First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 7, July 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The problems posed by economic or political crisis, particularly in times when the bourgeoisie is preparing for war, brings out the best and the worst in the communist movement. Trotskyism as the outlook of unstable elements swept into a revolutionary movement almost inevitably rears its head as a revolutionary struggle intensifies. One of the tasks facing communists has been and continues to be unmasking this opportunism; learning how its forms will vary depending on the concrete historical conditions in which it arises, for it is these very conditions that will determine its “national specific” form.
No one can seriously contend that the ’leap’ of PRRWO and RWL to the left represents a complete consolidation around Trotskyism, but nonetheless, aspects of their ’new’ line clearly represent a form of Trotskyism, a ’nationally specific’ form, and their direction points towards a complete embracing of the essence of Trotskyism. This polemic will center on this point and on various other aspects of their line.
Communists throughout the country have over these last few months noted that in reading Revolutionary Cause and Palante, two fundamentally different lines were being presented. The first question comrades will ask will be, “what happened to that ’growing unity’?” First of all, the PRRWO we will be polemicizing with and the ’old’ PRRWO we had “growing unity” with are two distinct organizations, and that should be kept In mind throughout this polemic. We will return to this question shortly. The RWL, an organization which developed over the past two years has proven incapable or unwilling to develop its line as an independent organization, standing on its own two feet. From tailing the OL, they went to tailing WVO, and now PRRWO. Find whose hand it is holding and you can determine its new line. For that reason, they will not be the focus of our polemics. The RWL’s leadership has been adept at reading the Marxist classics. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Divorced from revolutionary practice (with some exceptions) with no ties to the masses (now its one of their principles) they inevitably have and will continue to flounder incapable of determining any direction for their own organization, much less the communist or working class movements.
The PRRWO’s origins can be traced back to the volatile decade of the 1960’s which found all social forces in notion. In particular, its origins are found in the spontaneous upsurges of the Puerto Rican national minority, especially its working class. The Y.L.P. and HRUM of those days dedicated every minute of their lives to agitating and mobilizing the masses, leading them in struggle, taking them ’beyond the bounds of bourgeois legality’, and giving them a revolutionary education on the basis of their experiences. Yes, they were nationalists – eclectic, at times adventurist – but they were revolutionaries. They represented the finest elements the masses produce – those slaves who rebel against their masters, who show contempt for law and contempt for death, who harbor a most bitter hatred for the ruling class, who have an unswerving faith and love for the oppressed masses, rely on them and lead them into revolutionary battles. Yet today when we point this history out to PRRWO, they claim ATM is appealing to their ”backward national sentiments.” No way. For there are no national sentiments left in PRRWO. Ne recognize national nihilists when we see them, such as their chauvinist cousins in WVO who slap the entire movement of the Puerto Rican national minority in the face, by referring to this history and Y.L.P.s role of leadership as the actions of ’shock troops’. (WVO Journal #4, p.11) Of course we mustn’t forget that when the masses were in the streets fighting the state’s forces, one of WVO’s leaders was in PLP condemning them for “bourgeois nationalism”. He has since left the PLP, but has layed its baggage “on the threshold of the party” to quote Trotsky. Let him deny it in print.
Through struggle the Y.L.P. became ’national in form’ communist organization, later repudiating the ’national in form’ line. They united with the R.U. on the NLC later breaking with them on the question of party building and the national question. They immediately drew lessons from this and opened polemics with the R.U. Through this struggle, the ’lefts’ gained hegemony within PRRWO and pushed for joining the NCC. This left line was struggled against but not completely rooted out. After breaking with the NCC (and CLP), the ’lefts’ began pushing the ’merger’ line again, this time for an ATM-BWC-PRRWO ’merger’, not on the basis of line but on the basis of necessity for a “bigger democratic centralist organization”. This line was struggled against by ATM, who laid out what it saw as the basis for unity. Inside BWC, the ’lefts’ degenerated the struggle and led the organization into a four way split. Inside PRRWO, the ’lefts’ were finally defeated in early 1975, but the organization was never consolidated. The struggle against the right opportunists in PRRWO sidetracked them from consolidating against the main danger inside PRRWO – the ’left’ danger. By the time the struggle was taken up again, a trivial one at that time by now, it remained in the realm of ideas. In practice, it came up again in a new form.
For example, under the ’left’ line, shop newsletters had been liquidated. This was later rectified in the struggle against the left. But soon after these newsletters were revived, a two-line struggle ensued. Were they to contain agitation and propaganda to the masses or were they to contain solely ’propaganda to the advanced’. The ’left’ line won out. The Trots in PRRWO could not openly call for a theory of cadres, for pulling the advanced out of mass struggle in order to “hammer out the line”, they could not openly call for “cadrefying” mass organizations, after all, these positions had been exposed in early 1975 as ’left’, as the main danger inside PRRWO. In that struggle against the ’lefts’, they had opposed ’party building as the only task’ and characterized this ’left’ deviation as one which liquidated the struggle for the party. They opposed “a ’left’ mechanical application” on party building.
They upheld testing “our unities on implementation of line” i.e., practice. They opposed the ’left’ line of “our main work must be theoretical” and upheld “train in the heat of class struggle...(not)...train apart from class struggle.” At that time, they ’defeated’ the ’left’ line which wanted to steer PRRWO away from mass work by upholding that “it’s massive, so it’s bowing”. That was PRRWO emerging into 1975 in struggle against the main danger inside PRRWO – the ’left’ danger. So if the Trots were to emerge in 1976 they had to assume a new cover.
First, all newsletters had to be propaganda, not propaganda to the masses but propaganda to the ’advanced’. And since the advanced had to take part in ”hammering out the line of the party” they obviously could not take up nor lead the day to day struggles of the masses, much less link them up to the struggle for socialism. To have the advanced dirty their hands with the mass work is to ”belittle the role of the advanced in this period”. Naturally those cadre at all levels of leadership who had any history of revolutionary struggle were bound to struggle against this Trot distortion of Marxism. The leadership of PRRWO unfolded the struggle taking as its starting point not to cure the disease to save the patient, not to win over through the course of principled struggle those who disagreed with the new line, but anther the starting point for struggle became the purge. From the stand point of the Trots it could be no other way, for principled struggle would only serve to expose their distortions of Marxism. And so the purges began, employing the most unprincipled methods to date, beatings which sent cadre to the hospital with broken ribs, visits to cadres homes to terrorize them, forcing former cadre to quit their jobs and move. The stories about the hospitalization of cadre beat up by PRRWO and about PRRWO attending a forum at Brooklyn College then disrupting it and physically attacking the people there, these stories have proven to be true and were only scratching the surface. This is how PRRWO struggles against “social-pacifism in two-line struggle”, this is how they show “no mercy for the mensheviks”. And this is how PRRWO exposes its own bankruptcy.
We must here defend the actions of those Marxist-Leninist forces in PRRWO who refused to betray Marxism, who fought for Marxism to the end, and who, in spite of the reactionary terrorism imposed by PRRWO upheld the principles of Marxism-Leninism. These were the cadre who had a history past and present of revolutionary struggle. When PRRWO purged them, they purged their revolutionary history, their revolutionary practice and their ties to the masses. And this is precisely why we speak of the ’new’ PRRWO, for it has nothing in common with the PRRWO of recent history, that history of struggle has been purged. What we have today is a PRRWO which is an isolated sect, “a group of intellectualists and a few workers who imitate the worst features of intellectualism”.
The Communist movement must draw this lesson that in the absence of revolutionary practice there can be no talk of ”hammering out the line of the party”. In the absence of practice there can be no consolidation on line. The comrades who were purged from PRRWO were correct in holding that the line of an organization cannot remain solely on the pages of its newspaper, for if they had struggled to carry out the lessons of the struggle against the ’lefts’ they would have forced the Trotskyites in PRRWO to expose themselves, the Trots would have been isolated and in the absence of any repudiation, purged. The sin of the honest forces was that they carried out the struggle too late.
Much unprincipled hay will be made of the split in PRRWO, particularly by the OL and WVO. The OL who has refused historically to answer any of PRRWO’s valid criticisms, who has refused to take on PRRWO head on in a principled polemic, preferring to dodge and side step them in a most opportunist manner, will now seize the opportunity to yell “I told you so!” CRAP! Pure, unadulterated crap! OL who has never admitted to any of PRRWO’s valid contributions to the Communist movement, and who has refused to take a principled stand based on the theory of Marxism-Leninism on any of the burning questions facing the communist movement, and who has replaced polemics with slanders, sitting on the sidelines of the theoretical struggle yelling “Neo-Trotskyites!!”, for them to now yell “I told you so!” is stone hypocracy. They told what to the communist movement? How to move the trade unions gradually to the left? Which in practice meant working hand in glove with slick trade union bureaucrats – the social props of imperialism. After having been used by them, it was no longer practical to continue with this line, so (switch hats) we then find OL trying to compensate for this by super trade union militancy – militant economism. they also showed the communist movement by example, how to be evasive on the Black National Question and how to spread social chauvinism within the working class and communist movements. For example, while communists cannot make a stand either for nor against secession, a principle covering the whole course of the revolution, (this stand is determined by the concrete historical conditions facing the proletariat at each stage of the revolution) the basis for their stand is chauvinist to the core. They claim that secession would divide the working class! First they proceed from the fantasy that divisions along national lines do not, in fact, already exist! In fact, it is our duty to unite the class on the principled basis of equality of all nationalities in the struggle for proletarian revolution, which includes the right to political secession of Afro-Americans. The OL claims that secession will divide the working class. On what do they base this? Simply on the chauvinist prejudices of its leadership, for what proof do they offer? None! They make an assertion and rest content as if that is proof enough. But let us assume that the Anglo-American proletariat were to react negatively to a secessionist struggle in the Black Belt South. What is the task of communists under those circumstances – to wage a determined struggle to win the multi-national proletariat to uphold the right of Afro-Americans to political secession or run around the Black liberation movement trying to make that movement “come to its senses” and blaming that movement for “dividing the working class”? The OL has made its stand clear, and this is how it “educated” the working class in social chauvinism. So when OL claimed to be sounding the alarm, warning of the ultra “left” danger, they were in fact trying to cover their own social chauvinist tracks.
WVO, too, is traveling the country pretending fundamental differences with PRRWO and RWL. While at times they take positions which in form appear antithetical, in essence they are identical. Their work in coalitions is a case in point, particularly around the October 27th and their work around I.W.D. The WVO will unite with anyone, “the masses”, which to them are made up of revisionists, Trots, bureaucrats and poverty pimps, etc. and possibly some advanced who they manage to pull in. Do they begin on a principled basis and in the course of struggle win over the advanced? No, around the October 27th action, for instance, WVO never raised the question of revisionism in the coalition itself. Instead they replaced line struggle with maneuvering and some forums held outside of the coalition. Then, on the day of the mass action, they jump up and “condemn” Soviet social-imperialism, revisionism, etc.
After months of conciliations, no struggle and no exposures, they jump up to expose through proclamations over microphones the enemies of the class. Who is won over? No one. Neither by example nor line struggle do they win the masses away from the opportunists. PRRWO is the other side of the same coin, in their coalition work. They purge all ’mensheviks’ and ’backward’ masses who are not won over to the necessity for any purges at all. They then end up talking to themselves about how well they exposed and isolated the opportunists. They have but to look around themselves to see who it is that is truly isolated.
They fail to understand that the struggle to win the masses away from the opportunists is an all sided struggle waged in every sphere of political work – economic, political and theoretical. To limit the struggle to polemics in coalitions and newspapers is the politics of sects, not the politics of Marxist-Leninists.
But their unities go further. Both ’uphold’ the right of Afro-Americans to self-determination in words. In practice, neither takes up the struggle against the national oppression of Afro-Americans, isolating polemics from practice. As for their polemics neither organization has shown itself capable of leadership here either. Their polemics consist of phrasemongering and unproven assertions interspersed with long quotes from the classics, taken out of context. They then call this “theoretical struggle”. WVO condemns PRRWO and RWL for wrecking mass organizations like FFM and PRSU. Yet WVO too, holds to cadrefying mass organizations (turning mass organizations into “cadre” organizations) – only cadrefying them around WVO’s line as shown by their June speaking tour with a spokesman for the Boston chapter of February First Movement. The FFM representative was merely an echo of WVO’s line on party building and was completely unable to explain how party building is to be integrated with the revolutionary struggle of the students. Where then are the principled differences? If comrades find any, let us know.
As we have laid out repeatedly, the historical material conditions facing the communist movement provide the fertile ground for right opportunism as the main danger. Our assertion has proven sound theoretically and the historical practice of the communist movement in the U.S. has confirmed it. Whether taking the blatant right form of the RCP and OL, or the eclectic form of the CLP and WVO, right opportunism continues to be the main danger. The current struggle within the ’wing’ should not cause us to lose our bearings. “Left” opportunism is not the main danger. The sectarian line of the ’new’ PRRWO and RWL as well as their splitting and wrecking practice has served to condemn them to become mere fly specks in the history of the communist movement. Right opportunism continues to be the main danger.
Was there a basis for eventual political unity with the old PRRWO? We hold that there in fact was. What were our unities?
First we united on our approach to party building, that it was a task which encompassed all our other tasks of propaganda and agitation, polemics and mass work etc., and that it was our central task, not our “only” task.
We united on an analysis of the Communist movement, particularly since the betrayal of the CPUSA, how the mass upsurges of the sixties brought forward the advanced, revolutionaries who saw the necessity for an armed overthrow of the state but were yet unclear as to the character of the revolution in the U.S. It was in struggling to answer the questions posed by the U.S. revolution that the advanced rejected the petty-bourgeois theories of revolution and united with the general theory of proletarian revolution. This understanding went from a lower to a higher level and in the struggle to carry out the central task of party building, and in particular the relation of the conscious element to the spontaneous movement, two trends emerged, though not fully crystalized at first. From this point forward, the key link in the development of the party was no longer the repudiation of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois theories of revolution nor the general theory of proletarian revolution, the key link now became the unity of the communist and workers’ movements on the basis of the application of the general theory of proletarian revolution to the U.S. revolution, i.e., political line became the key link. We also had unity that political line on paper, in the absence of practice, meant nothing. That communists who did not match words with deeds were not communists at all, that unity must be based on line and practice, which also included but was by no means restricted to the theoretical and political struggle against opportunism, and it has been precisely on this basis that we had united on the fact that MLOC’s line was opportunist. MLOC writes and speaks very pretty but one thing they cannot address themselves to is any history of struggle nor any current practice – they have none! Only polemics and “line struggle” in coalitions – so this is the only “practice” they can speak of, and then act as if that is enough testing of genuine communists.
We also united on the analysis of the international situation and in spite of particular differences we had general unity on the national situation, and the two main questions confronting the communist and working class movements around which it is our duty to mobilize the masses in struggle:
1) The shifting of the crisis onto the shoulders of the working class and
2) The increasing repression of the oppressed nationalities.
We united on the tasks facing the communist movement in struggle for the party which we shall go into below. We did not base our unities with PRRWO solely on what they said or wrote, but also on their history of revolutionary struggle and their practice and leadership in the struggles of the masses at their work places, students on the universities and in the community struggles. In the absence of this practice, there would have been no basis for unity with PRRWO, and it is precisely their history of practice which PRRWO purged itself of.
We should also point out here that we also had disunities with PRRWO around how communists struggle for reforms (ERA, Boston busing). Before we had fully struggled out these questions, PRRWO had split. Also on the Afro-American national question, we have not taken the position that the entire Black bourgeoisie is comprador.
ATM and PRRWO struggled out an analysis of the development of the communist movement since the betrayal of the CPUSA. Our analysis was correct and sharpened our views on a number of questions including the question of “political line is the key link!” But, after making this analysis we draw some incorrect conclusions, specifically, that two wings existed in the anti-revisionist communist movement. This position, a ’left’ sectarian, subjective and idealist view, lead to a number of errors. By over estimating the development of the subjective factor in the communist movement on the basis of line, we concluded that two clearly defined wings had crystalized – one an opportunist wing, the other, the revolutionary wing. Having arrived at this conclusion, what naturally followed was to determine who was in the “revolutionary wing” and who was not. This then lead to sectarian errors on our part. The fact that each organization in the “revolutionary wing” had different “criteria” for defining who was in the “wing” and that the “wing” seemed to have a revolving door with organizations going in and out, all attests to the idealist conclusions we drew.
A wing usually develops from a split or the development of factions in an organization or in the communist movement, after having initially (over a period of time) united on systematic programmatic views. The wings develop over concrete questions on which one of the wings takes a communist stand, for example, the split in the international communist movement on the question of the first imperialist world war. But when we are speaking of the communist movement over the last 10 years, we do not see such a phenomenon. What we in fact had were two trends in their development, one trend characterized by economism, chauvinism and a contempt for theory, the other trend characterized by upholding the leading role of revolutionary theory as a guide to revolutionary practice.
What should have been our stand on this question? We should have recognized that the revolutionary trend was still young and developing and that while it was our duty to draw lines of demarcation with the leading exponents of opportunism, it was just as much our duty to dedicate ourselves to the theoretical, political and organizational development of the revolutionary trend. The struggle against opportunism must take place in the process of answering the questions raised by the communist, workers and national movements and by giving revolutionary leadership to those struggles. This is the course upon which we are moving and it has been and will continue to be reflected in our organ, REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE.
We briefly outlined PRRWO’s degeneration, how the ’left’ line was never completely exposed and isolated, how the Trots later emerged with more clever arguments and purged the ranks primarily of Marxists-Leninists and undoubtedly a few mensheviks. But we should not get confused here, the line was the target of the purges, the few mensheviks who were purged were used as a cover for the real attack. Here we will lay out our line differences with the ’new’ PRRWO and where the shoe fits lay out why they unite with Trotskyism.
Like Trotskyites the world over, PRRWO and RWL make a fetish out of purges and in fact, raise splits to a principle, as they lay out in Palante (vol. 6 #3 p. 6). They distort Marxism on the question, distorting Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Chou En Lai. True, the party grows stronger by purging itself of all opportunists, but does it follow that all comrades who make errors are opportunists? Does it follow that every struggle over line necessarily leads to a split? Only Trotskyites hold to this proposition and PRRWO and RWL conveniently forget that Trotsky too, was a menshevik – a ’left’ menshevik. But to raise this now would only expose them.
They conveniently forget Chairman Mao’s directive “unite, don’t split” they forget Stalin’s vows at the time of Lenin’s death, “Departing from us, Comrade Lenin enjoined us to guard the unity of our party as the apple of our eye. We vow to you, Comrade Lenin, that this behest too, we shall fulfill with honour!”
How do we see the question of line struggle and purges inside ATM? We proceed from Mao Tse-tung’s principle, “cure the disease and save the patient”. All communists and communist organizations will make errors, but the point is to analyze what lead to the error, learning from this and moving to correct it. With comrades we lay out why they are in error, show them what this leads to and in the course of struggle consolidate them. If comrades cannot be immediately consolidated, they are nonetheless required to uphold, defend and carry out the line of ATM. At no time do we allow the existence of an opposition line in ATM. This policy has proven correct and comrades who made errors in the past are among our finest cadre today.
We also purge, but generally it is on the basis that a comrade cannot unite with the general line of ATM and cannot carry it out. We purge anyone who put forward an opposition line, tries to carry it out or factionalizes. First we lay out the comrades error, show the comrade what it leads to or has led to and, in the absence of repudiation, we purge. As in any communist organization we also purge passive elements or those who have developed any degenerate, alien class tendencies. But in all cases, our policy is to cure the sickness to save the patient as the starting point.
Two lines – PRRWO-RWL hold that cadre who fail to immediately unite with the central committee are vacillators and “mensheviks (who) are objectively agents of the bourgeoisie.” ATM holds that cadre as well as leadership will commit errors, that our policy should be “cure the disease to save the patient”, and our practice has confirmed that cadre are indeed our “gold reserves”.
We will end this section with the following excerpt from an interview with Chou En-Lai, published in New China, Jan. 1976, and reprinted in Palante (vol. 6 #2).
Line is the lifeblood of our party. Fifty years of experience prove that as long as we persist in struggle for the correct line we will win...
The Example of Peng Te-huai ”... When he came back from Korea, he became minister of National Defence. Then he began to oppose Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, the general line for socialist construction. He made serious line mistakes. People no longer followed him. In 1959, he became a rightist. No one in the army followed him. But we still went according to the principle of Mao Tse-tung, a part of our party-building policy – cure the disease and save the patient. One should criticize one’s past mistakes and make corrections. If Peng had done that he could still have done responsible work for the party. (Our emphasis ATM)
...You can trust our party under Mao Tse-tung’s leadership. The correct line has always been the main current. There are mistakes and failures but those are side currents. Our party won’t split. “As long as we explain everything to the masses of people, the great majority of them will stand with the revolutionary line. The people understand that we want Marxism not revisionism, that we want unity and not a split. “I hope our American friends will believe us. In this field of line struggle we have rich experience. We will always adhere to the correct line. We will always adhere to Marxism and will march from victory to victory. Whoever violates this line, whoever departs from this line, will fail. “The special character of our Party’s 50-year struggle is this: The wrong line always fails. Lines that split the Party have always failed. In the end we have always united. The desire of the Chinese people for liberation, oppressed by imperialism as they were for 100 years, is reflected inside the Party. Our people need a Party to lead and a leader. Even though our struggle is by no means ended, we can see that the victories grow greater day by day, and that we will continue to win. Our line is out in the open, clear and open. Schemers can never win.
Purges – PRRWO and RWL. The starting point for line struggle is the purge, this has led to wrecking their own organizations as well as mass organizations like FFM and PRSU and to a great extent ALSC.
PRRWO and RWL approach the question of line struggle as if all line struggle is for the purpose of exposing and purging opportunists. What this leads to in any Marxist-Leninist organization is the stifling of struggle, and bureaucratism. We will here quote from the experiences of the Communist Party of Australia (M-L) on this question:
The suppression of different standpoints is a very bad thing. It was characteristic of the Communist Party of previous times. He who was ’off the line’ or dared to raise a different standpoint from some ’authoritative’ pronouncement was frowned upon as a dissident. (Almost every contribution in the old stereotyped party meetings was prefaced by the statement ’I agree with the report’. When in 1961-2 some said they didn’t agree with the report it was almost unheard of.) 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. Today the situation has changed. But still, there is not full understanding of how to handle differences. Some do not fully understand that the very vigour and manner of their activity and expression of ideas, their style of study and work, does intimidate others and does not fully contribute to personal ease of mind among revolutionaries and liveliness in putting forward ideas. On the other hand those who feel suppressed or intimidated have an equal responsibility to acquire ease of mind and liveliness and to speak up about their views. In short, this very problem is one that must be studied earnestly together. Criticism and self-criticism is the method of handling differences. By criticism and self-criticism, we do not mean its improper use. It requires proper practice of criticism and self-criticism. Chairman Mao said: ’We can never succeed if we just let ourselves go, and lash out at him. In treating an ideological or a political malady, one must never be rough and rash but must adopt the approach of ’curing the sickness to save the patient’, which is the only correct method.’...To one degree or another WE ALL suffer from the sickness of imperfection in style of work and study. We are therefore talking of ourselves. (We Study to Promote Revolution – Not to Be Know-alls, the Communist Party of Australia (M-L))
ATM – The starting point is to cure the disease to save the patient.
Splits – PRRWO and RWL splits are a “Bolshevik” principle (Palante 6 #3, p.6).
ATM – We uphold principled unity of communists and oppose the Trot principal that splits are a principal of every genuine bolshevik organization.
a) The Trotskyite theory of cadres. PRRWO and RWL hold that the tasks of communists are not to lead the spontaneous struggle of the masses, which they see as “whipping up the masses”, “worshipping spontaneity”, but to “win the advanced” only through propaganda divorced from struggle which deals with our “central and only task” and not with the struggles the advanced, if they are truly advanced, are leading. To train the advanced in the course of struggle and to lead these spontaneous struggles now, is to “belittle the role of the advanced.” Therefore all propaganda must be to the “advanced” explaining to them why they should not lead the masses in struggle but instead “build the party”, why, if they do lead the masses they are automatically “backward” Mensheviks, etc. That true “Bolsheviks” will someday lead the spontaneous movement, someday, but not now. Now we must “hammer out the line of our party” in the absence of revolutionary practice. The class struggle “in this period” means only theoretical struggle and does not include economic or political struggle. Therefore, we must take care of our cadres, shelter them from the mass struggle, train them without practice and someday they will emerge as the true “Bolshevik” leaders of the class. This is reminiscent of the CL’s line in 1971-74, a line PRRWO once held to be opportunist.
ATM’s position: Our tasks are to win the advanced in the course of the struggle. To train the advanced in the science of Marxism-Leninism, to teach them their role as the leaders of the most revolutionary class in modern society and the relationship of their class to all other classes and strata, and train them to lead the revolutionary struggles of the masses. This is not done in “stages” but must be done inseparably from the practical struggle. We prepare the advanced but their real education occurs in the field of combat, in all spheres, political, economic and theoretical. What PRRWO-RWL hold to is what the Albanians characterize as the Trotskyite theory of cadres.
They had adopted the Trotskite theory of educating and preserving cadres. They considered connections and work with the masses as dangerous, for that would endanger the cadres”. (History of the PLA, p.75)
This is precisely their line. They cannot come out with ridiculous positions like “there is no proletariat” in the U.S., etc., as Trots in less developed countries generally assert. But they can take phrases out of the classics to confuse the movement. This is why we must continue our exposure.
Communists are people of action, in any and every period. In History of the CPSU (B), Stalin characterizes Lenin’s work and the work of the St. Petersburg League for us. We strongly recommend that comrades read this as it clearly refutes PRRWO-RWL’s line. Here we will pull out a few lines which stand out in contradiction to PRRWO’s-RWL’s distortions of Russia’s pre-party history.
Lenin put before the League of Struggle the task of forming closer connections with the mass working class movement and of giving it political leadership. Lenin pro posed to pass from the propaganda of Marxism among the few politically advanced workers who gathered in the propaganda circles to political agitation among the broad masses of the working class on issues of the day. This turn towards mass agitation was of profound importance for the subsequent development of the working class movement in Russia. (pp. 16-17)
Under Lenin’s guidance, the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class linked up the struggle of the workers for economic demands – improvement of working conditions, shorter hours and higher wages – with the political struggle against tsardom. The League of Struggle educated the workers politically. “In a short space of time, the League of Struggle printed dozens of such leaflets and appeals to the workers of various factories. Every leaflet greatly helped to stiffen the spirit of the workers. They saw that the Socialists were helping and defending them. “In the summer of 1896 a strike of 30,000 textile workers, led by the league of Struggle, took place in St. Petersburg. The chief demand was for shorter hours. This strike forced the tsarist government to pass, on June 2, 1897, a law limiting the working day to 11 1/2 hours. Prior to this, the working day was not limited in any way. “In December 1895 Lenin was arrested by the tsarist government. But even in prison he did not discontinue his revolutionary work. He assisted the League of Struggle with advice and direction and wrote pamphlets and leaflets for them. There he wrote the pamphlet entitled On Strikes and a leaflet entitled “To the Tsarist Government”, exposing its savage despotism.
In summing up this first chapter, Stalin concludes:
...But the Marxist circles and groups only carried on propaganda and did not realize the necessity for passing to mass agitation among the working class; they therefore still had no practical connection with the working class movement and did not lead it. “The St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, which Lenin formed in 1895 and which started mass agitation among the workers and led mass strikes, marked a new stage – the transition to mass agitation among the workers and the union of Marxism with the working class movement. The St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class was the rudiment of a revolutionary proletarian party in Russia.
We repeat, Communists are people of action, not talmudists of the PRRWO-RWL type. Following PRRWO’s-RWL’s logic (we use the term loosely here) one would have to conclude that Lenin was an economist, worshipping the spontaneous struggle “whipping up the masses” and, of course, since the 1896 textile workers strike for shorter hours ”forced the tsarist government to pass a law limiting the working day” the PRRWO should criticize Lenin for “the belief of whipping up so many numbers so that the bourgeoisie will listen to what they have to say and give more reform concessions...” (Palante, vol. 6 #5, p. 2). And of course, following PRRWO’s ’logic’, Lenin’s worst sin is having done this when party building was the “central and only task”. Lenin! “shame on you!” Read Palante, not Marx. Comrades, we hope you will excuse these long quotes but when these Trots distort the history of Bolshevism, we feel we had better go back to the original source.
On the question of the advanced workers, PRRWO and RWL claim to uphold Lenin’s characterization of the advanced in A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social Democracy. But flowing from their Trot theory of cadres the PRRWO-RWL fall into a contradiction. If they uphold that the advanced are those “who can win the confidence of the labouring masses, who devote themselves entirely to the education and organization of the proletariat”, (note, not “only” the party but the proletariat) then how is this to be done in the absence of leading the practical struggles of the class? If their “only” task is to “hammer out the line” of the party? If PRRWO upholds “the fact that the advanced workers, as always and everywhere, determine the character of the movement” (ibid), then how can they do so without “whipping up the masses”? The PRRWO and RWL should be out front with their line and boldly tell the communist movement that Lenin’s characterization of the advanced is not applicable “in this period”. That we must now add a new feature – that the advanced must not lead the practical struggles of the masses – they must be “educated” and “preserved” by PRRWO and RWL, lest they fall into the marsh of political and economic struggle. We should not think that just WVO and the OL reject Lenin from the ’right’, by claiming conditions are so different that Lenin’s characterization no longer applies, or by characterizing militant trade unionists as the advanced, the “real fighters” to quote OL; PRRWO and RWL reject Lenin from the ’left’ by rejecting the leadership role of the advanced among the working class masses in essence, they all belittle the role of the advanced.
Lenin laid important significance on the question of the advanced for one reason and one reason only – these workers, the most politically advanced of the working class, determine the character of the working class movement. If we are to speak of a party as the fusion of the communist and workers movement, then we must win over precisely those politically advanced leaders of the class.
b) Political line is the key link! But how does PRRWO-RWL view this? Since party building is “our central and only task” (Palante, vol. 6 #6, p. 1), we must not be torn away from the task by ’refusing to hammer out the Party’s basic line’ (ibid). Where does testing of the line come in? Why that’s a dirty trick of trying “to play on honest comrades’ empiricist views”. (Palante, vol. 6 #5, p. 9). “Testing line to the OL means organic contact, flowing from how they see organizing the masses, leeching on those organic contacts.” (ibid. p. 10). This ridiculous “criticism” of OL exposes PRRWO-RWL’s line. Rather than exposing OL for the right opportunist-social chauvinist line they bring into the class, they criticize OL for going among the masses at all! For gaining “organic contact” and “organizing the masses”! How else are communist to carry out political line if not in leading the struggles of the class? In fact, it is the fact that the OL spreads its right opportunist, social-chauvinist line, appealing to the backward sentiments of the masses, that makes it all the more dangerous. PRRWO-RWL’s line has nothing in common with Marxism on this question. Where did Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, or Mao Tse-tung ever put forward such a proposition? In fact, they condemned such views as those of pedants and book worshippers.
ATM views this question differently. The political line is hammered out, guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism, and based on the revolutionary experiences of the communist and mass movements, taking into account the concrete historical conditions facing the revolutionary movement. Inseparably connected with this is the implementation and testing of the political line, regardless of the degree of its development. Communists who have come forward in the course of struggle bring with them limited but invaluable revolutionary experience. The role of theory should never be seen as one which restricts or narrows the scope of political work as PRRWO-RWL maintain with(as Resistencia has dubbed it), their “only”s line (party building as the “only” task, “only” propaganda, “only” to the advanced, “only” theoretical struggle, etc.). On the contrary, giving the spontaneous movement a planned and conscious character serves to broaden rid deepen the scope of political work. This in turn serves the further development of the political line, testing and verifying it.
Like the anti-Iskra economists who tried to restrict the scope of political work from the right, the PRRWO-RWL attempt to restrict it from the ’left’. How can the unity of Marxists-Leninists, on the basis of line be hammered out in the absence of practice – in the absence of matching words with deeds? We hold it can not. We judge communists on the basis of both words and deeds.
c) Propaganda as the chief form of activity. The PRRWO-RWL line on propaganda as the chief form can be summed up as follows:
1.“ ALL propaganda must be geared to the advanced in this period (Palante, vol. 6 #3, p. 10-11)
2. ALL propaganda must raise the question of the party at all times, all places, under all circumstances, making it the central theme of all propaganda.
3. That to fail to raise the question of the party makes propaganda and agitation economist.
4. Since propaganda is the chief form of activity, and since the advanced should not waste their time “whipping up the masses” but must “hammer out the line of the party”, then what logically follows is that propaganda is the only form of activity.
At no time do communists restrict their propaganda to any one segment of the working class. PRRWO and RWL are fond of quoting from A Retrograde Trend, but forget that even ere Lenin spoke to the necessity of developing forms of propaganda for workers at all levels of political development, not “only” to the advanced. Restricting propaganda solely to the advanced is the contribution of PRRWO and the trend they represent.
To hold that all propaganda must be restricted to raising only the question of the party and this question alone is to, in fact, liquidate the central task. We do not build a party by simply “raising” the question nor by mystifying it as a panacea for every struggle. It is in the process of giving communist leadership to the spontaneous movement that fusion takes place and which in practice lays the basis for the unity of Marxists-Leninists. As we stated above, party building is an all sided struggle and cannot be narrowed to simply “raising” the question of the party. But in the process of giving communist leadership, of training the class to view every question from the stand of communism that we raise, concretely, the necessity to build a Marxist-Leninist party. What PRRWO’s line leads to is to make propaganda the only form of political activity. PRRWO-RWL hold that to fail to raise the party makes propaganda economist!! More inventions from PRRWO-RWL. Economism was the narrowing of political work to simple trade unionism, to the economic relation between capitalists and workers, to restricting political work so as to not raise the question of political power and the leading role of the proletariat in the revolution – it meant in essence, condemning the working class to perpetual wage slavery. If PRRWO-RWL were to read LENIN’s articles in the Iskra period, they would have to conclude, (from PRRWO-RWL’s line) that Lenin was an economist since he failed to “raise” the question of the party in every article. In fact, the real economists are PRRWO and RWL, “left” economists who restrict and narrow the question of party building to mere proclamations, “raising” the question of the party in theoretical abstractions, divorced from the actual struggle of the class.
A final word on propaganda. In the past we had seen propaganda’s role as restricted to the advanced, a part only of our illegal work. This was a ’left’ deviation from our line which we shall discuss more fully in subsequent issues of Revolutionary Cause. After internal struggle as well as valid criticisms of our views on propaganda from other communists (IWK and Resistencia) we recognized this error. Today, we see that the role of propaganda must continually be broadened and deepened, and that the very conditions of the struggle for proletarian revolution continue to bring propaganda to the fore, not only for the indispensible purpose of winning the advanced and uniting Marxist-Leninists but also to train the broad strata of the working class masses to view all questions, from shop issues to the international situation and party building, from the stand of communism. This calls for consistent, systematic, patient, explanatory and inflammatory propaganda work, legal as well as illegal.
End – Part I