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

III. A One-Sided Echo

The last section responded to most of the argumentation presented by the PWOC and Comrade Newlin in support of their view. Several supplementary criticisms deserve an answer. One concerns the special obligations of U.S. communists. In support of its position that U.S. imperialism stands alone as the main enemy of the world’s peoples, the PWOC invariably trots out this argument.

For those standing at the heart of the main bastion of world imperialism, however, a special question is involved... It is for this reason that we have argued that to live in the heart of the world’s foremost imperialism and to fail to uphold directly the main blow against the U.S. bourgeoisie is inevitably to fall into class collaboration. (“Dogmatism, the Main Enemy, and ’Left’ Opportunism,” p. 12)

In our view, a section of the communist movement headed by the OL/CP-M-L has sometimes failed to realize that its chief responsibility lies in overthrowing the U.S. bourgeoisie, and that correspondingly it must concentrate its main attention internationally on the crimes of U.S. imperialism. But this question of the chief responsibility of U.S. Marxist-Leninists remains a completely separate one from the question of which superpower or superpowers constitutes the main enemy of the peoples of the world. The CP-M-L has committed a number of errors in this regard (their slogan, “Superpowers Out of Puerto Rico”; their failure to give warm support to the struggle of Iranian revolutionaries; etc.). But contrary to what the PWOC claims, many organizations adhering to the two superpowers position have made no such mistake. The Bay Area Communist Union, which Comrade Newlin singles out for particular scorn as a class collaborationist and objective ally of U.S. imperialism[1], puts the matter very clearly and very well we think:

The chief responsibility of U.S. communists is to organize and lead the American people in overthrowing U.S. imperialism and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat... The revolution in the U.S. is interconnected with and dependent upon revolutionary struggles all over the world and in particular those which are armed against U.S. imperialist domination. The chief enemy of the U.S. people is U.S. imperialism, and U.S. imperialism must remain the focus of our attack. The American people must learn to despise every act of U.S. imperialist intervention in the affairs of other countries, (page 70) We must support the actions of third and second world governments to oppose superpower and particularly U.S. imperialist domination of their national sovereignty, economy and of international economic and political affairs. We must oppose super-power and particularly U.S. military and nuclear blackmai1 and most certainly U.S. military aggression... (Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, p. 70, p. 72)

The PWOC’s position on the main enemy of the world’s peoples hides behind a general statement about the responsibilities of U.S. communists. But the former problem is a matter of concretely analyzing the world situation, not of where one lives. The main enemies of the world’s peoples exist at the level of the world situation as a whole, not of individual countries. The chief responsibilities of communists in given countries, on the other hand, derive less from their relationship to the world as a whole than from their relationship to their own ruling classes. By the way, the Chinese are very explicit on this distinction:

Undoubtedly the people of each particular region can decide which superpower or imperialist country poses the more immediate threat to them according to their own specific conditions. But here we are discussing a general question concerning the world situation as a whole rather than a particular question concerning a particular region. (Peking Review #45, 1977, p. 22)


Given Comrade Newlin’s misrepresentation of his polemical opponents’ theses, we cannot expect the Chinese position itself to fare any better. It doesn’t. Not only does the PWOC equate the thesis of capitalist restoration with class-collaborationism and an objective alliance with imperialism, but it goes on to claim that anyone who says they recognize two main enemies in fact believes in striking the “main blow” against the Soviet Union. Moreover, Comrade Newlin attributes this thesis directly to the Chinese: “China’s view that the main blow internationally should be directed at the Soviet Union.” (“Dogmatism,...” p. 21)

The idea of striking “the main blow” at the Soviet Union first came up several years ago when Comrade Bill Hinton presented it as what he believed the Chinese then thought. While taking exception with certain features of Comrade Hinton’s view, the CP-M-L has put forward an international line which rejects any alliance with the U.S. but also calls for directing “the main blow” at the Soviet Union. Without entering into all the details of this debate, we would like to make three points about this thesis.

First, the theoretical status of the term “main blow” is by no means obvious. The best-known usage of this concept occurs in Stalin, where he outlines a theory of directing the main blow not against the main enemy in a given situation, but against the “party of compromise.” In the 1960’s, Comrade Truong Chinh suggested a very different sense of the term. In his framework, the revolutionary forces strike the main blow against the main enemy of the moment. In our book, Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type?, we differentiate between these two usages, and for our own purposes there use “main blow” in Truong Chinh’s sense.

Second, to our knowledge the Chinese comrades rarely if ever use the term in either sense, and we have not run across it in any of their descriptions of the international situation, including in unofficial interviews given by Chinese officials. Certainly it does not figure in any way in the most authoritative presentation of the Chinese international analysis, “Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds Is A Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism,” Peking Review #45, 1977, since reproduced separately as a pamph1et; nor does, as we have mentioned, any idea of “a united front with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union” (“Dogmatism,...” page 19). Diligent efforts by the critics of the two superpowers position and Chinese foreign policy have failed to unearth any references to this idea in Chinese strategic thinking about the international situation. The absence of this concept should make people suspicious of the claim that it guides Chinese foreign policy, since the Chinese formulate their foreign policy in very explicit terms, and have not been known to hide their true positions for fear of criticism from the Western Left. This absence probably has roots in the very explicit criticisms the Chinese Party has historically directed at Stalin’s concept of the “main blow.” These criticisms first became public in the pamphlet “More on the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” (1956), which most authorities attribute to Mao Tsetung.

Third, despite the PWOC’s insinuations to the contrary, no other Marxist-Leninist organization in the U.S. besides the CP-M-L calls for directing the “main blow” against the Soviet Union to our knowledge. If this position does characterize the dominant line among the “Lefts,” let the PWOC bring forward the evidence. In fact, a number of organizations, both among the “Lefts” themselves and among certain anti-“left” groups, have criticized either the whole concept of the “main blow” (see the article in the February, 1977 Revolution, newspaper of the RCP), or the CP-M-L’s usage of it. The Workers Congress (M-L), for example, has published a pamphlet which deals with the inconsistencies they see in the CP-M-L’s use of the concept from the point of view of Stalin’s framework. The comrades of the WC(M-L) go on to reject the practical implications this theoretical perspective has for the CP-M-L’s present international line.

The Communist Party of China, the Party of Labor of Albania, other Marxist-Leninist Parties and organizations, and indeed the peoples of the world face difficult strategic and tactical problems. They must develop policies which will cope with both the main enemies of the world’s peoples, and they must also take account of the more offensive posture of the Soviet Union. Surely errors will be made in attempting to take up our tasks in this complex situation. But due to their analysis of the Soviet Union Comrade Newlin and some other “anti-dogmatists” do not even recognize the problem. If they think their position so strong, why not try to debate what these Parties and organizations actually say? A wealth of material exists; the PWOC does not have to make up any more.


Operating out of a theoretical framework which regards the Soviet Union as socialist, calls for aligning oneself “consciously” with such “socialist” countries as the Soviet Union, the Democratic Republic of Germany, etc., and regards Soviet might as helping make possible the end of all wars, the PWOC naturally also aligns itself, “consciously” or not, with a number of interpretations of international events with which the modern revisionist parties agree wholeheartedly. While in-depth discussion of specific international events lies outside the bounds of this paper and certainly in many cases the limits of our knowledge, we would like to make a few points which have so far escaped certain “anti-dogmatists.”

Ethiopia. Certain features of the situation in the Horn of Africa have received extensive coverage in the Marxist-Leninist press, and we won’t concern ourselves with them. These include the Soviet Union’s “gamble” on Ethiopia, as the best horse to carry their hegemonist ambitions to victory, and their supply of over one billion dollars in aid to the Mengistu regime; the Soviet, Cuban, Democratic Republic of Germany and Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen-backed war not only against regular Somali troops in the Ogaden, but also against ethnic Somalis in that region, against the Tigrai people to the north, and Ethiopian revolutionaries; and of course the Mengistu war against the Eritreans, initially at least backed by the same countries with the possible exception of the DPRY (at least until the coup against the DPRY President and loyal army units. By many Western accounts [see Le Monde] President Ali opposed armed action both against the Somalis and against Eritrea. His execution came at the hands of the leaders of the DPRY Soviet-trained militia, and in the wake of the Afghanistan coup.) The by now familiar rationale that the country’s leaders invited the Soviets and Cubans to send their troops and advisors has been heard from once again. But a recent event in Ethiopia casts light on what it means today to invite the Soviets and Cubans en masse into your country, and how we should evaluate the claims that the Soviet Union and “non-aligned” Cuba only pursue those goals set for them by a country’s leaders.

The Guardian’s Jack Smith, hardly a sharp critic of the Cubans, but a supporter of the Eritrean people’s struggle, relates the following in a June 28, 1978 article:

It cannot be confirmed by pointing to any public pronouncements, but rumors seem credible that Cuba and the USSR are also of the opinion that the Ethiopian military junta is moving too slowly in transferring at least a portion of state power to a civilian party.

It was because it lost hope that Mengistu would establish a civilian administration to replace the Dergue that the leading left force in Ethiopia – the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement (Me1isone)- broke with the government last year and went underground. Me’isone had cooperated with the regime on the premise that it could move the Dergue to the left. It has since been suppressed and many of its cadre have been murdered.

In a bizarre development denied by the Ethiopians but quite possibly true, a number of Western papers reported recently that Cubans in Addis Ababa secretly brought Me’isone’s Negede Gozeze back into the country from exile. (Negede, along with Haile Fide, was a leader of the organization .)... When Mengistu found out Negede was in Ethiopia under Cuban protection at the embassy, the story goes, he ordered his allies to send the Me’isone leader back into exile – which they reportedly did in the company of the Cuban ambassador.

The Soviet and Cuban “opinion” cited above and this incident illustrate that they pursue their own policies when invited into a host country, and do not hesitate to explore ways of shuffling leaders, governments, parties, etc., in order to find one more amenable to their own ideas. (Note that what separates the Me’isone from their former allies in the Dergue are not policy matters, such as whether the Eritreans deserve independence, but rather whether Me’isone should rule the country.)

Zaire. The bitter controversy over events in the Shaba province of Zaire has obviously not subsided. But the second armed conflict in that province in fourteen months and its aftermath have clarified a few things. The PWOC charges that:

PUL makes no analysis of such recent clashes of the proletariat and its allies with imperialism as Chile, Portugal, Angola, Zaire, etc. The reason, of course, is that any analysis that both goes beyond a self-serving choice of evidence and avoids fabrication clearly demonstrates that U.S. imperialism is indeed the main enemy of the peoples of the world. (“Dogmatism...,” p. 21) ...any objective study of the international situation will demonstrate by such a wide preponderance of evidence that the U.S. is the main enemy, that one can only dispute the fact by retreating from reality. (“Dogmatism,” p. 23)

As we have demonstrated above, the PWOC’s version of the “facts” and “reality” in the world today differs from ours in a number of respects. But for the sake of argument, we will only cite a few “facts” even the anti-dogmatists agree to. Then we can see who runs from which reality.

Two main issues of “fact” have separated some “anti-dogmatists” from other Marxist-Leninists on the issues of Zaire. First, whether invasions from Angola took place, or “popular uprisings” in Shaba province. Second, whether this invasion received Soviet and Cuban backing.

Any agreement that an invasion had taken place would have landed the anti-dogmatists in a dilemma around their views of Angola. If an invasion took place, then one of two things. Either the MPLA, Cuban troops and Soviet advisors did not control the Angolan national territory, and a sizeable military force could escape their command. This would have lent credence to reports of UNITA and other groups having sizeable military forces based in the countryside itself. Or else the MPLA, Soviet advisors, and the many thousands of Cuban troops upon whom the national defense of Angola apparently continues to depend (why else would they have to remain?) knew of the Katanganese army, but had taken no steps to disarm its troops, break up its military encampments, etc. Sovereign states do not allow foreign troops to maintain armies on their soil unless they cannot do anything about it (witness Eastern Europe or Puerto Rice, Panama, and the U.S. armed occupation of the Guantanamo base in Cuba) or believe it serves their purposes. Mozambique allows ZANU bases on its territory because it militantly supports the liberation of Zimbabwe. Given the history and objectives of the Katanganese army, this could only mean that the MPLA or the Cubans and Soviets supported the Katanganese plans to invade Shaba province.

The “anti-dogmatists” escaped from this dilemma when a number of sources began describing the Shaba conflict as a “popular uprising,” not an invasion. At that point, the modern revisionist parties in the West the Cubans, the Angolan government, the Soviets, and the “anti-dogmatists” all described the conflict as a “popular uprising.” The U.S. imperialists, many European imperialists, the Chinese and a number of other Marxist-Leninists described it as an invasion-’ producing, therefore, another one of those famous “objective alliances with U.S. imperialism.”

A second conflict took place in Shaba province, and many “anti-dogmatists” rushed to applaud that “popular uprising” too. Comrade Newlin lashes out at the “class collaborationists” who refused to support “the popular uprising in Shaba province.” (“Dogmatism...”, p. 16) But a funny thing happened in the wake of this “popular uprising.” Fidel Castro declared to U.S. Congressmen and journalists that he had heard “rumors,” back in February that an invasion might take place, and he had tried to get Angola’s President Neto to take steps against it. Fidel Castro’s government has thousands of troops in Angola, so he should know. Following this, curious reports began to filter out of Angola. We quote from a report in The Guardian by Sara Rodrigues, whose reporting we generally do not trust. We refer comrades to the full article in the June 21, 1978 issue; they will notice there that Rodrigues makes no concrete reference to an invasion (or to the fast disappearing “popular uprising”) but only to “Shaba rebels returning across the border to Angola” (our emphasis).

...President Agostinho Neto... stated that his country in turn plans to disarm Shaba rebels returning across the border to Angola... Explaining the presence in Angola of Katanganese former gendarmes as ’a historical accident,’ Neto said measures had been taken by Angola after the start of the second Shaba war, including guarantees of safe conduct to refugees should they wish to remain in Angola and the decision to ’systematically disarm’ any ’armed Zairean crossing the border into Angola.’ Thereafter such disarmed Zaireans will ’be taken to the refugee camps,’ Neto said...Their camps, before the second Shaba war, were being moved by the Angolan authorities further away from the border with Shaba.

This certainly raises a few questions: if the Angolan authorities can disarm the Katanganese former gendarmes now, why couldn’t they and why didn’t they before the first Shaba conflict or before the second? If they can move their camps now, why didn’t they before? In other words, if the Angolans can control the Katanganese today, why did they choose not to in the past? With Fidel Castro talking openly of an invasion, and the Angolan government disarming soldiers returning across the border, certain “anti-dogmatists” have been left holding the bag for those “popular uprisings” in Shaba province.

To say that the Soviets and Cubans – upon whom the national defense of Angolan territory apparently still rests – supported those invasions does not mean that they gave huge quantities of modern weaponry to the Katanganese or actually led them into battle. There has been little substantive proof so far of such charges, and it is hard to document how much Cuban training went on. We see no reason to accept uncritically what the Zairean press agency reports. But because the Soviets and Cubans did not go the Ethiopian route with the Katanganese does not mean they did not support invasions which, while certainly unable to overthrow it, could help destabilize the Mobutu government. If the Soviets and Cubans opposed these invasions, they could have stopped them, as subsequent events have shown. We do not deny either that the former mercenaries strike a very responsive chord among some of the people in Shaba, whose tribalist and Western-backed secessionist struggle they led a number of years ago. Mobutu’s domestic policies are largely reactionary, and many of his foreign ones are as well-But none of that speaks to the matter of defending the integrity of Zairean national territory against separatist guerrillas backed by the Soviet social-imperialists. We understand, though, some “anti-dogmatists”’ ferocious defense of the “popular uprising” thesis – it touches too closely on some of their interpretations of Angolan events.

Angola. Comrade Newlin has more charges to make about Angola. He claims:

...to have supported U.S. imperialism in Angola would inevitably mean support for reactionary forces in Southern Africa, particularly strengthening the hands of Smith and Vorster. And yet both the OL and the RCP (and unfortunately PUL as well) did so. These comrades backed the CIA financed “national liberation movements,” FNLA and UNITA in their struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Angolan people. (“Dogmatism,...”, p. 13)

Obviously all the issues here would take a pamphlet in itself to deal with, but our basic view is this. We believe that all three organizations in Angola in 1974-75 were indigenous organizations which had fought the Portuguese colonialists, according to most authorities, including the U.S. imperialists who backed the Portuguese. We recognize that serious differences existed among them, and that each organization had, to varying degrees, backward features and significant internal divisions. It is perfectly conceivable to us that the MPLA had a number of strengths not matched by the two other organizations. Reports from that period and subsequent developments indicate strongly that none of the three constituted anything like a truly national force, with significant representation among all tribal peoples in Angola. The MPLA and its supporters have made much of the “tribalism” of UNITA and FNLA. This description works both ways. Very probably, UNITA and undoubtedly FNLA articulated tribal interests and promoted some tribalist ideology. At the same time, they were the political and military representatives of significant sections of the Angolan population – in the case of UNITA, of the Ovimbundu tribe, which forms about a third of the population, the largest single tribe in Angola.

We think that an internal solution to their problems was in the best interests of the Angolan people, which would have required turning back all foreign intervention and certainly that of the South African colonialists. This does not necessarily mean an internal solution which would or could have remained always peaceful in nature. Revolutions aren’t made that way. But we believe that in a situation in which three different movements have real if unequal roots in sections of the masses and no movement exists as a truly national force, the crushing of two of them militarily and politically will not serve the cause of national independence. We agree that the U.S. had an interest in breaking up the agreement of 1975 and sabotaging national unity, but at the same time, the Soviet Union as a social-imperialist power contending for world hegemony also had such an interest. Moreover, in the wake of the liberation of Indochina, the U.S. had a far more circumscribed field of action than did the Soviets, who went on to transport the Cubans into Angola, act as military advisors and even spell Cuban pilots in Cuba itself.

We never “backed the CIA financed ’national liberation movements,’ FNLA and UNITA in their struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Angolan people.” To our knowledge, no Marxist-Leninist group called for victory to the FNLA and UNITA, and certainly the Chinese did not. Nor did any Marxist-Leninist party or group (including the Chinese) render material support to the FNLA and UNITA after the end of the 1975 agreement, or call for such aid. As a side note, we would like to point out that the claim that neither FNLA or UNITA were national liberation movements only emerged after the military struggle began. Before that war, The Guardian, for example, described them as “liberation groups” (October 22, 1975 and November 19, l975) “liberation organizations,” (September 10, 1975), ’anti-colonial movements” (August 20, 1975) and “liberation movements” (September 10, 1975), which quickly became “national liberation factions” and then “neo-colonial tools.”

The attempt to crush those organizations which articulated, in however flawed a manner, the aspirations of several major tribal groupings in Angola has succeeded in certain narrow terms, particularly in the case of FNLA. But it has left a legacy of instability for Angola that several years later still shows o signs of letting up. A major insurgency continues in the South, though a single organization may no longer lead it (everyone from Peking Review to the Washington Post to Le Monde and the Zaireans confirm the existence of this insurgency based in the countryside). Peking Review reports guerrilla activity in the north. The MPLA has had to undertake an important internal purge of so-called “ultra-leftists,” including but not limited to those who have since formed the Angolan Communist Organization. A major attempted coup broke out, which required heavy assistance from Cuban troops in Luanda to put down. The Guardian editorial pages lauded those troops and announced their leaving for Cuba over two years ago. Yet the total Cuban force in Angola has not diminished, and persistent reports have Cubans taking over important economic and even in some cases political functions inside Angola. Why haven’t the Cuban troops left? Cuba could defend itself against the Bay of Pigs and other U.S. attacks on the island. Albania has defended itself successfully against Yugoslavia, the Soviet bloc and U.S. imperialism for many years, yet the Albanians have only a couple of million people. Defense of a national territory is for Marxists above all a political question. So why can’t the Angolans defend themselves, over two years after the “second liberation”? To what internal problems do the presence of thousands and thousands of Cuban regulars and many Soviet advisors respond? Finally, the colonial legacy in Angola includes a Privileged position for mestizos and obviously the Whites that remain. How then should we evaluate the pro-coupist charges of “racism” and “white domination” in Angola, or the MPLA campaign against racism, which directs itself in particular towards African resentment of African mestizos? Regardless of the political line of the pro-coupist group (which we cannot evaluate at this distance), does their attempt to raise this issue respond to real problems in Angola, and what is the relation of the Cubans and Russians to all this?

National liberation movements have an unalterable right to accept aid from anyone, including the Soviet social-imperialists. It is dishonest to accuse Marxist-Leninists of “compromising support for more stable allies of the proletariat in the national liberation movements by branding them as ’Soviet puppets’ if they accept aid from the USSR.” (page 17) The Marxist-Leninist press, including that of the ultra-lefts and that of the Chinese and Albanians, regularly devotes coverage to the struggle of the Namibians, led by SWAPO. If Newlin’s charge had a basis in fact, why would China give aid to SWAPO, which receives it from the Soviets, or to the Palestinians, or to Mozambique? With a few unfortunate exceptions, Marxist-Leninists have never questioned the right to receive Soviet aid. They have questioned in a few specific cases, whether the national liberation movements have managed to maintain their independence and initiative in their relationship with the Soviet Union. The Soviets use their aid to further their hegemonic objectives, and as we saw in the case of Ethiopia, the Cubans no longer reject such methods. Marxist-Leninists have the right and the obligation to study national struggles from the point of view of how they further the struggle against the two superpowers, or whether they in fact play into their hands.

Czechoslovakia. Comrade Newlin has the nerve to accuse us of “distortions” of the PWOC’s views around a number of questions, including that of Czechoslovakia. Again, we must turn to the record.

Comrade Newlin protests with these words:

Some of these points are distortions... that the PWOC thinks that the ’world’s peoples need not fear the military might of the Soviet Union nor its expansionist designs’ and supports the invasion of Czechoslovakia, etc. (“Dogmatism....” p. 1-2)

Later he repeats the charge: “Or that we demand that comrades support the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. . .these – and other similar distortions [note: unnamed] can only serve to obscure the issues between us.”

Here is all we said about Czechoslovakia:

...the PWOC recently stated at a forum that U.S. imperialism is the main enemy of the peoples of Eastern Europe (as well as India)... The practical consequences are clear, and flow directly from differences on the meaning of the term ’main enemy’ and on the nature of the Soviet Union: where others would support the Czechoslovakian people’s just struggle against Soviet social-imperialist occupation, the PWOC would counsel the Czechoslovakian masses to direct their chief fire at their so-called ’main enemy,’ the U.S. imperialist aggressors. (“Bring Home the Struggle Against ’Left’ Sectarianism,” p. 9)

At the forum mentioned, someone asked Comrade Newlin direct question about the main enemy for Eastern European peoples and India. He responded that since he didn’t regard the Soviet Union as capitalist, the U.S. was that enemy. This claim conformed with the PWOC’s categorical statement that ”wherever the World’s working class and oppressed peoples are attempting to advance the cause of human kind, U.S. imperialism will be the main force barring the way.” (The Organizer, June, 1977; our emphasis) Now after all we have learned of both the PWOC’s strategic perspective and the tactical line which follows from it, doesn’t saying that the U.S. constitutes the main enemy for Eastern European peoples like the Czechoslovakians mean that they must direct their chief fire at U.S. imperialism? Doesn’t it also mean that the Soviets are part of the united front against U.S. imperialism? Now today Comrade Newlin tells us:

Where the danger posed by the U.S. is more remote and where there is another more immediate enemy, like Eastern Europe, the struggle against the immediate enemy must be pursued in such a manner as to avoid strengthening the international position of U.S. imperialism. (“Dogmatism,...” p. 12)

Has Comrade Newlin changed his mind about the main enemy of the Czechoslovakian people? Does he deny he called the U.S. the main enemy of their struggle in front of at least 150 people, including at least three organizations that belong to the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center? And what exactly does it mean to tell the Czechoslovakians that they must “avoid strengthening the international position of U.S. imperialism?” In the contention between the two superpowers, any blow to one may encourage the other.

Comrade Newlin has two last red herrings to pull out of his sack on the international situation. The PUL tries “to hide behind the Chinese position,” (page 21) he says, adding that the PUL desires “to avoid struggle around international line” (page 23).

Let us compare once again Comrade Newlin’s charges with what we actually said.

It is worth noting that this same reliance on the tremendous prestige (mostly deserved) of the Chinese Communist Party to sustain a demonstrably incorrect international line is clearly exhibited in PUL’s treatment of our differences. Bristling with righteous indignation, PUL argues that for us to demand unity with the “U.S. is the main enemy” formulation amounts to a call for ’organizing a trend in opposition to the international line of the CPC, the PLA (Party of Labor of Albania), and quite a few other Marxist-Leninists.’ They then proceed to argue that the ’theoretical basis’ of the Chinese position is the ’analysis of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR,’ and that one necessarily adopts an ’agnostic’ position by arguing that U.S. imperialism is the main enemy without publishing a thoroughgoing analysis of the class character of the USSR.

But here PUL lets its overwhelming desire to defend its ’authority’ overcome its avowal of Marxist method (and falls into, of all things, dogmatism). In the first place, the argument that ’the analysis of the restoration of capitalism’ is the ’theoretical basis’ of disputing the U.S.’s position as the main enemy is incorrect. The CPC disputes the proposition that the U.S. is the main enemy by arguing that there has been a change in the balance of forces between the two ’superpowers’ (the U.S. and the USSR), that the U.S. is in decline whereas the Soviets are on the rise and that the USSR is more aggressive and thus more dangerous. While such arguments would be untenable without the thesis of capitalist restoration, by itself, an analysis of the class character of the Soviet Union cannot provide the ’theoretical basis’ for China’s view that the main blow internationally should be directed at the Soviet Union.

It is also indicative that PUL, like its ’left-wing’ comrades, ’disputes’ the proposition that U.S. imperialism is the main enemy by trying to hide behind the Chinese position. (“Dogmatism,...” p. 20-21)

We have already dealt with much of this material. As we said earlier, the Chinese have not called for directing one or another version of “the main blow” against the Soviet Union. The “two main enemies” position does not rest on any evaluation of the relative decline or relative advances of the superpowers. As proof, we need only consider the Albanians (whom we mention explicitly in the quote cited) and the other Marxist-Leninists who agree with their strategic conceptions. Those comrades do not agree that the U.S. is on the defensive with respect to the Soviet Union, yet they steadfastly adhere to the two main enemies position. We don’t understand how Comrade Newlin can seriously question our view here, since he is himself on record as saying:

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. (Presentation, p. 18)

Turning to the passage where we do all that bristling:

In the absence of democratic, joint ideological struggle, the comrades organizing the conference have concluded, in the joint statement and other publications, that those who generally agree with the line of the Chinese Communist Party and the Party of Labor of Albania on international affairs are dogmatists and not proletarian internationalists. Only among those who disagree with the CPC’s and PLA’s position do the comrades find the proletarian internationalists and those ’free of dogmas and idealist conceptions.’ On that basis, they propose organizationally excluding the former collection of groups.

We put the matter this way because in fact the principle of unity can only be seen as directed against another position, one first developed by the CPC and PLA. And this reveals a certain weakness in the conference organizers’ position: while they 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. If you disagree with the strategic basis, then of course your tactics may be different. But if you believe the strategic basis is wrong, say so. And if you want others to follow you in organizing a trend founded on opposition to the international line of the CPC, PLA, and quite a few other Marxist-Leninists, then you had better prove your case. (“Response” of September 1, 1976, pp. 4-5, mimeod version; the reference to ’free of dogmas and idealist conceptions’ comes from the Committee of Five joint letter of June 9, 1976, where they described their “trend” as “represented by forces which have started to internalize the scientific essence of Marxism-Leninism by struggling to apply the science to the concrete conditions of today, free of dogmas and idealist conceptions.”)

Certainly the comrades of the Committee of Five cannot deny that in demanding unity with the “single main enemy” perspective in order to take part in any discussions, they have called for a “trend” in opposition to the line of the CPC, PLA, and a number of other Marxist-Leninists. The comrades might as well say it openly. We put it that way to stress the seriousness of doing so “in the absence of democratic, joint ideological struggle,” and to call for that struggle. The comrades of the Committee of Five can organize such a trend if they want to – we only asked that they not do so until they had debated the issues. If the PWOC had openly published its presentation to the International Question forum and then made discussion of that paper a topic for their conference, open to all those who recognize either that the main danger comes from dogmatism or preferably, that the main danger comes from the “left,” that would have made a big contribution to that struggle. Instead, the PWOC and others issued statements in which they praised their own ability to “internalize the scientific essence of Marxism-Leninism,” as opposed to everybody who didn’t agree with them on this, and proceeded to organize conferences and discussions in which no one who thought differently than they do on this point could participate. And this brings us to the comrades’ ludicrous charge that we have “a desire to avoid struggle around international line.”


We ask comrade organizations and individuals be the judge of just who has vainly attempted to avoid struggle over international line and other issues.

Would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have fought so hard to be included in the Committee of Five conferences? Or would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have drafted points of unity for the conference such that those who wanted to struggle with their views were excluded?

Would the organization trying to avoid struggle have called for struggle around international questions since September 1, 1976? Or would it have written a point of unity which prohibited struggle?

Would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have suggested the publication of a joint pamphlet containing both points of view, and struggled to see that pamphlet come to the light of day? Or would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have stalled in response to such a project, repeatedly made and then broken deadlines, and finally submitted its one and only response over four months after the last deadline it itself had set?

Would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have written four separate polemics, and when asked to write a new paper in response to the draft 18 points have done so? Or would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have taken over one year and eight months to reply to another organization’s paper (September l,1976-May 22, 1978)?

Would the organization desirous of avoiding struggle have agreed not to publish its paper of September 1, 1976 or November 1, 1977 or wait over one year to publish another paper in order to secure an agreement around a joint publication? Would that organization have negotiated away its right of reply to the views challenging its own, in order to secure that same agreement?

Those who try to avoid ideological struggles generally lose sympathy and influence. Comrade Newlin worries that the PUL wants to avoid struggle. Why not then invite us and those with similar positions to your conferences, and expose our “silence,” our “conciliationism,” before everyone concerned? If you are truly worried, let us come to your meetings, comrade, and we will try there to reassure you on this point.

Perhaps in fact the PWOC is correct and there is little need for our participation in any such debate. Having mastered the art of speaking out of both sides of its mouth at the same time, perhaps the PWOC and Comrade Newlin can carry it on all by themselves. We think debate would be helped if we knew whether the PWOC thought the USSR was socialist or “socialist,” an ally or an “ally,” a member of the united front against imperialism or “a secondary enemy in the camp of reaction,” a “sort of friend” or not – or for that matter, whether the correct point of unity is “dogmatism” or “from the ’left’” as the main danger, whether an “anti-dogmatist trend” or an “anti-’left’ tendency” exists, whether it is “on the threshold of maturity” or is “in embryo.” But we are more than willing to give it a try anyway.


Finally, these differences raise an issue of broader significance, one which touches on the forces which have helped determine the recent prominence of the “anti-dogmatist” position on international matters.

For most of the twenty-year history of the anti-revisionist movement in the U.S. and elsewhere, Marxist-Leninists had substantial unity around an analysis of the policies of the Soviet Union and the balance of forces in the world. Some differences certainly existed, but in the main they appeared to be and in most cases actually were differences of tactical emphasis rather than strategic perspective. Major differences erupted when a Marxist-Leninist organization began to slide irrevocably into “left” revisionism and Trotskyism, but within the anti-revisionist camp, substantial unity prevailed. Beginning in the early seventies, however, this relative unity started to break down, and by the mid-seventies, in the face of events such as the civil war and superpower intervention in Angola, the fighting in Shaba province, etc., had collapsed completely. What accounts for this change?

According to some anti-dogmatists, “left” internationalism, whose “essence” is “flunkeyism” towards the Communist Party of China, has brought about the present sharp disagreements. Obviously we do not agree with this theory, neither with its actual content nor even with this type of explanation. It is an explanation which refers only to the “ideas” which people hold in their heads, and not to the historical, social and ideological forces which produce given situations and given trends. We cannot hope ourselves to provide an adequate analysis of the reasons behind these differences here, but we do want to call attention to one very important factor which has helped produce them.

With the historic defeats of U.S . imperialism in Indochina, and with the consolidation of capitalism in the Soviet Union, the development of Soviet social-imperialism and the passage of the Soviet Union from a basically defensive stance to an offensive one, the world situation has undergone a great turn. We know from the history of the workers’ movement that such a turn will have far-reaching effects on the theories, politics, organizations and orientations within the workers’ movement. Lenin writes that:

...every more or less ’new’ question, every more or less unexpected turn of events, even though it may change the basic line of development only to an insignificant degree and only for the shortest period of time, will always inevitably give rise to one or another variety of revisionism.(“Marxism and Revisionism,” (Lenin, CW 15, p. 31)

In the case of the present turn in world affairs, we face not an event or question which affects the basic line of development “only to an insignificant degree and only for the shortest period of time.” We face a change of extraordinary importance, altering the balance of forces in the world, and affecting every revolutionary people, every revolutionary class and every counter-revolutionary class or class fraction in the world: the restoration of capitalism in the First Land of Socialism; the decline of U.S. hegemony; and the emergence of an increasingly aggressive Soviet social-imperialism, openly contending with U.S. imperialism for hegemony in a struggle which will lead to the Third World War. It was inevitable therefore that this shift would produce confusion and disorientation in the ranks of the international workers’ movement.

We say workers’ movement because this shift has affected not one trend within that movement, but all trends. Here we will restrict the discussion to two examples: international revisionism and the international Marxist-Leninist movement.

The dominant international revisionist line of the 1960’s, summed up in “the three peacefuls” (peaceful transition to socialism, peaceful competition, and peaceful coexistence), reflected a convergence of different interests. It reflected the interests of the Soviet bourgeoisie in a relationship with the U.S. characterized principally by collusion, through which it could bide its time and accumulate forces. It also reflected the interests of the essentially reformist leaderships in the Communist Parties of the West, as expressed in their “parliamentary cretinism” and increasingly social-democratic gradualism. Those leaderships had emerge’ not simply through the support they received from the CPSU, but also through the ideological, political and military pressure exerted on the Communist Parties by their “own” bourgeoisies. In speaking of these parties, we have in mind particularly the mass parties of Western Europe, Japan, and some countries in Latin America.

The shift in the Soviet Union’s strategic position to an offensive posture has greatly contributed to the current crisis of international revisionism. With the United States on the defensive, and given an increasing military parity between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union’s interests have diverged from those of the more social-democratic revisionist parties in the West. Those parties for the most part have a continued commitment to a transition to socialism, or simply to “advanced democracy,” carried out within bourgeois parliamentary and constitutional norms. While reflecting particular balances of class forces in their own countries, this commitment conflicts with the Soviet Union’s hegemonic designs. The Soviet Union has responded through sharp polemics against a “reformism” it had so carefully nourished during the fifties and sixties, through various forms of pressure, and even through the promotion of new, firmly pro-Moscow parties (Australia, and elsewhere). Where the revisionist parties do not have a real mass base and remain dependent upon the vast organizational, financial, diplomatic and even military resources of the Soviet Union, they cannot resist this pressure. In fact, they have an interest in acceding to it, since they will not come to power through their own efforts, but might as part of a social-imperialist-instigated coup d’etat. The disregard of bourgeois democracy displayed by such parties does not result from a Marxist-Leninist political understanding, but rather as the reflection of the Soviet Union’s aggressive posture (the parties in the Sudan, Afghanistan, etc.).

The conflict between the domestic strategies of the mass, modern revisionist parties of the West and the Soviet Union’s increasingly belligerent pursuit of world hegemony – a conflict which reflects in part a conflict between domestic bourgeois influence in each country’s workers’ movement and an international imperialist superpower – has helped give rise to the phenomenon known as Eurocommunism. Other factors have also contributed to producing the Eurocommunist response (the pressure of more left-wing forces within the revisionist parties, who see in the greater internal democracy promised by Eurocommunism opportunities to change their parties’ courses; the use various revisionist leaderships seek to make of more left-wing currents to fight Soviet domination; and a number of other factors). But unless we understand the effects the Soviet Union’s shift in strategic posture has had on these parties, the deep conflict it has given rise to, we cannot comprehend the specific forms so-called “Eurocommunism” has taken, and the struggles it has set off within the international revisionist movement. Moreover, without that understanding, we will blind ourselves to the tactical alternatives opened up in these new situations.[2]

The turn in world politics which took place around the beginning of this decade inevitably reverberated within the Marxist-Leninist movement as well. During the late fifties and sixties, the position of the Soviet Union did not stir much controversy among organized anti-revisionists. They universally understood that revisionism had captured the leadership of the CPSU. Because of the nature of the Soviet Union’s policies at that time, determined by the defensive posture of the Soviet bourgeoisie, the early anti-revisionist movement tended to think about Soviet modern revisionism in the terms advanced by Lenin and other communists to describe the revisionism of the Second International. In other words, anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists understood Soviet revisionism as another form of gradualism, “accomodationism” (in Comrade Newlin’s word), “parliamentary cretinism,” – in a word, reformism. In taking over many themes from social-democratic and Kautskyite revisionist literature, the CPSU bolstered this impression. It did not require any agreement about the effects of or social causes behind the revisionist capture of the CPSU to agree on the characterization of their policies as revisionist.

But with the shift in the Soviet Union’s strategic posture, all these one-time certainties vanish. The Soviet Union’s developing policies have shown that the characterization of its previous line as “reformist” was insufficient at best and at worst misleading. The Soviet Union’s new stance requires a fresh analysis. Those who cling to an understanding of Soviet revisionism as simply an expression of social-democratic revisionism cannot understand its polemics against reformism or its proclamations of solidarity and increased spending for national liberation movements within these old categories. Either they push on to some new understanding of the roots of Soviet revisionism – roots which lie in the production relations of Soviet society – or they must adopt one of the various “degenerate workers’ state” perspectives. Those “anti-dogmatist” perspectives, derived from one of the venerable dogmatists in communist history, Leon Trotsky, reflect the influence of the Soviet Union’s new strategic posture within the anti-revisionist movement.

Obviously, we do not consider the “anti-dogmatist” forces revisionists, despite the fact that in the particular case of the PWOC, the comrades put forward a fairly consistent analysis of the world situation which resembles that of the modern revisionists in most respects. But the anti-dogmatist Position does give what Lenin called a “one-sided echo” (CW 16, p. 351) to the change in the Soviet Union’s stance. The view that the Soviet Union plays a “generally progressive role” in the world would not have been viable during the sixties, and certainly would not have found a place within the anti-revisionist movement. But with the Soviet turn towards a relationship principally characterized by contention with the U.S. rather than by collusion, this view has gained a foothold among Marxist-Leninists. The Soviet Union attempts to pass off this contention with the U.S. as the disinterested efforts of a socialist country to support the world’s peoples in their battles for national independence, national liberation and socialism. It even adopts a “left” cover for some of its activities, loudly attacking reformism. In interpreting this contention as a “generally progressive” development for the world’s peoples, the “anti-dogmatist” position responds not so much to Soviet and revisionist-inspired propaganda itself as to the new strategic perspective of the Soviet Union.

The international situation today has a complexity it has not had in the past several decades. That complexity makes great practical and theoretical demands on the international communist movement, demands which that movement has only begun to fulfill. The analysis of capitalist restoration in the USSR, of the forms taken by imperialism in that country, of the nature of the current balance of forces in the world today, all remain in their preliminary stages. Notwithstanding all their bold talk about our “creative theoretical tasks,” the PWOC shies away from these theoretical and practical challenges. For if we take their advice, and pretend that the world situation has not changed much since 1960, we will not solve these problems at all.


[1] Comrade Newlin even treats us to purported “inside information” from former leading members of the BACU in support of his charge that the opposition to “left” opportunism of those who uphold the “two main enemies” position must have an unstable character. In our view, the general line of the comrades of the BACU has a number of important strengths, but it also has some less important weaknesses and ambiguities. Reading how Comrade Newlin misrepresents the BACU’s views, however, we can appreciate that his wanton distortions of what we have said and even what his organization has stood for do not stem from any personal antagonisms, but arises out of his line and attempted defense of it. Comrade Newlin lifts a few self-serving quotes from the BACU’s pamphlet and then concludes with the question, “What caused one of the more significant groups opposed to ultra-leftism to come to the conclusion that the main danger came from the right and not the ’left’?” (page 19 of “Dogmatism, the Main Enemy, and ’Left’ Opportunism”) But the comrades of the BACU never say that. They do say that “We now believe revisionism and political backsliding to be the main danger to our movement.” (page 97) Comrade Newlin quotes most of this sentence, but without giving the reference. If we turn to the page on which this quote occurs, we see that the next sentence reads as follows; “Does this mean that rightism, and not ’leftism,’ is the main danger? No, it does not.” On the next page, BACU says, “When BACU says revisionism is the main danger, we mean revisionism in both its right and ’left’ forms.” The BACU position on this question has a certain ambiguity and even confusion. One could perhaps make the argument that in reality the comrades believe that the main danger comes from the Right. But Comrade Newlin boldly leaps ahead to attribute all sorts of positions to his polemical opponents, in yet another dishonest attempt to buttress his own position.

[2] The more positive features of Yugoslavia’s present policies must also be seen in light of the shift in the Soviet Union’s strategic posture, though they would hardly change the character of production relations in Yugoslavia.