Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers’ Viewpoint

Practice Theory, Mass Line, Self-Criticism: Surest Road to Correct Leadership of the Youth & Student Struggle

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Revolutionary students throughout the nation and the world are proving to be an important motive force of great political and social significance as they continue to exhibit a tenacious and militant stand against capitalist oppression. Through arduous struggle and a willingness to join hands with the masses of oppressed people, they are clearly showing that, indeed, the future is bright – the trend of socialist revolution is inevitable and irreversible!

Defying the rain and freezing cold, two hundred black, Latin, Asian and white students and workers demonstrated against and stopped the proficiency examinations being given at Brooklyn College on Dec. 20, 1976.

Brooklyn College is one of the “testing grounds” for the proficiency examination, which has been designed to kick a sizable percentage of students off of the different campuses. Sugar-coated with lies from liberal politicians about intentions to “upgrade” CUNY and to help students develop language arts and math skills, the proficiency exam is being fully exposed as a bourgeois tactic to further divide the working class students in CUNY and to turn CUNY into educational institutions for the elite.

This scheme of the dying capitalist has not gone unchallenged, and the result is a mounting force determined to not only expose the tactic, but, indeed, crush it to the ground. Provided with leadership that is guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, the masses of students in CUNY have shown their total willingness to struggle, in a revolutionary way for their just demands. They have shown their determination to “fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again – till their victory...!”

The demonstration was initiated and led by the May Fourth Coalition, a revolutionary student organization formed under the leadership of the Workers Viewpoint Organization. Shouting militant chants, the demonstrators marched into each of the four exam sites and declared (under mandate of the masses of oppressed students) the exams officially over!

This demonstration was a clear sign that students at Brooklyn College, supported by students and workers throughout CUNY, are rising up like a storm against all forms of oppression. Students, faculty, and workers are showing that they will not lie back and accept the latest maneuvers by the ruling capitalist class to eliminate thousands of minority and other working class students from CUNY.

In keeping with this outlook, the masses of students at Brooklyn College have waged demonstration after demonstration, waged battle after battle and, along with the entire working class, moved closer and closer to ultimate victory. Starting this year with the militant response of Puerto Rican students to national oppression in the forms of cuts in bilingual education, ethnic studies, tuition, and the forced proficiency exams, the struggle grew to include the masses of black, Latin, Asian and white students and workers on campus who, through revolutionary struggle, have exhibited their understanding of the need for an organized, multi-national movement against the fascist designs of the ruling class.

While the past demonstrations have dealt blow upon blow to the ruling class, the demonstration of December 20th was by far the most militant, most highly political, most revolutionary and most effective of the demonstrations on campus this year. In addition to stopping the exams, there was a high level of fusion between communists and students, which was clearly exhibited by a)the masses’ acceptance of the leadership of the May Fourth Coalition, a mass student organization, led by Workers Viewpoint Organization, and b)the positive response to communist speeches at the rally, which culminated the demonstration.

Chanting revolutionary slogans, the demonstrators, in a militant, disciplined, and unstoppable fashion, dared to face the campus guards, administrative threats, and go beyond the bounds of bourgeois legality in order to fight for their just demands. They entered each exam room, and, using agitation and propaganda, not only stopped the exams but got students to tear up their exams and join the demonstrators. Cheers rang out as students committed themselves to struggle continuously against the exams and other forms of oppression until the ruling class is crushed into final defeat!


In order for us to be clear on the importance of the struggle being waged throughout CUNY in general and Brooklyn College in particular, we must deepen our understanding of the role of bourgeois education, and the implications of the most recent attacks by the bourgeoisie on working class students and oppressed nationalities and national minorities. We must also be clear on the role of Communists in these spontaneous struggles of students against oppression in all its forms, and the dangerous role of revisionists and opportunists in mis-leading the youth/student movement.

Higher education, like any other bourgeois institution, is true to the nature of the system – it is run to serve the bourgeoisie – the banks and the corporations. In keeping with this, education in this country was never meant to serve the interests of the working class, but rather, one, to train technicians, scientists, managers, politicians, etc. and other intellectuals that are necessary to maintain the profits of monopoly capitalism; and, two, it is meant to ideologically serve the bourgeoisie by spreading illusions in bourgeois democracy and by consolidating individuals with bourgeois ideology, i.e. pragmatism, idealism, ethnocentrism, racism, individualism, etc. to mislead the working class. In short, education has been a major weapon of the monopoly capitalists to attempt to maintain their rule through branding each of us with bourgeois world outlook.

While the strategic aim of education in this society has been to perpetuate the system of capitalism, its tactics take various forms. Throughout the development of education in the United States, the monopoly capitalists have enforced its class and national tracking system – dividing students in accordance to class interests, skills, capabilities and nationalities – so as to better facilitate their strategic aim of maintaining capitalism.


In the past, higher education was only for a privileged few, while national minorities and oppressed nationalities and other sons and daughters of the working class were always tracked into vocational schools, straight into unskilled labor or else into unemployment. However, this was to change somewhat when, during the sixties, members of the working class in general and the oppressed nationalities and national minorities in particular, waged militant struggles throughout the country demanding open admissions and ethnic studies. Faced with the rising and mighty storm of workers and students, the ruling class was forced to make certain concessions and grant reforms in the area of education. These reforms, while a by-product of revolutionary struggle, must be viewed as temporary measures implemented by the bourgeoisie in order to maintain its class rule. The reforms will only last as long as the working class continues its revolutionary struggle. Reforms must never be seen as the answer to our problem. It is only through socialist revolution, led and guided by the genuine vanguard party, that the ultimate aims, aspirations, and needs of the working class can be realized.

In keeping with our understanding of the nature of reforms, and the dialectical relationship between reforms and repression, we can best understand that, during a time of great political and economic crisis in the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie is forced to retract all concessions made during the fight for quality education and employment by closing down working class colleges, dividing the working class around issues such as busing; creating arenas for increased competition within the working class, and isolating and excluding revolutionary youth and students from higher education by setting up strict requirements through “new” forms of tracking systems, i.e. proficiency exams. They are forced to step up this process of fascization, which is clearly shown by such tactics as a SUNY-CUNY merger, the elimination of progressive groups from campuses, the increase of police and agents on campus, and stepping up bourgeois propaganda and agitation, aimed at creating and exploiting backward ideas amongst the working class and students.

Where there is oppression, however, there will always be resistance! In the face of increased repression by the bourgeoisie, workers and students throughout the nation have put up a consistent and militant resistance, and through spontaneous struggle shown their desire to eliminate all forms of oppression. Communists must take the lead in these struggles and turn spontaneous struggles into struggle for socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat for the cause of communism! Communists must be able to integrate with the broad masses of workers and students in order to provide leadership to achieve our aim. Mindful of this task, we must constantly beware of the sham communists, the revisionists and the opportunists, who, while hoisting the red banner of communism, would divert us into the marsh.


The youth/student movement has been no exception to the appearance of sham communists who try to divert the progressive student struggles. Brooklyn College in particular, can serve as an example of the necessity to staunchly expose the treachery of misleaders, liberal politicians, and opportunists within the movement. The Puerto Rican Socialist Party and other assorted opportunists confined the level of struggle at Brooklyn College with their petty bourgeois nationalism and economism (“fight back”) and had to resort to lies and slanders in order to consolidate the Puerto Rican students around their bankrupt lines. These opportunists have emerged in full swing against the revolutionary efforts of students to forge multinational unity as represented by the May Fourth Coalition.

These organizations have shown their true colors during the recent demonstration at Brooklyn College. The PSP not only failed to follow through on their commitment to mobilize students for the December 20th demonstration, but did not actively participate in the demonstration itself. This has been a part of the revisionist trend of PSP. From the beginning of the struggle, PSP consistently exhibited their petty bourgeois nationalist line, only mobilizing students from the Puerto Rican Studies Department for the first demonstration, setting up phony ad-hoc committees aimed at confining leadership and planning to themselves, and in their various propaganda, narrowed the struggle against the proficiency exams as an issue that only concerned Puerto Rican students as opposed to the working class students in general and all oppressed nationalities and national minorities in particular. Their lines were exposed by their inability to provide any leadership to the struggle and by the masses of students that showed up in multinational unity to support the struggle despite the fact that PSP did not mobilize the rest of the student body.

The struggle at Brooklyn College was a spontaneously taken up by the Puerto Rican students in their struggle against class and national oppression. However, without the correct orientation, without the science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought to guide the struggle, the revisionist PSP attempted to pimp off the struggle and pushing their petty bourgeois nationalism, limited the struggle to Puerto Ricans. Inevitably, the struggle was not focused and ineffective, causing demoralization among students.

The advanced however, remained undaunted. Led by the May Fourth Coalition, and the WVO, the masses spontaneously attempted to sum-up the struggle, separate the positive from the negative, the correct from the incorrect and once again march forward. This reflected the boundless revolutionary initiative and determination of the masses.

WVO must make a self-criticism for our weakness in implementing mass line during the struggle at Brooklyn College. Al though there were some application of mass line that enabled us to give political, organizational and tactical guidance during the struggle, we failed to provide a framework and orientation to fully unleash the initiative of the masses, to tap the rich experiences and ideas of the masses through the fusion of the science of MLMttT.

Despite our weaknesses, the advanced took good initiative. Led by the May Fourth Coalition, the advanced students actively raised propaganda in different classrooms, educating the masses of students on the issue of proficiency exams. The students, with their revolutionary spirit, wrote leaflets, visited other campuses in an attempt to link up the different struggles together. Also taking into account the particularities of the struggle, the students actively prepared floor plans, investigated the changing tactics of the administration on the campus. All this is a reflection of the historic revolutionary spirit and fighting tradition of the youth and students in this country and around the world.

Although we were late in recognizing our weaknesses in mass line, we attempted to rectify. Through guiding the later sum-ups, we established the correct framework and orientation for the struggle at Brooklyn College. Given the framework, of immediate and universal preparation of the dictatorship of the proletariat for the cause of communism, and linked to the struggle at Brooklyn College, the advanced under the guidance of Communists were able to separate the universal from the particular, able to sum-up to the level of line the correct application of United Front tactic in uniting the various organizations on campus; the nature of the state and bourgeois legality; the class nature of PSP, etc. Through the correct application of mass line, the advanced were able to move from perceptual to rational knowledge and their spontaneous stand with the working class became a class-conscious stand with the proletariat.

Once armed with the science of MLMttT, the advanced surged forward in leaps and bounds in the struggle. With the correct framework and orientation to guide their work, the advanced and May Fourth Coalition in particular were able to adapt to changing conditions, were able to mobilize for the demonstration on short notice and able to unite the campus in a focused, directed struggle aimed straight at the heart of the bourgeoisie! In the course of the demonstration itself, the classy-conscious stand of the students was shown’ by their militant, organized and disciplined nature. This was in clear demarcation from the assorted opportunists who were only able to tail after the masses, only able to complain that the correct line had gained hegemony and leadership in the movement!

Theory, Mass Line and Criticism/Self-Criticism

Maintaining close ties with the masses, learning from them and criticism/self-criticism are two of the three great traditions of the CPC. These two traditions, along with linking theory with practice are indispensible styles of work of all Communists. The struggle at Brooklyn College once again confirms the tremendous value of the mass line of Chairman Mao- It once again confirms that the masses under the leadership of Communists are irresistible and with the correct style of work the advanced in particular, becomes the eyes and ears of Communists, the concrete link with the broad masses.

To correctly apply mass line, communists must first apply the summed up historical experiences of the international proletariat, in its general aspects – the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought – to provide concrete political orientation for the masses. This is an aspect of what Chairman Mao said is the “linking the particular With the general” in his writings concerning the methods of leadership.

Communists and advanced students m must study Marxist science. For only on this theoretical basis will we be able to guide and sum up practice. No matter how rich our practice is, we will fail in the struggle if we do not guide it with Marxist theory. We especially stress this task of studying Marxism today, when our principal task is to build the genuine communist party in the US, the vanguard of the US proletariat that will lead the socialist revolution.

However, the general ideological, political and tactical orientation is necessary but not sufficient in itself. We must learn from the masses. For as Lenin put it:

The Bolshevik slogans and ideas on the whole have been confirmed by history; but concretely things have worked out differently; they are more original, more peculiar, more variegated than anyone could have expected. To ignore or overlook this fact would mean taking after those ’old Bolsheviks’ who more than once already have played so regrettable a role in the history of our Party by reiterating formulas senselessly learned by rote instead of studying the specific features of the new and living reality. (Lenin, Letters on Tactics, Vol. 24)

To learn and to be guided by the general theory is a pre-requisite for the working class and its vanguard Party. This we have struggled out decidedly with right opportunists such as the Revolutionary Union (RU) and October League (OL) in the last few years. But to concretely lead the struggles in different fronts, we must learn the concrete situation, the concrete questions, insights as well as doubts and reservations of the masses. We must tap the real revolutionary initiative and knowledge of the masses, whose ideas though in a scattered and unsystematic form, reflects the real, “more original, more peculiar, more variegated... specific features of the new and living reality.” This is necessary to tightly link the general with the particular, theory with practice. This is the aspect of “from the masses”. Then we must concentrate their knowledge, opinions and views by getting rid of the dross and retaining the essence, discerning the appearance from the essence, by applying the Marxist class view, and method, detect trends and tendencies, and return the scientifically summed up view to the masses. Through struggle against the bourgeoisie and opportunists, sum-up again with the masses and in this way, through repeated process, enrich our line as well as winning the masses to the side of communism. This is the aspect of “to the masses”.

The struggle WVO led in Brooklyn College represented one small cycle of this process. We have attempted to apply this line, though with many shortcomings. From the historical standpoint, the fact that communists use and struggle to establish these three great traditions is far more significant than our shortcomings at. this time in applying the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao tse-tung Thought, mass line, criticism/self-criticism, and the unleashing as well as the defense of the masses’ initiative and enthusiasm. The fact that the proletariat, led by its vanguard Party, applies this scientific methodology, alone seals the fate of the bourgeoisie and various assorted opportunists in their attempt to split, divert, and derail the struggle of the masses. It alone will lead us to victory.

As the headquarters of the proletariat, WVO will continue to bolshevize ourselves and will turn the three great traditions of the Communist Party of China into traditions of the Party of the US proletariat, to struggle to foster them into a force of habit among ourselves as well as the masses. The recent struggle at Brooklyn College is another front that provides us with an excellent opportunity to learn from our deviations, to rectify it in the course of struggle and provide better guidance and leadership in the future struggles that will unfold.

The future is bright! As Chairman Mao has taught us that “the correctness or incorrectness of ideological and political line decides everything.” As we continue to bolshevize sphere after sphere, the WVO, the foundation of the Proletarian Party of a New Type in the US, will be able to provide even better leadership in all fronts of struggle. In the youth/student area, under the leadership of WVO, the youth/student movement will advance wave upon wave to defy and destroy all ghosts and demons standing in their way towards the dictatorship of the proletariat for the goal of Communism. The youth/student movement is increasingly fused with the working class movement, the class which is the leading force in our common struggle for socialist revolution! Revolutionary youth and students, taking a firm stand with the working class as in the struggle at Brooklyn College prove that indeed, the tide of socialist revolution is irreversible!