Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L)

History of Two-Line Struggle on Party-Building

First Published: Forward!, No. 1, June 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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By studying and analyzing the history of the anti-revisionist communist movement in the U.S., we can deepen our knowledge of the emerging party and more correctly formulate lines of conduct to resolve the contradictions facing us. Also, we can delineate the current trends in our movement in relation to our central task and precisely identify the leading lines and organizations. This will be a basis for increased unity of action within the revolutionary trend and for heightened struggle with the vacillating and backward organizations in our movement.


Proletarian revolution is unfolding spontaneously in the U.S. This is an objective law of social development. Capitalism, itself, produces, independent of human will, the conditions for its own destruction.

However, capitalism does not fall of its own accord. The bourgeoisie will use all the institutions at its disposal to retain its power and influence. It is only when the proletariat becomes conscious of its role and organizes itself to fulfill its historic mission that proletarian revolution can fully run its course. Stalin said,

After the new productive forces have matured, the existing relations of production and their upholders–the ruling classes–become the “insuperable” obstacle which can only be removed by the conscious action of the new classes, by the forcible acts of these classes, by revolution. Here stands out in bold relief the tremendous role of new social ideas, of new political institutions, of a new political power, whose mission it is to abolish by force the old relations of production. (History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Proletarian Publishers, p. 130)

The first of these “new political institutions,” based upon the “new social ideas” and leading the struggle for “a new political power,” is the party of the proletariat. The party is the consciousness, the leadership and the organization of the class in its struggle with the bourgeoisie. Throughout the long period of transition from capitalism to communism–the epoch of socialism, the party must lead the proletariat and its allies in the seizing and smashing of the bourgeois state, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the proletarian cultural revolution and socialist construction. This is the historic mission of our emerging communist party.

To accomplish this mission the party must, first of all, possess a firm and clear knowledge of the objective process of social development. Then, in light of this knowledge, the party elaborates specific lines of conduct and organization to change society in accordance with its own laws and process of development. This knowledge and practice is the very essence of the party. As we have said elsewhere,

The party is the organization of the subjective factor. It is the dialectical unity of consciousness and conscious activity which is in conformity with the objective process of social development. [Proletarian] consciousness is the dialectical unity of the general and particular, of theory and ideology. Conscious activity is the dialectical unity of politics and organization. This is the theory of the party in its universality and particularity. (A Proposal Concerning the General Line on Party-Building, p. 4).

Without grasping the essence of party-building as the consciousness and conscious activity of proletarian revolution in the U.S., and, therefore, without grasping party-building as the development of the knowledge of the objective process and the corresponding basic line of conduct, all party-building work is thoroughly spontaneous and means, in essence, simply organizing, but tailing, the spontaneous consciousness.

Our party has not yet emerged. Nevertheless, the knowledge of the objective process of revolution in the U.S. and our basic line of conduct in relation to this process is developing within the communist movement. It is through the struggle and resolution of two main contradictions that the lines of consciousness and conduct are emerging and becoming the foundations for establishing a genuine communist party in the U.S.

In the immediate, pre-party period these two contradictions take particular form as:

1. the Ideological struggle within the communist movement for correct program, strategy and tactics for proletarian revolution, and
2. the Ideological struggle between the communist movement and the spontaneous movements, particularly the advanced elements.

It is precisely in grasping the nature of these contradictions and then struggling to resolve them that our communist movement carries forward, scientifically, the work of party-building in the U.S.

Grasping the nature of these contradictions means understanding them not only in their particularity (as developed above), but also in their interconnection. The key to this is knowledge of which is principal–which contradiction is playing the leading role at any particular stage of party development. It is by grasping the principal contradiction and by struggling to resolve all the main contradictions in such a way as to serve the resolution of the principal contradiction, that the process of party-development is scientifically advanced. The resolution of the principal contradiction, in turn, opens the way for and serves the resolution of the other contradictions.

The questions of fusion and the united front, the two aspects of the contradiction between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement, are ultimately resolved only by a correct leading line and conduct on the party of communists. Thus, in this period where no such leading line exists, the work of communist organizations is to study the objectively unfolding process; formulate and test e-merging lines in work primarily to win the advanced to communism and secondarily to lead the spontaneous upsurge; analyze the results of this study and work to develop deeper and broader lines; and struggle with other communist organizations for the correct lines.

It is the contradiction within the communist movement which is principal at this time, whose resolution will allow rapid development of the secondary contradictions. Thus, all work toward the resolution of contradictions must directly serve our principal task–ideological struggle for the correct program, strategy and tactics.

Eclectic Period

By the late 1950’s the revisionist line of the Communist Party (CPUSA) was so thoroughly consolidated and exposed that honest comrades were deserting its ranks in droves. Clearly, by this time the class was without an organized vanguard. There can be no doubt that, once the proletariat lost its party, the main task of all genuine Marxist-Leninists was to build a genuine anti-revisionist communist party. This meant comprehending the full scope of the party as the vanguard consciousness, leadership and organization of the proletariat and, thus, approaching the task of party-building scientifically, in order to advance knowledge and fusion with the specific class struggle of the proletariat for socialist revolution.

Principal to the building of a party was that Marxist-Leninists develop a theoretical and ideological understanding (lines of consciousness) of the concrete conditions of class struggle in the U.S. so as to formulate and assert political and organizational lines (lines of conscious activity) to win the advanced to M-L-M Thought and, eventually, to lead the spontaneous movements of the working class and all oppressed peoples against the bourgeois state.

Perceptually, two contradictions confronted the movement–that between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement and that within the communist movement. These two contradictions have a specific relationship to the development of the foundations of the party yet they can only further that development through the conscious practice of scientific revolutionaries guided by the theory of M-L-M Thought.

In 1961 a group of anti-revisionists expelled from the CPUSA formed the Progressive Labor Movement (PL). The report on the founding conference listed four key tasks:

1. We must develop a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist program. 2. We must boldly initiate militant mass struggles around the immediate needs of U.S. workers and students, and build single issue mass organizations, such as unemployment councils. 3. We must develop a base of support among young workers and students and win them to Marxist-Leninist ideas. 4. We must establish a network of clubs and collective leadership. The organization should be loose in form and we would use the principles of flexibility and persuasion to develop united action on policies. “Organize, organize. organize!” concluded the report. (PL, “This History of the Progressive Labor Party,” Part One, PL, Aug-Sept, 1975).

In 1962-63 PL initiated the Hazard Miners Solidarity Campaign (later co-opted by the liberal Kennedy administration). They led the way in breaking the travel ban to Cuba. And in 1964 they launched the May 2nd Movement (M2M), a mass organization, in the course of organizing the first national demonstration against the Vietnam war.’

The essence of PL’s understanding of building a revolutionary movement rested in points 2, 3, and 4 and the slogan, “Organize, organize, organize!” Providing communist leadership to the proletariat meant organizing the spontaneous movement. The contradiction between the fledgling communist movement and the spontaneous movement became principal in practice. Developing a “revolutionary Marxist-Leninist program” was left to the knowledge gathered by their own organization through objectively spontaneous practice with “militant mass struggles around the immediate needs of U.S. workers and students.” They did not grasp the need for theoretical and Ideological lines on U.S. proletarian revolution in order for their practice to be engaged in scientifically so as to advance the emergence of a vanguard party. The contradiction within the communist movement was decidedly secondary.

In March 1964 Road to Revolution was published which for the first time spelled out some political differences between PL and the CPUSA. PL Issued the statement more as a clarification of its own line than as a polemic against the CP, PL clearly had not grasped the significance of the principal contradiction–that of the two-line struggle within the communist movement. In this early period honest forces everywhere demanded heightened struggle to demarcate the movement. Instead PL hesitated, clarifying differences only as the demands of the spontaneous movement required it.

In 1965 the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) was founded. In February 1966 the M2M was dissolved, victim of PL’s confusion over how to work in the mass movement and train cadres at the same time. Because it never recognized the necessity of theoretical development of cadre, PL relied upon mass practice as its basic system of training. The M2M, at one time a genuine mass organization, was turned into a PL training center.

In December 1966, PL issued Road to Revolution II which, while attacking revisionism, asserted, “there is no basis for partial and temporary unity with the revisionists. Revolutionaries should not enter into Soviet-inspired alliances. They are traps to thwart the revolution.” This was specifically directed at the North Vietnamese who were accepting aid from the Soviet Union. The west coast section of PL spilt over this attack and left PL centered primarily in New. York.

Having lost the better part of its working class base, PL turned more to the student movement where, through SDS, it had been working since 1965. Raising the tactic of the united front against imperialism, pushing the slogan, ”U.S. Out of Vietnam, Now!” and organizing the worker/student alliance and Vietnam summer workin; the PL made significant gains among certain sections of SDS.

However, by 1968 a major struggle was unfolding in SDS. One line held that anti-imperialist “resistance” through reliance on the youth movement was primary. PL pushed the other line asserting that anti-imperialist should go into the working class and “build bases.” It all came to a head at the July, 1969 national convention. The “resistance” forces issued the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) paper and prepared to defeat the “working class” line of PL. These forces eventually split into RYM II (including Mike Klonsky and Bob Avakian) and the Weathermen (Bernadine Dohrn), but they remained together long enough to push out PL. SDS then fell apart, the Weathermen went underground, Klonsky eventually led the formation of the October League (OL) and Avakian went back to the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, later the Revolutionary Union (RU).

Developing their Trotskyist line on Vietnam, PL eventually concluded that all nationalism is reactionary and launched an attack on the Black Panthers and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers as “nationalists.” After the attack on Vietnam, many cadre in the New York area split from PL and formed independent collectives. The attacks on the Black liberation struggle intensified this process.

The RU, when it was still part of the communist movement, summed up some of PL’s errors, but never addressed their approach to building the vanguard party. This is no mystery since both had essentially the same shallow understanding of the party and, thus, were engaging in similar practice in order to build it. Party-building was reduced to spontaneous activity with the mass movement. When they had engaged in enough (?) mass practice, PL changed their name from “movement” to “Party.” It was that simple.

What PL failed to do was grasp the dialectic of communist consciousness–the use of general laws (theory) to understand the particular process which they sought to change. They never established an ideological line on revolution in the U.S. They moved directly from theory to practical activity. Without an ideological line, they implemented a political line. The party as the political leader of the working class could never emerge from such practice. Thus, in essence, PL adopted a mechanical materialist (dogmatist/empiricist) approach and, objectively, had no hope of directly contributing to the development of the vanguard party of the proletariat. Today, PL is a small, isolated sect on the verge of extinction.

In 1958, a group of ex-CPUSA cadre formed the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC) to “reconstitute” (CL’s term) a genuine communist party in the U.S. After starting with over 4000 members, the group reduced itself in sectarian struggle to 42 by the time it formed the American Workers Communist Party in September, 1968. This “party” held a thoroughly Trotskyist position on the Soviet revolution and saw the roots of modern revisionism in Stalin, Dimitrov and Mao.

Ideological Line is Key

Later in 1968 the Los Angeles collective was expelled from the “party,” and by the spring of 1969 it had united with others to form the California Communist League (CCL). The RU emerged in the Bay area in 1969 and ideological struggles between the two organizations were to delineate two definite trends in the movement. Objectively, both organizations were struggling for the correct line on practice to build the party. Faced with two contradictions but not fully grasping this objective situation, each organization embraced only one contradiction as central to developing the revolutionary movement.

According to the CCL, “Out of these beginning struggles the line (of the CCL) began to emerge. The basic question of building the mass movement or building a core of communist cadre was settled” (CL, Dialectics of Development of the Communist League, p. 13) in favor of the latter task. The RU formulated their task as “building the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class,” thus designating work within the spontaneous movement as their practice to build revolution. In liquidating the other contradiction as well as in their specific practice with regard to the contradiction each focused upon, both organizations revealed an incorrect understanding of the party and, thus, a spontaneous approach to building it.

The CL took the “left” tack–the Trotskyist “theory of cadres.” They liquidated any work in relation to the spontaneous movement. Later, they sought to justify this position by claiming that the entire white working class in the U.S. is bribed with imperialist superprofits and, thus, that revolutionary organizing among the spontaneous working class movement would have to await the hemispheric struggle against U.S. imperialism. (See The Struggle Against Revisionism and Opportunism: Against the CL and the RU, BWC, June, 1974, p. 101).

The RU made the exact opposite error of the CL. The RU liquidated the building of the cadre core and, instead, called upon communists to build the mass movement. This line, of course, found a lot of followers among those coming out of the spontaneous struggles against national oppression and/or the war in Vietnam who thought that any use of Marxism-Leninism qualitatively changed spontaneous practice into scientific practice. This, of course, was nonsense.

Scientific practice proceeds first of all from a firm and clear grasp of the contradictions moving the development of a thing forward. In this case the movement faced concrete tasks of developing theoretical and ideological lines on U.S. proletarian revolution and only this work could lend correctness to the development of program, strategy and tactics, thereby developing a genuine basis for communist leadership of the spontaneous movements. The movement had not yet grasped that only through scientific practice in relation to both contradictions could it develop the knowledge that would enable it to fuse with and lead the proletariat as its vanguard party. The movement, therefore, also had not grasped that the contradiction within the communist movement was principal to the development of both contradictions.

On the surface, the CL appeared to have grasped the principal contradiction by focusing on work among communists. Unfortunately, building the cadre core could not advance scientific practice within the communist movement unless it was linked to a specific understanding of the ideological tasks facing the movement. This, the CL clearly lacked. Nevertheless, the CL was to attract many followers as the communist movement shook off the right opportunist lines of the RU.

The RU’s line was right opportunist in that it failed to respect scientific analysis and proceeded without an understanding of the objective needs of the party in its process of development. In failing to grasp the ideological development necessary to the establishment of correct political and organizational lines to carry forward into the spontaneous movement, the RU could not grasp the particularity and proper relationship of the two main contradictions in party-building. The RU saw only the contradiction between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement; it ignored what was, of necessity, the principal contradiction. Inevitably, the RU was bound to tail the objective process.

While the RU’s right opportunism (sometimes with a “left” cover) was later exposed on a variety of issues, it has never been exposed by contrasting it to the objective process at the time it was put forward (i.e., it was never exposed ideologically). As a result several organizations (the BWC and PRRWO[1] especially), failing to grasp the essence of the RU’s error, flip-flopped and temporarily tailed the CL’s equally bankrupt line.

The RU’s fundamentally incorrect formulation of the tasks of communists–“build the revolutionary unity, consciousness and organization of the proletariat”–first attracted the interest of three newly-emerged Marxist-Leninist organizations which had developed out of the Third World liberation struggles in the U.S. The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO–formerly the Young Lords Party), the Black Workers Congress (BWC–formerly the League of Revolutionary Black Workers) and the I Wor Kuen (IWK–formerly the Red Guard Party) were all coming through the long struggle of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse tung Thought to establish itself in the national liberation movements in the U.S. All had recently made the leap to embracing M-L-M and becoming multinational organizations (except IWK which didn’t become multi-national until 1975). Each was still In the process of determining the exact difference and relationship between a cadre organization and a mass organization. All were in the midst of emerging two-line struggles within their organizations.

In these conditions they united with the RU’s call to cooperate in building the mass movement. In July, 1972 they formed the National Liaison Committee (NLC) around these principles: 1) upholding M-L-M Thought; 2) anti-revisionism and anti-Trotskyism; 3) joint-city strategy and tactics (cooperation in mass work); and 4) base in industrial proletariat. IWK soon dropped out owing to struggle around the fourth principle. Everyone knew a party would someday come into being. The idea now was to build the mass movement and sum-up the experience.

However, after the contact in the NLC had helped the BWC consolidate around the RU’s still undeveloped position of the national question, the RU put forward a proposal to form “the party”. This was made exclusively within the context of the NLC. When the BWC and the PRRWO balked, partly for narrow nationalist reasons,[2] the RU said now was the time before the opportunists (OL and CL) did it first.

At this point the RU attacked the BWC’s “Black Workers Take the Lead” slogan which soon developed into a full-scale dispute around the national question and its relationship to party building. The NLC split apart, eventually appearing as open polemics in the Guardian and elsewhere. The BWC and PRRWO secretariats “concluded that the central task of communists was indeed to build the party. This made us see even more clearly how the RU was in fundamental error on some of the most important questions facing the U.S. proletarian revolution and the root cause of all their (and our own) errors– the bowing to spontaneity and belittling the conscious element.” (Ibid., p. 32).

This criticism/self-criticism by the BWC and PRRWO was a significant step ahead. Both organizations had now grasped party-building as the central task and very definitely repudiated the RU’s bankrupt line. Nevertheless the analysis still failed to go deep enough, failing to identify the specific objective contradiction involved, the essence of the two-line struggle. Certainly, party-building was the central task, but what does this mean? As the RU (and later the OL) soon proved in practice one can make party-building the central task and fail to grasp the essence of the task. To recognize that a party is consciously built by Marxist-Leninists was an advance for the movement. Only comprehending the specific development of knowledge and revolutionary practice essential to the emergence of the party could lend clarity to the questions of which contradiction is principal in party-building and what is its relationship to the other main contradictions. Thus, the BWC’s self-criticism proved far too shallow. A couple months later they and PRRWO were working with the CL.

In May of 1973 the CL had organized and dominated the Conference of North American Marxist-Leninists. This conference adopted nine resolutions of a political nature (see “Marxist-Leninists, Unite,” CL, May, 1973), and citing heightening external contradictions,[3] called for the establishment of a new party. The National Continuations Committee (NCC) was set up to organizationally facilitate continuing struggle for unity around the resolutions among participating organizations. A number of communist organizations joined the NCC between the time of the conference (May 1973) and the publication of the first NCC newsletter (January 1974). A great deal of confusion had arisen as to what, exactly, the resolutions represented. Were they principles of unity or mere discussion points?

The first newsletter set forth the following principles of unity: 1) building the party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and the struggle against revisionism is the central task, 2) a founding Congress should be called within a year, and, 3) the nine resolutions are a minimum political line allowing the NCC to hold together and build to the Congress.[4] The newsletter went on to say that democracy was the method of organization of the NCC and that struggle was encouraged. “Written statements of unity and polemics will also bring greater clarity and unity for the correct line, politically and organizationally. When political unity is achieved through the formation of the Party of a New Type, then democratic centralism will be the organizational basis of relations.” (The Struggle Against Revisionism and Opportunism: Against the CL and the RU, BWC, June, 1974, p. 99).

The BWC was happy with this. Later they termed this statement “the ideological, political and organizational basis of unity within the NCC to call a Congress for a multi-national, Marxist-Leninist, Communist Party...” (emphasis added). (Ibid., p. 99).

In May, 1974 the CL began to take its anti-China line. In struggle against this line and others the New Voice, the Detroit Collective and the August Twenty-Ninth Movement were forced out of the NCC.

The BWC ended up being expelled from the NCC in June, 1974 because the CL eventually established democratic-centralism on the NCC. Then PRRWO resigned.

In their criticism of the NCC and CL, in particular, the BWC displayed their lack of understanding of what went down. This was first revealed when they asserted (above) that the newsletter statement was the ideological basis of unity for founding a Congress. The statement calls for unity “politically and organizationally” but never mentions the question of ideological line. Thus, the only ideological basis of unity displayed in the statement is a bourgeois foundation. Marxist-Leninists cannot think of uniting on such a basis. As Mao has said, “the correctness of ideological and political line determines everything.” (emphasis added)

The BWC’s confusion is further revealed in their consistent insistence that the reason various forces were being forced out of the NCC had to do with the organizational struggle of the committee–democracy or democratic centralism. They never grasped that it was fundamental ideological differences which forced the CL to exercise its hegemony and squash dissent. This confusion is also seen in the BWC’s sharp criticism of the Detroit Collective which correctly identified the problem. According to the Detroit Collective, “This directive is obviously an example of pushing organizational unity before any real ideological unity on the party-building question has been achieved.” (Ibid., p. 106).

The BWC summed it all up by saying, “...we in the BWC and PRRWO hold that our unification into a single Communist Party based on correct political line is the central question facing our movement.” They criticised themselves for falling to put “politics in command” in the NCC and then for “a lack of political maturity in putting ideological and political line in the lead.” (Ibid., p. 115).

The BWC and PRRWO were, once again, pushed ahead by their struggle with others in the movement. Once again they broke with opportunism before it consolidated itself. However, the BWC and PRRWO still failed to do a scientific analysis of the contradictions with which they were dealing. As a result of their work in NCC they stated that party-building is a question of correct political line (a position PRRWO still holds), but this didn’t explain the problems In the NCC. The nine resolutions were, in essence, a set of political lines. In the final analysis the split was over fundamental differences as to the basis of party unity. The CL, objectively, could not tolerate those who differed with its resolutions, the reflection of its ideological line. This, of course, is as it should be and must be in a Bolshevized party.[5] Ideological unity must prevail while struggle can unfold around political lines. The CL was intent on forming a party; it could not do with, ideological differences. But the BWC and PRRWO missed the essence and attributed the problem to merely organizational differences. Thus, they reduce the struggle for the “correct political line” to a question of organization. In fact, the struggle for the correct political line is first of all the struggle for a correct grasp of objective reality–the correct ideological line.

The BWC and PRRWO, thus, failed to uncover the objective reality of party-building although the motion of party-building and their experience in the NCC had objectively revealed the necessity of ideological unity for the further development of the movement. The dialectic between the two main contradictions in party-building had also been clarified Principal to unity of action and scientific practice in relation to the spontaneous movement was the development of ideological lines on the objective conditions of class struggle in the U.S., and only by making work within the communist movement principal could that knowledge come forward. Failing to sum up this experience correctly, the BWC and PRRWO continued to develop the party in a spontaneous fashion. Less than a year after the NCC fell apart, the BWC was split into at least four different groups in a yet-to-be-summed-up struggle over party-building line.

That split leaves PRRWO as the single organization in the communist movement with a consistent record of victorious struggle against opportunism In party-building. This struggle is both a beacon and a deception. A beacon in that PRRWO has been relentless, uncompromising, critical/self-critical and attentive to theoretical study and Ideological struggle. But a deception because PRRWO, too, has not proceeded from a scientific analysis of the objective process of development of the party in the United States. This is the root cause of its flip-flops, and its re-occurring sectarian (subjectivist) methods of struggle. While PRRWO has helped expose and isolate enemies in our ranks, it has never been able to defeat them. This they had to do for themselves. By failing to grasp ideological line, PRRWO has always been unable to provide leadership to the communist movement.

The communist movement must look at PRRWO’s development critically and recognize that until they rectify past errors, they will continue to make mistakes.

After the split in SDS back in 1969, Mike Klonsky went to Los Angeles and organized the October League (OL). In 1972 the OL merged with the Georgia Communist League and issued a statement of unity. In the spring of 1973 the OL issued its statement: “Party Building in the U.S.” There they said:

While Integrating closely with the struggles of the working class, the young communist movement must take part NOW in the political education of the workers.

The political questions which confront the working class today revolve around strategy–’Who are our friends and who are our enemies?’ This question cannot be answered based on subjective wishes of any group or individual, but on a concrete analysis of the conditions here today in the U.S; a scientific study of the various class forces and the relationship between the working class and the nationally oppressed.

Can we say this kind of theoretical study has been done yet? No, it hasn’t. And because it hasn’t, come the problems of sectarianism, of falling to build unity upon firm principles.” (“Party-Building in the U.S.,” OL, Spring, 1973, p. 13).

The OL’s formulation was clear in identifying the basic problem then (1973) plaguing the movement– the attempt to forge party unity without first establishing ideological unity on the basis of a concrete analysis of the conditions in the U.S. However, they, too, made their statement without grasping the essence of the party itself as the vehicle of the consciousness, leadership and organization of the proletariat. They, therefore, “could” not recognize the specific theoretical and ideological tasks that could only be adequately addressed by Marxist-Leninists and their primacy to the development of all other tasks. Thus, they failed to make any mention whatever of principal and secondary tasks, and, as in the passage above, tended to equate the tasks of raising the consciousness of workers with that of raising the consciousness of the communists.

This, of course, left the OL a lot of room to swim between the two, choosing at their fancy which was primary at any given moment. In these conditions, without a firm scientific analysis as a base, it is not surprising that the OL drifted into building the mass movement as primary while continuously covering it with talk of party-building as the central task. From the beginning the OL abandoned the theoretical tasks it had laid out for the movement. Of its own, it has never published a significant statement on the concrete conditions and relationship of class forces in the U.S., nor has it ever led ideological struggle within the communist movement, always choosing only to respond when criticized. Instead, the OL began building its organization through mass work.

After the NLC began to fall, apart in 1973 and as the CL began to pull its “party” together that same year, the RU jumped on the bandwagon declaring in May, 1974, that party building has become the main task for the “Immediate and brief period ahead.” (“Build the Leadership of the Proletariat and Its Party,” Red Pages 6, RU, June, 1974, p. 5). Claiming conditions were now ripe, but citing only factors external to the communist movement, the RU said enough experience in mass work had now been accumulated so that “...it is possible at this time–through summing up the mass work and conducting ideological struggle on the basis of that summation–to determine what [the correct line] is and how it must be applied–as expressed in a Programme.” (Ibid, p. 4).

Although some forces (like Irwin Silber in the Guardian, May 22, 1974) saw the RU’s recognition of the central task as a turning point in the movement, most forces stayed far away. Unfortunately, no one tried to expose the RU. The BWC’s major work, The Struggle Against Revisionism and Opportunism: Against the Communist League and the Revolutionary Union, (June, 1974), was mainly focused on the CL and, given BWC’s own confusion, was not able to correctly expose the RU on party-building.

The RU’s position was now essentially the same as everyone else’s for it belittled the theoretical and ideological foundations of the party and therefore objectively liquidated any possibility that their party or program could lead the spontaneous class struggle to scientific class consciousness and consistently revolutionary activity. But since it was necessary to distinguish themselves in order to win over the middle forces, the RU launched a blistering attack on the CL and the OL, then the largest forces active in the movement.

These attacks finally brought the OL out into the open. For the first time the OL had to engage in some struggle. In the September and October 1974 issues of The Call the OL proved that they, too, were essentially out to build the mass movement under the cover of calling party-building the central task. Nowhere in their struggle with the RU did they expose the RU’s party-building errors. Rather, they sought to prove that the RU had an “ultra-left” line on mass work, a position which helped most of the movement discover the OL’s own right line in this regard.

In September, 1974, the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WV), a small New York area collective which had developed from one of the mid-sixties splits in PL, launched a major attack on the RU (along with the CL) which exposed the roots of RU’s errors–pragmatism–and pointed out clearly that the RU’s plan to build the party was more of the same. The WV insisted that the unity of the party had to be forged in the theoretical and ideological struggle against right opportunism and modern revisionism.

The WV polemic contained the essence of the correct line on party-building for they had correctly analysed the weakness in the movement’ s comprehension of its task and its resulting errors in its attempts to build the party.

A communist movement is mainly a movement of subjective factors (a vanguard ideology, political line, and organization). Theoretical victory over opportunism, and “theoretical premises” must be made which alone will make united mass practical work possible. How far have we gone on the path of this struggle? We are only just beginning. (“Marxism or American Pragmatism? The Right Opportunist Line of the RU,” WVO, Sept, 1974, p. 26).

Embracing the role of communists to lead the spontaneous upsurge rather to passively serve it, WV clearly elevated theoretical work and ideological Struggle to the principal position-in their practice to build the party. Opposing the RU’s empiricism and pragmatism, they delineated four component parts of party-building.

Our principal task is party building. This task is specifically broken down into 4 components:

l–the study: of Marxism-Leninism and its, application to the concrete conditions and topical issues
2–the consolidation of advanced elements of the working class around M-L-M Thought
3–engagement in polemics within the communist movement for the correct programme
4–the linking up of our organization with other communist organizations, based on agreement around programme, strategy, tactics and organizational principles.

The chief feature of this party-building period is theory.” (Ibid., p. 17).

The WV statement represented a qualitative step forward in our historic struggle to found a genuine communist party. “True, ours is a period of rising mass movements, which we must prepare to lead. But given the present disunity in the communist movement, the surge of these mass movements only sharpens the need for theoretical work.” (Ibid., p. 25) WV correctly addressed the two contradictions in party-building and designated that party-building in this period could only proceed through raising the contradiction within the communist movement to a principal position. Unfortunately, their clarity on the relationship of these contradictions was a small part of a 14-page polemic and was not adequately emphasized or clearly developed in relation to the overall communist movement. Thus, it escaped attention of many advanced forces who had already recognized the RU’s general pragmatism and didn’t help the middle forces clear up their own confusion.

The first and third points brought out more clearly than ever before the nature of the contradiction which had to be resolved in the communist movement before party-building could move forward. However, the analysis was a small part of a 14-page polemic and was not adequately emphasized or clearly developed in relation to the overall communist movement. Thus, it escaped attention of many advanced forces who had already recognized the RU’s general pragmatism and didn’t help the middle forces clear up their own confusion.

In the winter/spring of 1975, the BWC split into its four sections–the Workers Congress (WC), the Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee (MLOC), the Revolutionary Bloc (RB) and the Revolutionary Worker’ Congress (RWC). The last two have contributed virtually nothing to the struggle for the party. The WC has put forward the ISKRA principle as its party-building program.

1. to unite on the science of Marxism-Leninism and put proletarian ideological and political line in command of everything we do;
2. to work out and implement an independent communist policy on all our tasks;
3. to consolidate ideological unity on line in the material unity of communist organization, strengthening the -centralized leadership of the vanguard in everything;
4. to provide communist leadership on every task by uniting with the advanced and relying on the advanced to win over the intermediate and the backward. (The Communist, WC, Feb., 23 1976, p. 5).

In and of itself the principle is not a bad program. However, it cannot be viewed so abstractly. And when seen from the perspective of the needs of party-building, the ISKRA principle is far too general to be of service. The comrades of the WC are still unsure of how exactly the knowledge of and fusion with the class struggle of the proletariat is forged.

First of all, the ISKRA principle intertwines the two contradictions and makes no effort to identify them in their particularity or to determine which is primary. The first sentence of their party-building resolutions makes this perfectly obvious: “The central task of all communists is winning the advanced to communism, that is building a genuine multi-national communist party and thereby taking the first step in fusing communism with the workers movement.” (Ibid., p. 5).

Second, following up on their fundamental error in the NCC, the former-BWC comrades in the WC have consistently raised the organizational questions ahead of the ideological question. This was particularly obvious in the first few issues of The Communist following the BWC split. Most articles focused on differences around democratic-centralism and amateurishness in matters of organization. Finally, the slogan “Organization is Key” was raised by the WC, and their opportunism became self-exposed.

The MLOC, in the San Francisco area, seems to have grasped the essence of the party-building contradiction. In their line and in their practice they are insisting that the communist movement determine its ideological line: that is, that the movement resolve the contradictions around the objective process of socialist revolution in the U.S. To this end they have called for joint theoretical work with other communist organizations and the establishment of a division of labor where possible. At the same time they have insisted on maintaining, deepening and broadening work with the spontaneous movement as the secondary task and have called upon the movement to unite in this work. These are essentially correct views of the nature and tasks of party-building in the U.S.

Also in the winter of 1975 the OL and the Guardian split over the question of “united action with revisionists” at the 1975 International Women’s Day demonstration in New York. The OL, adopting essentially the same principle which PL had used to turn itself into a Trotskyist sect in 1966, raised a tactical/political question to the level of strategy and principle. Thus, rather than serving the interests of the movement by carefully exposing the Guardian’s theoretical and Ideological errors, the OL has held back our development by raising a mechanical, organizational solution both to the problem of revisionism and The Guardian.

The WV best exposed the OL on this and other issues in their May 1975 polemic. Herein the OL’s own bourgeois baggage was brought into the open, particularly on the question of bourgeois democracy and fascism. Also, the WV exposed the OL’s shallow conception of the party building task, and, in another article In the same journal, presented a fully developed party-building line of their own. This statement represents the first ideologically correct position on party-building to be put forward in the communist movement in the United States. Although it has numerous defects theoretically and politically, and although it needs to be deepened and broadened, the position stems from a correct grasp of the objective needs of party building. That is, the line reflects the objective reality that knowledge develops through the scientific application of M-L-M Thought to the concrete problems facing us. Only through the scientific investigation and study of the objective conditions of the U.S. class struggle and the ideological struggle of communists for the program for proletarian revolution in the U.S. can the contradiction between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement be correctly approached and a vanguard party built. In this period the secondary contradiction must serve the development of the principal contradiction as communists develop a class analysis and a knowledge of the practical class struggle while consolidating advanced workers around M-L-M Thought.

In October l975, to no one’s surprise, the RU, exposed and organizationally isolated but not defeated (and probably still fooling some honest forces), changed Its name and became the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It then turned back to building the mass movement.

In November the OL issued its long-awaited call to form a “party.” Citing the same external conditions the RU had used over a year earlier, putting forward no program but, instead, the same basic set of “principles” the RU and the CL had used before, and avoiding all struggle by setting up the same kind of hegemonic “democratic” discussion process the NLC and the NCC had used to push the line of their parent organizations, the OL, lost in its own foggy experience, asserted that genuine Marxist-Leninists were prepared to form the party in the spring.

Every known communist organization in the U.S. immediately disassociated themselves from this opportunist move in open polemics which so far, the OL has addressed only by repeating that “most” honest forces are joining their call.

At the International Women’s Day demonstrations in New York in 1976, numerous organizations in the communist movement sought to put their line on the central task into practice. The struggles of that weekend and subsequent events have amply demonstrated the current trends of our movement.

Without going into detail, the early struggle over how to engage in mass work around IWD produced two coalitions corresponding, roughly, to the two trends then emerging in the communist movement. On the one hand was WVO, PRRWO, RWL and Resistencia. On the other hand, was the OL, CAP (and a little bit, WC).

The RWL was emerging from the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC) which had seen M-L-M Thought come to the fore within in struggle against pan africanism and narrow nationalism. The RWL’s initial statement, Principles of Unity published in December, 1975, had reflected the current two-line struggle in the movement. Some sections showed the heavy right influence which had long dominated the movement, but other sections showed the emerging influence of the revolutionary trend.

Thus, the RWL was not fully consolidated (at least publicly) going into the coalition, PRRWO had yet to recognize the essence of its errors in previous movement work, and Resistencia was emerging from a self-imposed isolation from the rest of the movement following its involvement in the NCC.

All seemed to be accepting the leading line of the revolutionary trend as enunciated by WVO. But within the coalition a split developed and a new wing of opportunism emerged. Swinging over from their right positions, the RWL and PRRWO adopted “left” forms by refusing to concretely address the dialectics of the development of the movement’s knowledge in relation to program, strategy and tactics, and, therefore, they put forward that the contradictions in party-building are simultaneous, that neither uniting Marxist-Leninists nor winning the advanced is principal to the development of scientific practice in party-building. Resistencia took a centrist position in the split and eventually ended up tailing the RWL and PRRWO.

In any given place, there cannot be a number of central tasks at the same time. At any one time there can only be one central task, supplemented by other tasks of a second or third order of importance. (Mao, “Concerning Methods of Leadership,” Selected Readings, FLP, p. 292).

By ignoring this fundamental law of dialectics the RWL and PRRWO combined their two party-building tasks into one–producing a complete muddle and liquidating any possibility of scientifically determined work with either contradiction. They covered their spontaneous, mechanical approach to concrete tasks with a barrage of super-revolutionary sloganeering (aptly termed “hustlerism” by the WVO), and ended up taking “no united action with opportunism” (a la, the OL) as their guiding line in the coalition. Since they viewed as opportunists all those who correctly distinguished between the two contradictions and saw IWD primarily as an event for developing and testing emerging programmatic lines while winning the advanced to M-L-M Thought, the RWL and PRRWO ended up doing nothing with any other communist forces and, instead, conducted a sectarian-style forum on party-building.

Since IWD both organizations have loudly proclaimed themselves (and ATM) as the “revolutionary wing” and have endeavored to hustle their “left” sectarian line in mass organizations such as ALSC and the February First Movement (FFM). In the process they have launched frenzied purges of their own organizations and have fostered splits in their mass work. While it is inevitable that this sectarian line will end up isolating itself, it dangerously serves the right line of the OL by burning out honest middle forces with super-petty-bourgeois revolutionism and by demagogically attacking the revolutionary line in the movement as hegemonistic.

Thus, the communist movement finds its revolutionary trend again divided into two. This is not a bad thing but a good thing, as only through the struggles against incorrect lines can correct lines emerge and be strengthened. The emerging revolutionary trend must expose not only the old, dominant (and still main danger) right line, represented now by the OL, but also the right’s opposite, the “left” line of the “revolutionary wing.” The “revolutionary” wing has deepened our understanding of the sameness of right and “left” opportunism. Both are out of line with the objective reality of the concrete development of the theory of knowledge of the movement and, thus, both engage spontaneously and pragmatically in the tasks of party-building. Only the revolutionary trend has grasped the essence of the theoretical, ideological, political and organizational tasks facing the movement as we build the party. Only the revolutionary trend has correctly analysed the relationship between the two contradictions of party-building, determining which is principal and how each is integral to the development of the other.

Steeling itself in the theoretical and ideological struggles against revisionism and opportunism, the revolutionary trend will emerge stronger than ever, more firmly on the road to a knowledge of and relation to the class struggle so as to consolidate a genuine communist party.

To review the development of the movement’s comprehension of its task, let us examine the practice of Marxist-Leninists in relation to the two contradictions facing them:

1. 1969–the RU and the CL in a totally undialectical fashion counterpose the two contradictions in party-building (that within the communist movement and that between the communist movement and the spontaneous movement) each liquidating one contradiction. The CL formulated the task of communists as “building the cadre core.” The RU formulated the task of communists as “building the revolutionary consciousness, leadership and organization of the working class.”
2. 1973–the BWC and PRRWO split from the RU in the NLC recognizing that party-building is the central task of communists but failing to grasp the essence of their difference with the RU and the essence of the party-building task.
3. 1974–the BWC and PRRWO split from the CL in the NCC because of the CL’s hegemonic use of democratic centralism but once again failing to get at the essence of the differences and the essence of party-building. They conclude that party-building is a question of “correct political line”, the same position the CL had asserted in the committee.
4. 1974-75–the RU and the OL engage in a long series of diversionary struggle which never addresses in any way the principal task of the communist movement–the question of party-building. In displaying their own lack of understanding of the task, however, they provide data for the WVO and others to sum up and put forward the essentially correct ideological statement on the particularity and Interrelationship of the two main contradictions in party-building.
5. 1976–at IWD the “revolutionary wing” attacks the correct formulation of our tasks and instead combines the two tasks into one “simultaneous task.” This results In a “left” sectarian stance toward both the communist movement and the advanced elements of the spontaneous movement.

To sum up:

Party-building up to the present has been marked two periods. The first has been correctly termed the eclectic period by many in our movement. This was the period from the mid-50’s (or earlier) to about 1969. During this period all kinds of “theories” sought to gain hegemony over the spontaneous movements. By the late 1969, the communist movement, guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought, had crystalized and the second period began to emerge.

The second period was and is the period of ideological line as the key link. Objectively, the task of communists in this period has been to use theory to grasp the objective process of revolution in the U.S. and the world today and plan work accordingly. This has meant determining the main contradictions in U.S. society, their particularity, their principal and secondary aspects, the principal contradiction, and the inter-relationship of all these things to themselves and the world-wide revolutionary process. For a long time In our movement the particular struggle of the period was over whether or not party-building was, in fact, the principal task of communists (the RU/CL struggle). Then it was over the particularity of this task (the OL/ WVO struggle). This struggle continues today, but recently the focus has not been so much on the particularity but rather on the principal and secondary aspects (the WVO, CSS/RWL, PRRWO struggle). These are the ideological questions which have produced the trends in our movement up to the present.

Now the struggle will be unfolding primarily within the revolutionary trend around the program, strategy and tactics of socialist revolution which is first of all a question of how is revolution unfolding objectively, the ideological line, and second of all what shall communists do about it, the political line. We are nearing the time when political line will be the key link. We are not yet there. We must continue to see ideological line as primary even as we pay attention to our emerging political line. To do otherwise will outstrip objective conditions. Our task is to liquidate the second period!


[1] PRRWO still has not properly summed up and now puts forward a third bankruptcy–that the two main contradictions in party-building are simultaneous and neither is principal. Again what is reflected is an unscientific approach to party-building, derivative of an imprecise understanding of the concrete ideological and political tasks facing the movement. This leads to a complete muddle on revolutionary practice, as we shall see.

[2] Among the reasons cited by the BWC for opposing the RU’s plan were that the RU party would be “mainly white” and that the BWC and PRRWO needed to strengthen its work among the national movements as a first step in party-building. While also correctly identifying the RU’s petty-bourgeois class base, the BWC failed to see the real problem in the RU’s plan–no guiding ideological line. (See “Criticism of ’National Bulletin #13 and the Right Line in the RU,” BWC, reprinted in Red Papers 6, p. 31).

[3] A la the new OL Call.

[4] Sounds like OL again.

[5] Not to imply that CL knew what it was doing.