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Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

Unity in Words – Sectarianism in Deeds

ATM/IWK and CP(ML) ’Unite’ to Exclude WC(ML) from ABDC

First Published: The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 22, October 9, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It is a fine thing to call a newspaper UNITY and to initiate a Committee to Unite Marxist-Leninists. It is not so fine, however, when these public proclamations of high-sounding proletarian goals are betrayed by bourgeois maneuvering and become a hypocritical cover for sectarianism in practice.

Manipulating the leadership of the Anti-Bakke Decision Coalition (ABDC), the August Twenty-Ninth Movement (ATM) and I Wor Kuen (IWK), now the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), have “purged” the Workers Congress (M-L) from participation in the coalition because of our open and principled challenge to the weaknesses in the leadership they have provided to the organization. They were assisted in this by the shameless collaboration of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (CPML).

Of course, nothing of their views was put in writing, so members of the ABDC, Marxist-Leninists and others concerned with the struggle for equal rights of women and oppressed nationalities are left to guess at the basis for such drastic action by three groups who have taken such pains to cultivate a reputation for unity.

However, justifications given for the decision expose the contempt of the ’unity trend’ for a principled struggle to overcome differences in work.

They have moved to exclude the WCML from the ABDC because we openly responded to a public slander on our ABDC work by the ATM/IWK with a polemic in our newspaper sharply critical of the leadership they have given to the coalition. They feel abused. But instead of using their newspaper to defend, their views, they “drive us from the coalition by bureaucratic maneuvering.

More significantly, they think our national proposal for anti-Bakke work is “disruptive”. It is apparently disruptive to openly challenge their own narrow conception of the coalition’s future. To be frank, we did not consider the ABDC to be the private property, of ATM/IWK and do not find it peculiar to expose a plan of work which in our view diverts the coalition from a correct path and disperses its forces.

Certainly we have also been excluded because we have differences with certain aspects of the principles of unity of the ABDC. For us, this exposes fundamental differences in how we view open struggle in mass work. We think that differences in a mass organization are a sign of health and push the work forward. We would find it unusual to work in a mass organization where there was not a wide range of different and conflicting views. But ATM/IWK have a different view. As one person commented after going to an Executive Board meeting of the coalition, “I got the feeling that there shouldn’t be any questions, much less a difference of opinion.” In sum, we are “purged” for insisting that the present principles of unity do affect the work of the coalition and should be taken seriously, for proposing a national plan of work inconsistent with the comfortable narrowness of the present principles of unity, and especially for holding the ATM/IWK responsible for justifying this narrowness.


We conclude that the “unity trend” has made the ABDC a tool of their own spiteful sectarianism. The decision to expel cannot even claim the pretense of democracy and is completely inconsistent with the principles of mass work.

For one thing, the mechanism of the decision was a jumble never satisfactorily explained anywhere. Basically, the National Office of the ABDC made the decision and then conducted a telephone poll of representatives of the Executive Board of the coalition in selected chapters in order to get the appearance of a vote favorable to the decision. But this poll was made without the knowledge, consultation, discussion or decision of the membership of the chapters concerned.

Exactly who was polled is also a mystery. In Chicago, the chapter was told that Atlanta, Boston and New York approved the decision as well as other chapters in California. But San Diego was told that Atlanta, New York and Boston were not polled because the WCML did not have work there. Yet San Diego was also told that chapters such as San Jose, Sacramento and others were polled even though the WCML has no work in these chapters, and, in any case, San Diego itself, a chapter where the WCML does have work, was not polled. In Los Angeles, the membership was told that the Chicago chapter supported the decision when in fact no chapter vote was taken in Chicago because the expulsion would have been decisively defeated. In Chicago, the chapter was told that Los Angeles supported the decision, although it was told this more than a week before the L.A. chapter had met on the question.

In short, as the leadership of the ABDC in Los Angeles admitted, the decision of the National Office to purge the WCML was a decision made by the small staff of that office and not by the membership of the ABDC. The National Office then said one thing here and another thing there as fit their view of the circumstances.

Of course, in those chapters where ATM/IWK possessed a clear majority, the decision of the National Office was taken up for ratification. But the example of a chapter like Chicago where many independent persons have taken up ABDC work demonstrates more clearly the methods of these disrupters of unity under the signboard of unity.

In Chicago a prepared statement supporting the decision was read by the two representatives of the Executive Board, Then the WCML was given brief time to respond. Next steering committee members were asked to express their views. However, those without ties to the “unity trend” had not been previously notified of the matter and were unprepared. None supported the decision. Then organizations were allowed to state their views – CPML, Communist Youth Organization (CYO), Getting Together (the newspaper of ATM/IWK), and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). The only independent organizational representative, from the NLG, stated that the action was a surprise to the Guild, that it could not be said that the Guild had full unity around the principles of unity though this did not bar work in the coalition, and that there did not seem to be a basis for the suspension.

Rank and file members of the chapter who then sought to speak were refused. Instead, the statement was again read and other members of the chapter independent of the WCML, including steering committee members, were identified by name and told either to submit their self-criticism to a representative of the National Office or be excluded along with the WCML. The basis for this was that they had from time to time supported the positions of the WCML.

The meeting was then adjourned and the “unity trend” together with a few supporters walked out. In contrast to the handful who left, a large majority of the meeting stayed behind to condemn the sectarian character of the action taken, to denounce it as totally inconsistent with the work of a mass democratic organization, to denounce the challenge made “to individuals not members of the WCML as a witch hunt which turned the principles of unity into a loyalty oath, and to lay the basis for a new organization outside the framework of the ABDC which would continue the work that had been begun in Chicago in defense of affirmative action programs.

Even in chapters such as L.A., where ATM/IWK had clear hegemony, independent forces such as the East Wind Collective and the Carlos Montes Defense Committee also refused to support the decision.


The CPML gratuitously joined in the initiative of the ATM/IWK and carried it one step further. According to the CPML, which claims to be a tireless worker for Marxist-Leninist unity, the WCML is “Trotskyite”. Other than this, the CPML’s role in the purge can best be described as two-faced. For example, while the CYO, the CPML’s youth organization, wrote last fall that “We think our (ABDC) principles of unity are too narrow” (SUM-UP OF ANTI-BAKKE WORK, By Unidos Bookstore and Communist Youth Organization), they voted in favor of a decision to exclude the WCML because of differences we have with the principles of unity – i.e. that we think they are too narrow. Or again, while the CPML newspaper calls for united action with the National Committee to Overturn the Bakke Decision (NCOBD) and even urges one common coalition, practical efforts made by the WCML to work for common action with the NCOBD were characterized by the CPML as “capitulation to the NCOBD”. And though the CPML pretends to make a staunch defense of Chairman Mao’s theory of the three worlds, the WCML’s efforts to prevent vulgarization of the concept “third world” by the ABDC were labeled by the CPML as “disruptive discussion on a minor point.”

As for the label “Trotskyite” – it is true that the CPML does not call us “Trotskyite” everywhere. In fact, on the West Coast they propose “joint work” with our comrades. Joint work with “Trotskyites?” Apparently this is not actually the CPML’s view. What is certain is that their policy of assigning labels to the WCML either reflects conscious efforts to split our organization (which they have justified before as “breaking down the democratic centralism of smaller organizations”) or the loose autonomy characteristic of a social democratic organization which cannot pursue a consistent policy. It may reflect both. What is also certain is that neither policy is characteristic of a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. We challenge the CPML. You have our newspaper. Based on the science of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought, let us see you make the charge of Trotskyism in print. You owe it to those in your own organization who propose joint work. Of course you will not do so because you cannot do so. Honest comrades and friends therefore know how to judge your petty slanders.


The conditions which gave rise to the sectarian purge of the WCML from the ABDC were the economist politics of the ATM/IWK. Mired in the narrowness of their own conception of united front work, unable and unwilling to overcome the regional limitations of their work or the restricted character of their outreach to meet the needs of the broad masses of people affected by the Bakke decision, the ATM/IWK was forced to move organizationally on any force that represented a serious challenge to their leadership. It is because they lag behind the needs of the struggle that they were forced to engage in this sectarian maneuvering.

What is exposed here is the way in which a narrow conception of Marxist-Leninist theory and of our tasks gives rise to a stance of “all struggle, no unity.” Unwilling to use Marxist-Leninist theory to mobilize, organize and transform their work to meet the scope of the tasks required, like petty trade union bureaucrats, they attempt to defend the narrow framework they control against efforts to go beyond it. They suppress any challenge to their leadership by commandism and coercion, even at the cost of driving activists from the united front. As a result the coalition is reduced more and more to a few Marxist-Leninists and their close sympathizers. In other words, what is exposed is how narrowness and tailism can give rise to sectarianism and a policy of ’ruthless struggle and merciless blows’.

Obviously in our effort to overcome these errors we must direct our main attention to the right opportunism which is the root cause rather than the “left” opportunist consequences which emerge in this or that situation. We speak here of main attention. Of course the struggle must be waged on both fronts.


The bureaucratic character of the way in which the purge of the WCML was carried out exposes the class roots of the sectarianism of the ATM/IWK. It resembles nothing so much as the way in which a trade union bureaucrat will move to tighten his grip on the trade union as a mass organization and manipulate the organization to eliminate any challenge to his leadership. In this case the action of ATM/IWK reflects the opportunist maneuverings of the petty bourgeoisie which fails to place its confidence in the mobilization of the large masses and the correctness of its line. As Lenin says, in every capitalist society the proletariat is inevitably connected with the petty bourgeoisie by a thousand ties and it must fight against subjection to such influence, particularly in the period of the formation of workers parties (LCW, v. 20, p. 208).

It is neither differences over the principles of unity, nor discussions promoted by the WCML over the direction of work that have limited the ABDC. It is the fear of mobilizing the masses on the scale really demanded by the attack on affirmative action. The class viewpoint of the petty bourgeoisie is quick to respond to that attack, but inadequate to mobilize a response on the scale required. The petty bourgeoisie is no match for the reactionary bourgeoisie. On the other hand, it is the class viewpoint of the proletariat which has the vision and stamina to mount a defense against such an attack and to carry it through to the end.


As we have said, what is at issue in the action of the “unity trend” to purge the WCML from ABDC work are two views regarding the struggle for unity in a mass organization. The WCML does not pretend to function as philistine diplomats who, like the CPML, call the principles of unity “too narrow” before ATM/IWK join the “unity trend,” but then maintain a discreet silence on the matter afterword and do nothing to educate the masses of people who may be wrongly influenced by the activity and literature of the ABDC.

We will always submit to the majority decisions of mass organizations, in which we work, and have done so in the ABDC, but we will also struggle openly to influence that majority, especially when we think it has decided incorrectly. And we will certainly use our newspaper as a weapon in that struggle.

We notice that other organizations do not view their newspaper in that way. That is their affair. For us, a Marxist-Leninist newspaper, particularly in a period of party formation, is a vehicle to discuss policy and draw lessons for the proletarian and democratic movement. We do not view it as a “photographer of facts,” even if the camera angle is from the left. It is inconceivable to us that a genuine vanguard party of the working class would participate in a mass organization, but not evaluate openly the activity of that body and of the political trends which influence its activity in the pages of its newspaper and other publications.

There is no doubt that we were purged from the ABDC because of fundamental differences we have over the line and tactics pursued by the present leadership of the ABDC. One of two things – either we were purged because of these differences or we were purged because we were open about them. In either case, the action was wrong. Mao says that to suppress ideas, whether in party or non-party work, because they are different from or critical of those put forward by leading bodies is “abominable”.(Talk at an Enlarged Working Conference, January 1962, PEKING REVIEW, #27, July 7, 1978). Also Stalin points out that while we must strive for hegemony in non-party organizations, this must be based on persuasion so that such organizations voluntarily accept the political leadership of the Marxist-Leninist vanguard.(FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM, p.111, Pek. Ed.)

How can non-party masses voluntarily accept the leadership of Marxist-Leninists if criticism and differences are answered by expulsion? Obviously, they cannot.

How should the work of the WCML be evaluated? The facts prove that our practical work has contributed to the growth of the ABDC. Our criticisms of the work of the ATM/IWK were sharp, but they were raised in an open and constructive manner: The same is true of our criticisms of the “national plan” put forward by the ABDC leadership. Our differences did not make it impossible for us to work in the ABDC. On what basis then were we purged? We think the decision is indefensible.

The fact is inescapable that we were purged because we identified errors in the work of the ATM/IWK in the anti-Bakke movement – for example,that the effect of Bakke on women is only secondary, or that oppressed nationality US students are third world students, or that the UC Regents remain one of the two main targets of the anti-Bakke movement even following the US Supreme Court decision in Bakke, or that the principles of unity of a mass organization can be used like a loyalty oath, etc. etc. For challenges to obvious errors like these, we were purged.


In April we wrote that we would not join the unity call of the CPML because the conditions to form a new party had not been prepared (THE COMMUNIST, v. IV, no. 11, April 24, 1978). In our view the sectarian maneuvering of the ATM/IWK and the CPML in acting to exclude the WCML from ABDC work proves the correctness of our analysis on this point in practice. It reflects opportunist errors which must be overcome if we are to prepare the conditions for a new revolutionary party in the U.S.

Nonetheless, in spite of the fundamental errors which have been exposed in the approach of the “unity trend” to mass work, we share a common perspective with the League of Revolutionary Struggle (ATM/IWK) and with the CPML which we will not ignore. These organizations also support the present leadership of the Communist Party of China, support its vanguard role in international struggle today and support Chairman Mao Tsetung’s theory of the differentiation of the three worlds. Even on this score we have fundamental differences–most notably on the direction of the main blow in international struggle–however, the theory of the three worlds concerns how we view the alignment of international political forces and is therefore a fundamental line of demarcation for revolutionaries.

Therefore we do not reject the struggle to unite and to build a new revolutionary party on a genuine proletarian footing, purged of the dross petty bourgeois opportunism which still corrodes our movement and determines actions such as that taken by the “unity trend” in the ABDC. While our differences on important issues represent decisive differences of class stand which cannot be conciliated, our responsibilities for struggle are immense and we must show ourselves large enough to rise to the task or be swept aside by the torrent of history. For our part, in spite of our contempt for unity in words that covers sectarianism in deeds, we will struggle to expose such errors on the basis of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung Thought and persist in the struggle to prepare the conditions for the party unity of all U.S. Marxist-Leninists, including comrades in the League of Revolutionary Struggle and the CPML.

Of course we will conduct that struggle openly, in full view of all comrades in the movement.