First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 9, October 1976.
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.
(In the first part of this polemic we began laying out our views on the recent degeneration of the PRRWO. This article concludes our presentation.)
A few observations about PRRWO’s “polemic”. PRRWO and RWL feel compelled to tell us about their “advances”. The communist movement is painfully aware of the current status of that once proud organization, isolated from the movement and the masses, wrecked from the top down, the Puerto Rican Student Union and the February First Movement (Puerto Rican and Black student groups) destroyed everywhere they are even touched by PRRWO-RWL. We point this out because this distorted view of reality also characterizes their entire polemic and we must keep this in mind.
In part I of this article we began laying out our views on line struggle, its importance in the struggle to develop the line; the absolute necessity for communist organizations to allow the clashing of opinions. To stifle such struggle leads to slavishness and bureaucratism.
We also cited the experience of the Chinese and Australian communists on this question. In PALANTE #7, PRRWO quotes from one of our internal documents where we lay out that not all struggles which occur in the course of our work is “two line struggle”. We hold to this. The Australian comrades, in analyzing previous errors on this question, say: “No distinction was made between, on the one hand, differences in the struggle for a correct line, and on the other, outright opposition to any correct line.” (WE STUDY TO PROMOTE REVOLUTION NOT TO BE KNOW-ALLS – Communist Party of Australia, ML).
It was precisely this distinction that we were making in the document quoted by PRRWO. At the time the document was drafted, we discussed the question with the present leadership of PRRWO and they UNITED with us on this question. Today they claim it’s a Menshevik view.
At the time we were vigorously promoting struggle and initiative from cadres throughout the organization, and we wanted no one to feel intimidated, but rather wanted them to feel free to express their views on every important question facing us. This document served that purpose.
Two line struggles have developed in our organization with opposition taking either “left” or right forms. When this has occurred, the leadership has flushed out the chief exponents of the line (who never voluntarily reveal themselves), armed the cadre and brought whole districts or even the entire organization (when required) into the struggle against them. In the absence of repudiation we have purged the leading exponents and have struggled to remold and consolidate any cadres who might have been under their influence.
The very document which PRRWO condemns served to PROMOTE TWO LINE STRUGGLE in ATM during those struggles, which was precisely its purpose. Needless to say, PRRWO’s “Bolshevik” methods of “ruthless struggle and merciless blows” only serve to intimidate cadres into silence or slavishness.
Before proceeding, we must point out that it is common practice for fraternal organizations to share documents dealing with policies or line for criticisms. Such were the documents PRRWO is quoting from. They had MONTHS to criticize them, but did not because they UNITED with much of them. It was not until Trotskyite elements assumed complete control of PRRWO that they felt secure enough to “struggle” (?) against our “Menshevism”.
On page 10 of PALANTE #7 they again quote from one of our documents to “prove” that we belittle theory, “study Menshevism”, etc. This is another interesting and extremely revealing LIE! Comrades will note that the quote starts with “1. We must change our study program to meet the needs of our movement: (a) through....(and).... (c) the fundamentals…”. Why, there must be a “misprint” – we notice letter b is missing.’ Maybe PALANTE ran out of space to print it? So we will print it here:
(b) Collective political education to deal with the practical problems arising from the day to day work. This PE will be conducted by (various organizational levels;)...and should be mainly composed of those comrades actually involved in the problem. Everyone should see the necessity of writing up (briefly) the lessons drawn. We refer comrades to the two Chinese pamphlet, ’Philosophy is No Mystery’, and ’Serving the People with Dialectics’ as a guide.
First of all, we must clarify an important point. Many comrades in our movement are rightly concerned lest we fall into the trap of narrow practicism. At first glance our study program may seem to reflect narrowness. But a little thought will reveal that the day to day problems of the class struggle analyzed from a communist standpoint, usually “turn out” to be the national question, how to raise and fight for the rights of women, how to carry out the exposure of the social’ props (direction of the main blow), how to build an illegal organization (party building), how to train cadres and the advanced (party building), etc.
In other words, as Mao has said the universality of contradiction resides in the particularity of contradiction. “The burning questions of our movement” are just that because they permeate and determine every aspect of the class struggle, and therefore we are bound to “run into them” if we have any practical connection at all with that struggle.
In discussing part b with PRRWO and RWL, we explained that the study program would be centered around it and the main areas of study were laid out to them. We pointed out that the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung were all included in this section. PRRWO knew this and yet left it out of their paper; preferring instead to “boldly” LIE to the communist movement, saying that our rank and file study only our printed documents, leaving the study of the classics to leadership. In a future issue of our paper we will reprint our entire study program.
But for now we would like to mention the areas of study and point out that the readings are from Marx, Engels, Lenin, “Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and other Marxist-Leninists. The program covers Party Building, the National Question, Work in Factories and Trade Unions, the State, Political Economy, the International Situation, the Woman Question, Reforms, the Struggle Against Opportunism, United Front and Mass Work, Organization, and Analysis.
But the methods used are not those of book worshippers. And that was why the study program which we previously had (pedantic to the bone and rightly criticized as such by the old PRRWO), was changed to this one – to answer the practical questions of the revolution.
Party building, for example, is NOT merely a theoretical question anymore and the polemics in the communist movement prove this. It is also a practical question that demands a real grasp of the complexity and all-sidedness of our central task and THIS is what our movement is addressing itself to.
PRRWO-RWL were well aware of the areas of study in section b but decided to substitute Trotskyite methods of distortion and lies for Bolshevism, by purposely leaving this out of their “polemic”.
On page 10 of PALANTE #7 PRRWO-RWL again quotes us out of context. “The initial roots of our errors can be traced back to our Unity Congress, which failed to clearly define the tasks facing us – instead saying that all of our tasks must be put into the context of party building – rather than saying that party building had to be put into the context of solving the questions put in front of the communists by the mass movement.” (ATM internal paper)
PRRWO then deletes the next sentence: “This error was to lead later to more fundamental problems in regard to carrying out our tasks of uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning over the advanced, as well as in our approach to study, the struggle against opportunism, etc.” (ibid.) So ATM was hardly putting forward any “build the mass movement” line as PRRWO would have people believe. Again they act with the honesty of revisionists and Trotskyites.
But lets go back again to our position of “solving the questions put in front of communists by the mass movement.” We referred briefly to the meaning and importance of this above but we would like to explore it a little further. This position can be interpreted either in a mechanical way (which is the only way that PRRWO and RWL can interpret anything), or as Marxist-Leninists.
Mechanically this would mean limiting the struggle to those questions or demands arising SPONTANEOUSLY from the mass movement, i.e. higher wages, bilingual education, jobs, etc. This is how PRRWO-RWL interpret it.
Communists don’t view it this way. The communist movement can be united solely on the basis of line as TESTED IN PRACTICE. Without this revolutionary practice, there is no (real) basis for unity. This calls for giving communist leadership, a planned conscious character to the spontaneous struggles of the masses in the U.S. Today when the building of a new Marxist-Leninist party is our central task, this question of fusing the workers’ and communist movements assumes paramount importance.
The mass movements spontaneously raise demands of the type we enumerated above, our task is to link every manifestation of exploitation and oppression to the struggle for socialist revolution, to take up these demands and lead these struggles towards socialist revolution; to develop the forms of propaganda and agitation and organization necessary to give these struggles a consistently revolutionary direction. Without our ability to learn to do this, (and we must unite on the basis of our ability to do this) – there will be no party.
When we say that “party building had to be put into the context of solving the questions put in front, of communists by the mass movement ... we mean that we must build that party, its program, tactics and organization, by correctly analyzing current historical conditions, testing our views in the actual struggle, training cadres to change those conditions, and building an organization along illegal revolutionary lines so that it is capable of operating under all conditions of struggle.
In REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE #1 we laid out two tactical tasks to party building, and that of the two, “Marxist-Leninists Unite!” and “Win over the Advanced”, the former was necessarily our primary one.
This was a “left” sectarian error on our part. In practice it lead to focusing our work almost exclusively to work with other communists on the basis of struggling for unity on line (in the general sense) without concerning ourselves about the question of common work, i.e. revolutionary practice. Although we were proceeding from an honest desire for the unity of Marxist-Leninists, this “left” position worked against us and our movement.
Like it or not, it inevitably led us (and will lead others) to detach the question of Marxist-Leninist unity from the question of winning over the advanced in mass struggle, of the training of the advanced in an all-sided way, of training ones own cadres for this work.
We have discussed this question with the League for Proletarian Revolution and we see them repeating some of our same mistakes. It seems that much of their cadre training revolves around teaching them to polemicize.
Their cadres are sharp – up on the political line of the different organizations. They are good in polemical struggle. But these same cadres are extremely hard put to sum-up their mass work, and seem little trained for this work. LPR can sum-up a forum the day following its occurrence, but has not been able to thoroughly sum-up their mass work for over 6 months.
Party cadres will never be trained in this way. We think that LPR’s emphasis on this type of training, flows from their line that Marxist-Leninists Unite is the primary task of party building; and that everything must be seen in the context of party building.
We believe that, unchecked, this will lead them to a completely one-sided emphasis on forums, polemics and study at the expense of all-sided cadre training in the course of the economic and political struggle. The narrowness will inevitably show itself in a narrow and subjective development of political line. Our view is that the two tactical tasks must be seen as equally essential to our purpose. They must be carried out simultaneously and interconnectedly.
On page 13 of PALANTE #7, PRRWO again quotes from an internal document on bribery and privileges within the working class. Although this was an early attempt by ATM to deal with this question PRRWO never criticised it until now.
The section they print in PALANTE is still basically correct. PRRWO-RWL seemingly can make no distinction between the question of the bribery of a “few” (social props), the labor aristocracy, and the system of privileges established by US imperialism.
We do NOT hold that there is a broad sector of the proletariat that is bribed. But we maintain that the distinction between oppressed and oppressor nations must not be blurred over.
To do so is to liquidate both the national question and the task of placing before the class the principled basis of unity of all nationalities. The workers of the oppressor nation are not bribed but they do enjoy political and social (as well as often times economic) privileges not accorded to oppressed nationality workers. This can be the right to speak their native tongue, English, whereas in the Southwest Chicanos cannot speak their own Spanish language.
It may take the form of freedom of discriminatory hiring practices, etc. Remember comrades, that only recently, in the last decade, Black Americans were still struggling just to cast a simple vote at the polls. So privilege objectively exists.
This is an inherent characteristic of imperialist oppression. What we must do is show ALL workers their common class interest in destroying any and all systems of privilege. We cannot do this by pretending such a system does not exist, (a fact which every class conscious oppressed nationality worker would find very interesting), but rather by breaking it down by struggling for such things as preferential hiring, preferential promotion, equality of language and training, etc.
The first mistake of PRRWO and RWL is that of belittling the role of political agitation. As we said in part I, Lenin never said that agitation and economism were the same thing. He said that a failure to have communist political content made EITHER propaganda or agitation economist. Lenin never directed the movement to do either propaganda or agitation first, or in stages.
As the comrades from the League for Proletarian Revolution have pointed out (c.f., RESISTENCIA, vol. 7, #6), that is determined by an examination of the concrete conditions, and not by formula. In fact, far from belittling agitation as economist, Lenin devotes all of chapter three of WHAT IS TO BE DONE to the struggle to broaden and deepen its scope, to make it “all-sided”, “all encompassing”.
But PRRWO-RWL, the great defenders of “the fundamentals” would not know this; they study a very narrow spectrum of Marxist-Leninist works, and those divorced from class struggle. Therefore they understand nothing of what they read. Here is what Lenin says:
A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organization of COMPREHENSIVE political exposures. IN NO WAY except by means of such exposures CAN the masses be trained in political consciousness and political activity... In order to become a Social-Democrat, the worker must have a clear picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features of the landlord and the priest, the high state official and the peasant, the student and the vagabond ...he must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain laws and how they are reflected. But this ’clear picture’ cannot be obtained from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment...These comprehensive political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity... .(LCW, VOL. 5, pp.413-414).
It is easy to see the importance Lenin placed on agitation. A “slight” bit of difference, we would say, with the new PRRWO’s view of ONLY propaganda, ONLY to the advanced, etc. And again, Lenin wrote this in a pre-party period, which will undoubtedly earn him the scorn of the “wing”.
We could not go into every aspect of the PRRWO-RWL “polemic” without dedicating this entire issue of our paper to them. They don’t rate it. One of our readers summed up the situation concisely and clearly: “I have seen the recent PRRWO paper on ATM. I believe that the paper and degenerate style of the article exposes PRRWO sufficiently. There are some alleged quotes in the article by ATM that need to be explained though, in their full context.” Our sentiments exactly.
It is only fitting to end this section on PRRWO-RWL with a very fitting quote; it wouldn’t seem right any other way.
Let Trotsky amuse himself by uniting with it in the columns of his ’own’ sheet; let the vyper-odists and Trotskyists play at being ’powers’, ’trends’, and contracting parties. This is simply the childish make believe of people who, by uttering pompous phrases, want to conceal the fact that their ’groups’ are mere bubbles... (LCW, vol. 20, pp.492-493)
As to the reasons for the degeneration of the PRRWO, we laid out some of our ideas on this in our last paper, but we must address an extremely important aspect of the question. Throughout its history, even at its highest level of Marxist-Leninist development the PRRWO had only weak connections with the industrial proletariat. Moreover, the social basis of their organization, as they once explained to us, was of people from families new to the working class – in it for only a generation or two. This meant that while they did have a proletarian origin to much of their membership, less than 10% were in factories – most in professional or semi-professional positions. This, combined with their coming out of a movement of an oppressed nationality provides the fertile social base for “leftism”.
We undoubtedly erred in not struggling this question out with PRRWO, of stressing the absolute strategic importance of rooting ourselves in the industrial proletariat, of ensuring that the social composition of our organization is solidly proletarian. We did not grasp in time the connection between their history, their social composition, their relative lack of theoretical development and the growing development of the “left” trend in their organization.
Their political history was written in the “left” (revolutionary) wing of the Puerto Rican national minority’s heroic struggle. They too were part of the often ultra ’left’, but still revolutionary part of that movement. This, in combination with their social basis of youth, intellectuals, and workers relatively new to the class made for the incomplete assimilation of Marxism-Leninism of certain of its aspects; and in a sense it contributed to the final instability which led to their collapse.
What does the split with PRRWO signify? Is it a good thing as PRRWO maintains today? We must answer NO. Throughout the anti-revisionist communist movement the contributions made by PRRWO and ATM (ML) against revisionism and right opportunism were recognized as valuable to the development of that movement and earned us the bitter hatred of the RCP, the OL and other opportunists.
While the opportunists feared like the plague our growing unity, many comrades around the country were inspired by our example and our leadership. The split in PRRWO, their consequent turn towards trotskyism, their splitting and wrecking activities were bound to have a temporarily demoralizing effect on many good comrades. But the split holds important lessons for us as well, lessons which will help to make our party as strong as steel.
We have learned the bitter and painful lesson of the necessity of the “fight on two fronts” – against “left” and right opportunism. And, we have learned how easily one incorrect tendency can cover another, as the “left” line of the PRRWO got new life, was allowed to revive under the cover of the struggle against the right 1ine.
The October League will gain temporarily from the split. Some honest but confused comrades, strongly desirous of unity will become demoralized by it, and may turn to the OL. We have, unfortunately, contributed to these circumstances by our failure to print our views on the split until months after it occurred.
The OL, for its part, has become much more dangerous. They have formed an unprincipled bloc with groups like the Marxist-Leninist Unity League even though on many fundamental questions – for example, on the nature of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the characterization of advanced worker – they stand at opposite poles.
At the same time the OL “re-shapes” its line on trade union work with a “left” cover, while hiding behind the shallowest of self-criticisms for their old right opportunist trade union position. (At a forum in San Diego, California the chairman of the OL said the change was due to changes in objective conditions.)
But this is only phenomena, the OL stands by their social chauvinist position on the Black National Question – vigorously opposing any secessionist movement in the Black-Belt South. (An interesting picture of the “democratic-centralism” in OL. At the recent forum in San Diego, Michael Klonsky stated that the OL “had seen in practice” the negative effect of the Black bourgeoisie leading the secessionist movement and therefore they continue to oppose secession. A week or so later, at a forum in Los Angeles, S. Miller, a member of the OL central committee tells us that “we have never said” that we oppose secession because the Black bourgeoisie is leading that movement.)
On the Chicano National Question, where the purity of OL’s reformism and opportunism shines clearest, they haven’t changed at all, even though they were practically chased out of the southwest (at public forums) for their chauvinist position. They sneeringly taunted us for “overemphasizing” the land question, a week or so after a hundred armed peasants in Chiliti, New Mexico had forcibly stopped a capitalist development project across their land, the third time they have done this in the last eight months.
On the international situation, the OL continues to support (objectively) the Shah of Iran against the Iranian people.
Comrades, the OL has not changed. Their recent forum tour was very revealing of their attitude towards the movement. Abandoning his old facade of “humility”, the OL chairman, in particular, handled all opposition to the OL line with demogogy rather than principled struggle – labeling all opponents as “agents”, “splitters”, “wreckers”, “opportunists”, etc. By the end of the tour, they had borrowed a page from Gerald Ford and wanted to limit all questions at their forums to written questions, or else a 2 minute speaking limit for question and response.
These spoiled-brat and bogarting antics only succeeded in further isolating “the unity trend.” (from one half to three fourths of the audience at most OL forums was opposed to the OL). OL cadres, wake up!
Comrades, the time has come to stiffen up, to intensify the ideological and political struggle against the OL, to struggle harder for principled unity and to redouble our efforts to link communism with the working class movement.
MARXIST-LENINISTS UNITE AND WIN THE ADVANCED TO COMMUNISM!!!