Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Red Dawn Committee (M-L)

Critique of OL’s Opportunism

The State of Our Movement and OL’s Opportunism

If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party built on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people to defeat imperialism and its running dogs. (Mao Tsetung, Selected Works, Vol. 4, p.284)

In the U.S. today and for more than 20 years, the proletariat has been without its party. In this absence, many groups have emerged and laid claim to the title of the party, but none has possessed more than the name and a few of the characteristics of a party. In the past few years, a number of these organizations – Communist Labor Party (CLP), Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), October League-Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (OL-CPML), Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO) – have vied for recognition as the proletariat’s party but have not captured the party’s spirit. In this article, we limit ourselves to commenting on the October League-Communist Party Marxist-Leninist. Our views, however, can generally be applied to the other organizations.

In late 1975, the OL began to make noises about a plan to unite the Marxist-Leninist movement into a single party. Providing all a chance to take up the struggle for the party, it published in the November, 1975 issue of the “Call” its proposal “Marxist-Leninists Unite”, which was intended to “serve as the basis for concrete discussion leading to Marxist-Leninist unity”. It suggested that the time had arrived to “shift our emphasis to the actual organizational work of party construction.” In subsequent months, it published a series of articles meant to create a “party climate” and to create an impression that wide debate and activity were occurring; it established an Organizing Committee (OC), whose “general purpose was to co-ordinate the work of building Marxist-Leninist unity and prepare the first party congress”; and it held a series of meetings and sponsored nationwide speaking engagements of OC members to gain support for its party-building efforts. Throughout this period, the OL condemned all criticism of its efforts as opposition to unity and to the “party”. In April, 1977, its draft “Programme” was published. Two short months later, the party was declared and the OL’s name changed to the CPML.

It is tempting to view the events leading to June, 1977, as no more than a change of name for the OL. In reality, the formation of the CPML was a far more serious matter, constituting a consolidation of the opportunism of the OL which has been its constant, unchanging character. Party-building has been viewed consistently by the OL in mainly organizational terms rather than in terms of the ideological and theoretical preparation necessary to forge a revolutionary vanguard. OL has promoted the view that the mere fact of the existence of groups separate and apart from the CPUSA represented a decisive break with revisionism. Accordingly it has directed the struggle against revisionism and right opportunism at the CPUSA alone. In the same vein, the OC has targeted petit-bourgeois ultra-“leftism” as the main threat to the communist movement. Consequently, the communist movement has been diverted from the struggle against revisionism and right opportunism, and stalled in its efforts to achieve a rupture with and decisive victory over opportunism and revisionism. The formation of the CPML, in short, failed to reflect the drawing of lines of demarcation which will propel the movement forward to the party. Further, the consolidation of OL’s opportunism represents a victory for the bourgeoisie and a setback for the proletariat, its allies, and those who seek to advance the revolutionary cause.

Of course, these general observations should not be accepted by serious revolutionaries without our providing documentation and support for our analysis. In the balance of this article we offer critical commentary on the CPML’s opportunist and social-chauvinist theoretical, ideological, and political foundations. In this section, we investigate the history of the CPML’s line on party-building and examine its theoretical formulation that ultra-“leftism” represents the main danger in the communist movement.

The OL, as it was known until June, 1977, was formed when the Georgia Communist League merged with the California-based October League in May, 1972. (These groups, arising in part out of the upsurge of the student movement of the ’60s, also had members who were “old veterans” of the CPUSA, or sons and daughters of CP members.) The Georgia Communist League initially took a positive stand, promoting the view that party-building is the principal task of Marxist-Leninists. In a pamphlet published in May, 1971, entitled “The Vanguard Party, Invincible Weapon of the Working Class”, the GCL argued that “the development of ... a Marxist-Leninist programme is the principal task of Marxist-Leninists in the U.S. At present, this is the work to which we must devote our major efforts.” In line with this position, they published a political newspaper “The Red Worker”, which mainly consisted of propaganda and political agitation. In the May, 1972, Unity Statement of the GCL and the OL this position was further articulated and deepened:

Especially important at this time is the struggle against narrow practicism, or placing the day-to-day struggle of the working class ahead of its final aim. The tendency to bow to spontaneity of the mass movement, to tail behind it, must be fought by linking Marxism-Leninism with the working class movement. We must develop propaganda and agitational organs that bring communist ideas to the working class and unite the class in struggle. This must be done on a national scale with the emphasis now on broad political propaganda directed primarily at the advanced workers.

During this period, the OL was noted for criticizing economism and right opportunism, especially as promoted by the Revolutionary Union. At the same time, most of the other forces, with the exception of the Communist League, were out tailing the mass movement under the guise of building it. In this respect the OL represented a step forward for the communist movement.

But even then, the OL showed a marked tendency to belittle theory. For example, in 1971 there was an attempt to establish a Marxist-Leninist theoretical journal. The OL, in order to avoid line struggle and polemics, refrained from joining in these efforts. Instead, it simply declared certain lines, such as the “white-skin privilege” theory, defeated, without having done the necessary theoretical work to expose and sum up the “defeated” lines. The OL also exhibited a willingness to seek organizational unity before ideological and political unity was achieved. Small collectives (or members of them) were swallowed up before the necessary theoretical work was accomplished and before open and principled polemics led to the drawing of clear lines of demarcation. Besides these rightist, small-circle errors, the OL also revealed some “leftist” infantilism in such activities as making the main form of literature distribution the selling of the “Red Book” at factory gates.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the OL was quick to take steps backwards in the months after the “Unity Statement” and to capitulate to the “buiid the mass movement” line of the R.U. In the initial publication of the “Call”, in October, 1972, the OL stated in the introduction:

The task of party-building, uniting the broad masses and preparing them for the struggle ahead, requires a newspaper through which the revolutionary organization can bring its views to the people. It is with this in mind that we have begun to publish the ’Call’.

In five months, the OL had reversed its course, and repudiated the winning of the vanguard, the development of propaganda, drafting of the program, combatting spontaneity. In short, it liquidated the struggle for the party through winning the advanced and substituted for that struggle the leading of the broad masses in daily economic struggles. In the next paragraph, they further amplify their now-changed views:

The ’Call’ is directing itself to the broad masses who are beginning to fight back against the worsening conditions which imperialism has caused both here in the U.S. and throughout the world. It is especially directed at the working people who make up the majority of the population and in whose hands the future rests.

Gone now is the emphasis on broad political propaganda directed primarily at advanced workers. The “Call” is to serve as the vehicle to lead the mass movement. With this as its focus, there could be no elucidation of the tasks of communists which derive from the central task of party-building. The actual work of preparing the basis and foundations of the party was abandoned. Similarly, the development of the program, which a year earlier was the principal task for the party, is also forgotten. The “Call” became and has been a collection of shop leaflets and rewrites of the bourgeois wire services and press in the mold of the “Guardian”.

We will expose more fully the OL’s economist line on propaganda in section B of this article. At this point we can state that the content of the communist press in-the present period should be based on the state of the communist movement and the necessary corresponding tasks, the completion of which would move the movement forward to the party. Given the formulations upon which the publication of the “Call” was premised, it is clear that its content could not respond to the necessities of the communist movement.

Marx1st-Leninists differentiate between right and “left” errors and identify which is the main danger in a particular period in order to aid the struggle against these errors by pinpointing those we must especially guard against. OL also characterizes the main danger, but their method is wrong and is merely a way to justify their own practice. In the March 1973 Call, they began a series on party-building, which was later reprinted as a pamphlet. It begins with a discussion of the CP-USA and revisionism. This is intended to show that the source of revisionism is outside the communist movement, in the CP-USA. Supposedly, the danger of revisionism within the communist movement is small, since “the movement itself came into being from a rejection of the revisionism of the CP-USA.” Thus revisionism was spontaneously overcome in the struggles of the 60’s and early 70’s. On this basis, OL portrays the spontaneous national and student movements as “anti-revisionist,” and creates an excuse for merely trying to repeat what happened in the 60’s. But the movement of the 60’s achieved at most a break with certain revisionist political lines such as “peaceful transition to socialism.” They did not achieve an ideological break with revisionism because revisionism can only be defeated through a conscious struggle that brings the science of Marxism-Leninism to the working class. There can be no “spontaneous” ideological break with revisionism, since the basis of revisionism is spontaneity (see section A on OL’s Belittling of Theory).[1]

In part 2 of their party-building series they discuss ultra-“leftism.” They write, “Within the newly emerging communist movement here, the main danger is ’leftism’ and sectarianism.” This “leftism” is linked to a trend dating back to the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC), and presumably the CP-USA itself. Their analysis of the POC and PLP is superficial, giving neither the history nor the development of these two organizations. They can’t show why these attempts at party-building failed, but only mention certain obvious ultra-“left” manifestations of their opportunism.

OL has based much of its case for the predominance of “left” errors on the overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois character of our movement. They quote Stalin on strata within the working class.

I think that the proletariat, as a class, can be divided into three strata.

One stratum is the main mass of the proletariat, its core, its permanent part, the mass of ’pure-blooded’ proletarians, who have long broken off connection with the capitalist class. This stratum of the proletariat is the most reliable bulwark of Marxism.

The second stratum consists of newcomers from non-proletarian classes – from the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie or the intelligentsia. These are former members of other classes who have only recently merged with the proletariat and have brought with them into the working class their customs, their habits, their waverings and their vacillations. This stratum constitutes the most favorable soil for all sorts of anarchist semi-anarchist and “ultra-’Left’ groups.

The third stratum, lastly, consists of the labor aristocracy, the upper stratum of the working class, the most well-to-do portion of the proletariat, with its propensity for compromise with the bourgeoisie, its predominant inclination to adapt itself to the powers that be, and its anxiety to ’get on in life’. This stratum constitutes the most favourable soil for outright reformists and opportunists. (On the Opposition, Peking ed., p. 254; also Works, Vol. 9, pp. lO-ll.)

Actually this is not the only word to be found in the classics on the petit-bourgeoisie in the working-class movement. The petit-bourgeoisie is not necessarily synonymous with ultra-“leftism”. Lenin wrote:

In all capitalist countries the proletariat is inevitably connected by a thousand traditional links with its neighbor or the right, the petty-bourgeoisie. In all workers’ parties there inevitably emerges a more or less clearly delineated right wing which, in its views, tactics and organizational ’line’, reflects the opportunist tendencies of the petty-bourgeoisie. (“Preface to the Collection Twelve Years,” in Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. 13, p.113.)

Why the seeming contradiction? Because Marxism-Leninism is not an assortment of ready-made formulas and recipes. OL tries to analyze the main danger by some sort of extrapolation from the history and class composition of the communist movement. But this is not dialectical materialism. We determine the main error by observing the deviations which, in practice, are being made from our main task, which, of course comes from the objective situation. It is important to study the composition and history of a part or movement to find the sources of an error; this study can point to methods of correcting the error. But these factors are not a substitute for looking at our actual practice in the context of our tasks; they are not predictions.

In January of 1926, Stalin spoke at a meeting of the Presidium of toe Executive Committee of the Communist International on the situations within the French and German Communist Parties. Germany, he said, had just emerged from a revolutionary crisis and had entered, a period of a lull. He went on:

It is natural under these circumstances that we should find in Germany a group of “ultra-Leftists” which keeps repeating the old slogans in a schoolboy fashion and is unable or unwilling to adapt itself to the new conditions of the struggle, which demand new methods of work. (Collected Works, Vol. 8, p. 2.)

But, in March of 1925, he had said, speaking of the Czechoslovak Communist Party: “The transition itself from upsurge to lull, by its very nature, increases the chances of danger from the Right.” Both of these observations, though different, are true. Stalin made his analysis of the main danger in each of these two parties on the basis of the concrete circumstances within them. This shows why we must make our analyses in the same way, and not by analogy, or by finding a suitable quote from the classics.

Our task today is to build a vanguard party of the working class. For this we must win the advanced workers to the science of Marxism-Leninism, mainly through propaganda applying Marxism-Leninism to topical events. How has our movement met this challenge?

Many in our movement have been active since the ’60s. The movements of the ’60s very often adopted revolutionary aims, and were correctly called revolutionary mass movements. Many of the leading forces, though not yet Marxist-Leninists, called for revolution, socialism, overthrow of imperialism, and support of national liberation struggles. A core of revolutionary leadership gradually began to be formed. The politics of “anti-imperialism”, though not socialist consciousness, began to achieve, to a certain extent, wide macs support. Still, since there was no vanguard party leading them, these movements were part of the spontaneous movement, even though many of them were not reformist.

But the revolutionary upsurge did not take place in the multinational working class as a whole. Still less did the working class lead it. The movements were spearheaded by the national liberation struggles around the world and in the U.S. The growth of these movements brought in mass participation of petit-bourgeois students around the Indochina war, the national movements, education, and some economic questions. The character of their activity was generally to support these other struggles. Without the upsurge in the national movements, there would not have been the upsurge here in the antiwar and student movements. It is characteristic of the petit-bourgeoisie to become very enthusiastic when there is an upsurge and to run after it. But when that upsurge recedes, and a lull in the mass movement sets in, they tend to become rapidly disheartened, demoralized, and pessimistic. This is exactly what happened when the revolutionary movement of the ’60s ebbed and the most important revolutionary groups of that time began to falter, split, and degenerate, as with the Black Panther Party, League of Revolutionary Black Workers, SNCC, Young Lords, SDS, and others.

There was a tremendous belittling of the role of revolutionary “theory in the ’60s, with the line of “practice, practice, practice” having virtually unchallenged dominance. The resistance to and ignorance of Marxist-Leninist theory was reflected in the almost total lack of discussion then of how to build a Marxist-Leninist party, or even of the need for one. Various theories about the lumpen, the “new working class”, and “third world leadership” belittled the leading role of communists and the working class. Several versions of the “white-skin privilege” theory were promoted by predominantly white forces – the so-called “white left” – including not only people like Noel Ignatin, but also none other than – guess who? – Avakian and Klonsky. There was also no adequate understanding of revisionism and reformism. At the same time, there was the influence of various ultra-“left” lines among forces including the Panthers and the Weathermen. Some preached terrorism, urban guerrilla warfare, confronting or exciting the masses, Guevarism and Debrayism, etc. And of course there was PLP’s own mixture of the most vulgar economism with neo-Trotskyism and liquidation of the national question. Such was the heyday of the “new left”.

Within the revolutionary movement there were some forces that already had declared themselves Marxist-Leninists, claimed that they saw the need for a party, and even set up Marxist-Leninist groups and circles. The RU was already publishing its Red Papers at this time. Klonsky had become well-known as the national head of SDS, and was busy forming his own circles within SDS, developing the core group that later founded the OL. Yet the attitude of these forces to the revolutionary movement was mainly to tail it, worship it, and try to pimp off it. Instead of struggling for a Marxist-Leninist line, groups like RU stood around as cheerleaders for the Panthers. RU even told its Black sympathizers to join the Panthers rather than RU (which was undoubtedly a far better thing for them to do, but not for the reason that RU thought). The forces in SDS that became OL did virtually the same thing. They did not at all deal properly with the revolutionary mass movement and upsurge then. They went on to form the “new communist movement” only after the revolutionary movement had gone as far as it could go spontaneously and the old leading groups had collapsed from their inability to go any further without the science of Marxism-Leninism. At that time there was virtually no recognition of our tasks as Marxist-Leninists, not to mention any headway in carrying them out.

It was in the early ’70s (at the end of this period of upsurge) that our “new communist movement” began to appear and have a life as a distinct movement. And it was in this period of the lull in the mass movement that the various rightist lines on party-building took final shape. The line of building the party from the mass movement was most exemplified by RU’s line that the central task was “building the revolutionary struggle, consciousness, and unity of the working class”, and OL’s similar version that mass agitation and united front work were the main forms of activity to build the party. Without the revolutionary groups like the Panthers or DRUM leading the movement or hounding the opportunists day and night, and without the mass upsurge, the opportunists were able to get away with and develop further all sorts of rightist lines – “nation of a new type”, “move the unions to the left”, and on and on. The majority of the movement during this time has been off tailing the spontaneous trade union struggles now that they have “discovered” them. ”Lending the economic struggle a political character” was their main occupation, or teaching the working class how to be “good trade union militants”. The OL has been a leader of the economists in this regard. They clearly felt they had to “prove” themselves as trade unionists so as to be “accepted” by the workers. And if they were “accepted”, they were accepted only as trade unionists. They are classical economists.

The fundamental error that all the economists commit is their conviction that it is possible to develop the class political consciousness of the workers from within, so to speak, their economic struggle, i.e., making the economic struggle the exclusive (or, at least, the main) starting point, making it the exclusive, or at least the main, basis. Such a view is fundamentally wrong. (Lenin, What is to be Done?, p. 97.)

Instead of doing the work of ideological preparation for the next upsurge, instead of winning the vanguard of the proletariat to communism so we can be in a position to have a party and lead the masses in the next upsurge, these groups tried to artificially create a mass movement when they found “too little” or even no spontaneous struggle taking place. The experience of the RU-led November 4 Coalition in 1972 and 1973 is worth noting in this regard. Its inability to lead masses of people was a clear sign that the mass revolutionary movement; had drawn back and that there had been a transition to a lull. The RU pursued the same methods of coalitions and rallies to try to recreate the mass movement. The Coalition’s May Day rally in 1973 was much smaller than its rally the previous November, and showed that the Coalition had been a failure after RU had promised that it would rekindle the old movements. Although the OL did not have much influence in it, their “solution” to the collapse of the Coalition was actually to broaden its base and turn it into a mass organization. While the problem was one of lack of revolutionary leadership, OL pointed 180 degrees in the opposite direction and said that the problem was ultra-“left” sectarianism and isolation from the masses.

Further, OL pretended in its press that the low level of activity was actually very revolutionary. One could conclude from reading about all this “militant” activity in the “Call” that the revolution is around the corner, that we have been swept up over the past several years into a tremendous revolutionary upsurge by the proletariat and the oppressed peoples in the U.S. In fact, the existence of a lull is something rarely even noted in our movement.

What exists today in the U.S. is anything but a revolutionary upsurge. It is true that there has been a marked rise in strikes and spontaneous trade union resistance as the crisis that has gripped the imperialist system has developed. But it would be a mistake to interpret the increase in strikes, even militant and armed actions as in the coal miners’ strike, as a revolutionary upsurge. These strikes have still been confined to purely trade unionist aims and demands: at what wage and under what working conditions the workers will sell their labor power to the capitalists, around restricting or ending layoffs and cutbacks, etc. Even the spontaneous resistance on political issues has been weak and sporadic. Relatively few people participated in actions protesting the cold-blooded murder of the Black youth Randolph Evans by a white cop in Brooklyn, or around the events in South Africa, such as the struggle in Soweto and the murder of Steven Biko. There was no massive ghetto rebellion or massive anti-imperialist movement around these events as in the ’60s. No doubt the bottled-up frustrations and hatred of the masses are great and continue to grow. But no matter how hard the economists try to give the impression of a revolutionary upsurge, the situation today is marked by the absence of a mass revolutionary movement and the relatively low and unsustained level of the spontaneous movement. The lack of correct proletarian leadership has robbed the masses of a key weapon. With the communist movement divided, scattered about in various circles engaged in narrow activity, what is lacking today is not the factor of the spontaneous movement, but the factor of correct, conscious leadership in an organized form.

The work done in the workplaces has fit this pattern. Many students took jobs, but the majority were mainly involved with organizing the trade union struggles and not bringing the science of Marxism-Leninism to the workers. To the degree that many of them did attempt to “get political”, they avoided Marxism so as not to get too “heavy”. They did this 1) out of their own ideological and political backwardness and inexperience, and 2) out of their fear of anti-communism and unwillingness to go against the tide. These forces spent most of their energy trying to increase the trade union militancy and activity of the workers. They were instructing the working class on how to conduct the trade union struggle when the workers needed the science of Marxism-Leninism. Our point here is not to put down those who went to plants and took jobs, but to criticize the content of their activity. No matter how sincere these people were, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even though these people were by and large amateurs and not consolidated opportunists, their work objectively held back the building of the party. Many of them joined economist organizations like OL and RU, which retarded their own ideological development, and many of those who eventually left these groups became thoroughly demoralized and ideologically unprepared to correctly sum up their experiences.

What we have seen in our movement, then, is an economist running after the masses, at a time when our tasks demand an emphasis on theoretical work and propaganda mainly to the advanced workers. We have certainly not had too much Marxism brought to the workers, but too little. What are some of the sources of this right opportunism in our movement?

While the petit-bourgeois class character of our movement has received wide attention, most forces have refused to examine the influence of the labor aristocracy in our midst and its relation to our movement. Nor have they understood the influence of this bribed, corrupt bourgeois stratum generally in the U.S. as a whole. The failure to recognize and struggle against the labor aristocracy has made it impossible from the communist movement to break from its influence. The OL only refers to this stratum when it is speaking of the worst individual representatives: Meany, Miller, Boyle, Sadlowski, etc. It is true that these labor bureaucrats are a part of the labor aristocracy, but they are not the extent of it. If that were so, ours would simply be the task of replacing them with some honest workers or ourselves. This is the logic of their activity in the labor movement. The full size and extent of the labor aristocracy in the U.S. is of vital importance if we are to succeed in the “break with the top stratum of workers who are infected with imperialism” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 30, p. 343). This point is further stressed by Lenin:

Not the slightest progress can be made toward the solution of the practical problems of the Communist movement and of the impending social revolution unless the economic roots of this phenomenon are understood and its political and sociological significance is appreciated. (Imperialism, Int’l Publ., 1939, p. 14)

Clearly, to Lenin, this was not some minor point, but a crucial one. In focusing in a later part of this work on the British labor aristocracy at the time that Britain was the top imperialist power, he states:

We thus see clearly the causes and effects. The causes are: 1) Exploitation of the whole world by this country. 2) Its monopolistic position in the world market. 3) Its colonial monopoly. The effects are: 1) A section of the British proletariat becomes bourgeois. 2) A section of the proletariat permits itself to be led by men sold to, or at least, paid by the bourgeoisie.(Ibid, p.207)

Today the U.S. has far exceeded the Britain that Lenin was referring to then; consequently, the power of the U.S. bourgeoisie to create a bribed stratum is far greater as is also that stratum’s influence over the majority of the working class. This stratum’s reign has been extremely long, having had several decades to cultivate and consolidate its position. It would be naive to think the communist movement immune from the influence of this stratum within its ranks – that those who emerged from the proletariat would only come from the lower strata and not from this upper crust. With the deepening struggle by the oppressed nations and inter-imperialist contradictions with U.S. imperialism, the position of this stratum has increasingly found itself shaken. Many of this stratum became increasingly “militant” in defense of their privileges. Note the activities of the highly skilled building trades unions “for jobs” over the past years – their struggles against the gains and demands of the oppressed nationalities, especially against affirmative action plans and desegregation of schools. Many who entered the communist movement were either from the labor aristocracy or aspired to it.

In addition to minimizing the role of the labor aristocracy, OL also covers up its ideological and political alliance with the petit-bourgeoisie. In discussing the social and economic bases of opportunism in the labor movement, Lenin said that “it is an alliance between the none too numerous upper strata of the proletariat and the petit-bourgeoisie, strata enjoying crumbs out of the privileges of ’their’ national capital as opposed to the masses of the proletarians, the masses of workers and the oppressed in general.” (“Collapse of the Second International”, in The Imperialist War, Int’l. Publ., 1930, p. 307-308.) This alliance of course is based on class collaboration with the bourgeoisie and social chauvinist support of their “own” imperialist’s conquests. It is impossible to struggle against imperialism without exposing this alliance. In the U.S. today, the ties between the labor aristocracy and the petit-bourgeoisie are very close, with the influence of the petit-bourgeoisie in the labor movement much greater than in many other countries. Many union bureaucrats are recruited to their positions directly from the college campuses. The influence of unions whose constituencies are petit-bourgeois themselves, such as the teachers’ unions, including the notorious union leader Albert Shanker, is also great. All this serves to spread reformism, class collaboration, and social chauvinism. And all this is never touched upon by OL.

In What is to be Done?, Lenin put it this way: “Has not B. Krichevsky [a leader of the economists] heard of the fact, long ago noted, that it is precisely the participation of an ’academic’ stratum in the socialist movement in recent years that has secured a rapid spread of Bernsteinism?” (Peking ed., p.12.) Lenin here refers to those economists who went to the working class movement to hold back its revolutionary development. This same “academic stratum” today has also been the social basis for the economist, rightist trend in our movement. These are the new ”missionaries” who go to the proletariat while hating and fearing it, never relying on it and always believing that it is only the “chosen few” from the college campuses and not the workers that can ever grasp the science of Marxism-Leninism. Our movement today faces the rightism of this “academic stratum”, and only secondarily the anarchism and ultra-“leftism” of the ruined petit-bourgeois newcomers to the working class. Let us emphasise that people like Mike Klonsky and Eileen Klehr are not ruined petit-bourgeois at all, but are actually volunteer petit-bourgeois agents of the bourgeoisie in the working class and communist movements. The fact that some of these people have worked for a short time in a factory does not at all mean that they are now part of the proletariat, much less integrated with it.

In addition to class background, there is the question of the political background of our movement. If we look to the origins of the U.S. movement, in this strongest of all bourgeois nations, we find all sorts of baggage. While not members of a social-democratic party in the formal sense, there are many former would-be democrats, “liberals”, “radical reformers”, and all the titles used in the ’60s in the mass reform movements of those years. Many of the bad influences of the errors of the revolutionary movements and of the “new left” and the cultural nationalists have been carried over into the communist movement by those who came from them. The OL’s anti-Leninist, anti-theory, anti-party, and anti-democratic centralist line is a carry-over from the “new left”. Their incorrect view of the role of the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia in relation to the working class is a carry-over of the “new working class” line. The line that every nationality should have its own party is today reflected in the fact that most of the communist movement is still divided along national lines. Many of the ex-CPers, PLers, etc., also, while having been exposed to Marxism-Leninism during these years and before, themselves never made a complete rupture with revisionism. Is it hard to imagine under conditions of U.S. imperialism that many continue to carry that baggage and not let go, that relapses occur, and especially in this, the richest of bourgeois countries?

Related to the power of U.S. imperialism is the tenacity of social-chauvinism in the U.S. movement. It is no accident that the remnants of the predominantly white petit-bourgeois student movement, RU and OL, are the foundation of the right opportunist trend. This is a reflection of their national privileges. While OL’s brand of civil-rights-type reformism has allowed them to become multinational to a certain extent, all this shows is that sections of the oppressed nationalities, especially from the petit-bourgeoisie, are not immune to right opportunism. This also accounts for right-opportunism among groups predominantly composed of oppressed nationalities, such as Workers Viewpoint Organisation (WVO). Further, as we have shown, the superpower status of U.S. imperialism and its world-wide imperialist plunder creates not only the dominance of the labor aristocracy, great-nation chauvinism, and illusions about class peace, but also creates a relatively higher standard of living for the U.S. proletariat compared to the rest of the world, even for some sections of the oppressed nationalities in the U.S. All this provides most favorable conditions for right opportunism. (Sections D, E, F of this paper expose OL’s all-round social-chauvinist line.) On the other hand, the ultra-“lefts” in the communist movement today, the “revolutionary wing”, come almost exclusively from the oppressed nationalities. None of this is coincidence. And none of this does OL dare to take into account.

We are by no means the first to have made this critique of OL’s rightism. By 1975, OL had to cop to the mounting exposure of the rightist line held by themselves and RU, and they declared that now, the right had become the main danger. But this was a mere phony cover-up because their economist activity in no way fundamentally changed. They never repudiated their previous line that the ideological basis of the party had been laid in the struggle against ultra-“leftism”. They made no attempt to sum up the validity of their old views, but instead appealed to “changed conditions” as the basis of their “new” line. In fact, their criticism of right opportunism put most attention on the “Guardian”, Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP), and the CPUSA, which were not part of what was known as the “anti-revisionist” communist movement, and only secondarily on right opportunism in the communist movement itself. And even with the “Guardian”, they never broke with their line on party-building and the question of propaganda and agitation (as we explain in section B of this article). On RU, they did one of their famous flip-flops, now saying that RU had become rightist. Of course, OL claimed that RU had “drifted” to the right, when in fact it was really OL that had changed its analysis. The OL still lumped together as ultra-“left” all the rest of the movement, especially those who had insisted that all along right opportunism was the main danger and propaganda the chief form of activity, including the rightists like WVO, who put forward these views as a screen for their real right opportunism, and also those who were genuine or more genuine forces. So the substances of OL’s line had not really changed. Further, this switch was part of their move to “direct the main blow at Soviet social imperialism” and ally with U.S. imperialism (as explained in section E on social-chauvinism). By screaming themselves hoarse about revisionism outside the communist movement, they could divert attention away from the real ideological struggle while appearing “orthodox”.

Thus, for OL, their “victory” over ultra-“leftism” laid the ideological foundation for their party. This shows that OL’s errors in identifying the main danger and their wrong method are not mere ignorance. Their purpose is to disorient the revolutionary movement of the proletariat, as well as cover their own rightism. Out of this “victory” over rightism emerged a “unity trend” that existed on the basis of “the desire for unity”. But no trend can ever be based on the mere “desire for unity”, as that is not enough to constitute a trend. Lenin said:

We can call a trend only a definite sum of political ideas which have become well-defined in regard to all the most important questions of both the revolution and the counter-revolution; ideas which, moreover, have proved their right to existence as a trend by being widely disseminated among broad strata of the working class. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 17, p. 271.)

In fact, this “unity trend” merely represented a right opportunist gathering led by the OL.

Yes, in this regard, the OL is part of a trend, but a right opportunist trend, not a “unity trend”. This “trend” that OL later pulled together under the umbrella of the OC was another coalition like those the movement had previously been treated to, except that in this one, the OL was able to dictate the main course. OL then had an excuse to withdraw from the ideological struggle in the movement, reducing to almost nothing the little they did to begin with.

OL took advantage of the vacuum that existed with the decline of the previously emerging Marxist-Leninist forces within the BWC, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), and August Twenty-ninth Movement (ATM). The failure of the Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist) (WCML) to fulfill its stated promise to wage the struggle against right opportunism ruthlessly while striving to build an “Iskra-type” paper also allowed OL to move ahead. In this vacuum OL had only to give a token appearance of shedding its right opportunism, now pretending to champion the fight against revisionism, while in reality upholding revisionism and its hold throughout the communist movement.

In these conditions, OL’s new “CPML” has received recognition in some quarters of the international communist movement, including the Communist Party of China, as the genuine party. We must state quite frankly and openly that these parties are dead wrong, their judgment is based on their unity on the international situation, and that the use of their prestige will hurt the cause of developing a genuine party in the U.S. by enhancing OL’s ability to deceive many backward forces in the communist movement.

For all the reasons given, the historical belittling of theory in the U.S. movement, the worship of American exceptionalism, and more, we hold that right opportunism was and remains today the main danger to the U.S. movement. The drawing of the sharpest and clearest lines of demarcation from right opportunism and revisionism is a prerequisite for the building of a vanguard proletarian party in the U.S.


[1] The right wing of the BWC also held that revisionism was overcome spontaneously. Jean Pierre wrote of the late 60’s, “Marxism-Leninism began to be popular. There was a sincere, though spontaneous and unsystematic rejection of revisionism of the CP-USA.” (Quoted in “Leninism and Petty-Bourgeois Democracy”, p.4) It is no surprise that Jean Pierre and some of his group joined the OL.