Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

History of the Communist Labor Party – USNA, Detroit Section

Issued: n.d. [1974].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This history is written at the time of the birth of a multinational Marxist-Leninist Party of a New Type in the USNA and in the Detroit area. The Detroit Section of the party comes out of a rich history of struggle, trial and error. We must consciously seek to understand our history for, as the former CL comrades put it:

Nothing can step clean from its environment? like Minerva from the thigh of Zeus. Marxism shows us how, in the development of thought, the negative is negated, it is not abolished. Thus it is impossible for anything to develop without bringing with it the legacy of its birth. (Dialectics of the Development of the CL, p. 12)

The basis of the Detroit section of the party is three former organizations–the Communist League, the Capital Collective and the Motor City Labor League. At this time, former cadre of these three organizations make up the overwhelming majority of party cadre in the Detroit area. The process of party building in Detroit has not been a process of organizational merger, alliance and coalition. Instead, the process has been one of struggle, demarcation of differences, resolution and unity.

On what basis have these organizations united? We can only be united on the basis of the interests of the whole working class, that is, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, which is hostile to any struggle for personal interests or opinions. Marxism-Leninism is the theory of scientific socialism, that is, it is based in objective reality as opposed to a subjective fight for individual ends. (Call for a Conference of North American Marxist-Leninists issued by the Preparatory Committee for the Conference, November 19, 1972.)

Thus, we must study the objective basis of our struggle and our unity. We must understand the conditions which laid the basis for three separate organizations and the conditions which brought those organizations together. Only through a scientific analysis of our history will we be able to combat and defeat factionalism within the Detroit section of the party. We know that the past practice, history and grounding in the class of all three former organizations is a strength brought to the party. But we also know that that same practice, history and grounding could be the basis for fractions – “pride” of one’s own particular organizational past, criticisms of another’s organizational past, competitive feelings and other remnants of small group mentality. We must be able to recognize and correctly analyze any such tendencies when they occur. We must understand the objective class basis for factional errors and utilise correct methods of criticism-self-criticism to correct them.

All class-conscious workers must clearly realize that factionalism of any kind is harmful and impermissible, for no matter how members of individual groups may desire to safeguard Party unity, factionalism in practise inevitably leads to the weakening of teamwork and to intensified and repeated attempts by the enemies of the governing Party, who havve wormed their way into it, to widen the cleavage and to use it for counterrevolutionary purposes. (Preliminary Draft Resolution of the Tenth Congress of the RCP on Party Unity. Selected Works, III, p. 575)

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Capital Collective and the Motor City Labor League all have their roots in the mass spontaneous upsurge of the late fifties and sixties that swept the USNA. The civil rights movement, the student movement, the women’s movement, the anti-war movement and the movement in the factories in this period represented massive working class discontent that lacked Marxist-Leninist leadership. Instead, the motion of the class was subverted by the revisionism of the CPUSA, the Trotskyites or liberal bourgeois reformists (McCarthy, McGovern). At the same time, there were honest and principled elements that rejected the manipulation, sell-out reformism and co-optation which these “Old Left” and Liberal forces represented. But these “New Left” circles had no alternative theory or strategy. They were, in Lenin’s terms, amateur, primitive and backwards.

But it is precisely at the present time, when the wave of spontaneous indignation, as it were, sweeps over us, leaders and organisers of the movement, that a most irreconcilable struggle must be waged against all defense of backwardness, against any legitimization of narrowness in this matter, and it is particularly necessary to rouse in all who take part in practical work, in all who are preparing to take up their work, discontent with amateurishness that prevails among us and an unshakable determination to get rid of it. (Lenin, What is To Be Done? Peking, p. 123)

Our histories, then, all hold a common thread – the search for the theory, the science of the working class movement. Without that, all the former organizations engaged, at different times and in different ways, in the errors of national chauvinism or bourgeois nationalism, spontaneity, syndicalism, and economism.

Section A.

The CL organization in this area traces its history directly to that of the old LRBW. So, therefore, we shall start with the history of the LRBW. This history goes back to 1958. It has two parts, the period between 1958 and 1971, and from 1971 to the present.


The LRBW got its start with the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM). DRUM developed out of a strike at the Hamtramek Assembly Plant in 1958. It was during this strike that the core of workers who were to form DRUM met. During the course of the meeting, it was decided that the method of organizing would be the systematic distribution of a factory leaflet exposing the conditions under which the Negro workers were forced to labor. Needless to say that at this point (1958) the Negro peoples’ movement had gone through many radical changes, from the ’peaceful” non-violent movement of the 50’s and early 60’s to open rebellion in the late 50’s. It was during this period that the revisionist petty bourgeois ideology of syndicalism gained hegemony over the Negro peoples’ movement.

What is the perceptual knowledge of the new breed of syndicalists? They see men oppressing women, whites oppressing blacks, bosses oppressing workers, and it – is from these observations that the entire political program of syndicalism is constructed. And what is that program? Women will overthrow men, blacks will overthrow whites, workers will overthrow bosses, students will overthrow the administration, and so forth.” (Peoples Tribune, Nov.-Dec. 1971)

And so it was with the LRBW. Having embraced the syndicalist ideology, it began to build its whole program around it.

Hence, we can see that the program of the LRBW was a contradiction from beginning to end. On the one hand we had Negro national minority workers calling for separate organizations of workers (or black worker’s power) and on the other hand the Negro petty bourgeois calling for unity with Anglo-American revolutionaries, not from the position of Marxism-Leninism, but because they represented “resources” that we needed.

It was in this struggle for “resources” that the seeds of the split in the LRBW were laid. In its struggle for ”resources” in order to make revolution” the base of the LRBW was constantly being abandoned. All the workers were being drawn into this struggle for “resources.”

It was here that the LRBW began to take a leading role in the organization of Anglo-Americans into separate organizations. Thus the formation of DOC, LDC, CCC, the Alliance, etc. We can see here that the revisionist ideology of the CPUSA was in full swing in the LRBW and the left in general.

It was about this time that the LRBW embarked on its “expansion” program under the guise of the Black Manifesto and the Black Workers Congress. The Manifesto itself laid the basis for the recruitment of many of the “cadre” of the old SNCC organization. This in turn laid the basis for the building of the Black Workers Congress, whose basis was to be the student movement and the “reputation” of the LRBW.

At last the basis for a full blown split in the LRBW was laid. The attempt of the petty bourgeois syndicalists to force the workers to follow the lead of the petty bourgeois students brought the contradictions in the LRBW to a head. The workers in the LRBW questioned every aspect of the LRBW. And also began the process for the resolution of the contradiction in the LRBW.

How were these contradictions resolved? ”The contradiction of any process is resolved not by some external force, as think the mechanists, but by the development of the contradiction itself. This is true also in regard to antagonistic contradiction. But in the course of development of an antagonistic contradiction at its different stages only the premise for its resolution are prepared and ripened. The contradiction itself at every new stage becomes ever more intensified. An antagonistic contradiction does not pass beyond the stages of its partial resolution.” (Mutual Penetration of Opposites, A Textbook of Marxist Philosophy, p.174).

That partial resolution of the contradiction within the LRBW took place with the split between the LRBW and the BWC in June of 1971.

We can see that the antagonistic contradiction that existed in the LRBW could only be resolved in the manner that all antagonistic contradictions were resolved – i.e., “Antagonistic contradictions are resolved by the kind of leap in which the internal opposites emerge as relatively independent opposites, external to each other, by a leap that leads to the abolition of the formerly dominant opposite and to the establishment of a new contradiction. In this contradiction the subordinated opposite of the previous contradiction now becomes the dominant opposite, preserving a number of its peculiarities and determining by itself the form of the new contradiction especially at the first stages of its development.” (Ibid. P. 174)

Hence the history of the LRBW, the antagonistic contradiction being resolved by the leap (the Communist League). The formerly dominant position of the CPUSA, becoming the subordinated position to Marxism-Leninism. The internal opposites becoming external to each other.


The June split left the workers in the LRBW somewhat confused and somewhat determined to carry the struggle to the workers on to the best of their ability. From June to October, 1971, the struggle within the LRBW was to educate itself to the best of its ability; needless to say we failed in this effort. It was only with the coming of a cadre from the Communist League that any real effort to study Marxism-Leninism was made.

The struggle between October 1971 and February 1972, when the LRBW joined the CL was, to say the least, a very sharp one. But nevertheless the positives outweighed the negatives. The positives were that the LRBW finally shut the door on syndicalism and took up the banner of proletarian internationalism.

It was with the banner of proletarian internationalism that the forces that once constituted the LRBW re-entered the struggle of the working class in the USNA, and it was here that seeds for the reuniting of all the honest forces in the Detroit area, that were once split and divided by the revisionist ideology of syndicalism were laid.

The comrades in the CL. began immediately to put their understanding of M-L into practice. The comrades in the JARUM fraction began to work with old forces out of DOC who had emerged into the Capital Collective. After the strike at the Detroit Forge Plant the comrades there began to work with the comrades who once constituted the LDC, CCC, PAR, who had now become the Motor City Labor League.

Section B.

The Motor City Labor League grew out of the Motor City Coalition which originally included the Detroit Organizing Committee (DOC). The principle political motion that brought the coalition together was the leadership being exercised by the Negro national minority factory workers at that time through the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW). The Motor City Coalition, and later the Motor City Labor League accepted the formulation that “whites should organize whites” and saw itself in primarily a ’support’ role of the LRBW struggles. Thus, it was at the initiative of the LRBW that the Alliance was first organized as a progressive organization for Anglo-Americans in the technical and white collar sectors of the working class.

At the time of the dissolution of the LRBW, the MCLL continued to function, bound together by what was then an ambiguous notion of “democratic centralism” and a continuing practice of militant activity. The contradictions which had surfaced in the LRBW did not by-pass the MCLL and in the early fall of 1972 the MCLL experienced its first split when the opportunist social democratic elements in the organization, which had been aligned with the opportunist elements in the LRBW, left the MCLL after the political defeat of their line. After the split, the MCLL moved away from electoral politics, away from an emphasis on the lumpen proletariat and increasingly toward the working class. Without the science, however, the motion zig-zagged between militant economist struggles (Jordan Sims’ campaign at Local 961-UAW), anarcho-syndicalism (the organization of “Common Sense”), concentration on organizing in the more bribed sectors of the working class (the Alliance, the People’s Peace Treaty) and superficial “educationals” that were empiricist and dogmatic and were often anti-Stalinist and influenced by Trotskyism. Factions within the organization flourished – for without the science as a guide, power rested with those who held the most information, could rally the most loyal supporters or who had the “best connections.”

Despite these contradictions, revolutionary commitment to the working class struggle remained a general principle of the organization and the practice of the organization led to the development of a substantial base, primarily in the service and technical sectors of the working class. The range and extent of the work done by MCLL cadre was significant and provided an important base of experience and history of principled struggle. In this period, the cadre of MCLL were leadership in the Welfare Employees’ Union; Metropolitan Hospital; Medical Aid to Indochina; People’s Peace Treaty and Indochina Peace Campaign; church work and a Marxist-Religious Dialogue; the Three for Three Food Cooperative; struggles at Local 961-UAW, the AFT and MEA, the National Lawyer’s Guild, Detroit Area Research Group, the Journey newspaper and bookstore, the Alliance, Coffeebreak, Latin American anti-imperialism; the Briggs Plant closing; and Control, Conflict and Change. Cadre began to move into a “concentration area” – the State Fair area. In all of this activity, MCLL cadre struggled against the CPUSA and the Trotskyites, understanding the bankruptcy of their revisionist theory.

The strikes at Jefferson and Forge occurred in late summer ’73 and MCLL cadre encountered the developed Marxist-Leninist leadership of the Communist League. Many CL comrades were individuals that MCLL cadre knew from the late sixties and early seventies. It was obvious that enormous changes had occurred in these former LRBW members – changes that could only be explained by unity with the science. During that summer MCLL had organized a coalition which sponsored a Labor Day celebration – again an attempt to move to working class organizing. Labor Day was a qualitative step forward, as for the first time MCLL seriously listened to the political line of a Marxist-Leninist organization and began to integrate that line into MCLL activity.

Contact with that line precipitated intense internal struggle within the MCLL. Some cadre united quickly with the necessity of the science and the party-building line. Other cadre, wary of “leftist sects” after years of experience in the “New Left” approached the CL line cautiously. And some cadre quickly understood that the line threatened their revisionist tendencies, and struggled against it. The internal struggle began in the Central Committee following Labor Day and by Christmas had reached throughout the entire organization. But lacking a clear and correctly organized education program (although one was attempted) it was difficult to understand and clarify the emerging tendencies. Thus, in late January the MCLL began a difficult and agonizing “convention” process that would last over a period of two months. Cadre studied, wrote papers, and developed positions that eventually led to the emergence of two clear political lines. For a period leadership in the ”center” attempted to heal the approaching split in the organization, not understanding that there can only be two ideologies. As the convention proceeded the revisionism of what was to become the minority position became obvious, and the center united with the line of Marxism-Leninism.

Following the convention, and the split of about one-fourth of the former organization, the MCLL began an intense internal study program, benefitting greatly from the CL experiences in study. MCLL sent representatives to the Continuations Committee, locally and then nationally. Given the long and principled practice of MCLL cadre in the working class movement, the grasping of the science was an exhilarating experience – for here was the theory to guide and direct what had seemed to be an unending and fragmented task! As cadre began to understand the power of the political line, the impact of the line on organization, and the real nature of democratic centralism, it was possible for the first time to exercise proletarian discipline within the organization and achieve unity of will.

Section C.

The Capital Collective was an outgrowth of the Detroit Organizing Committee (D.O.C.). Never having a systematic and disciplined educational program, D.O.C. formulated no clear political line, relied upon spontaneous practice and organized along national lines, i.e., “whites in white organizations, blacks in black organizations, etc.” Most of us had declared ourselves communist on the simple basis that we were struggling against imperialism and putting all our faith in the proletariat. Those of us from the working class had defined ourselves as different or more revolutionary than the petty bourgeois elements that had infiltrated the working class movement, because we ourselves came from the working class. Those of us from petty bourgeois backgrounds declared that we were more revolutionary because we concretely merged with the working class and therefore were more revolutionary than other petty bourgeois radicals. This unbridled chauvinism led us down the path of economism and reformism, outright revisionism.

After realizing the imperative need for firm grounding in the science of Marxism-Leninism, ex-members of D.O.C. who were honest Marxist-Leninist and other individuals who had related to D.O.C. formed an educational collective. The group was democratically organized in the summer of 1972. Its first task was to study the three volumes of Capital.

The Capital Collective was a study circle and as such a primitive organization. Lenin had this to say about study circles using a student circle as an example:

A student circle establishes contacts with workers and sets to work without any connection with the old members of the movement, without any connection with study circles in other districts, or even in other parts of the same city (or even in other educational institutions) without any organization of the various divisions of revolutionary work, without any systematic plan of activity covering any length of time. (Lenin, What Is To Be Done?)

The Capital Collective went even further, in fact, by stating that it existed solely for the study of Capital and that any practical work the comrades were doing was on their own and not the business or responsibility of the circle. This remained the basic flaw of the Capital Collective, the separation of theory and practice, until the Conference of North American Marxist-Leninists in May of 1973. After participating in the Conference, this contradiction within the collective became antagonistic and manifested itself in various situations. The Capital Collective comrades finally realized that this contradiction involved a fundamental hostility towards the science of Marxism-Leninism and a purge finally took place over the principle of Marxism-Leninism.

During this period after the May Conference the collective participated in establishing the local continuations committee and had a member on the National Continuations Committee. The collective terminated its study of Capital in preparation for the upcoming Congress and the formation of a Multi-National Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.


Comrades, in conclusion, we can only look at this motion, the motion that has divided us and at the same time once again united us; as Comrade Stalin so correctly explained:

The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development should be understood not as a movement in a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred, but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development from simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher. (Dialectical and Historical Materialism, p. 9.)

Comrades, we have all moved from that old qualitative to a new qualitative state (the Party). In order to continue this forward motion we must enrich our understanding of Marxism-Leninism and learn as Marx said in his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, “Everything in the world is in motion...Life changes, productive forces grow, old relations collapse.”