Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Red Dawn Committee (ML)

Split in the Red Dawn


First Published: Red Dawn, No. 2, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It is a fundamental Marxist-Leninist principle that class struggle will always continue to exist in any revolutionary organization, as long as we live in a class society. The bourgeois line is especially strong in the U.S. communist movement, existing within one of the two superpowers, U.S. imperialism, and with as yet very weak roots among the advanced workers. The majority of our contacts were from petty-bourgeois backgrounds, although the committee did contain advanced workers and people in touch with advanced workers, as well as containing bourgeois and petty-bourgeois people. Therefore, when the New York District left the Workers’ Congress and established the Red Dawn Committee, we knew that class struggle would continue within our organization, even though we could not know exactly what form the lines of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat would take.

The New York District of the Workers’ Congress left that organization upholding the principles that the Workers’ Congress was founded on. As we were a small local group, we saw the need to help develop a leading center for the still weak Marxist-Leninist trend in our movement. We began work to put out the Red Dawn magazine as our main contribution to that task (see the article in the first issue of the Red Dawn magazine, “Statement on the Split in the Workers’ Congress”).

We attempted to achieve ideological unity in the committee by struggling over the contents of the articles being written for the magazine. In practice, we made this work a prerequisite for expanding the scope of our work beyond the committee itself. This was an incorrect line and deviation from what we had said since the days of the Workers’ Congress was our chief practical task – the winning of advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism.

Dialectical materialism demands that we constantly check our theory in practice. That is what it means to study socialism like a science. In this case it means bringing our ideas to the advanced workers and our other contacts. Stalin wrote about this in Mastering Bolshevism: “There is still another kind of check-up, the check-up from below, where the masses, the subordinates, examine the leaders, point out their mistakes and show them ways of correcting them. This kind of verification is one of the most effective methods of testing people.” (p. 36) In this case the masses, the subordinates, means the advanced workers and our other contacts.

Our work on the magazine and our theoretical work as a whole was hampered by the lack of a dialectical relation of this work to our other work. We did not make a consistent enough attempt to set up circles of advanced workers, or circles among advanced elements in the national movement (particularly the Puerto Rican national movement). Work with our closest contacts was, allowed to drift until the first issue of the magazine, much delayed, was put out. We also did no real propaganda, even though what we could do in this area would be limited at this time. The committee’s plan to put out the magazine by ourselves allowed us to become complacent about our slowness in accomplishing our tasks. We did not include the advanced workers and our other supporters in this work, so we were objectively accountable to no one but each other.

These are errors that Eddie G. and those who split from the Red Dawn Committee want to raise to the level of a principle. They deny that it is possible to set up workers’ circles or do any propaganda “at this time”, seeing this as deviation from our theoretical work. This is what they mean when they argue against a “dispersion of forces when we should be consolidating them”. They have concocted an incorrect theory of stages for the period in which party-building is primary: first stage – do the necessary theoretical work; second – win the advanced workers to communism. Lenin very sharply opposed this tendency to separate theoretical and practical work in a different context, a polemic against the Narodniks, in 1894:

In thus emphasizing the necessity, importance and immensity of the theoretical work of the Social Democrats, I by no means want to say that this work should take precedence over PRACTICAL work[1] – still less that the latter should be postponed until the former is completed. Only the admirers of the “subjective method in sociology”, or the followers of utopian socialism, could arrive at such a conclusion. Of course, if it is presumed that the task, of the socialists is to seek “different” (from actual) “paths of development” for the country, then, naturally, practical work becomes possible only when philosophical geniuses discover and indicate these “different paths”; and conversely, once these paths are discovered and indicated, theoretical work ends, and the work of those who are to direct the “fatherland” along the “newly-discovered” “different paths” begins. The position is altogether different when the task of the socialists is to be the ideological leaders of the proletariat in its actual struggle against actual and real enemies who stand in the actual path of social and economic development. Under these circumstances, theoretical and practical work merge into one aptly described by the veteran German Social-Democrat, Liebknecht, as: Study, Propaganda, Organization.

You cannot be an ideological leader without the above-mentioned theoretical work, just as you cannot be one without directing this work to meet the needs of the cause, and without spreading the results of this theory among the workers and helping them organize. (What the “Friends of the People” Are, and How They Fight the Social Democrats, p. 167)

The line of the splitters reflects their desire to develop theory in a vacuum, apart from the class struggle and the advanced elements of the working class. It reflects their view that only intellectual geniuses (themselves) can do Marxist-Leninist theoretical work. They want to build a party divorced from the working class, a party of bourgeois academics.

Their incorrect views on the question of theoretical and practical work led inevitably to an incorrect position on the type of organization the Red Dawn Committee had to be, in essence a study group rather than a leading collective. From the time the Red Dawn Committee began, we agreed that we would abide by the basic norms of democratic centralism. Today, they say that democratic centralism has only limited application in the period of party-building. Naturally, if we have no immediate responsibilities to the working class or to the national liberation struggles, then we have no need for any higher form of organization than a study group, and no need for democratic centralism. On the other hand, if we are serious about building a vanguard party of the working class, then we need democratic centralism.

But do our splitters openly admit that they want to see democratic centralism thrown out the window? No; instead, they raise a correct principle as a smokescreen to cover their opportunism, that democratic centralism at this time means principally the concentration of correct ideas. But our theoretical geniuses forget that once these ideas have been arrived at, they must be carried out in practice if they are to be of any use to the proletariat. Though they criticized the committee as a whole for autonomism, they left because in reality they could not tolerate the threat to their own autonomism.

It is not by chance that they remained in the Red Dawn Committee, tolerating the organizational looseness they claim to find so awful, only until we began to discuss this looseness – then they resigned. They have admitted their practice of making compromises when the committee was seeking unity of the collective will. They talked of concentration of correct ideas. How can we concentrate correct ideas when some people are just compromising in struggle and giving no indication that they have not been convinced?

This liberal policy of compromise means that they see building a party as a series of alliances, rather than forging an iron unity. We can see their contempt for any collective by the abuse they heap on the remaining members for the errors of the Red Dawn, errors of which they were as guilty as any of us, as if they had never been members of the committee.

This makes it obvious that they had a line opposed to that of the committee. They were reluctant to expose this line, until it came out in the meetings with the study group, and then they attacked the committee with everything at their disposal, including innuendo and lies. Even today it is hard to pin them down on many points. Lenin wrote:

When speaking of fighting opportunism, there is a characteristic feature of present-day opportunism in every sphere that must never be overlooked: This is its vagueness, its diffuseness, its elusiveness. The very nature of the opportunist is such that he will always try to avoid formulating the issue clearly and irrevocably; he will always try to find the resultant force, will always wriggle like a snake between two mutually excluding points of view, he will try to “agree” with both and reduce his differences of opinion to slight amendments, doubts, innocently good intentions, etc., etc. (Opportunism in Questions of Organization, Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 451)

Even in the last joint meeting, E and R refused to come out clearly and state their position that we should not be developing workers’ circles and propaganda today. Their own statements, which insist that the differences have only come up in the last few weeks, and that previously they were confined to certain doubts and questions, conform with Lenin’s description. Our erroneous plan for consolidating the committee solely within the committee was a serious obstacle to dealing with this. But it is not our errors that have brought about a split. If we had developed the proper relationship with our main contacts our work, with accountability, and with criticism from below, this split would have come earlier.

We are not afraid to expose our mistakes; identifying them is the first step in their correction. Since there is no other purpose to our existence than to fight in the interest of the proletariat and the oppressed peoples, pointing out our mistakes and correcting them in practice is essential to the process of party-building and making socialist revolution.

The errors that we have made are mainly due to the primitiveness of our organization, which is a reflection of the amateurishness that has infected the communist movement as a whole.

1) We did not correctly combine our theoretical work, particularly around the magazine, with our practical work, especially the winning of advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism.

2) Despite the ridiculous assertion of the splitters that we feel that we did too much theoretical work, we recognize the need to step up and organize in a consistent way our theoretical work. Our study was not sufficiently centralized and planned. We did not combine a division of labor in study with study common to all. We neglected the philosophy and political economy which we originally set ourselves as tasks, in favor of exclusive discussion of the articles for the magazine. Furthermore, we have only begun the study of the international situation and the situation in the international communist movement, although we no longer uphold the “theory of the three worlds”.

3) As a consequence of the above two points, a wide gap developed between the Red Dawn Committee and its closest contacts, both in ideological and practical work.

4) We did not have a system of regular reports or keep official minutes of our meetings. Since we placed most of our emphasis on writing the magazine articles and discussing them within the committee, the importance of these other tasks was incorrectly downplayed. Therefore, our other work became decentralized and took on an autonomous character.

5) Similarly, we never centralized the contacts of the committee or developed our own means of communication. This was again because we were incorrectly involved in “raising our own ideological level” by ourselves.

6) We should have published a first issue of the magazine long ago. Most of the material in the first issue was basically ready for publication by December, 1976. At this time the material on the split in the Workers’ Congress would have been much more timely. Furthermore, a preliminary statement on OL’s party-building activity which would have been essentially the same as the present section on advanced workers and propaganda, could have been included. This would have appeared before OL had formed its “party”, and a more complete exposure would have followed. However, since we wanted to strengthen our ideological unity within the committee first, we accepted continual postponement of publication of the magazine.

Despite serious errors, the Red Dawn Committee still exists. We have learned a great deal in the course of our work and this struggle. We are determined to rectify our errors, as we think the approach of this paper shows. We are more convinced of the need for the Red Dawn magazine, as well as the overall correctness of our political line. These are the reasons why, despite our errors, we retain the support of the majority of our contacts, who have drawn ideologically and politically closer to the committee through this struggle. To rectify our errors we see the need to reorganize to continue to further develop our work.

We need to step up our theoretical work, particularly around questions that will lead to a party program. This must be a serious program based on questions of strategy and tactics for proletarian revolution in the U.S. today, not just a general collection of Marxist-Leninist principles. We hope to open the magazine up for comradely polemics on such theoretical questions. We can also begin to put out some propaganda and political exposures, even though this will be limited at this time. In particular, this work should be carried out around those questions which will help us develop our theory, as well as around questions raised by advanced workers where our contributions can help win them to Marxism-Leninism.

Our theoretical work, although primary, must be integrated with practical work, in particular the winning of the advanced. This would include setting up workers’ circles, which could study our theoretical material, propaganda, literature from the international communist movement, etc., as well as the Marxist-Leninist classics. Moreover, our theoretical work, and all our material, must be written in such a style that, without lowering its Marxist-Leninist content, it can be grasped by the advanced workers, or else it will become a bourgeois intellectual exercise.

Finally, a word must be said on the splitters’ line on the national movements within the U.S. and the national liberation movements worldwide. From the beginning, the Red Dawn Committee saw the importance of national liberation support work in relation to party-building, providing sources of information on the international situation and training our cadre and contacts in proletarian internationalism in practice. Now, however, the splitters criticize our support work as “tailing after the national movement”, in particular regarding the Puerto Rican national movement. Although it is true that we have so far failed to organize study circles among advanced elements in this movement, our splitters raise this criticism not to improve our work in this area, but to liquidate it. They would have us only associate with “pure” Marxist-Leninist elements in that movement. Here they are just like our ordinary right opportunists, “supporting” proletarian internationalism in words, but in practice doing nothing.

They accuse us of not wanting to break with the Theory of Three Worlds. Time will tell who really has an opportunist position on the international situation.


[1] In 1894, the Russian Social-Democrats had already taken up the application of Marxism to the concrete conditions in Russia at that time. They even had a draft program put out by Plekhanov’s Emancipation of Labor group in 1889. While bearing in mind the significance of Lenin’s remarks on the relationship of theory and practice, the conditions of our movement demand that we give precedence to theory.