First Issued: October 1976.
Published: The Red Banner, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1976-77.
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 past months, we have seen the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization fully consolidate an ultra-leftist line. The roots of this line have a much longer history; and today, around the country honest Marxist-Leninists and advanced elements are summing up the historical development of this left line in the PRRWO. We believe that the degeneration of the PRRWO has been a definite, although temporary, setback for the U.S. communist and workers movements; but by analyzing and summing up, we can contribute to the efforts of all genuine communists to draw important lessons from this – and thus turn a bad thing into a good thing.
The PRRWO has today abandoned the correct Marxist-Leninist positions around which it once united its cadres and advanced elements. For example:
In the past, upholding that the building of a genuine Marxist-Leninist party was indeed the central task of all communists, PRRWO said that:
the communist movement armed with Marxism-Leninism must interconnect itself and lead the spontaneous movements giving them a conscious character, tying up all forms of oppression and linking them up with the final goal – the armed overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Palante, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 1)
Primary in this period is the dissemination of Marxism-Leninism, the work of explaining in detail key problems of Marxism-Leninism to the advanced elements. Secondarily, we have to selectively choose those struggles which we will directly lead. We must choose struggles from which the entire communist movement can learn when they are summed up and which can, through correct tactics, intensify the ever-sharpening contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. . .We must never propose actions that won’t accomplish anything and must give guidance on winning immediate demands without losing sight of our final aim – which must always be our primary focus. (ibid., p. 4)
Upholding the Marxist-Leninist principle that the struggle against imperialism is a sham without a ruthless struggle against opportunism, the PRRWO said of the struggle against the revisionists:
We must thoroughly discredit and defeat these deceivers for their betrayal of the proletariat. They will be wherever the proletariat and toiling masses are – struggling in the factories, the communities, and the schools. They will spread their distortions and lead the people to defeat if we do not wage a tit-for-tat struggle against them. We must meet them head on and in our mass work smash them every time they raise their ugly heads. In this way we will win the leadership of the proletariat and its allies and prove ourselves worthy of being the finest elements the class has to offer.
Then when we call our 1st Party Congress, it will not be shrugged off as insignificant, as is the case with the new Trotskyites, the CL (Communist League – today, the Communist Labor Party). Their isolated sect of ’theoreticians’ has had little or no influence among the people because they have not proven their worth in the heat of class struggle. They stand on the sidelines and quote from the 45 volumes, and in this way expect the revolution to succeed. They are headed nowhere fast. Our Party will have influence among the working class, because the class will have seen that elements composing that Party will have had a history of bringing Marxism-Leninism to the class and giving the spontaneous movement a conscious character. (ibid., p. 5-6)
Continuing the criticism and exposure of the ultra-left CL, PRRWO said:
While struggling against the main danger (in the communist movement), right opportunism, we must relentlessly struggle against the left opportunists in our movement – those like the CL, that break the relationship between theory and practice and try to isolate the communist movement from the workers’ movement. They reduce the theory of Marxism to a lifeless dogma and do not utilize it to solve the practical short and long range problems of the proletariat. They call for a party of ’theoreticians’, armchair revolutionaries, unable to move the masses forward because they stand aloof, away from the masses. (ibid., p. 6)
Today, the PRRWO has repudiated these correct Marxist-Leninist principles. Today, the criticisms it once leveled at the left-opportunist CL apply to the PRRWO itself.
The PRRWO today holds that “party building is the central and only task”. They say that to struggle to lead the spontaneous struggles of the masses and give them a planned, conscious character during this pre-party period is “worshipping spontaneity” and that communists and advanced elements who are involved, or advocate being involved, in these struggles are “Mensheviks” and “backward elements”. PRRWO attacks practice even while it boasts how it “applies” Marxism-Leninism:
This is why the link, the application of the Universal principles applied to our concrete conditions, i.e., hammering out of the Party’s basic line and program of action continues to flush them all out, on the one hand and on the other hand the struggle against bourgeois line continues to bring forward granite Bolsheviks, staunch and active fighters of the proletariat, because we apply what we’ve learned from our teachers, we stand on principle, and the authenticity, the purity of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought. (Palante, vol. 6, no. 7)
According to the PRRWO, it is not by struggling, in practice, to apply the universal truths of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought to the concrete realities of the U.S. today that cadres and advanced elements are trained. They are consolidated through theoretical work alone – study divorced from practice. The PRRWO says it will build its party by arming the cadres theoretically to uphold Marxism-Leninism and draw the line of demarcation with the opportunists. And we would agree that this is an absolutely necessary task. However, opportunists are not exposed through ideological struggle alone – PRRWO liquidates the political and economic struggles which are also necessary to defeat the opportunists and to make revolution.
The PRRWO “definition” of “revolutionary practice” does not include direct participation in and leadership of the spontaneous struggles of the masses.
It has been Bolsheviks of the Revolutionary wing that have advanced the struggle for the proletariat’s line; that have purged the “RC”P out of the communist movement; that have struggled to give the spontaneous movement a planned, conscious character by advancing the correct program of the seizure of state power, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the instrument of proletarian revolution to carry it to its completion, in the abolition of classes, in a communist society; by developing the correct tactical line for this particular period in the revolution that party building is the central and only task, that which most scientifically meets the immediate interest of the proletariat; that have engaged in the revolutionary practice of bringing into being the Bolshevik Party, of uniting genuine Marxist-Leninists, winning the advanced to communism, carrying out the chief form of activity – propaganda. (Palante, vol. 6, no. 8, p. 5)
In keeping with this analysis of “revolutionary practice”, over the last year PRRWO has steadily pulled its NY cadre out of mass work. Thus, while claiming to be ”training Bolshevik cadre,” PRRWO is really practicing the Trotskyite “theory of cadres”:
According to this ’theory’ the communists should not act, should not approach the masses and organize them, but they should shut themselves up in their cells and engage only in theoretical education. (History of the Party of Labor of Albania, p. 32)
The PRRWO promises that it will lead the mass movement someday, but not right now. Now, they say, the proletariat and the masses gain confidence in the developing Bolshevik party not from its deeds, but rather only through the ideological struggle it conducts and the summing up of the advances and setbacks of the “revolutionary wing,” the PRRWO and the Revolutionary Workers League (see Palante, vol. 6, no. 7, p. 1). The PRRWO is still trying to get over on its past accomplishments – while in reality it has repudiated the revolutionary practice that gave it any credibility in the first place.
Like opportunists the world over, PRRWO tries to cloak itself in the mantle of Marxism-Leninism. They claim to be “the Bolsheviks,” the only ones upholding Marxism-Leninism – but in reality they consistently distort Marxism, rob it of its revolutionary essence and reduce it to a lifeless dogma, take quotes out of their historical context, and try to impress and overawe people by their “staunchness.” We will provide only a few examples here of PRWWO’s contradictions with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought.
On the relationship between theory and practice, the Marxist-Leninist teachers have left us many valuable lessons:
Theory becomes purposeless if it is not connected with revolutionary practice, just as practice gropes in the dark if its path is not illuminated by revolutionary theory. (J. V. Stalin)
But Marxism emphasizes the importance of theory precisely and only because it can guide action. If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance. Knowledge begins with practice and theoretical knowledge is acquired through practice and must then return to practice. (Mao Tse Tung, On Practice, our emphasis added)
Clearly, the line and practice of the PRRWO on this question have nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought.
The PRRWO also claims that it is upholding Marxism-Leninism when it says that during the party building period communists should not engage in mass political work – “party building is the central and only task.” Study of history, however, disproves this also. The Bolshevik Party was built while actively combatting tsarism. The Party of Labor of Albania was built while actively fighting fascism. The Albanian comrades say: “The struggle (against fascism) of the Albanian communists themselves created at last favourable conditions for founding their party.” (History of the PLA, p. 85) – not as the PRRWO mechanically says, first build the party and then, later on, fight imperialism.
Some other examples of how the PRRWO position contradicts the historical experiences of the international proletariat:
Contrary to what PRRWO claims, at no time during the period of party building in Russia did Lenin advocate that communists restrict their work to “only propaganda” or to “work only among the advanced.” (Comrades can study the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union-Bolshevik for further clarity on this.) The PRRWO phrasemongers about “fusing the communist and workers movements” but refuses to enter into the heat of the class struggle where advanced workers are found.
During the period of the formation, of the creation of the Bolshevik Party, Stalin said that the Party “focused its attention and care upon the Party itself, upon its own existence and preservation.” PRRWO often distorts this to justify their current line. Stalin said:
The principal task of communism in Russia in that period was to recruit into the Party the best elements of the working class, those who were most active and most devoted to the cause of the proletariat; to form the ranks of the proletarian party and put it firmly on its feet. (Stalin, “The Party Before and After Taking Power,” vol. 5, Collected Works)
How did the Bolsheviks accomplish this? By ignoring the spontaneous struggles of the masses? Studying in isolation from practice and telling the advanced workers that they should not lead the mass movement because this was a deviation from party building? This is how the PRRWO interprets “The Party Before and After Taking Power.” History, however, shows that the Bolshevik Party was built with inseparable connections to the struggles being waged by the Russian proletariat and toiling masses. For instance, in response to the political firing of a group of workers in 1902 (during the period of party building),
Comrade Stalin himself led the work of the strike committee, drew up the workers’ demands for presentation to the factory management, wrote leaflets and organized their printing and distribution . . . Comrade Stalin, together with the leading workers of Batum, succeeded in drawing the masses of the Batum workers into the revolutionary movement. (Bolshevik Organizations in Transcaucasia, p. 26)
In Albania, the Comintern criticized the communist organizations that were “detached from the masses and shut in their own shell and, as such, they were incapable of carrying out the new line.”
From the communist groups, from which it originated, the Party inherited very weak connections with the masses. (History of the PLA, p. 52)
The Party of Labor of Albania in summing up the many difficulties and obstacles they faced in accomplishing their historic tasks pointed out that this detachment from the masses made the work of communists even more difficult.
Nowhere in history can the PRRWO find any example of a revolutionary party being built in isolation from revolutionary practice among the masses. However, the PRRWO leadership are subjective idealists (voluntarists), for them the wish is the father of the thought. If events in the material world do not support their wishful thinking, they either ignore or distort these events. And so they go on, accusing their cadre and other honest communists of not upholding party building as the central task, of pushing “build the mass movement” as the central task – whenever the correct Marxist-Leninist position is struggled for. To cloud the issue further, they go so far as to lump together honest comrades who are struggling against their left line with outright right opportunists like the OL; this is done constantly in their “polemics”.
In the PRRWO itself, it got to the point where the cadres could not even raise criticism of what they believed were left errors. They were told consistently that “the right is the main danger” and were accused of “raising the left to cover the right.” In the pamphlet, Party Building In The Heat Of The Class Struggle, while the PRRWO mentioned its “left errors,” (see pages 32, 56, 69) this was done superficially. They did not lay out the specific left lines, their manifestations, their ideological root, the social basis for them, and how they rectified them – even though they said that at one point “The left opportunist line became the strongest line that we were combatting, resulting in left deviations in our work. ..” (p. 43)
In practice, the PRRWO reduced the struggle against opportunism to a struggle against right opportunism – to have done otherwise would have taken the struggle directly to those “leaders” who were historically responsible for developing and promoting the left line. By focusing the struggle one-sidedly against the right (as if it were the only possible deviation or error), the ultraleft dogmatists in leadership covered themselves and set the basis for the left to flourish and grow – unchallenged.
On the struggle against right and left errors, Stalin pointed out that it is nonsense to say that a blow at the ultra-leftists indicates a swing to the right, (see “The Fight Against Right and ’Ultra-left’ Deviations,” vol. 8, Collected Works.) At a given time, in a given situation, either the right or the left can become the main danger in an organization. If you incorrectly determine the main danger or try to strike at both the right and the left equally – you will create conditions for the continued growth of the main danger. At the same time, while fighting to root out and defeat the main danger, communists must not be one-sided and totally ignore the secondary danger– for this will then create favorable conditions for this secondary danger to grow and possibly become the main danger.
The question as to which is the chief danger in the sphere of the national question is determined not by futile, formal controversies, but by a Marxist analysis of the situation at the given moment, and by a study of the mistakes that have been committed in this sphere.
The same should be said of the Right and ’Left’ deviations in the sphere of general policy. Here, too, as in other spheres, there is no little confusion in the views of certain members of our Party. Sometimes, while fighting against the Right deviation, they turn away from the ’Left’ deviation and relax the fight against it, on the assumption that it is not dangerous or hardly dangerous. This is a grave and dangerous error. It is a concession to the left deviation which is impermissible for a member of the Party. (Stalin, “Report to the 17th Congress of the CPSU,” The Essential Stalin, p. 286)
One last point. The PRRWO attacks those who hold that communists must not ignore the struggle for reforms – but must take a revolutionary approach to them. In this, the PRRWO shows how left and right opportunism are the flip sides of the same coin. The right opportunists (who are the main danger in the communist movement) tail after every reform struggle, failing to give them a conscious, revolutionary character, failing to educate and train the advanced elements, and every step along the way liquidate the final goal of smashing by force the bourgeois state and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, socialism. For them, the movement is everything, the final aim is nothing. For the ultra-left PRRWO, the movement is nothing. They ignore the struggles the masses are waging. They worship spontaneity coming from the left: they belittle the mobilizing and transforming role of theory, and they belittle the role of the advanced elements by denying them their rightful position as leaders of the masses.
The more degenerate type of left bloc is probably less dangerous. That is the really incestuous little clique who only talk and do nothing else. Perhaps such people will be won to the side of revolution eventually.
The more insidious left bloc is the one that does engage in some form of struggle, and so gains a certain credence, a certain amount of capital for deception. Such a bloc usually arises out of activity around a specific issue, mass campaign or from a slogan purporting to attack the enemy. Whether such activity congeals into a left bloc or not really depends on whether the people involved understand the relation of reform to revolution. This is closely bound up with the understanding that revolution is a mass process.
All issues, like stopping Omega, getting better public transport, nationalizing GMH and so on are reforms. In themselves they do not alter the essence of capitalism. In Australia specifically they do not alter the rule by imperialism, i.e., foreign monopoly capitalism.
One divides into two. So, such reform can become a thing in itself, a particular issue which is won or lost without in any way challenging the essence of capitalism in Australia. Or the reform can become part of the preparation for revolution. Only revolution, i.e., smashing the imperialist hold on Australia by means of a People’s Army and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat (in a specific form not yet clear) will fundamentally solve the problems facing Australia. This is what we are working for, revolution.
Thus there is unity between reform and revolution, and also opposition between them. Put another way, the short term aims of a particular reform both conform with the long-term aim of revolution and also stand in contradiction to revolution.” (Communist Party of Australia-ML, “The ’Left Bloc’–Reform and Revolution”)
Although the PRRWO talks a lot about “training Bolshevik cadre” it is impossible to correctly train revolutionary cadres when you have an incorrect line. The political line of the PRRWO is ultra-leftist and the training of cadres is designed to make them proficient in practicing this line. For instance, the PRRWO says, “theory is primary,” but practices “study is primary – we should have very little practice so we don’t deviate from party building.” The meetings cadres attend reflect this. The great majority of the meeting time is spent on the ideological struggle in the communist movement and in the organization around different positions on different questions. Only a small amount of time is spent on the political work and the questions arising from it – questions that in order to be solved demand the application of Marxist-Leninist principles to concrete conditions and by this time it is usually in the early hours of the morning, at the end of the agenda. This is true of all levels, from the Central Committee down to the study groups.
(PRRWO has “positions” on many questions and this is what it considers political line to be. However, they do not conduct the actual political and economic struggles that are part of the implementation of that line. For example, PRRWO has a “position” on the Puerto Rican national movement, but does no work in it. It has a “position” on the five imprisoned patriots of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and a “position” on Puerto Rican working class leader and political prisoner, Federico Cintron Fiallo – but does no political work in their defense. To judge an organization on line, we must judge not only what they say, but most importantly what they do, evaluating how they are conducting the struggle against national oppression, the effects of the imperialist crisis, the rising menace of fascism and other questions.) Some examples of what this left line led to in practice:
In the community area, cadres were told that if they did not raise the party and the dictatorship of the proletariat at all times, they were being “economist.” This specifically included meetings of the local parents’ associations. On the other hand, when the cadres were becoming actively involved in the struggle for the parents’ democratic rights, were beginning to win some advanced parents and teachers to the study of Marxism-Leninism, were beginning to win the respect of the broad masses involved in the struggle, and were beginning to expose and defeat the Trotskyite SWP who had temporarily gained a foothold in the area – they were left unprepared and discouraged from continuing forward. While they had a correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of certain questions involved in the struggle (i.e., the class nature of education, the role of the state, the opportunist’ role, the immediate issues, the democratic rights of the mostly oppressed-nationality parents), they lacked concrete proposals, goals and methods for achieving them. They did not know how to formulate revolutionary demands. They had many questions of unclarity about work in coalitions. They were able to tell the parents who were their friends and who were their enemies, how this struggle was part of the overall struggle versus imperialism and social-imperialism, how the needs of the masses could never be met permanently until imperialism was destroyed, why the opportunists had to be defeated. But they were not able to tell the parents how to take this immediate struggle on to victory. Because the winning of these reforms was considered “insignificant” to the ultra-leftists in leadership of the PRRWO, cadres who struggled for direction and for clarity on this question were labelled “worshippers of spontaneity.” Almost all the cadres in this area have been purged.
While the PRRWO upholds, in words, the tasks of Marxist-Leninists unite and win the advanced to communism in order to build a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party, in deed it practices that Marxist-Leninists must unite on positions on paper, not positions that have been applied and tested in practice; and it separates winning the advanced from participation in the mass movement. Cadres and advanced elements are therefore not trained to apply what they have studied to the movement within which they are working; they are not trained to lead the struggles of the masses and do not study Marxism-Leninism as a tool for solving the problems that revolution places before us. For example:
In one case, in the industrial area, the smallest area of PRRWO’s NY work (although they attempt to give a much different impression), study group members were pulled out of mass practice. One was criticized when he began to involve himself in the spontaneous movement in his area. He upheld that this was the only way to identify and win over the advanced and began, in fact, to group other workers around him. He was eventually purged and accused of being a “pig” because of his opposition to the organization’s line.
The newspaper Palante also reflects this dogmatism and left sectarianism. The political organ of a communist organization is a tool for consolidating and training cadres and advanced elements. Palante, reflecting the increasing consolidation of the left line in PRRWO, became increasingly abstract. Today it is filled with page after page of phrasemongering, unsupported proclamations about “the revolutionary wing’s vanguard role,” unexplained shifts in position, and unsubstantiated charges against PRRWO’s many “enemies.” For example, PRRWO sings its own praises and proclaims:
The Revolutionary wing has come to the head of the movement, is determining its character, has continuity with the past, are the only forces carrying out real polemics ensuring the social base of the party, purging the ranks of opportunist elements, fulfilling our ideological, political, and organizational duties. (Palante, vol. 6, no. 8, p. 5)
Chairman Mao Tse Tung, in Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing, addressed himself to the problem of windbags like these. He said:
The second indictment against stereotyped Party writing is that it strikes a pose in order to intimidate people. Some stereotyped party writing is not only long and empty, but also pretentious with the deliberate intention of intimidating people; it carries the worst kind of poison. Writing long-winded and empty articles may be set down to immaturity, but striking a pose to overawe people is not merely immature but downright knavish. Lu Hsun once said in criticism of such people, ’Hurling insults and threats is certainly not fighting.’ What is scientific never fears criticism, for science is truth and fears no refutation. But those who write subjectivist and sectarian articles and speeches in the form of Party stereotypes fear refutation, are very cowardly, and therefore rely on pretentiousness to overawe others, believing that they can thereby silence people and ’win the day.’ Such pretentiousness cannot reflect truth but is an obstacle to truth. Truth does not strike a pose to overawe people but talks and acts honestly and sincerely.
This is the style the cadres of the PRRWO are trained in by the leadership. Cadres who do not, in practice, adopt this sectarian style are criticized for “concilliating to opportunism” and eventually to being opportunists themselves. To cover the organization’s inability to scientifically defend the ultra-left line, the PRRWO leadership substitutes a style of struggle, a style characterized by bookworship and phrasemongering-many quotes out of context and unexplained, to prove that they “uphold Marxism”; arrogance and sectarianism, disguised as “staunchness”; and a phony toughness–phony, because the source of real strength in the organization used to be its firm ties and unshakable commitment to the working class and toiling masses. This is now gone in the PRRWO.
Another example of what this line led to:
In the student area in NY, sectarianism towards the masses and other communists, and a lack of training resulted in many of the areas being unable to make any advances in mass political work, winning advanced elements or uniting Marxist-Leninists. At City College in New York, for instance, after six years of work on that campus, the PRRWO was isolated, with few contacts and little influence among the masses.
However, at Brooklyn College in NY, an area where the dogmatism and sectarianism were at their lowest, PRRWO leadership and cadre, adhering to the original unities around which the PRRWO had united, made significant gains. They were involved in mass political struggle involving hundreds of students–for the democratic right of oppressed nationalities and against the repression of the bourgeois state. They slowly won leadership of these struggles, bringing forward advanced elements of all nationalities and establishing a number of Marxist-Leninist study groups. They exposed and isolated the “CP”USA, the SWP, and the PSP and the RU in the course of the struggle there. They took a principled public position against Zionism in a college which is the stronghold of the Jewish Defense League, and successfully defeated the charges of “anti-semitism” which resulted from this. They promoted and led revolutionary forms of struggle, which won a number of important demands, while continuously raising the political level of the participants in these struggles. After years of work, the cadres and supporters of the organization won the respect of the masses of students and were seen by them as revolutionary leadership.
This work was used by the PRRWO for a while as an example of good communist organizing and temporarily increased the prestige of the PRRWO among advanced elements and progressive forces. However, as the leftists steadily moved to further consolidate their line in the organization, this work too came under attack. Cadres were accused of holding “build the mass movement” as the central task and consciously deviating the organization from party building. Most cadres and supporters of the organization at Brooklyn College resigned publically, making a statement that condemned the organization for ultra-leftism, for the beatings of its members and supporters and for the physical disruption of a WVO forum at the college. In response to this, the PRRWO stepped up its physical threats and resorted to spreading rumors and slanders that all the people involved were either “pigs” or opportunists, that only backward elements had been involved in struggle at Brooklyn College and recruited into the organization there. This continues to this day.
(Another area where good communist work was carried out and used by the PRRWO to temporarily increase its credibility was in a heavy industrial plant on the East Coast. Here, linked to the everyday struggles of the workers, a communist cadre brought forward and trained advanced workers, formed a functioning factory nuclei, and was instrumental in the forming of a rank and file caucus at the plant. The PRRWO has since repudiated the winning over and recruiting of advanced workers through participation in the struggles of the workers as “bowing to spontaneity.” The cadre is no longer in the organization.)
Reflecting the sharpening of contradictions in the world, the contradictions in the U.S. communist and workers movements have also been steadily sharpening-bringing forward on the one hand truly dedicated revolutionaries and on the other hand further exposing the opportunists of all kinds. Claiming to be the only real “Bolsheviks,” the PRRWO has launched in the last year increasingly sectarian attacks on every organization in the communist movement (except RWL) as well as intensifying sectarian struggle internally. According to their subjectivist “logic,” anyone who differs with the PRWWO line is attacking Bolshevism and is therefore a “Menshevik opportunist,” a “bourgeois agent,” or a “right opportunist concilliator.”
Internally, many cadres were labelled as “Mensheviks” and “right opportunists” and some were accused of being paid bourgeois’ agents. Meetings and the revolutionary practice of criticism and self-criticism were turned into bourgeois interrogation sessions with the PRRWO leadership increasingly imitating the bourgeoisie’s armed protectors and secret political police. Comrades would go to a meeting and be met by a collective which had been “briefed” beforehand on their supposed “crimes.” Marxist-Leninist self-criticism and seeking truth from facts was discouraged and the bourgeois individualist attitude of “let me save myself and seek to avoid blame” was encouraged and practiced.
Accused comrades soon became responsible for every error that had ever taken place in their area of work, as other comrades copped to the ultra-leftists and started pointing fingers in order to absolve themselves of responsibility. For example, when a cadre in one area was accused of being an agent, another cadre in that area who was also coming under a lot of criticism quickly did a confession-like “self-criticism” that said in effect, “Yes, that comrade must be an agent. She picks me up to go to work every morning and we talk about our political work. The reason she does this is to pump me for information.” Although she tried to parrot the Central Committee’s position and find some “evidence” against the accused comrade, this cadre was soon purged herself. In another situation, a leading cadre “forgot” about study groups that had been established in his area with his knowledge; he agreed when cadres were accused of trying to keep this from the Central Committee in order to set up an independent base in the organization. This dishonest, cowardly finger-pointing was a very bad development and hangs over the heads of many comrades today. Many of the cadres who pointed fingers and tried to avoid blame were purged later. A small number of former PRRWO cadre have still not broken with the left line of the PRRWO and are convinced that they are Mensheviks.
The main charges against cadre were factional activity (plotting to overthrow the “Bolsheviks,” both as paid agents and unpaid Mensheviks) and promoting the worship of spontaneity and thus undermining the organization’s line and belittling the tasks involved in party building. Accused comrades were told in essence, “You must thoroughly and completely confess your Menshevik, factional plots against the organization and against Marxism-Leninism.” And even though some comrades copped under pressure, there was no way to satisfy the ultra-leftists. All attempted self-criticism, no matter how honest, was rejected as “superficial.” This same thing happened to comrades who agreed that they had made particular errors.
All errors were raised to a question of principle and therefore cadres had to agree that the matter being struggled over was both objectively and subjectively counterrevolutionary and had to show, for instance, how deviating from an organizational directive was part of a conscious plan to overthrow the organization’s leadership.
Soon, “Mensheviks” were discovered everywhere, on every level, and in every area of work. The frenzied purge of “Mensheviks” spread to study groups and revolutionary organizations, like the Puerto Rican Student Union. More than one-half of PRRWO’s NY cadre were purged.
The PRRWO’s practice in this situation can only be characterized as social-fascist (socialist in words, fascist in deeds): holding cadres forcibly for “meetings” that sometimes lasted days; severe beatings and torture; breaking into cadre’s homes; and threats of further beatings. All this was justified by the desperate PRRWO leadership by “We are the Bolsheviks and they are Mensheviks and pigs.” The two-line struggle was reduced to “Marxism-Leninism versus right opportunism.” And meanwhile, the left opportunists hid out – and continue to hide out today. Many PRRWO cadre still do not know the true story of how the organization’s leadership handled this situation. (To cover their social-fascist activities, the PRRWO leadership told cadres that since the PRRWO were the “real Bolsheviks,” they had been targetted for special attack by the bourgeoisie under Operation Chaos – a CIA program designed to disrupt the revolutionary movement in the U.S. (see June 1975 CIA Commission Report). The leadership then carried out its own well thought-out plan which included: physical beatings; torture; disruption and splitting of mass organizations; unsubstaniated charges against other communist organizations; falsifying and distorting the positions of other communist organizations; physical attacks and disruption of activities of other groups; unsubstantiated accusations and systematic “purges” of its own members, which resulted in ex-PRRWO cadres being scattered, isolated from each other, and distrustful of one another–thus making it difficult to sum-up, draw the necessary lessons, and thereby expose the real wreckers. Under the disguise of “combating the bourgeoisie,” the PRRWO did the work of the bourgeoisie–camouflaging their counter-revolutionary activities with “revolutionary phrases.”)
This is a preliminary statement. In it, we have tried to show our fundamental differences with the PRRWO. We have tried to show that the thread running through the degeneration of the PRRWO has been their failure to establish the correct relationship between the objective and subjective factors in revolution, between theory and practice, reform and revolution, agitation and propaganda.
It is clear that one of the most characteristic features of the opportunists of all hues is the ignoring of the distinction between evolution and revolution, between reforms and the qualitative leap, between the struggle for democracy and independence, and the struggle for socialism, between the day to day demands and the struggle for the fundamental objectives. The establishment of a correct relationship between these two aspects of the revolutionary process as well as distinguishing the Marxist-Leninists from the reformist and modern revisionists also distinguishes them from the left opportunists. The ideological root of these two currents reside precisely in the unilateral treatment of the revolutionary process. In Lenin’s words, they ’constantly exaggerate, elevate to a one-sided theory, to a one-sided system of tactics, now one and now another lesson of this development. But real life, real history include these different tendencies, just as life and development in nature include both slow evolution and rapid leaps, breaks in continuity. (PLA, “Objective and Subjective Factors in the Revolution”)
We understand that this analysis is far from complete and that like all things it will go from a lower to a higher level. In the future, we will deepen the analysis of the historical development of the left line in PRRWO, including the roles we played in the development, defense and implementation of this line–as well as the roles played in combatting this line. Recognizing the unhealthy sectarian atmosphere created by the dogmatists, we must nevertheless hold ourselves responsible, where applicable, for liberalism, political cowardice–not daring to swim against the tide.
We have tried to learn from the error of the Revolutionary Bloc, which failed to put out an analysis from which all communists and advanced elements could learn after they broke with the Black Workers Congress. We are not waiting indefinitely until we have a “perfect” analysis before we put out any analysis at all. We are confident that there are many honest revolutionary brothers and sisters who are waiting for former PRRWO cadres and supporters to take up their responsibility and help them in summing up this situation-and in return want to help us. Former PRRWO cadres and supporters have much to contribute in drawing the important lessons from these developments. The overwhelming majority of PRRWO cadres were honest and committed to transforming themselves into proletarian fighters – we urge former PRRWO cadres and supporters to come forward and help in summing up the degeneration of the PRRWO so that we may rip the mask off these left opportunists who destroyed our organization.
We hope that this statement and our future efforts will be a contribution to the combined efforts of all honest Marxist-Leninists and advanced elements who want to build a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party.
Our comrades must understand that we study Marxism-Leninism not for display, nor because there is any mystery about it, but solely because it is the science which leads the revolutionary cause of the proletariat to victory. Even now, there are not a few people who still regard odd quotations from Marxist-Leninist works as a ready-made panacea which, once acquired can easily cure all maladies. These people show childish ignorance, and we should enlighten them. It is precisely such ignorant people who take Marxism-Leninism as a religious dogma. To them we should say bluntly, ’Your dogma is worthless.’ Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have repeatedly stated that our theory is not a dogma, but a guide to action. (Mao Tse Tung, “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work”)