive foreign policy, detente as a concept will pass from the scene.

The PWOC will even go a step further. Like the modern revisionists, they believe that “the world’s working class and oppressed peoples headed by the socialist countries” (page 6) can actually end war – not just world war between the USSR and the U.S.; not just war between the USSR and national liberation struggles such as those in Eastern Europe or in the Third World; not just war between the USSR and China; but even end war between the U.S. and national liberation struggles – in short, put an end to all wars during the imperialist epoch. This contradicts a central thesis of Leninism, and the PWOC admirably does not shy away from that:

Lenin in his 1920 preface to Imperialism held ’imperialist wars are absolutely inevitable.’ While Lenin was talking mainly about inter-imperialist war, such as World War I, which have clearly [!!] declined in likelihood, it is our position that this thesis, even in its broader context, i.e., including wars against national liberation, wars between capitalism and socialism, is no longer accurate. Rather, as we see it, while the imperialist tendency to attempt to resolve its contradictions through war will remain in force until the imperialist system itself has been overthrown, war itself is no longer inevitable. Or, in other words, while the drive to war remains inherent in imperialism, that the combination of the imperialist necessity to carve up the world and the necessity to respond to conditions of uneven development tend to produce war, the might of the working class, the democratic and revolutionary movements, the forces of national liberation and the socialist countries, if properly mobilized is great enough to frustrate imperialism’s war aims. (ibid., p. 13)

Obviously this rejoins the view of the modern revisionists that detente can indeed pass into some irreversible stage.

On the basis of its view of detente and of the possibility of “mobilizing” to prevent all wars during the epoch of imperialism, the PWOC criticizes the “dogmatist” conception of our tasks.

The dogmatist position also argues that world war is inevitable. What this leads to, and the implications of it–it’s not just a question of just trying to determine the likelihood of world war, it’s a question of our policy and how we approach building the struggle for peace. If we approach that situation in the context of deciding world war is inevitable, when it is possible to defeat war, naturally we are going to encourage pessimism and defeatism in the working class and oppressed nationalities and this is a profound mistake, (ibid., p. 16)

Everyone wants peace. But to talk about peace without talking about the necessity of preparing for the coming world war disarms the world’s peoples. Such a perspective demobilizes the U.S. people, who have especially grave responsibilities towards the world’s peoples, since they live in the “belly of the beast.” in one of the two superpowers whose contention will bring on the world war. This talk obscures the nature of the antagonisms between the USSR and the U.S., between China and the USSR, and between both superpowers and the world’s peoples. And it leads to a conception of our tasks which Marxist-Leninists must reject – to the building of an anti-war movement in the trade unions, national movements and elsewhere which is either implicitly or explicitly pro-Soviet, however “critical” its support might be. The world’s peoples do not need a pro-Soviet anti-war movement in the U.S. – they need an anti-war movement which while concentrating on U.S. imperialism, also opposes Soviet social-imperialism.


[1] Tempered through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and armed with Mao Tsetung Thought, the Chinese people are determined to follow the teachings of their great leader Chairman Mao to unite with the revolutionary peoples of the whole world and with all the countries and people subjected to imperialist and socia1-imperialist aggression, control, intervention or bullying and, together with them, carry through to the end the struggle against imperialism, social-imperialism and their lackeys. (Speech by Chou En-lai, July 13, 1969) The full implications of this policy certainly did not come to the Chinese Party all at once, like a bolt from heaven. See for example Mao’s statement of May 20, 1970, “People of the World, Unite and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs!”