First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In September 1975, the Revolutionary Union declared itself to be the revolutionary Communist Party – “...the political Party of the working class, the vanguard of the working class of the USA...” (Programme and Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA p.l). We want to take a brief look at their claim to be a vanguard and their outlook toward the US revolution.
Within the last decade or so the revolutionary movements in this country have given rise to many organizations which have embraced Marxism-Leninism as their guide to action, which are dedicated to serving the interests of the working people of the US and the world. Many of these organizations grew out of the fight against imperialism – either the labor movement, the movement of the oppressed nationalities, the student or women’s movements, (or often a combination of these movements).
In addition there are many others – collectives and individuals, who are anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists, (in some large cities these latter outnumber the bigger organizations). These groups, collectives and individuals are involved in class struggle. We can also see that the leading Communist organizations are primarily made up of oppressed nationalities coming from the national movements in this country. This is not surprising since the national movements have been the scene of the broadest and most intense struggle against the capitalists – especially since the second World War. We must then ask – why aren’t these organizations as well as all other Marxist-Leninists within the ranks of our “vanguard”? In fact in examining our “vanguard” we find that not only does it lack any significant number of oppressed nationality cadre (multinational?), but that it has no roots within the working class or national movements in this country. One has only to examine the struggle of the working class and nationalities – nowhere do we find our “vanguard” leading these movements in any sense, much less a communist sense. Or can the RCP lay claim to leading the struggle of Blacks in Boston for democratic rights, or of Chicanos in the Southwest, or of Asians in New York against police harassment and brutality, or the Farmworkers in California and Texas, or the auto-workers in Detroit, etc. We see that there are organizations, other than the RCP, which have a history in the working class and national movements and are doing work in them right now. Our “vanguard” has failed to unite Marxist-Leninists, or even a majority of them; and it has no roots in either the labor or national movements. Of course they could not unite with genuine Marxist-Leninists because their line represents opportunism – a line incompatible with Marxism-Leninism. Secondly, they were not seeking principled unity – only organizational hegemony.
There is a word for a group of people who have no ties with the communist, labor or national movements – SECT. The history of the communist movement has witnessed this phenomenon before –the Progressive Labor Party and the Communist Labor Party both degenerated into sects. Essentially, a sect is a small group of people who are isolated from life, who admit of no error and who look down with contempt on those people who are involved in class struggle and with the masses. A sect is not a vanguard, which by its very definition unites “the finest sons and daughters of the working class” and which has strong ties with the masses. The Communist Party which we build must be capable of winning to its ranks ALL honest communists who actively participate in class struggle. It must also represent a fusion of the communist movement with the workers movement – it must have carried out the task, to a large extent, of winning over the advanced workers to communism. Any group attempting to set up a party by ignoring the many groups and individuals who have a history of mass struggle can only end up as an isolated sect. We must build this unity on the basis of a common view of concrete conditions in the world and the US, and how, in the main, we are going to change those conditions to make revolution. In other words, we must unite firmly around political line, a line which must, of course, be tested in the storm of class battles. We must put the whole above the part – sacrificing the interest of our groups for the interests of our developing Party. However, we must unite on the basis of principle (principles cannot be reconciled, as Stalin pointed out), on political line, and not on the basis of “pressuring” people to join us, or by writing everyone else out of the Marxist-Leninist camp (as “neo-Trotskyites”). The larger communist groups, in particular, must avoid sectarian errors – failing to conduct relations with other communists on the basis of principle, equality and mutual respect; must avoid bogarting in united front work rather than striving for political unity; failing to do principled criticism or self-criticism, etc. We must be clear however that right opportunism is still the main danger in the communist movement –because it is this line which, represents the greatest long-term threat to socialist revolution. In particular must we combat the line of “combining” opportunism and Marxism-Leninism into one Party – a party of Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
Comrades, the main contradiction in the world today is the national question. It is the oppressed nations and peoples of the world in struggle against US imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism which is moving forward the entire struggle against worldwide reaction. Whether it be in South Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle east, or the UN – the Third World is every single day weakening the strength of the two superpowers. In our own country the struggle of the Afro-American: people (who constitute an oppressed-nation in the Black Belt South) has been in the forefront of all the struggles against the US ruling class. As comrade Mao has said, the struggle of Afro-Americans is “a storm such as has never taken place before (our emphasis) in the history of that country.” In addition we have seen the thousands of Chicanos who took to the streets against their oppressors, the Indians of Wounded Knee or who occupied the factory in Shiprock, New Mexico, the Asians and Puerto Ricans of New York. The oppressed nationalities have been in the most militant and direct confrontation with the imperialist state. These facts are the particularity of the class struggle in the US – the struggle of the US multinational working class against the capitalist class.
Like their opportunist forefathers of the Communist Party USA and the Progressive Labor Party, the RCP has crashed onto the rocks of chauvinism. It was their failure to understand the significance of the national question, their liquidation of it, which put the CPUSA and the PLP on the side of the imperialists and killed them as revolutionary organizations. In their programme the RCP talks about imperialism (“Imperialism is Capitalism on its Deathbed”, p.9). Not once do they mention that the political essence of imperialism is the domination and exploitation of nations and peoples, not once do they mention that the main contradiction in the world is the National Question. When they talk about the “present situation” they fail to mention even once that Black people in the Black Belt South are an oppressed nation – part of the principal contradiction in the world. When they do talk about Blacks being a nation “with the right to self-determination” it turns out that to exercise this “right” northern Blacks HAVE TO MOVE BACK TO THE BLACK BELT!!! Comrades, we will have no class unity and no revolution without a correct stand on the national question. A correct stand is a stand based on the EQUALITY of peoples – real equality based upon the right of oppressed nations to determine their own political future. If we say that northern Blacks (who were driven out of their homeland by imperialism) have to go back to be equal is this not chauvinism? Our stand must be clear and unequivocal – Afro-Americans have paid in blood for their right to equality, they have suffered and fought as have no other people in the US – they have the right to determine the fate of their nation-the right to self-determination.
The distorted, revisionist view of imperialism leads our “vanguard” to complete unity with the CPUSA on the question of the labor aristocracy – those bribed agents of the capitalists who poison our ranks – particularly with the ideology of national chauvinism. Both being chauvinist parties, they conclude that it is only the leaders of the international unions who are part of the labor aristocracy. The Albanian comrades have exposed that in the US there is one paid trade union official for every 300 trade union members – this in an article entitled “Reformist and Revisionist Trade Unions in the Service of the Bourgeoisie”. When the significance of the national question is beyond the scope of one’s vision, one tends to ignore the question of chauvinism and the social props who carry this ideology into our ranks.
A last point on our “vanguard” chauvinism. They talk about “Life Under Socialism”, and state, “... the working class will take up the ending of all inequalities between nationalities as a crucial part of building socialism.” (ibid p.35) Comrades, you will not find ONE WORD in their view of nations based upon the right to self-determination – the key to solving the national question. Equality is not merely paying “special attention to overcoming depressed conditions.” (ibid, p.35) Equality means equal nations who have the right to political control of themselves. A slave and his master are not equal if the master decides to feed and cloth his slave.
Comrades, we still lack a real Communist Party. It is still our task to unite Marxist-Leninist in this country and to win over the advanced workers and intellectuals to the side of communism. We must be non-sectarian in our approach, and principled at all times. In particular we must work together in solving the national question in the U.S. – the key question of our revolution. Especially those organizations who are relatively more developed –theoretically, politically and in terms of their history in struggle – provide leadership in the effort to unite on the basis of political and ideological line.