Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Call

Editorial: Sectarian Attack at Guardian Forum

First Published: The Call, Vol. I, No. 11, August 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The recent Guardian Forum on “Roads to Building a Workers’ Movement” degenerated into a sectarian attack by a spokesman from the Revolutionary Union against the October League.

Rather than putting forth RU’s program for labor work, RU spokesman, Bob Avakian, used his position on the platform to spread disunity, doing his best to shatter the growing move toward unity which the Guardian Forums were set up to accomplish.

The brunt of Avakian’s attack was directed against OL’s support for the campaigns of Arnold Miller, for president of the United Mine Workers Union, and Ed Sadlowski, for leadership of Chicago area District 31 of the United Steel Workers Union. Referring to Miller and Sadlowski as “opportunists out of office,” Avakian charged that OL was “tailing these opportunists” because he could find no quotes from The Call calling for “communist leadership” of the struggle.

Avakian said the RU gave only “critical support” to these campaigns and showed how in the RU paper, Revolution, Miller and Sadlowski were attacked in the latter part of the articles on the campaigns.

The RU representative also attacked the OL’s view on the primacy of building a new communist party in the U.S. In doing so, he slandered the OL, charging that they didn’t participate in the mass struggles of the people, but only “recruited people out of the movement.”

These attacks, which reflected a conscious change on the part of the RU leadership, were carried over the next day into the workshops at the Guardian Picnic. Prior to this, the RU had taken a principled stand towards OL in carrying out discussions of differences at previous Guardian Forums without slanders and sectarian splitting tactics. This shows the level of struggle within the communist ranks is sharpening. It also shows that the disease of ultra-leftism is being consolidated within the RU leadership. This ultra-leftism is clearly seen, not only in their sectarian attitudes about the communist movement, but in their position on the trade unions and the democratic movement of women for equality which they have taken in previous forums.


The questions raised are vitally important to the future of the young communist movement in the U. S., and if contradictions are handled correctly, the present struggle could produce a giant step forward towards gaining the ideological clarity needed in building a party.

On the question of supporting the Miller and Sadlowski campaigns, the OL takes sharp issue with Avakian’s line of “critical support.” Faced with the growing fascist assault of gangster miner-union leader, Tony Boyle, and USW boss, I. W. Abel, it was the duty of the entire working class and its leadership to stand behind these two campaigns, which had solid support from the rank and file. (It is likewise our duty to give full support to the efforts of the Chavez-led United Farm Workers against the reactionary assault of the Teamsters’ leadership).

By claiming ahead of time that these challenges to Boyle and his gang come from “opportunists out of office” the RU fails to give real leadership at all. This is why they stood on the sidelines of the UMW struggle claiming all the while that “communists must lead!” But the question of leadership has never been a matter of sloganeering or attacking both sides of the struggle.

Leadership means combining the general science of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions every step along the way. It became clear in practice that the RU line of “critical support” meant No Support At All!

Avakian’s attacks on Miller and Sadlowski at this time won’t “arm the workers” as he claims. It merely says that RU is all-wise and the workers should simply follow their lead, rather than learning from their own experiences.

At the Guardian Picnic, OL representative, Eileen Klehr, correctly referred to this type of leadership as the “crystal ball” method, sitting back and predicting failure of every struggle.

In a similar example, the RU leadership attacked the struggle for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for women. In claiming that any victory for democratic rights or anti-discrimination legislation will automatically fail and be used against the working class, they negate in practice the intermediate battles which the working class must fight each day for its survival. If the struggle is defeated, the RU is ready to claim that they were right all the time.

In its labor work, RU puts forth the policy of “United Front from Below,” which is an old scheme aimed at avoiding the important struggles for the leadership of the unions. Their view of the trade unions is static and they give up the efforts to push these unions, the basic organization of the working class, to the left.

This abandonment of the trade unions was put forth in a less subtle way by Hilda Ignatin, who spoke at the Forum representing the Sojourner Truth Organization from Chicago. Ignatin’s strategy is to build “pure revolutionary unions” as a substitute to working within the trade unions on grounds that they are “hopelessly reactionary.”


In her speech, Nan Grogan, representing the OL said, “We must work within the trade unions. To refuse to work in the unions is to abandon the workers to reactionary leadership.” She pointed out that with correct leadership, the unions can become an “integral part of the revolutionary struggle.”

On the question of building a new communist party, Grogan said, “The OL believes the task facing the communist movement today is to build a communist party.” “The communist forces,” she continued, “must struggle to build unity, participate in the mass struggles and work towards building a party. Without this view, you would have a leaderless class.”

While political differences that came out of the forum are important, probably more important was the fact that Avakian chose to carry out the struggle in an arrogant, divisive and sectarian way. This attempt to split the communist movement comes from a view that the RU is the only communist organization and that groups like the OL have no right to exist. This was exactly the danger The Call warned about in our Party Building series when we said “While modern revisionism or right opportunism is the main ideological enemy which confronts the world communist movement, within the newly-emerging communist movement here, the main danger is ’leftism’ and sectarianism. Without a staunch struggle against sectarianism, dogmatism and ultra-leftism in general, all the cries for a new party won’t mean a thing.”

Apart from Avakian’s sectarian approach to the trade unions and his “leftism” towards the women’s movement, the most important weakness he showed through the Guardian Forum was his arrogance and sectarian attitude towards other communist and militants as well as to this audience. If this splittism isn’t corrected, RU will fare no better in its efforts than did the Progressive Labor Party, which once arrogantly considered itself the “center” of the struggle without having proven itself in practice and which now has dwindled into obscurity.