Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Renee Blakkan

Road for workers: Debate at Guardian Forum

First Published: The Guardian, July 4, 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

An enthusiastic, full house of 500 people attended the Guardian Forum in New York City June 22 on the topic of “Roads to Building a Workers’ Movement.”

This was the last in the current series of four monthly Guardian Forums held at New York University.

Representatives from four Marxist-Leninist organizations sharply put forth their views on the question of the workers’ movement. They were, in order of appearance, Bob Avakian from the Revolutionary Union, Nan Grogan from the October League (M-L), Gloria Fontanez of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization and Hilda Vazquez Ignatin from the Harpers Ferry and Sojourner Truth organizations. Rod Such, Guardian news editor, moderated.


“The question before us,” Avakian said, “is how to build a revolutionary workers’ movement, not a reformist one. The question is how to move society forward.

“There are three main tasks before us. First, we must develop the workers’ movement into a revolutionary movement. The working class must be the main force. Second; to develop the broad united front and third, to build the new communist party. Through the struggles of the people we must lead the struggle forward, engaging in day-to-day struggles while working for the final aim. “But one task is the central task. The RU says this is to build the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and the workers’ movement as the leading force.”

Avakian criticized the position that the central task today is to build a new party. “We can’t agree with this because this leads to confusion between building the party and building the workers’ movement,” he said. “It leads to sectarianism, saying we have to recruit people out of the movement and into our party. The advanced worker is not one who reads a piece of literature and says ’right on.’ It is one who has the respect of his fellow workers.”

On the question of building intermediate anti-imperialist organizations of workers, Avakian said: “There is a great need for (this kind) of organization of workers that unites active workers with communists. We will tail the workers if we don’t build this kind of organization.”


Grogan opened her speech noting the increased attacks on the workers and the sell-out leadership of the labor aristocracy.

“The labor aristocracy is exposing itself more and more and the rank and file sees this. ... An offensive (by the workers) has already begun. We don’t stand at the side but strive to play a leading role here. We work in the labor movement to develop the political consciousness and organization of the workers. Our goal is revolution and to teach this to the workers. Our strategy is to move the labor movement to the left, basing ourselves on concrete issues.

“First,” said Grogan, “we need to build the united front among the workers and then work with advanced workers to lead the struggle. We must start with issues in particular factories. We must think in terms of the whole working class and not just advanced workers. We must work within the trade unions. To refuse to work in the unions is to abandon the workers to reactionary leadership.

“Our perspective must be. . . to push the unions and the labor movement to the left. We can’t leave them as reform organizations. With correct leadership the trade unions can become an integral part of the revolutionary struggle. The cornerstone of our program is class solidarity to fight against white and male chauvinism. To carry out this work, we must see that the main enemy within the labor movement is the labor aristocracy.”

Grogan concluded her speech saying, “The OL calls for city-wide and industrywide solidarity committees to be the organized left force within the city. This kind of organization would support strikes, fight government policies that repress the workers and help raise the consciousness of the workers.”

Ignatin discussed her recent two months’ work in Texas, building strike-support committees in the Chicano community for the Farah strikers. She directed her main blow against the union’s white supremacy and alleged reluctance to support and lead the strike. “Many people see Farah as a strike for union recognition,” she said. “But the workers want the defeat of white supremacy, something the union won’t fight against.

“Everything the workers want has the seeds of ’workers’ control,’ and the union couldn’t help them to get this.. . . The strikers (that she worked and talked with in Texas) investigated the UAW, Teamsters and the other unions and saw they are the same as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers organization (which the Farah strikers want as their union). The workers saw they need an independent workers’ organization.”

Fontanez discussed the “experiences and errors that PRRWO” had made in the past. She noted PRRWO’s role in the Health Revolutionary Union Movement in New York hospitals a few years ago. “It was a spontaneous, rank-and-file movement,” she said. At one point the HRUM paper had a circulation of 10,000. “But dual-unionism proved bankrupt because it took the most advanced workers from the union. It aided the union bureaucrats to continue to do nothing.” She noted that some of the hospital workers who formerly signed a petition to have HRUM expelled from the union were at the forum that night.


She said communists must work within the unions. “We also need to build anti-imperialist workers’ organizations and to build the leadership of the working class over the united front. The central task of communists is to build the revolutionary unity of the working class and see that the Black nation is leading. We can’t follow the party-building line or the ridiculous ’white-skin privilege’ line.” (The reference to party building was presumably directed at OL, among others.)

In the public discussion period, there was debate on several questions, including how to view trade unions. Avakian charged: “Grogan says the unions should become the organizational form of the united front. This is bankrupt. Trade unions can’t be the revolutionary organization of the workers. Lenin called the unions the lowest common denominator of workers, simple and mostly defensive organizations that unite the workers at the lowest common denominator.”

Fontanez added: “The PRRWO works within trade unions, but it doesn’t believe they can become revolutionary organizations.... We need to build anti-imperialist workers’ organizations and to build the leadership of the working class over the united front.”

Grogan responded: “The OL sees that no revolution can be won without support of the trade unions. Work within the unions and development of the advanced forces here is necessary. We also need to develop the anti-imperialist forces.”

Grogan was then asked: “Is the main task of the OL to build a party or building a revolutionary united front?” She replied, “The OL believes the task facing the communist movement today is to build a communist party.” “Today,” she continued, “the communist forces must struggle to build unity, participate in the mass struggles and work toward building a party. Without this view you would have a leaderless class.”