Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

1,200 at forum on new party

First Published: The Guardian, April 4, 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Some 1200 political activists gathered in New York City March 23 for the Guardian Forum on “What Road to Building a New Communist Party?”

The meeting, moved to Manhattan Center from New York University because of the size of the crowd, culminated weeks of activity by a number of Marxist-Leninist and anti imperialist organizations, whose efforts all contributed to its success.

“We have two purposes in calling this meeting tonight,” said Guardian writer Renee Blakkan, who served as moderator. “The first is to arrive at greater clarity on the question involved–the building of a new party. The second is to arrive at a higher level of unity among the new Marxist-Leninist forces.”

That unity was advanced was evident from the common effort and participation of the organizations represented on the speaker’s platform: Revolutionary Union, Black Workers Congress, October League and the Guardian. Other groups included the Attica Brigade, an anti-imperialist student organization, and the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization.

The first speaker, Irwin Silber of the Guardian, discussed both the objective and subjective factors of the class struggle pointing to the need for a party.

After pointing out the revolutionary potential of the mass struggles of the 1960s, Silber said, “At the same time, one must also be aware of the fundamental political weakness which characterized these struggles–namely, their almost complete reliance on a politics of spontaneity.”


Within the subjective factors, Silber also discussed the “class-collaborationist” role of the Communist party and the opportunism of the Socialist Workers party and other Trotskyist groupings. “With models such as these as an alternative, is it any wonder that spontaneity–rather than politics–was in command?” he asked.

Speaking for the October League was Michael Klonsky, the group’s chairman. Klonsky focused on the attacks by the Communist party on “Maoism” internationally and the Marxist-Leninist organizations in this country.

“Who are the real splitters,” he said, “who are the real anti-Soviets? We’re not the ones responsible for Bringing social-imperialism to power in the Soviet Union, we’re not the ones who refuse to recognize Sihanouk’s government in Cambodia or supported the Indian reactionaries’ aggressive war against Pakistan. ...

“We’re not the ones who took the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat out of the party’s program and outlawed it from the party’s constitution.”

Mike Hamlin spoke next for the Black Workers Congress. “Let’s try to get an idea of what the party will be,” he said, “by first making clear what it is not.”

It would not be a party, he explained, of armchair revolutionaries, it would not be based mainly among students or the lumpen-proletariat, it would not have factions and it would not, as the revisionists urge, “be a party of the whole people.”

The party’s base, he said, must be deep in the proletariat, with the factory unit as its basic form of organization. At the same time, the party would be the most class-conscious sector of the workers, it would practice democratic centralism and combine legal and illegal work.

Hamlin also addressed the question as to why the BWC was a national form of organization with black members only. His group agreed with the aim of a multinational party, he said, but such a party does not yet exist.

Another reason the BWC remained national at this time, he said, was in order “not to give the black petit-bourgeoisie a clear field in the black community,” particularly in their influence among black workers.

Don Wright, a representative of the national central committee of the Revolutionary Union, was the final speaker. He explained that the RU’s view on party-building stemmed from its overall view of the class and national struggles in the U.S. at this time, which saw the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie as fundamental but viewed the principal contradiction as that between the oppressed black nation and the imperialists.

The party must develop in the context of class struggle, he said. Revolutionaries in their mass work must “find and train the advanced workers” and “consolidate and develop the proletarian line” among them.


He opposed what he called the “party-building” line, which put “propaganda work” rather than class struggle as primary. Revolutionaries faced three inter-related tasks in this area: building class consciousness, revolutionary unity and struggle among the workers. The key link in advancing all of these, he argued, was the correct handling of the national question. A vital component of this, Wright said, was that revolutionaries had to support both national and multinational forms of organization at this time.

In the question period that followed, a wide range of issues were raised, but the center of gravity constantly turned to the views of the different groups on the national question in the U.S. There were some minor disruptions by a handful of Trotskyist formations, but these were contained by a well-organized security squad.

Many who attended the meeting believed the question period could have been handled much better if questions had been taken in written form, due to the largeness of the crowd and difficulty in hearing. Tape cassettes of the entire proceedings will be available from the Guardian.

The next forum will be on “The Question of the Black Nation” and will be held April 27 at New York University’s Tishman Auditorium, 7:30 pm. Speakers will be Ted Allen, Harper’s Ferry Organization; Bob Avakian, Revolutionary Union; Wendell Jean-Pierre, Black Workers Congress; and Sherman Miller, October League.