Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

PRRWO: Anarcho-Socialism U.S.A. Expose PRRWO’S Hustlerism!



One aspect of strategic thinking of Communists on party building is the question of periods. It allows us to see what we have gone through and what is the next obstacle we must overcome in order to make the quantitative leap necessary to form the party.

The development of the Communist movement is something definite and concrete. Every struggle, every bit of knowledge, line, tradition, and understanding of the particulars has to be forged in the course of class struggle. This has to be guided as well as enriched by links with the general theory, the historical and international experience of the proletariat.

Every phase of its development is characterized by a principal contradiction. Class struggle in society must be reflected in the communist movement, concretely manifestated and concentrated in the two line struggle between genuine Marxism-Leninism and different shades and forms of opportunism. Each phase, therefore, is characterized by a line struggle, with a dominant line, whether correct or incorrect. Resolution of the two line struggle, resolution of the principal contradiction that characterizes the movement as a whole, enables the Communist movement to “liquidate the old period” and surge forward.

We must take Lenin’s stand, viewpoint, and method in analyzing the periods. He laid out that in Russia, between 1884-1903, there were three periods. The first period was the period of defeating the dominant line of Narodism. This resulted in the victory of Marxism (along with “legal Marxism,” however) which became the dominant theory in the revolutionary anti-Czarist movement by 1894. The second period was characterized by the struggle with “legal Marxism”, the dominant line being to put forth Communist propaganda, agitation and study to the workers’ movement (1894-98). The third period was characterized by the fight against the Economists, those liberal bourgeois and petty bourgeois fellow travelers who were infatuated by strike movements and worshipped the spontaneous workers’ movement. The unchanged class stand of the Economists limited them to that framework. In each of the three periods, in each step, through negation of the incorrect line and synthesis of the correct line, the struggle was taken to a higher level and the Communist and workers’ movement surged forth.

In the U.S. Communist movement, this general law of motion also applies. Since the degeneration of the “C”PUSA, what constitutes the present Communist movement has gone through two periods. The first period was the period of overcoming eclecticism. The second period was the period of overcoming the belittling of the role of theory and the principal task of party building (RU being the leading exponent of this incorrect line).


The history of the present day Communist movement can be traced back to the degeneration of the “C”PUSA. There were many splits from the “C”PUSA in the early 1960’s after the Communist Party of China launched the polemic “Long Live Leninism” against the leading Khruschev revisionist line of the “C”PSU. One split-off was the Progressive Labor Movement (PLM) (which later established the Progressive Labor Party (PLP); another was the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC). But the POC, due to their internal basis of ultra-“leftism,” quickly degenerated (splitting into the Hammer and Sickle group, and the California Communist League, which is now the Trotskyite Communist Labor Party).

Both groups failed to initiate and provide Communist leadership to the spontaneous movements of the 1960’s. There was a lack of fusion, the spontaneous movement of the 1960’s was not linked to Communists organizationally and was not guided by MLMTTT. The bankruptcy of the official revisionist line cut the “C”PUSA from the pulse of the masses; they were hated for their clear-as-daylight reactionary bourgeois line that served U.S. imperialism. While the “C”PUSA was trying to smother every eruption ignited by the accumulated suffering and oppression of the masses, the spontaneous movement moved heroically forward in spite of the “C”PUSA, but grabbed onto whatever ideology was available, whatever spontaneous theory could be concocted on the spot or inspired by Third World liberation struggles that expressed the anger of the masses. There were attempts to link these struggles with Communism, but most of them failed in the end. PLP was one.

During the early and mid 1960’s, the PL organized the first trips to Cuba, attempted to build an anti-imperialist movement opposed to the pacifist Ban-the-Bomb anti-war movement, and organized the May 2nd movement. They participated in and even attempted to lead the Harlem riot. But they, too, soon degenerated. Their reactionary attempt to take over the SDS with their Worker-Student Alliance was successful, but only helped to kill the SDS. By the late 1960’s, the PL changed from bad to worse and finally turned into its opposite, completing the process of decay into Trotskyism.


The spontaneous movement surged forward, however, despite the bourgeoisie’s reactionary dual tactics (active suppression as well as co-optation) and without linking up with Communists. But principally, due to the lack of an integral world outlook and the lack of MLMTT, the spontaneous movement ran its course.

During that period, when there was still no linkup with Communists, all seemingly revolutionary theories flourished: Nkrumahism, Che Guevarism, “student vanguard”-ism, Marcuse’s “new” working class theory, etc. The eclectic period started around the mid-1960’s and lasted until 1971.

During the late 1960’s and up to 1969-70, the PLP was degenerating fast. The Bay Area Revolutionary Union (later in 1969 the national Revolutionary Union), played a vanguard role in introducing MLMTTT to the student and national movement, as well as helped to defeat PLP in pointing out certain grossly Trotskyite aspects of the PLP’s line. RU played a leading role in making the stand of Communists clear – for example, in supporting the Black Panther Party (though they made tailest deviations) and helping to defeat PLP’s chauvinist opposition to the BPP.


The economic and political situation, nationally and internationally, are linked. The “fire at the treetops” has given way to “fire at the tree trunks.” We are now entering into the period of upsurge of the workers’ movement. But are Communists prepared? What line has prepared us and pushed us forward? And what line has held us back and left us unprepared?? This question essentially expresses the content of the second period.

As the eclectic period ended, the RU’s line turned into its opposite. The RU, themselves going through changes, initially pushed the movement forward by bringing the science of MLMTTT to the spontaneous movement (in Red Paper #4, they for the first time correctly embraced the industrial proletariat as the key sector of the working class to be organized). The line, however, that led to their degeneration was their line on the principal task, known as the “build the struggle, consciousness & revolutionary unity of the working class” line. Their line pitted building the mass movement against the role of revolutionary theory & party building. RU’s incorrect line denied the leading role of MLMTTT & hence denied the revolutionary trend the right to exist, fed narrow nationalist and retrograde trends, and prevented the further development of the spontaneous revolutionary movement towards MLMTTT. Without the theory of MLMTTT, there can be no serious Communist movement that can pose a challenge to the bourgeois state. This incorrect line of RU developed nationally into the dominant, leading line when the National Liaison Committee was formed, composed of RU, the BWC, PRRWO, and IWK. When most of the members of oppressed nationalities and comrades from working class backgrounds were barely getting out of blind, spontaneous practice, the RU urged them to plunge right back into blind practice! RU’s petty bourgeois practice-practice-practice line, which also tried to prevent the popularization of the study of Marxism, which tried to “hoard” theory only for RU study groups and keep it away from the larger Communist and spontaneous movement, objectively hurt the development of comrades and organizations of the oppressed nationalities and the working class by denying them exposure to the science of MLMTTT. RU’s line therefore objectively denied the revolutionary trend’s right to exist in ALL backgrounds.

There were many struggles waged against RU’s incorrect line from different organizations and groups around the country. One such group was the Asian Study Group (ASG), the forerunner of the WVO, which since the publication of the vol. 1, #1 issue of Revolution struggled with the RU, IWK, and other organizations against this formulation. The struggle was unsuccessful. However, similar study groups were developing around the country, pointing out the deviations around which the movement was floundering, and contributing to the study of Marxist-Leninist classics. Around 1973 the NLC broke up, due to opportunism.

After the rupture with the NLC, PRRWO and BWC joined the CL’s party building motion. That was a “left” swing from the right line held by RU, which helped cover the CL’s “left” lines. With their Comintern reprints & formalistic rituals, many comrades around the country got drawn into the CL after suffocating under the rightist line of the RU, which still did not see the task of party building as the principal task. Not until almost all the advanced from the whole spontaneous movement had taken up the study of MLMTTT along with engaging in immediate struggles, was the RU forced to “change their line,” which was done without any self-criticism. In fact, it was done with a great, deal of self-justification. They then launched their “brief period ahead” line, which lasted little over a year and ended up with the RCP founded in the summer of 1975.

Meanwhile, the CL’s “left” hook to the movement was also blocked. After the RU’s right punch, the CL’s “left” hook took people by surprise. But it wasn’t long, through struggle of organizations such as WVO among others with the BWC and PRRWO and internal struggles in BWC and PRRWO, before they left the CL’s NCC (see “CL: Defenders of the Bourgeoisie,” WV, Vol. 1, No. 2.)

Simultaneously, struggle against the OL’s rightist, reformist line, which is now the main danger in the Communist movement, was also begun.


PRRWO was the first organization to correctly point out that the first period was characterized by “eclecticism.” They said: “From 1956 to 1972, following the revisionist betrayal of the “C”P, the key link was the ideological reaffirmation of the principles of ML (i.e. the state according to Lenin versus the state according to the revisionists – the state of the whole people).” (Palante, Dec./Jan 1976)

To further quote PRRWO:

We agree that the party must be put on its ideological plane. We believe that this was the key link in the first period, but that this continues to be an on-going task because deviations will develop. However, while the battle for ideological clarity and reaffirmation is an on-going one, in this period, the key link to be grasped in order to build the party is the fight for the political line of the party.... .When we say political line, we mean the application of ML to concrete conditions. (Palante, Dec./Jan. 1976)

There are two grossly incorrect points here. One is for PRRWO to equate ML theory to ideology. The second is for PRRWO to view political line as application of ML to the concrete conditions in the US as the key link. Political line is the key link at this point. But for PRRWO to say that “political line is the application of ML to the concrete conditions” in the US is too broad and meaningless as a key link. Political line, which has the closest link to questions pertaining to the state, to bourgeois strategy and tactics and our strategy and tactics, is only one domain of ideology. Political line is the application of Marxist-Leninist theory, particularly certain domains of it, to a specific area of concrete conditions and specific questions directly related to class struggle in the US.; and not the application of Marxism-Leninism in general to all areas of concrete conditions and all questions related, directly or indirectly, to class struggle in the U.S.


Theories are general laws. They are generalizations derived from perceptual knowledge historically summed-up through social practice in class struggle, production, and scientific experimentation. Theory, as general laws, are rational systems of views. By themselves, they are part of the ideological superstructure. Correct theories, as correct generalizations, are developed through getting rid of “various false conceptions of nature.” “The history of science is the history of the gradual clearing away of this nonsense or rather of its replacement by fresh but always less absurd nonsense.” (Engels to C. Schmidt, Oct. 27, 1890, Selected Works of Marx and Engels, p. 493).

Ideology is a reflection of reality in our thinking, it contains much of the “nonsense” or bourgeois ideology which retards the proletarian struggle. The CPC’s Tenth Party Congress document clearly states that “MLMTTT is the theoretical basis guiding our thinking. ” And in other places, the Chinese comrades have stressed that MLMTTT is the theoretical weapon, the ideological basis of line and policy. Clearly, they are making a distinction between theory as the basis guiding our thinking, and ideology (both bourgeois and proletarian) which is in turn crystalized in our line and policy.

PRRWO’s ignorance is again shown in their “polemics” against WVO, where they joked about the paragraph in the RU article (in WV, vol. 1, No. 2) where we stated that historically the U.S. Communist movement has belittled theory (in fact, as Engels pointed out, belittling theory has long characterized the American working class itself) and that the precondition for line and policy is theory. For theory is a general law that guides our thinking. In that sense, we stated that theory “is what some call the ’premise of the premises”. Here, we meant that theory, general truths, the stand, viewpoint, and method of MLMTTT, should be the basic building block, so to speak, of all our lines and policies, slogans, trends of thought, and thinking. But, these opportunist sophists again seize on the words and phrases and begin to play with them: “Aha, we’ve got you!” they say: “Theory is only the premise of your premises, only one-fifth of your premises, and lower than the others. But as we have shown in the previous sections, though there are unclarities in our formulation, it represents a first step in understanding this question. But the deviation of these opportunists, in not humbly looking at and studying this question, is bound to be a fatal one, as indicated in PRRWO’s “system of views” on “revisionism,” “theory,” “ideology,” “periods,” and other questions. Comrades, their jokes on this question will turn out to be the biggest joke on themselves!!

Although PRRWO tries to cover themselves with empty sloganeering like “ideological task is an ongoing task,” etc., etc. they have shown that in practice they have not upheld the line of “building the party on the ideological plane,” which they still shamelessly profess to agree with. In practice, they have not raised the struggle against right opportunism of RCP and OL, beyond the exclamation that they are all economists, they all bow to spontaneity, and RCP is revisionist because they consciously & literally revise MLMTTT, and OL is not revisionist because they have not! And finally, in practice, they have shown themselves unable to go beyond the right opportunists ideologically, except to be their flip side.


When PRRWO is asked what they mean by political line, they say, “When we say political line, we mean the application of ML to concrete conditions.” (Palante, Dec/Jan. 1976). But comrades, in order for the key link – which, once identified and grasped, will enable us to push the whole movement forward – to be of any use in pointing out the key questions, the key obstacles, it must be particular, and not general. Engels clearly lays out that political line is, in fact, only one ideological domain, and therefore, one area covered by MLMTTT. He said, “It was previously Marx who had first discovered the great law of motion of history, the law according to which all historical struggles, whether they proceed in the political, religious, philosophical or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the more or less clear expression of struggles of social classes... (Engsls, Preface to the Third German Edition of Karl Marx’s 18th Brumaire, International Publishers)

But PRRWO tells us that we have to grasp the key link of political line which, according to them, means the application of ML to concrete conditions, that is, questions pertaining to all forms of class struggle in all spheres of reality! Now, comrades, can you call this the key link?! In their attempt to be scientific, to grasp the key link, PRRWO is engaging in nothing but the most vulgar, meaningless generalization.

This was not what all genuine Marxist-Leninists grasped as the key link in the second period. Our key link for the second period – the link which we grasped to help us to “keep hold of the whole chain and to prepare for conditions for achieving strategic success” – was the role of theory. Specifically, as indicated by the concrete history of polemics with RU (the main exponent of the pragmatist line here in the U.S.), we stressed the role of theory , especially with respect to indirect experience synthesized as theory verses narrow direct experience. To struggle for the leading role of theory is crucial. For the implementation of this line in the Communist movement and workers movement is, itself, an application of one aspect of Marxist theory – the application of the theory of knowledge to the concrete conditions in the U.S. (Those conditions in the early 1970’s when the best elements of the revolutionary trend arose out of the spontaneous movement, struggling for proletarian wild outlook and the theory of MLMTTT to push the movement forward and fighting for the right of the revolutionary trend to exist!) The content of the two line struggle of the second period was; whether or not theory was principal over practice, and whether or not party building was the principal task. Resolution of this question has speeded up the development of the Communist movement and its fusion with the working class movement. So the main question, the main obstacle of the second period was the role of theory to the revolutionary movement and party building, and not the overall application of the overall content of MLMTTT to overall concrete conditions in the U.S., as PRRWO claims!!

The main hurdle that we successfully overcame was the line struggle against RU’s “build the consciousness, unity and struggle” line which was the dominant line in the U. S. Communist movement since the ending of the eclectic period. This was the concrete content that characterized the second period. But PRRWO just liquidated that whole struggle. Instead, PRRWO would have us believe that ever since the eclectic period (beginning in 1972) the “application of ML theory to concrete conditions,” their “political line” was the key.

Let’s go back to Lenin’s methodology and viewpoint on the question of periods. Did Lenin say that ever since the Narodism period, when Marxism became the main trend, “the application of Marxism” became the “key” to ensuing periods? No! Lenin had to overcome very specific obstacles which marked the 3 periods, one by one. In the first period, to defeat Narodism; in the second period, to defeat “legal Marxism;” in the third period, to defeat Economism. After that, disagreement over what type of party became the pivotal question which demarcated the Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks„ Overcoming that enabled the firm Iskraists to move forward. And if we review the history of the development of the Bolshevik party, we see concretely, question by question, aspect by aspect, ideological questions from one domain after another get resolved in the thick of class struggle. This struggle enriched their line and firmed up the Bolshevik party and prepared it to face the difficult twists and turns in the coming years. However, all these struggles proceed dialectic ally, through the negation of the negation, and end up, at each step of the way, resolved at a qualitatively higher level, which serves the class struggle.[1]

But PRRWO just says the theory of MLMTTT has been reaffirmed, and all we have to do now is apply it.


PRRWO’s metaphysical conception of the second period, compounded by their narrow nationalism and economic determinism, led them to say that the revolutionary wing has existed as a wing since 1972, when a large section of the communist movement came out of the eclectic period.

Comrades, the history of the world communist movement has shown over and over again that the correct line does not drop from the sky, and that a revolutionary wing cannot develop without a definite process of tempering, without a definite process of steel to steel struggle within the communist movement against incorrect lines.

To say that the revolutionary wing has existed as awing since 1972, right after a large section of the communist movement had just accepted MLMTTT, is to bypass the rich content of the struggle that comrades had gained in struggle against the incorrect lines of the RU, OL and CL. Did not the communist movement develop to a qualitatively higher level and secure the right for the revolutionary trend to exist, after the rupture with the RU’s practice, practice, practice line? Did not the communist movement leap to a qualitatively higher level after its struggle and rupture with the CL’s Trotskyite line? The rich content of these struggles is today part and parcel of the line of the revolutionary wing. Unless these struggles were fakes and phonies for PRRWO, how can they be dismissed?

Is Marxism conceivable without Proudhon, Lassalle, Hegel and Feuerbach, without their negation and higher synthesis ? Is Leninism conceivable without Bernsteinism, Kautskyism, economism and social-chauvinism, without their negation and higher synthesis? Is the Third International conceivable without the degeneration of the Second International and the construction of the revolutionary trend? Is the present-day Marxist-Leninist trend conceivable without modern revisionism? If that’s the case, then how could there be the revolutionary wing without the opportunist wing? How could the revolutionary wing have existed before the struggle against the RU and the OL, who are two major representatives of the opportunist wing?

Comrades, we must remember that the RU had the most correct line up to 1972, and that they in the main ended the eclectic period. In 1972, there were no consistent disagreements with the RU. There was no organized ideological and political tendency, crystallized through opposition to the RU’s line, which was starting to turn into its opposite and block the forward procession of the communist movement. There were study groups, individuals and small collectives, but they were scattered and not linked. They were embryonic forms of the revolutionary trend. But they could not crystalize into a wing except through a tit for tat struggle, not only against the RU, but also against the CL and the OL and that had not yet taken place!

We can interpret PRRWO’s dating of the revolutionary wing from 1972, to mean either of two things. Either that these struggles did not mean anything to PRRWO, or that PRRWO thinks that the revolutionary wing was born red. Either way, it’s nothing but a new genius theory. Either way, it shows that PRRWO thinks the revolutionary wing is revolutionary by the mere fact of not being “white and petty bourgeois”!

Comrades, we think it’s clear. The basis for PRRWO’s period and revolutionary wing is nothing but the extension of their worst narrow nationalism, petty bourgeois vulgar empiricism and the result of all these, their self-centered sectarianism and hustlerism!


In our article on the RU (WV, 9/74, Vol. 1, No. 2), we showed that the RU’s right line provided a cover for the “C”L, who peddled their Trotskyism under the guise of studying MLMTTT. The “C”L had the Trotskyite theory of cadres, the “theory” of growing their cadres and “advanced workers” hot-house fashion, just through study divorced from class struggle. This glaring Trotskyite line was pretty much exposed through their open revisionist line of the international situation.

From looking at the “C”L, we can see that in opposition to the dominant incorrect line of the RU, many imposters, waving the red flag of theory, have been able to disguise themselves as communists among our ranks. But this dogmatist trend of theory that petrifies the living science of the proletariat, has to be sorted out. And this is being done by the thorough motion of history.

PRRWO is one hidden “left” opportunist who left the “C”L motion but essentially remained the unrepentant opportunist who now tries to reverse the verdict.

So the revolutionary wing that originally crystallized around the revolutionary role of theory, is now dividing into two. The dogmatists are unable to link theory with the concrete conditions. Blocked by their petty bourgeois baggage, they are unable to assimilate the Marxist world outlook in a comprehensive way. The differentiation with them then becomes inevitable.

On the other hand, the correct Marxist-Leninist trend that is attempting diligently to link theory with the concrete conditions and with practice, and is trying hard to build the party on the ideological plane, has developed into an irreversible trend in the country.

Today we also see the objective conditions moving from ebb to flow. After the “fire at the treetops”, the massive upsurge of the movements of oppressed nationalities and students, the relative ebb of 1971-73 followed. Now the “fire” is burning to the treetrunks, giving way to the massive workers’ movement which alone, can give stability and strength to all other movements.

Principally because of the emergence of the mighty, irreversible trend based on building the party on the ideological plane, and secondarily because of the flow of the mass movements – because of this “totality of historical conditions”, today the second period of the communist movement has ended. Now we are entering the third period, when political line is the key link.

Lenin wrote:

Considering the wealth and many-sidedness of the ideological content of Marxism, there is nothing surprising in the fact that in Russia, just as in other countries, various historical periods give prominence now to one, now to another particular aspect of Marxism. In Germany before 1848, the philosophical formation of Marxism was the aspect particularly stressed; in 1848 it was the political ideas of Marxism; in the fifties and sixties it was the economic doctrine of Marxism. In Russia before the revolution (1905), the aspect that was stressed was the application of the economic doctrine of Marxism to Russian reality; during the revolution, it was Marxist politics; since the revolution it is Marxist philosophy. This does not mean that any of the aspects of Marxism may at any time be ignored; it only means that the prevalence of interest in one aspect or another does not depend on subjective wishes, but on the totality of historical conditions. ... It is not by mere chance that the period of social and political reaction, the period when the rich lessons of the revolution are being ’digested’, is also the period when the fundamental theoretical, including the philosophical, problems are of prime importance to any living trend. (“Those Who Would Liquidate Us”, Lenin)

In the contradiction between theory and practice, the identity or unity of opposites of these two aspects of the contradiction merges chiefly in forms of communist propaganda. In propaganda and in polemics to unite Marxist-Leninists and win the advanced to communism, we must address ourselves to matters most directly linked to our political line. For example, the communist movement now needs to criticize thoroughly the RCP program, and in the context of that and other struggles, develop a draft program which would be the unity of our ideological, political and organizational lines.

As Lenin said:

In the discussion of the draft program all views and all shades of views will afford expression... the discussion will be comprehensive. (“A Draft Program Of Our Party”, Lenin. LCW, Vol. 4, emphasis added)

Opportunists of all shades, who have been hiding behind “generalities”, fixing on just one or two polemical issues or even evading clear-cut positions of their own, will jump out as the polemics get on to comprehensive and concrete programmatic views.

The political aspect of this program will be the key link, and we must introduce programmatic elements into our polemics now to put the unity and differences into proper perspective. Polemics around programmatic political lines will heighten ideological struggle against the sham and the unity among the genuine.

There are a number of different and large questions included in political line. The fundamental question of political line is the class analysis. There are also various national questions in the U.S., including the Afro-American, Chicano, Hawaiian national questions, and those of other oppressed nationalities and national minorities. There are also the women’s question, the larger international and domestic situations, the strategy and tactics of the bourgeoisie and our own strategy and tactics. Ours must be an integral strategy and tactics based on all of these lines, and not an additive total of different pieces developed separately and later fit together, as in the RCP’s program and the OL’s approach.

In the Russian communist movement, the organizational question of Paragraph 1 of the Rules was the line that divided the Russian communists into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. We can’t yet see which question will be the dividing line that will programmatic ally demarcate sham from genuine today. The question of the character of the party – build the party on the proletarian ideological plane – is the first and most fundamental line of demarcation differentiating all genuine from sham. By crystallizing the unity and differences revealed by the polemics, the draft program will help tremendously to bring this question out. “If the polemic is not to be fruitless, if it is not to degenerate into personal rivalry, if it is not to lead to confusion of views, to a confounding of enemies and friends, it is absolutely essential that the question of the programme be introduced into the polemics. The polemics will be of benefit only if it makes clear in what the differences actually consist, how profound they are, whether they are differences of substance or differences on partial questions, whether or not these differences interfere with common work in the ranks of one and the same party. Only the introduction of the programme question into the polemics, only a definite statement by the two polemicising parties on their programmatic views, can provide an answer to all these questions, questions that insistently demand an answer.” (“A Draft Programme Of Our Party”. Lenin, LCW, Vol. 4 emphasis in original)

How has the change in the mass movements from flow to ebb and back to flow again affected the relationship between theory and practice? What is the relationship between the periods in the communist movement and the wave-like motion of the mass movements?

The period of the late 1960s was a period of theoretical confusion and eclecticism principally because the degeneration of the “C”PUSA in the 1950s had left all the spontaneous movements without the proletarian vanguard.

When those spontaneous movements came up, there was no communist vanguard to meet and guide them. The remnants of the old communist movement, whether the “C”P itself, the POC or PLP, had already degenerated or were degenerating fast.

Then there were the young communist forces arising alongside the spontaneous movements and with real roots in them. These forces, like the RU, were fighting the eclecticism and confusion that were inevitable in the unguided spontaneous movements.

But a condition that intensified the confusion among the new and rising communist forces was the flow of those same spontaneous movements. Lenin once wrote that the growth of the mass movements is a basic source of theoretical confusion, because it brings in new and untrained forces who are swept in solely through the movements’ practical successes:

One of the most profound causes that periodically give rise to differences over tactics is the very growth’ of the labour movement. If this movement is not measured by the criterion of some fantastic ideal, but is regarded as the practical movement of ordinary people, it will be clear that the enlistment of larger and larger numbers of new “recruits”, the attraction of new sections of the working people must inevitably be accompanied by waverings in the sphere of theory and tactics, by repetitions of old mistakes, by a temporary reversion to antiquated views and antiquated methods, and so forth. The labour movement of every country periodically spends a varying amount of energy, attention and time on the “training” of recruits. (“Differences In The European Labour Movement,” Lenin, 1910. LCW, Vol. 16. Against Revisionism, pgs. 125-26)

In the reverse way, the contraction of the mass movements in the early 7Os generally left the best elements from the past flow. The ebb period put in front of these elements the task of absorbing the rich lessons from the previous flow, and helped to bring forward the importance of Marxist theory.

The changes in the subjective factor, the defeat of the eclectic lines in the movement and the initial victory of MLMTTT, were principal in raising the importance of Marxist-Leninist theory. But here too, the contraction of the mass movements was an objective condition underlying this process.

In 1910, Lenin analyzed two periods in the mass movements in Russia, and how they affected the theoretical tasks of the Russian communists. The first period was the tremendous flow of 1904-07, which included the revolutionary situation of 1905. The second was the deep ebb that followed the defeat of the revolution in 1907. Lenin showed how this change from flow to ebb helped force the theoretical tasks to the front after 1907:

The millions who were suddenly awakened from their long sleep and confronted with extremely important problems could not long remain on this level. They could not continue without a respite, without a return to elementary questions, without a new training which would help them “digest” lessons of unparalleled richness and make it possible for incomparably wider masses again to march” forward, but now far more firmly, more consciously, more confidently and more steadfastly.

The dialectics of historical development was such that in the first period it was the attainment of immediate reforms in every sphere of the country’s life that was on the order of the day. In the second period it was the critical study of experience, its assimilation by wider sections, its penetration, so to speak, into the subsoil, into the backward ranks of the various classes.

It is precisely because Marxism is not a lifeless dogma, not a completed, ready-made, immutable doctrine, but a living guide to action, that it was bound to reflect the astonishingly abrupt change in the conditions of social life. That change was reflected in profound disintegration and disunity, in every manner of vacillation, in short, in a very serious internal crisis of Marxism. Resolute resistance to this disintegration, a resolute and persistent struggle to uphold the fundamentals of Marxism, was again placed on the order of the day.” (Differences In The European Labour Movement, Lenin. 1910. Vol. 16. Against Revisionism, p. 133. emphasis in original)

We aren’t making “historical analogies” between the U.S. and Russian movements. There are many concrete features of the two movements that are vastly different.

But the basic feature, the transition from flow to ebb and its effect on the communists’ theoretical tasks, is similar. In the early 70s, we too faced the task of upholding the “fundamentals of Marxism”.

In that ebb period, though we always had practice, it was necessarily less rich than it was in the previous flow. We concentrated on study groups and similar forms for theoretical training in those “fundamentals”. We did on a much smaller scale what Lenin did after 1907, and what Marx did during the long period of relatively “peaceful development” of capitalism that followed the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871.

This theoretical training and our continuing but less developed practice in the last period, was the essential preparation for the present flow and the heightened task of bringing communist propaganda to the advanced workers. And this is why the RCP, the OL, the IWK and all other pragmatists and opportunists who liquidated the importance of study throughout that period are totally unprepared to meet the demands of today’s flow. This is why the beginning workers’ movement today so quickly draws out the RCP’s anarcho-syndicalist tendencies, the OL’s liberal reformism, and PRRWO and IWK’s anti-working class nature.

Except for a period of intense struggle following WWII, the post-war period has been one of relatively “peaceful development” in the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries. Throughout this period, the U.S. working class never stopped fighting. Their struggles along with those of the Afro-Americans and other oppressed nationalities, and those of students and women, were an important current in the struggles of the world’s revolutionary people.

Still, as a whole we can call this a relatively “peaceful” period. The Party of Labor of Albania has written:

After the outburst of revolutions in Europe during and immediately following the Second World War, the whole post-war period in Europe has generally been one of relative peace, a period of more or less peaceful development. (“Revolutionary Marxism-Leninism Will Triumph In A Europe Pregnant With Revisionism”. PLA. 1965. The PLA In Battle With Modern Revisionism, p. 353)

The workers’ upsurge today is not just the end of another short ebb and the beginning of another short flow. The ebb of the early 70s was an ebb between two different kinds of movements. The upsurge today, in the context of the two contending trends of revolution and war and fascism, is the end of the entire post-war period of relative “peace”. This is the return to another big cycle of world capitalist crisis and revolutionary struggle.

But as always, this will not be a simple repetition of the 1930s depression. It is imperialism in deeper decay, another step closer to its final doom. This is the tremendous scale, difficulty and also great hope for the struggles we face.

Either revolution will prevent world war or the war will lead to revolution. These are the alternatives.

What does this mean for the relationship of theory and practice?

The emergence today of the trend based on building the party on the ideological plane has set the principal basis for the third period in the communist movement, when political line is the key link. This trend has given us the firm theoretical orientation needed to develop these political lines in the complex mass struggles, without losing our bearings as the RCP, the OL, IWK and PRRWO all are.

In this period of flow, it is possible to link our theory tightly with the rich content and forms of the working class struggle, in a manner not possible during the period of ebb. And with our theoretical orientation and the present flow, we can and must start to take up more practice.

Theory remains the principal aspect in the relationship of theory and practice. But now it’s possible to learn theory in new ways, in much closer connection with the class struggle.

We wrote last year:

Objectively the working class movement in the U.S. is surging forward. Underneath the M-L movement and propelling it forward is the intense spontaneous struggle of the working class. In this period communists must participate in these struggles to provide Marxist-Leninist leadership, to win over the advanced elements, sharpen the focus of our theory and submit our line to the test of class struggle. ... It is of particular importance that communists should take part in the immediate struggle and transform the subjective world in the process of transforming the objective world. This is a strategic component of the Bolshevization of the pre-party formations and thus the future party itself.” (WV, 5/75, Vol. 2, No. 1, P. 34)

It’s especially important to understand these changes and the new tasks they set because every form of struggle, even the form that is correct for its period, is inherently one-sided. The study groups and other circle forms that we used mainly for theoretical training in the last period were definitely correct, and still are correct. But they had a built-in one-sidedness and primitiveness. Just because it was an ebb period and just because of our correct emphasis on theoretical work, we could not at that time learn the new and specific tasks that the present flow is bringing to the front. But this is also why the RU, who concentrated on practice, practice, practice and on building the mass movement throughout that ebb, was completely out of whack with the objective conditions.

Today, with our theoretical orientation prepared by our work during the last period, we should take part in the workers’ strikes, demonstrations and other forms of struggle. We use all these new forms to carry on propaganda and win the advanced to communism much more boldly and on a broader basis than ever before. We can use this richer practice to focus and speed up our theoretical work and our development of political lines. Many issues in the past couple of years, such as Boston busing, the Middle East, Angola and the miners’ struggles, prove this fully.

By grasping the wave-like motion of the mass movements, we’re able to use them to aid our principal task of party building. During the past ebb, we were able to “pace” ourselves, consolidate theoretically and prepare for flow conditions. Today, by basing ourselves on our past preparations and grasping the qualitatively different character of the present workers’ movement from the 60s movements, we can make full use of the objective conditions to aid our principal task of party building, particularly our tasks of putting out communist propaganda and winning the advanced to communism.

So the task today is not more practice and less theory. This is what PRRWO and RWL think we’re saying, and they accuse us of trying to move prematurely from the first step of consolidating the vanguard to the second step of going out to the broad masses and searching for the forms of transition to revolution. They accuse us of carrying out the RCP’s line of building the mass movement. We’re sure it does look that way to these “ML” stiffs, who don’t know a thing about dialectics.

The task today is to carry out communist propaganda and win the advanced to communism. And we can do these fully and correctly only by providing real communist leadership in the thick of class struggle.


[1] Lenin summed this up later after the revolution:

Bolshevism arose in 1903 on the very firm foundation of the theory of Marxism. And the correctness of this – and only this – revolutionary theory has been proved not only by world experience throughout the Nineteenth century, but particularly by the experience of the wanderings and vacillations, the mistakes and disappointments of revolutionary thought in Russia. For nearly a half a century – approximately from the forties to the nineties – advanced thought in Russia, oppressed by an unparalleled, savage and reactionary Tsardom, eagerly sought for a concrete revolutionary theory and followed with astonishing diligence and thoroughness each and every ’last word’ in this realm in Europe and America. Russia achieved Marxism, the only correct revolutionary theory, through veritable suffering, through half a century of unprecedented torment and sacrifice, or unprcedented revolutionary heroism, incredible energy, devoted searching, study, practical trial, disappointment, verification and comparison with European experience .... having arisen on this granite theoretical foundation, Bolshevism passed through fifteen years (1903-17) of practical history which in wealth of experience has no equal anywhere else in the world. (Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder. Sec. II)