First Published: Class Struggle, Nos. 4-5, Spring-Summer 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In this article, Carl Davidson traces the development of The Guardian newspaper’s centrist line on the question of Angola and shows how it merges with the line of revisionism and social-imperialism. Davidson, formerly a leading member of The Guardian Coordinating Committee, broke with The Guardian last year over its centrist position on all major questions. He is now a contributing editor to Class Struggle.
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The recent war in Angola has drawn sharp lines of demarcation in the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism.
The principal target of the debate is revisionism and social-imperialism along with their props such as the centrist editors of the Guardian newspaper. The issue at stake is the content of a revolutionary line on the international situation for the new communist party that will be built this year.
On one side of the struggle are those who have consistently stood for proletarian internationalism, who held firmly to the policy of the united front against the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR.
On the other side were the centrists who claimed to direct their fire at “one principal enemy,” U.S. imperialism, but who wavered, equivocated and conciliated to the other superpower.
It has been a protracted debate. For a while it skirted around the edges of the basic issue. Shades of difference were argued in the evaluation of. the third world’s opposition to hegemonism, particularly of the Soviet variety. Then a dispute cropped up over whether or not it was a good thing for Western Europe to stand up to the Russian social-imperialists, and over the role of the European revisionist parties, especially in Portugal. The battle got sharper when the question of “united action” with revisionism came forward concretely, either with the Russians themselves at the Havana conference on Puerto Rico or with the U.S. revisionists in the celebration of International Women’s Day.
Running through it all has been a persistent theoretical and ideological struggle. The problem for the centrists? How to conceal their view that capitalism had not been restored in the Soviet Union and yet maintain credibility within the Marxist-Leninist movement. This they sought to do by elaborating some verbal construct which would enable them to draw back from the fact that the Russian state was fascist, aggressive, imperialist. The issue for the Marxist-Leninists? To deepen their grasp of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of the consequences of its replacement by the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union. To grasp the law of the uneven development of imperialism, of superpower rivalry for the redivision of the world, of the inevitibility of imperialist war and the growing danger of war and fascism. In short, to better understand Russian social-imperialism so as to be better prepared to actually fight both superpowers, to actually be able to accomplish the task of establishing the proletarian dictatorship in the U.S.
At bottom, then, it is a struggle between practicing Marxism or practicing revisionism on what Lenin termed the touchstone, the dividing line, between Marxists and every variety of opportunist, the question of the state.
The struggle with the Guardian-led centrists assumed new significance in the wake of the massive imperialist aggression carried out by the Soviet Union in Angola.
It was only a matter of time before the Russian Social-imperialists themselves would thrust the question before the centrist camp in the most living way and demand, “Where do you stand? Are you with us or against us? The time for equivocation is over!”
This situation was a consequence of the historic defeat of U.S. imperialism in Indochina. The U.S. imperialists were the arrogant, bloodthirsty, top dogs of the world following World War II. But throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the main trend of world revolution in the world rose up against them, overextended them, drained them and finally crushed them in Indochina.
The wounded beast drew back, still deadly, still vicious, but no longer at the pinnacle of world hegemony. The factor for revolution continued to advance. But here is what the centrists cannot grasp. The only force opposed to the U.S. was not just the revolutionary struggles in the third world. There was also an imperialist rival. Another imperialist power had arrived on the scene and become a superpower. It, too, saw the U.S. stinging with defeat, knocked from its pinnacle. It, too, seized the time and pressed forward. Now was its chance to grab what it could of the spoils, to scavenge from the battlefield, to probe its wounded rival’s lines of defense everywhere, and to focus the bulk and cutting edge of its military power on the richest prize: Europe, the main industrialized countries of the second world, the key, so it dreams, to world hegemony.
Redivision of the world is a violent process that follows inevitably from the decay of every great power throughout modern history, and will continue to do so as long as imperialism persists. A new world war looms on the horizon.
Thus, it is no longer correct to say, simply and without qualification, that revolution is the main trend in the world today. This was true in 1970, but now factors for both war and revolution are on the rise. Not only that, but what is new in the equation? It is the factor for war, world war, war between the superpowers.
This is no cause for pessimism, for spinelessness, for clutching at straws to say it isn’t so or to belittle it. But there is cause for the people of the world to ponder the international situation deeply, to cast away illusions and get prepared for revolutionary struggle.
An important move in learning to look at the world objectively is to “cast away illusions” about Angola. On no other recent question have bourgeois liberals, reformists, centrists and open revisionists concentrated so much effort to bend the anti-imperialist feelings of their audience into acceptance – passive or active – of the other superpower’s intervention.
What has actually happened in Angola over the past two years? Marxism and revisionism have two completely opposed lines on this question.
The revisionists and especially their centrists conciliators on The Guardian claim that Angola is now an independent country, that it has triumphed in the struggle against imperialism and neocolonialism, and that it is now advancing towards socialism.
Marxist-Leninists, on the other hand, hold that Angola’s national independence, the fruit of the defeat of the Portuguese, has been sabotaged. Far from having defeated imperialism, it has been invaded and is presently occupied by an imperialist power and its allies. Far from having triumphed over neocolonialism, it is now the new victim of Russian neocolonialism. It is now a dependent country.
Which view is the truth is absolutely clear. No government can claim to represent the national interests and national unity of its people when it is installed in power by imperialist armed intervention. No country can claim to be fully independent so long as it is occupied by foreign troops. The lessons of Czechoslovakia in 1968 are obvious. And where there is not even national independence, how can there be socialism?
The chain of events in Angola has pressed forward relentlessly. In the wake of Indochina, the factor of revolution advanced in Africa. The U.S. was weakened, with the result that Portugal was weaker still, drained by its bloody colonial wars.
Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola – one after another the colonies stood up. The Portuguese fascist regime fell at home. The 500-year-old empire collapsed throughout Africa. In Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, the revolutionary forces were strong and united. They took power firmly and decisively.
But Angola was the weak link in the chain. For sure the struggle had determined that the old regime could not rule. But the liberation movement was divided among three organizations. While each had fought the Portuguese, had liberated areas and had support among various sections of the population, they had also fought with each other.
This created a most tempting situation tor superpower intervention. In opposition to this specter, the forces of the third world, particularly the Organization of African Unity (with the strong support of China), urgently worked to have the three groups unite in a government of national unity in order to prevent foreign intervention and civil war. During meetings with UNITA, MPLA and FNLA in 1975, the Chinese side, according to the April 9, 1976 Peking Review, stated the following:
The Chinese side repeatedly expressed the hope that the leading members of each liberation organization would solve their differences through peaceful consultation by holding high the banner of independence, unity and progress so that they could achieve their independence at an earliest possible date.
“Angola,” Chinese UN Representative Huang Hua pointed out on March 31, “belongs to the people of Angola, who have the full right to solve their own problems free from outside interference. Anyone who respects the facts and upholds justice can see that this position of ours stems from the basic interests of the struggle of the people of the world against the two hegemonic powers in Angola and their rivalry for hegemony in southern Africa.”
But what were the actions of the superpowers? How did each maneuver to advance their aims?
The U.S. was in a defensive posture. It had backed Portugal and lost. Due to the aftermath of Vietnam at home, it could not sustain so soon another direct intervention, as in the Dominican Republic in 1965. Its most practical option was to attempt to gain influence indirectly, by interfering with a national unity government. Some forces, such as Gulf oil, pursued the tactic of trying to buy influence within the MPLA via the revenues from its Cabinda operation. (Gulf today shares Cabinda profits with MPLA.) Others, also working through the CIA, followed the same tactic toward the other liberation movements. Thus funds from the U.S.–U.S. imperialism’s own version of sham support, real betrayal–went to all three groups while top policymakers wrangled among themselves.
The Soviet social-imperialists were well aware of this U.S. quandary. They took an offensive posture, seeing a golden opportunity to seize the initiative. The first question was: Why contend indirectly with the U.S. for influence within a national unity government? Why not instigate a civil war, intervene directly and secure a dominant position? Besides, it would be a good test, not only of the new tsars’ military capabilities, but of their diplomatic and propaganda strength around the world as well.
How was this to be done? The Jan. 26 Hsinhua daily news bulletin contains an article summing up the two initial Soviet tactics as follows:
First. ’Divide and rule’ by use of the stick and the carrot. This has been a customary practice of all colonialists and neocolonialists as well as the common and elementary trick played by the Soviet social-imperialists against African countries today.. .[After the OAU call for unity, they] shouted at the top of their voices: No! There exists no material prerequisite for forming a government of national unity in Angola. They even did not hesitate to split the whole of Africa in order to obtain their criminal objectives and called all those African states which had expressed support for unity in Angola as the ’products of the influence of the imperialist bloc’ They abused by name the leaders of a number of African countries, who were allegedly ’dependent on foreign capital.’ All those who took exception to the Soviet policy of splitting Africa were called ’imperialist lackeys.’
Second. Gain profit from the slaughter of the black people by offering money and guns and using mercenaries in the van. This is indeed a new tactic in the Soviet social-imperialist history of aggression. In August 1968, the Soviet Union took the lead to force their way into Prague, while now in Angola, it has utilized mercenaries–for the first time in its history.
The money, weapons and troops came in no small amounts over the period of a year. As pointed out in the April 9, 1976 Peking Review:
In January, 1975, about the time of the signing of the Alvor agreement on the independence of Angola [where the three groups had agreed to unite–ed.], over one hundred Soviet military advisors arrived in Angola. Large consignments of arms soon followed them in March of that year.
Just how large was pointed out in the Jan. 26 Hsinhua: “Within a few months it provided one of these organizations with arms to the value of about 500 million U.S. dollars.” This was more than five times the amount deployed by the U.S. At the same time, according to the Jan. 21 Guardian, several hundred Cuban troops arrived in Angola as well.
The stage was now set. “In July, four months later,” reported the April 9 Peking Review, “the Soviet Union single-handedly stirred up a civil war.”
Given the fact of fighting between the groups and the presence of Soviet and Cuban troops, the next question was: How would the other superpower respond?
The U.S. could not intervene directly, so the option was to have its erstwhile ally, apartheid South Africa, which had designs of its own in southern Africa, make the move. In August it sent several hundred troops to occupy the Cunene dam site just inside Angola’s southern border with Namibia.
Meanwhile the Soviet-Cuban forces continued to build. “In September, large groups of Cuban troops were dumped in Caxito, northern Angola,” reported Peking Review. “From Sept. 25 to Oct. 23 last year, Moscow sent five shiploads of weapons and over 2400 mercenaries into the country, and in the week ending Oct. 18, more than 750 Cuban soldiers were transported into Angola.”
All this vastly expanded the civil war, with Russians and Cubans fighting against Angolans.
Taking advantage of the situation, racist South Africa made its move. On Oct. 23 it sent several thousand of its troops deep into Angola territory. China denounced this aggression. “The South African racist regime attempts to obstruct the victorious advance of the national liberation movement in Southern Africa,” noted the Peking Review, “so as to continuously maintain its reactionary rule.”
The Soviet social-imperialists, and the centrist Guardian as well, claim that the Russian and Cuban intervention in Angola did not take place until after South Africa’s invasion and then only to counter the invasion. The April 9 Peking Review exposes this lie:
All these facts can be found in the official records. Moscow, for all its subterfuges, cannot dodge the following questions: Since South Africa intruded into the land of Angola on Oct. 23, who were you fighting previously? Were the South African forces the target of your ’devastating blows’? ... Are the thousands upon thousands of people you killed with your ’powerful gunfire’ South Africans?
Apparently not even the Cubans–brought, commanded and paid for by the USSR–were enough. The Russians also made use of some 6,000 Katangese mercenaries exiled in Angola after the fall of Tshombe in what is now Zaire. These troops had been used to overthrow and murder Patrice Lumumba, and the Portuguese had employed them against all three liberation movements in Angola.
While the Soviet-Cuban force continued to grow, including bombings by Soviet planes and shelling from Soviet ships, the South Africans withdrew their troops into Namibia in March 1976.
So what is the situation now that South Africa is gone? Some 1,000 Russian troops and about 14,000 Cuban troops occupy Angola.
“It has now been stripped of even this filthy mask,” (the pretext of fighting South Africans) said the April 9 Peking Review. “What will it do? To withdraw the troops? But what has been acquired at a cost of several hundred million U.S. dollars cannot be easily given up! To hang on in Angola? But the going will be tough!”
What does this all tell us about what has been and what is the principal contradiction in Angola? When the Portuguese were collapsing it was between the two superpowers, on the one hand, and the Angolan people, on the other. Of the two superpowers, the Marxist-Leninists insisted, against the centrists, that the Russians were more dangerous.
This raised a big hue and cry in some circles but what has history shown? In due time the African peoples will surely draw the correct lesson, even if The Guardian does not. In fact, many former leaders of the MPLA and other revolutionaries and patriots in Angola have recently come forward to denounce Soviet-Cuban occupation of their country.
What is the principal contradiction in Angola now since the ending of the civil war and the South African withdrawal? It is between Soviet social-imperialism and the Angola people. The struggle will surely develop in that direction, taking heed to oppose the U.S. and South Africa as well.
But now The Guardian is boxed in, painted into a corner. As the genuine independence struggle continues to develop in Angola, targetting the Russians and Cubans, The Guardian will have to continue denouncing it as “reactionary.” If Russia and Cuba move again to install in power an.*her faction of another divided liberation movement somewhere in the third world, and there are several potential areas, The Guardian will have to endorse it as “revolutionary.”
The centrists of the Guardian have trapped themselves. They shout loudly about others’ alleged “class collaborationism” and about “neocolonialism.” But now they are collaborating with the Russian ruling class, they are apologists for Soviet neocolonialism! That is precisely why it is essential to oppose, to refuse to collaborate, with both imperialist superpowers.
The Guardian did not fall into its present Angola box all at once. It moved into it gradually over a period of months. The basis of this slide – the “tilt” that would lead inevitably to its present support for Russian neocolonialism – was the fact that the paper’s editors, long before Angola made the headlines, clung to the line that the USSR was not a capitalist country, not really imperialist, and not among the principal enemies of the world’s people.
A study of its editorial positions over the past half year will show a classic example of how those who conciliate to social-imperialism and revisionism tend to become advocates of revisionism and social-imperialism. What is more, it shows how the centrists use “Marxist” phrases to become better defenders of Soviet social-imperialism within our movement than the open revisionists are able to be themselves.
We take as the starting point The Guardian’s issue of Nov. 26, 1975, when the paper first announced its consolidated new position on Angola in a front-page editorial entitled “Support the MPLA.” The end point is the editorial and articles of May 5, where the editors launch a campaign of wide-open attacks on China’s foreign (and general) policy. (See The Call, May 24, 1976,p. 6).
Five interrelated points in The Guardian’s view of the Angolan situation show most clearly its development: (1) the principal contradiction in Angola; (2) the nature of two of the liberation movements in Angola; (3) the nature of the other African countries; (4) the role of the Soviet Union and (5) the role of China.
(1) Regarding the principal contradiction in Angola, The Guardian’s formulations are characterized by a shiftiness and a rubbery quality that stretches a cover of benevolent words over the Soviet intervention.
For example, the principal contradiction is said in November to be “the struggle of the Angolan people for independence, self-determination and social progress versus the forces of Western imperialism” aided by “an assortment of neocolonial maneuvers.”
Note how the vague term ”social progress” appears here. It is a pretty word inserted to cover for the Soviet intervention and instigation of civil war. It says, without saying, that the Soviet social-imperialist role is progressive.
The formulations that follow after November show a similar bias, though the exact words vary. The “friendly” pole of the principal contradiction is described as “Genuine independence for the people of Angola [represented by] MPLA” (Dec. 10); “the forces of progress and national independence led by the MPLA” (Jan. 21); ’The aspirations of the Angolan people for liberation” (Feb. 11); and finally (May 5) simply “the national liberation struggles”–a formulation that completely fuses the Soviet intervention with the Angolan people’s liberation struggles into a single undifferentiated “good.”
On the other pole of the principal contradiction, The Guardian’s formulation that the enemy is “the forces of Western imperialism” aided by “an assortment of neocolonial maneuvers” (Nov. 26) becomes: “the forces of neocolonialism, led by Western imperialism, principally the U.S.” (Dec. 10). Note that the “neocolonial maneuvers” have turned into “neocolonial forces.” This is a formula designed to bracket the other liberation movements-see below. Note also that while “neocolonialism” is stressed, it is never Soviet neocolonialism that is referred to.
These formulations then develop further into “...the forces of reaction and neocolonialism backed by the U.S. ruling class” (Jan. 21). Observe here that “led by” has changed into the broader “backed up;” and that the term “forces of reaction” has entered. This serves as counterfoil to the “forces of progress” on the other side. What it means is that when the USSR brings troops over 10,000 strong to enter a country, conquer most of its land and kill all who resist, this is “progressive,” while all those who resist this invasion are “forces of reaction.”
In the final versions, the enemy is described simply as “U.S. and South African neocolonialism” (Feb. 11) or “U.S and South African imperialism and neocolonialism” (May 5). Observe that the South Africans continue to figure in the formula of the principal contradiction in Angola considerably after their withdrawal from Angola. This is because The Guardian is stuck for a fresh pretext to explain the entrenchment of the Cuban troops. So The Guardian clings to the old formula. The editors have not even the minimal anti-imperialist feelings against Soviet social-imperialism, and the minimal logical consistency, to raise so much as a question about the Soviet-brought troops’ encampment and occupation of the country after the departure of their pretext for coming.
These vague, opportunist formulations of the principal contradiction in Angola implicitly sum up The Guardian’s view that Soviet social-imperialism is a “progressive force” in many parts of the world today, and that those opposing it in these situations should be lumped together in the camp of “reaction.” This view is, of course, precisely the Soviet social-imperialists’ own.
This implicit content becomes even clearer when we examine: (2) The way in which The Guardian refers to the other liberation movements.
Since The Guardian during the preceding two years had carried numerous news reports showing that all three liberation movements fought the Portuguese, it feels compelled to acknowledge, at first, that FNLA and UNITA “undoubtedly share some national aspirations.” (Nov. 26) But it immediately “forgets” these facts and switches to formulas such as ”unparalleled opportunists who have nothing in common with the requirements of the Angolan people,” (Dec. 10) which presumes that The Guardian is a better judge of these “requirements” than the Angolan people themselves. Thereafter these liberation movements are simply labelled “reactionary neocolonialists” (Jan. 21), “U.S.-backed neocolonialist factions” (Feb. 11), and finally “puppet of the CIA” and “little more than a Portuguese puppet organization,” (May 5). How quickly The Guardian rewrites history and adapts its labels to the “requirements” of Soviet imperialist propaganda!
(3) On the character of the other African countries, there is a similar maneuver. It begins when Zaire is attacked as “reactionary” (Nov. 26) and the OAU’s call for a national unity government in Angola is attacked as unrealistic. It proceeds when Nigeria among others is labelled as “progressive.” (Dec. 10) This lays the basis for echoing the Soviet social-imperialist division of Africa into “progressive” and “reactionary” states or camps. When the OAU splits down the middle, posing the gravest threat to African and third world unity, The Guardian (like Tass) calls this a “victory” (Jan. 21). A month later, when the OAU is in the process of changing its policy to recognition of the government in Luanda, nearly all African countries are labeled “progressive” again (Feb. 11). It is evident that for The Guardian these terms have little or no scientific content, but are mainly labels it sticks on or pulls off for their emotional appeal, hoping to get from its readers a knee-jerk response. Those who react as The Guardian intends find themselves turning this way and that with the shifting winds of Soviet policy.
The pinnacle of this kind of thinking comes in the May 5 editorial, which launches vicious attacks on several African countries. “If Botswana, Zaire and Zambia remain firm [as “neocolonialists”], apartheid South Africa has a chance to survive.” This is a racist slander, stating that these governments are not only a factor, but the decisive factor in maintaining fascist rule in South Africa. Taken to its essence, this is a call by The Guardian for the USSR to make war against these states (again in the alleged interest of African “liberation”). The Guardian also slanders these states as “basically hostile” to Mozambique, which is an invitation for the African countries to go to war with each other. This is imperialist gangster logic.
(4) The Guardian’s view of the Soviet role can be easily deduced from the above.
”We do not view social-imperialism as the principal contradiction in Angola today, although superpower contention here and everywhere else is a factor which cannot be discounted,” the paper said Nov. 26. It also mentions that the Russians were “hardly aware” of Angola’s riches or its strategic significance in contention with the U.S. They also “stand to gain in influence” by backing the MPLA.
In the next editorial analysis of the scene, the USSR is not mentioned at all, not even as “a factor” among others. (Dec. 10) Apparently some heavy rethinking is going on, for the next editorial (Jan. 21) shows us the USSR instead in a positive light. It is portrayed as “backing” the MPLA since the 1960’s, and it is said the USSR ”only stepped up its support” after the U.S. gave “vast quantities” of supplies to FNLA and UNITA. The Cuban “volunteers” appear in an editorial for the first time, and it is claimed they entered “only after” South Africa’s invasion. This is contradicted by an article in the same issue that reports Cuba’s own admission that hundreds of its troops entered Angola in the spring of 1975, months before the South Africans. And it does not mention that the amount of Russian “aid” was more than five times the amount deployed by the U.S.
A month later comes the effort to reconcile what was said in November about Soviet social-imperialism and its contention with U.S. imperialism being “a factor which cannot be discounted,” with the image of the selfless helper conjured up in December. The trick is done precisely by “discounting” what “cannot be discounted” earlier. The Guardian’s executive editor Irwin Silber accomplishes this feat in a “Fan the Flames” column. Two examples will show his method:
To see the Soviet Union at this point ’threatening NATO shipping lanes’ or establishing a neocolonial military outpost in West Africa bears little resemblance to anything the Kremlin could realistically hope to achieve.
This is acrobatic language, skipping from the immediate present (“at this point”) to the future (“hope to achieve”); and it uses the assertion that at this very moment the USSR has not achieved these things to slip in the soothing idea that “the Kremlin’s” thinking is “realistic,” that it really doesn’t entertain hopes of that kind, etc.
In another paragraph, those who are not reassured by this pill are offered an additional sophistry:
Is there a danger that under cover of such support the Soviet Union will try to compromise Angolan independence, bring that country more directly into its political orbit? Of course. . . But Soviet ’intentions’ cannot be the measuring stick.. .
Here is the classic evasiveness and elusiveness of the centrist. First he tries to touch base with his revolutionary audience, saying in effect: ”Look, how can you call me a revisionist? I stated publicly that I know what evil goes on in the minds of the Kremlin social-imperialists. I exposed them.” Then he can turn to his audience that is sympathetic to the revisionists, and to the revisionists themselves, and say in effect: “I’m against those dogmatic and mechanical Maoists. Just ignore my rhetoric. Notice that I never said that the USSR actually did anything bad. In fact, I actually said they did something quite good, namely they ’gave support’ to Angolan independence.”
Thus the centrist reduces Soviet social-imperialism to the subjective level–to “motives,” “intentions,” “dangers,” and “hopes”–while denying that these factors have anything to do with objective reality.
The conclusion is that the Soviet and Soviet-sponsored Cuban intervention is openly praised (May 5). We hear hosannas for the “heroic Cuban volunteers and Soviet arms,” which allowed MPLA to ”triumph against imperialism.” Soviet hegemonism is just a subjective “aspiration” and a “secondary danger”–so secondary in fact that there is in Angola no “actual struggle” against it. The “actual struggle against superpower hegemonism” is against “precisely the hegemonism of one superpower–the U.S.” In other words, there is in fact no Soviet hegemonist danger. The Guardian has not only “discounted” this enemy, it has turned it into a “friend.”
(5) The other side of this slippery coin is The Guardian’s policy on China. We should remind ourselves that The Guardian editors never (not even in the 1973 pamphlet on China’s foreign policy) united with the view that the USSR, as a capitalist, imperialist superpower, was one of the two principal enemies of the people of the world. Their “sympathies” for China’s line always came from motives other than basic political agreement. This is the political background for the ease and quickness with which The Guardian’s editorial emotions slid from “sympathy” to slander.
The Guardian “respects, but differs with” China’s position on Angola, it says Nov. 26. It adds, in defense of China, that “certain bourgeois and revisionist slanders against China must be answered.” It refers to two points particularly, declaring correctly that “China is not backing FNLA-UNITA against MPLA,” “nor is China lining up with U.S. imperialism to counter Soviet social-imperialism,” as revisionism had slanderously charged.
There follows an editorial silence on China (Dec. 10), although a Chinese statement of China’s position is reprinted on the editorial page. A month later (Jan. 21), at the same time as the Soviet intervention is labeled a “force for progress,” as the history of two of the liberation movements’ fight against Portugal is rewritten, as the OAU split is celebrated as a “victory,” and as the Soviet danger is discounted away, the editorial page reprints a statement attacking China for the first time by name.
The editorial silence continues through February. But executive editor Silber’s column begins to uncover what was percolating in the editorial mind. In place of “we respect, but differ with,” the line held in common by the Chinese and U.S. Marxist-Leninists is characterized, without explicitly naming its main target, “An indefensible abandonment of the most elementary expression of revolutionary solidarity.. .
Objectively supports the interests and aims of U.S. imperialism in suppressing the national liberation struggles. . .
Class collaboration. . . a betrayal of proletarian internationalism. . . etc.
In other words, the charge of an alliance between U.S. imperialism and China, which in November was rightly termed a slander, is now echoed and repeated approvingly as The Guardian’s editor’s own position. “Respect” for China has turned to respect for revisionist slanders of China.
The other shoe drops in May 5, when The Guardian distorts an interpretation of China’s foreign policy by William Hinton to claim that China has dropped the united front against the two superpowers and that China now is trying to build a united front with U.S. imperialism against the USSR. To leave no doubt of its new sympathies, The Guardian also:
–repeats as its own view the charge that China is “favoring FNLA” against MPLA, a charge that in November it had correctly called a slander.
–repeats as if it were a fact (“an open secret,” according to Guardian staff correspondent Burchett) the slander that China is “making aid to national liberation movements or friendship to certain governments conditional on denunciation of “Soviet social imperialism.” This flings mud at The Guardian’s own position in November that China gave genuine aid to all three Angolan liberation movements without strings attached and without interfering in internal affairs.
–repeats, for good measure, the ancient revisionist slander regarding China’s policy toward Chile, a slander which The Guardian editors themselves in earlier days had branded for what it is, and which now they parade as an idea of their own.
Thus The Guardian editors turned between November to May from portraying China as a friend to portraying it as a reactionary, counterrevolutionary force. The upshot of The Guardian’s slide on Angola has been to turn genuine friends into enemies and to turn genuine enemies into “friends.” Thus centrism, conciliation to revisionism and Soviet social-imperialism, leads to defense and advocacy of these reactionary forces, and to vile attacks on Marxism-Leninism.
What distinguishes The Guardian’s line from the openly revisionist line is that The Guardian, with a few meaningless rhetorical flourishes against the USSR and a few equally meaningless proclamations of its “friendship” for China, buys entry to an anti-imperialist audience to which the open CPUSA revisionists cannot speak directly under their own discredited name. In this way centrism is a better, more effective and more dangerous defender of Soviet social-imperialism within the anti-imperialist movement than the open CPUSA revisionists themselves are able to be.
Regular readers of Class Struggle and The Call will have followed the debate between The Guardian and the Marxist-Leninists. An additional aspect that many readers may not be aware of, however, is the continuation of the dialogue that has been going on meanwhile between The Guardian on the one side and the revisionist CPUSA’s organ, The Daily World, on the other. To get a more complete understanding of The Guardian’s motion, it is useful to fill in this context.
As was pointed out in an article in No. 3 of Class Struggle (“The Guardian’s Man in Havana–An Exposure of Centrism”), the revisionist party published early last November an appeal to The Guardian to “go all the way” with the revisionists, instead of going nine-tenths of the way and getting cold feet at the last moment. The article also showed that The Guardian’s Nov. 26 Angola editorial brought a cheer from the CPUSA, who congratulated The Guardian on this “turnaround.” This was however, only the first round in The Guardian-CPUSA dialogue. We must now look at the second round.
On March 5 and 6, with a follow-up on March 31, the revisionist Daily World published another group of articles on The Guardian’s editorial motion. The timing is not insignificant. This revisionist initiative falls in between The Guardian’s Feb. 11 statements, where The Guardian drops the first shoe in the process of getting into bed with the revisionist slander-campaign against China, and the May 5 statements, where the other shoe falls.
What is the content of these further revisionist approaches to The Guardian editors?
It is, firstly, satisfaction with the steps The Guardian has already taken. Thus the CPUSA’s Erik Bert quotes at length from The Guardian’s Feb. 11 editorial and from Silber’s column, citing with approval all the passages that are echoes of The Daily World’s own line. (March 5)
Mike Zagarell, a CPUSA leader, follows up a day later with a piece lauding The Guardian’s “attempt to disassociate itself from the exposed Maoist clique in Peking.” Patting The Guardian editors on the back, he says this move is “a good thing.” (March 6)
But, continue the revisionists, this is not yet good enough. To begin with, The Guardian’s Feb. 11 attack on China on Angola is not yet open enough. Silber, in Bert’s words, is still merely “reporting blandly” that China’s line is different from the one The Guardian agrees with. The Guardian must not be so “bland” in its attacks, it must come out all the way, openly, sharply. “Have its [The Guardian’s] ’independent’ Maoist views led it to agree with or condemn the counterrevolutionary Maoist position on Angola?” fumes Bert. “The question is simple. The answer should be no less so.” (March 31)
Only in the context of this CPUSA prodding does the full significance of The Guardian’s May 5 declarations become clear. These declarations 39 did not occur in a political vacuum. They were a response to a direct CPUSA demand addressed to the editors. The Guardian editors agreed to the CPUSA’s demand, followed the CPUSA’s bidding and accepted the CPUSA’s “leadership.” That is the essence of The Guardian editors moves of May 5.
Now that The Guardian has opened wide the floodgates to revisionism, its further political devolution is merely a question of time. On a series of related political questions, the revisionists’ March articles correctly pointed out, The Guardian editors have maintained a pregnant silence: What did they think of the 25th Congress of the CPUSSR? What do they think of the confrontation in Europe and of European unity moves? What do they think about the internal political situation in China? Etc., etc.
The Guardian editors’ explicit answers to these and similar questions, when they come, should not surprise Marxist-Leninists. On most of them, The Guardian already has an implicit or semi-explicit position that responds as agreeably to revisionist and Soviet social-imperialist requirements as The Guardian’s development on Angola. Those who conciliate to revisionism on one issue or a few issues–if they do not sharply correct themselves–eventually but inevitably find themselves becoming defenders and advocates of revisionism and Soviet social-imperialism across the board.
Ideologically and politically, The Guardian editors are in the process of consolidating an alliance–in all but a few fig-leaf phrases–with the revisionist party. It will be instructive for all Marxist-Leninists to watch what happens now that The Guardian editors have declared their intention of giving their ideological and political line an organizational form.