Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Carl Davidson

Which Side Are You On? [On the BWC Polemic Against CL]

First Published: The Guardian, September 4, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Black Workers Congress (BWC) has recently published a polemic addressed to many important questions in the current ideological struggle in the communist movement.

The polemic, actually a 121-page booklet, names its target straightforwardly in its title – “The Struggle Against Revisionism and Opportunism: Against the Communist League and the Revolutionary Union.”

In the booklet’s introduction the BWC also announces that in the last six months it has become a multinational organization and promises, in the next six to eight weeks, to publish “a revolutionary communist newspaper, and will at that time unfold to the whole movement the many changes that have occurred within its ranks.”

The great bulk of the booklet is an exposure of the reactionary line of the Communist League (CL) and was developed during BWC’s brief participation in CL’s “Continuations Committee” which was supposedly aimed at building a new communist party. At various points in the polemic, however, BWC tries to show how CL’s views and methods often coincide with those of the RU.

Topics covered by the BWC include CL’s “dialectical method,” the international situation, Soviet social-imperialism, the Afro-American national question and the dictatorship of the proletariat.


The best section of the booklet is BWC’s discussion of the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. Basing itself on several theoretical articles published by the Chinese Communist party and the Albanian Party of Labor, plus some original investigation of its own, the BWC has made an excellent contribution to the clarification of political line on this question for the U.S. communist movement.

Putting into practice the Marxist principle that the correct line develops in struggle against the erroneous line, BWC takes aim at CL’s “conciliationist” views on Soviet social-imperialism: that capitalism is “being restored” in the Soviet Union but hasn’t quite made it yet, that the social-imperialists seized power in the Soviet Union mainly through an armed coup rather than through a relatively peaceful counter-revolution, and that the clique in power in the Soviet Union pursues reactionary “policies” but that the country is still primarily socialist in its economic base.

The importance of BWC’s taking up these positions and delivering a powerful blow against them lies in the fact that they are not the views of CL alone but are held by a large number of honest revolutionaries in the communist and anti-imperialist movements, many of whom may have never heard of CL or its antics, but who are nonetheless influenced by Trotskyist and revisionist views of the Soviet Union.

BWC also takes on CL’s view of the dictatorship of the proletariat and reprints a CL “Party School Report” on the question. The most glaring self-exposure on CL’s part is in the following quote from the document:


There is some confusion amongst certain elements of the left concerning the relationship of the dictatorship of the proletariat to the revolution as a whole; many of the more infantile elements project that the revolution is for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Nothing could be further from the truth and it is certain that for the communists dictatorship of the proletariat is their strategy but for the vast majority of the toiling strata the revolutionary upsurge is the result of some particular demand, such as land, bread, peace, national liberation, democratic rights, etc.

This flies in the face of history and everything Marxism-Leninism has stood for and fought to attain. As BWC puts it, “CL drives a wedge between the Communist party’s policy and political line and the mass line for ’the vast majority of the toiling strata’ who must, in addition to the proletariat and its vanguard, consciously support the seizure of power by the working class.”

One can only wonder what CL must think of the Bolsheviks. It is true that the Russian masses were galvanized around the slogan “Bread, Peace and Land” in the February revolution. It is also true that the slogan, “All Power to the Soviets,” originally united only the vanguard. But what happened between February and October? The “more infantile elements” under the leadership of Lenin won the majority of the masses to embrace the slogan “All Power to the Soviets” as their own.

There are other sections of the booklet that nail CL (and RU) effectively, particularly the exposure of CL’s “dialectics” as warmed-over Hegelianism and CL’s attack on the Communist International’s line of the Black national question.

But there are a number of other questions that are not taken up or gone into thoroughly. Both CL and RU, for instance, have a good deal of unity in their opposition to the Black united front, in putting forward the “united front from below” line and what amounts to, in practice, a dual unionist line on the trade unions.

BWC puts great stock, as it should, in the views of the Comintern on the Afro-American question. Yet during the same period the Comintern spelled out the tasks of communists on the trade unions as follows:

The communist party must secure predominant influence in the broad mass proletarian organizations. . . . It is particularly important for the purpose of winning over the majority of the proletariat, to capture the trade unions ... To work in reactionary trade unions and skillfully to capture them, to win the confidence of the broad masses of the industrially organized workers, to relieve and remove from their posts the reformist leaders, represent important tasks in the preparatory period.(Emphasis added.)

On this particular position BWC still maintains a “united front” with CL and RU, opposing the view of winning the unions for the left and, step by step, winning the leadership of communists within them. It leads BWC to characterize RU’s deviations from Marxism as “right opportunism,” when, like CL, RU still maintains a “left” cover.

The problem is that BWC has not yet thoroughly shed this “leftism” itself. It has made a good beginning. Now it must be deepened.