First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The centrist Guardian newspaper has recently gone on a “party-building” binge in order to brighten up its revisionist line.
The latest round appears in its September 7 issue, which calls on readers to form “Guardian Clubs” around a “10 Principles of Club Unity” document. An earlier round in June consisted of a special eight-page supplement containing a “Principles of Unity for New Party” document – with no less than 29 points.
None of this has anything to do with forming a genuine Marxist-Leninist party, which did take place in June at the Founding Congress of the Communist Party (M-L). The principle task of party building today consists of rallying even more communists and advanced workers to the CP(M-L)’s line and program, putting the new organization firmly on its feet and deepening its ties with the masses in the heat of class struggle.
The Guardian has something else in mind. Stripped of phony rhetoric, its function is to deliver its main blow against the CP(M-L), to swing a section of the radical intellectuals into a “non-sectarian“ bloc with the revisionist Communist Party U.S.A., and to defend Soviet social-imperialism with sham criticism and real praise.
The Guardian’s latest “10 Points” make this clear. Apparently, the earlier “29 Points” flopped in centrist circles. The “level of political unity” was too high; said editors Irwin Silber and Jack Smith. So they “concentrated the political essence of those principles in 10 points.”
Very good. Communists owe a vote of thanks to Smith and Silber. They have waded through the clutter of the 29 Points, separating what they themselves consider mere verbiage or minor stuff from the political essence of their line. Let’s look at these 10 Points:
1) “Guardian clubs take the theoretical principles of scientific socialism as the ideological foundation for their unity.” Really now! This hardly distinguishes you from a social-democrat like Michael Harrington, let alone from the Trotskyists. At least in the 29 Points, you used “Marxism-Leninism” instead of “scientific socialism.” And what’s wrong with dare we say it? – Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought?
2) and 3) These points assessing the world forces have to be taken together because they are a muddle. No.2 says U.S. imperialism is the “principle enemy of the working class and oppressed peoples and nations throughout the world.”
No.3 says the principle enemy is “U.S. imperialism and its imperialist allies.” The key point is that Soviet social-imperialism doesn’t even deserve an “also ran” on this particular racetrack. Instead of exposing it as one of two main enemies, and the more dangerous to boot, the Guardian wizards suggest we should be more on guard against Swedish imperialism.
4) This item is a positive gem and de-serves quoting in full: “Guardian Clubs hold that the multinational U.S. working class is the only revolutionary class in U.S. society and that the struggle to overthrow monopoly capitalism and establish socialism must proceed on the basis of its own emancipation and under working class leadership.”
Ignore the grammatical confusion. It’s not easy to distill 29 points to 10 “essentials.” Also pass over the secondary error, the claim that the proletariat is the “only” revolutionary class when, in fact, it is the only thoroughly revolutionary class.
Now look again. Where does it say that the workers cannot take the bourgeois state into their own hands and use it for their own purposes, but instead must smash it in an armed struggle and in the process form a new stale based on their own armed power?
It says this nowhere. At least the early version tried to get by with a distorted version of the Leninist concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Now Smith and Silber don’t even try.
5) Here the Guardian spells out four general strategic tasks for Marxist-Leninists, two of which deserve closer scrutiny.
The first mentions party building. But in the 29 Points (in fact, Point No. 29) party building was “the central task.”
Now it is one of four tasks. Apparently the more openly anti-party centrist circles scored a point in their verbal duel with Silber.
The second task deals with the workers’ movement and calls for its fusion with Marxism. That’s it. That’s all the Guardian has to say about the workers’ movement. No mention of factories, factory cells, trade unions, the union bureaucrats or the labor aristocracy anywhere in the 10 Points.
Smith and Silber have given a clear example of their petty-bourgeois orientation. The last time around, they paid lip service to directing “the main blow at the reactionary trade union bureaucrats.” (No “progressives” like Sadlowski?)∑ Now even this has gone down the tubes.
6) The Guardian here tells us that it opposes national chauvinism. It aspires to win “the white workers to take up the special democratic demands of the workers of the oppressed nationalities.” Of course, one “special demand” is known to be taboo for Mr. Silber: the right of self-determination for the Afro-American people in the Deep South.
But who is the target in this struggle? The masses of white workers? Or the chief promoters of chauvinism, the unmentionable labor aristocrats and bureaucrats? Without drawing this distinction, Smith and Silber will win the white workers around the same time that they publish the Spanish edition of the Guardian.
7) “The emancipation of women from the super-exploitation of capitalism and the institutionalized system of male supremacy” is dealt with here. Let us set aside the fact that institutions of this type include both the masses and the enemy and that “super-exploitation” is a term that applies to colonies.
Then what remains? The 29 Points talked some about working women and aimed two sentences at “bourgeois feminism.” Now this too is gone and must be considered “unessential.” The “socialist” feminists have won the day.
8) This is where the Guardian – without blushing – tags “revisionism” as “the chief form of opportunism within the working-class and progressive movement in our own country and internationally.” Next it labels the Soviet Union a “hegemonist superpower” – not a capitalist country, not an imperialist power, not one of the principal enemies, not even one of the main sources of a new world war – just a “hegemonist superpower.” .
So what does this label mean? The context is the key, for Smith and Silber have plunked the question of the Soviet Union between comments about opportunism within our ranks.
The Russians, they are trying to tell us, are sort of backward workers who act like bullies. In peaceful times, you keep your distance and look down your nose at them. But when a fight breaks out, it’s best to be on the same side.
The CPUSA is neither named nor has its sins listed in this section. The CP(M-L) isn’t named either, but its “sins” are “particularly” stressed: “class collaborationist stands on international questions, flunkeyism and dogmatism.”
A little translation work is required here. “Class collaboration,” in the Guardian’s dictionary, means you oppose Soviet imperialism and its aggression around the world. “Flunkeyism” means you have basic agreement with China. “Dogmatism” simply means Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought actually applied to the concrete conditions in your own country, rather than sold through the Guardian Market-place.
9) Here the red flag of “proletarian internationalism” is raised – but with a new, “creative” definition. It is the “understanding that the cause of the emancipation of the U.S. working class and oppressed peoples throughout the world is one.” What happened to the international proletariat here, including the workers of Europe and the Soviet Union?
Silber and Smith also add a list of countries deserving “solidarity.” The scope has narrowed a little since the 29 Points. There Czechoslovakia got a mention, and the third world was told to “help build a united front against both super-powers.” Now the front against both superpowers is gone. It seems that such a united front is, not “politically essential” to the Guardian.
10) Here the question of organization is raised. Guardian Clubs work to build the paper’s influence “through public forums, promoting circulation, fundraising and other activities.”
This seems innocuous. But Smith and Silber add an interesting twist. The clubs will not be democratic-centralist, but “fairly centralist” for “the first year at least.” Everyone has the right of free speech, but “some” Clubs may “possibly” be able, “in time” to write “position papers.” Fairly centralist indeed!
Marxist-Leninists can unite because they draw firm, clear ideological and political lines of demarcation. That is why they can practice democracy under centralized guidance. That is why they have iron unity of will and action, combined with great initiative and ease of mind among the cadres.
Revisionists, especially of the centrist variety, must blur the lines and go in for demagogy. This is required to smuggle bourgeois ideology disguised as “Marxism” or even “anti-revisionism” into the people’s movements. They fear exposure and criticism from the masses and the cadres. That is why they practice bureaucratic centralism and disguise it with ultra-democratic phrases.
This is one reason the Guardian will never build a genuine party. It may well get an organization with such a name, but it will actually be a Menshevik federation of local circles, with each competing to be the “national” circle. The “10 Points” represent the Guardian’s bid for the job.
To conclude: some Guardian supporters have complained about the name “clubs” as being “too tame.” We have a suggestion. How about “swamps” or “bogs”? It gives a much better description of the Guardian’s actual relationship to the overall morass of modern revisionism.