Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

October League (M-L)

’We must root out this evil’

Mass Criticism of Nicolaus’ Revisionist Line

First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 3, January 24, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In recent weeks, many Call readers have written letters and articles supporting the OL’s decision to expel Martin Nicolaus. These letters deepen the criticism of his revisionist political line on many points.

This type of mass criticism is a very good thing. It shows that workers and revolutionary-minded people both inside and outside the OL recognize the fight against Nicolaus’ line as a component part of the battle against modern revisionism and opportunism.

James Jackson, a Black Indiana steel worker imprisoned for killing a racist foreman in self-defense, wrote to The Call after studying the articles on Nicolaus. His letter typified the militant stand many readers have taken. In his letter Jackson said, “We must root out this evil – Martin Nicolaus – before the rest are swept in the undercurrent of opportunism. To be on the road to socialism via the Unity Trend Express is a direct and clear path to follow – really, it is the only path to follow.”

Below, we print excerpts from other letters we have received:

* * *


Unfortunately, Martin Nicolaus, who loves to quote Lenin on liberals, forgot to study section ’m’ of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. Here Lenin deals a decisive blow to Nicolaus’ betrayal of class struggle on the question of alliances with the liberals.

In this section, Lenin polemicized against a resolution by Starover concerning concrete conditions for agreements with the liberals. Lenin’s first argument should have been the starting point for Nicolaus: he objected to Starover’s resolution on the grounds of political vagueness because “it does not define the class content of Russian liberalism.”

This is the root of Nicolaus’ own error. Failing to take class struggle as the key link, he fails to see that the liberals today are squarely within the enemy class, the bourgeoisie.

In 1904, of course, the liberals–the bourgeoisie as a whole–were not the ruling class. They had class antagonisms with the ruling autocracy, and therefore had a progressive aspect. Temporary agreements with them were permissible.

But even then Lenin insisted on pointing out the fundamental contradiction between liberalism and proletarian revolution.

Starover wanted to limit agreements to those liberal-democratic trends whose program did not contain ̶any demands running counter to the interests of the working class or the democracy generally, or obscuring their political consciousness.”

Lenin’s reply: This is impossible! “... there never have been, nor can there be, liberal-democratic trends which did not include in their programs demands running counter to the interests of the working class and obscuring its . . . political consciousness.”

Far from promoting general alliances with the liberals, Lenin understood the importance of exposing their class character even when they had progressive aspects in the struggle against the autocracy. He even wrote a special note for Comrade Nicolaus: “The phrase about alliance with the liberals is a sheer muddle. Nobody mentioned alliance, Comrade Martov, but only temporary or partial agreements. That is an entirely different thing.”

Baltimore, Md.

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To The Call:

We have read in The Call about the recent expulsion of Martin Nicolaus from the October League. These excellent exposures of Nicolaus’ revisionist political line have prompted us to read and study carefully his article “The Guardian’s Man in Havana,” Class Struggle 3, which allegedly “analyses” centrism.

It’s now clear to us that this article is not an exposure of centrism, but is an attempt to prettify revisionism, the CPUSA, and is a reflection of Nicolaus’ revisionist line, which apologizes for revisionism.

According to Nicolaus’ view, the main essence of centrism is fence-sitting between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism. It is this “vacillating” that, according to Nicolaus, prevented Silber, the Guardian’s representative to the Havana Conference, from accepting the final resolution.


In this way Nicolaus covers over the political essence of centrism, which is that its line is a revisionist political line through and through. Centrism is not some “third” view, somewhere between Marxism and revisionism.

Nowhere in the article does Nicolaus discuss the leading and active role of the proletariat. It’s the working class that’s in the lead, under the leadership of a genuine communist party, a party which we need to build. The revolution is not tied up in the hands of the revisionists on the editorial boards of the Guardian or Daily World.

These serious revisionist errors are further aggravated by Nicolaus’ decadent and bourgeois style, written from the viewpoint of a bourgeois intellectual. He oversimplifies the significance of drawing clear lines of demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism.

He uses the style of “I told you so,” like “Bravo, Irwin Silber! By your deed even if it was not an active deed, but an act of omission – you have eloquently vindicated the position of the October League.”

It’s true that the October League’s line about the Havana Conference was correct, but with supporters like Nicolaus we need few enemies. At one point Nicolaus says that all Marxist-Leninists should be “thankful” to revisionist CPUSA spokesman Grace Mora for “giving” us a “report” on the Conference, since the Guardian refused to.

Throughout this article Nicolaus downplays the danger of the centrists and underestimates the danger of the modern revisionist CPUSA. Silber is reduced to a silly intellectual and the CPUSA to a “vulture” feeding on “political debris.”

It is because of the real dangers of revisionism and the CPUSA, direct agents of the Soviet social-imperialists within the workers’ movement, that the OL’s call to direct the main blow against them is so important.

Revolutionaries do not need the “expertise” of bourgeois intellectuals like Nicolaus. We need to take political line as key, deepen our criticism of the line exemplified by Nicolaus and heighten our vigilance against revisionism.

The workers’ movement will move forward by a big step because of the exposure of Nicolaus’ line and his expulsion from the OL. We congratulate the OL on taking this step. Our understanding of revisionism is deepened in all its forms.

Denver, Colo.