First Published: The Guardian, April 16, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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We have reprinted the text of the October League’s attack on us in full so that Guardian readers can judge the merits of the matter for themselves.
The OL’s case actually rests on one basic premise: that the general political perspective of the Guardian has inevitably led it to positions, statements and actions which objectively aid revisionism and cover for Soviet social imperialism.
The difficulty with this thesis, however, is that while it can certainly be demonstrated that the views of this newspaper do not coincide with the OL’s line on certain questions, it is extremely difficult to dredge up any significant hard “evidence” that would show how this has led to the various sins of which we now stand accused.
How else can we explain the shoddy nature of the “case” made against us? Surely, if the evidence were more substantial, the OL would not have had to settle for the crude amalgam of deceptions, distortions and innuendoes which it finally produced. What they have offered isn’t serious criticism. It is an attempt at an ideological lynching.
Let us examine these charges made by the OL and see how they stand up, both factually and in political terms.
(1) The OL says: “In their recent New Year’s editorial, the Guardian covers up the real character of Soviet social imperialism in their call for ’unity’ against only one superpower, the U.S. imperialists.”
What did the Guardian actually say in its New Year’s editorial? Yes, we see U.S. imperialism as the principal enemy. We also point out that “the contradiction between the world’s peoples and nations and Soviet social imperialism” is one of “three other main contradictions in the world.” The Guardian goes on to say: “All peoples striving for independence, liberation and revolution must, sooner or later, stand up against both superpowers. They must unite all who can be united in a broad worldwide front against their hegemonism, plunder and policies of aggression and war.”
(2) The OL charges the Guardian with “playing into the hands of the revisionists” because we acknowledge certain self-evident facts about Soviet “support” for certain struggles. We urge the reader, at this point, to go back to the OL’s article (5th paragraph from the top) and compare their juggling of half-quotations with what the Guardian really said.
“Naturally enough,” the Guardian wrote, “the social imperialists have given some support to those forces struggling against U.S. imperialism–as a means of weakening their superpower rivals and in order to replace their influence in those strategic areas of the world.”
The reader will notice the disappearance of the word “some” along with the entire last half of the sentence. According to the OL, the Guardian is helping those who would portray the Soviet Union as a “friend of the third world.” But where the OL simply ignores an argument which revisionists always advance to justify ’Soviet social imperialism, the Guardian has attempted to answer and counter that argument by exposing the dual aspect of Soviet aid.
(3) The OL says that the Guardian has “often referred to the programs of the CPUSA revisionists as ’progressive’ and attacked groups like the OL as being ’flunkies’ of China.” It is an interesting conjunction, designed to make it appear that the Guardian has really been pro-CP and anti-OL.
We don’t know what citations the OL has in mind, but we do not contest that we have said that the CP is adept at devising programs that appear “progressive” but are in fact class collaborationist and will lead to defeat. As to charging the OL with “flunkyism,” we refer the reader to one column by Irwin Silber (Aug. 28, 1974) in which he raises some criticism of the OL for holding views that “would liquidate the class struggle” in such countries as Iran and Mexico and suggests that their position is a “mechanical application of China’s views.”
Silber goes on to say that “such errors are only a minor aspect of the generally correct and healthy stand of the new communist movement as a whole” towards China. Once again, OL’s out-of-context single-word quotation distorts the facts. (In any case, the views put forth by the Guardian columnists are not necessarily identical with the Guardian’s editorial stands, although in many instances they are.)
(4) The OL writes: “Up until now, the Guardian editors have referred to the Soviet Union as ’socialist.’”
Since the word “now” would ordinarily mean up to the present moment, we respectfully ask the OL to point out where and when the Guardian has characterized the Soviet Union as “socialist” any time in the last two years.
(5) The OL tells us that in the current series appearing in the Guardian by Martin Nicolaus on the Soviet Union, there is already “evidence [that] makes it crystal clear to all who read it” demonstrating the correctness of the thesis on the full restoration of capitalism. A strange comment, since at the time of the article in the Call, the Nicolaus series was only half complete and had barely touched on the period since 1956. On reflection, we think our precede should more properly read “a class of state monopoly capitalist bureaucrats now exercises effective control, etc,” adding the word “capitalist.”
More to the point, however, is the sniping view of the OL which lays greater stress on the Guardian’s precede to the Nicolaus series (not the “apology” the OL calls it) than on the fact that the Guardian has undertaken to devote the space required to publish what we consider to be an important contribution to the debate on this question even if we are not as yet convinced of every aspect of Nicolaus’ thesis.
(6) The OL charges that Jack A. Smith and Irwin Silber have written that the Soviet Union has been a “superpower” ever since World War 2, from which they infer a catalogue of slanders that makes the flesh crawl.
More than a year and a half ago, one Silber column (Sept. 5, 1973) said that the USSR has been a “superpower” ever since World War 2. This was an unsound formulation and Silber agreed with the criticism of it pointed out by the Guardian staff at that time. We don’t know why the OL attributes this view to Smith also.
At the same time, it should be pointed out that the column in question was primarily a critique of Soviet social imperialism which stressed the qualitative difference between the revolutionary role of the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership and the revisionism of his successors.
(7) The OL says: “When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, the Guardian vacillated and in fact reprinted articles supporting the invasion, while weakly criticizing it in a sentence or two.”
It is not possible in the space available to quote at great length from the editorial written by the Guardian at that time (August 1968). Perhaps the following will suffice to give an indication of both the tone and substance of our viewpoint at that time:
The Guardian condemns without reservation the invasion and occupation of socialist Czechoslovakia by the armed forces of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. The invasion was not justified by any threat that Czechoslovakia was about to revert to the imperialist bloc. The alibi offered by the USSR and its East European myrmidons is a transparent fraud.
The U.S. left must strongly protest this disgraceful armed intrusion into the internal affairs of a sovereign socialist country and declare its support for the Czechoslovak resistance. . . . The invading armies must be withdrawn immediately. . . . Who are the ’party and government leaders’ who allegedly requested the presence of Warsaw Pact troops? By what right did these ’leaders’ connive in the subjugation of their own nation? . . . The Soviet Union is as guilty of big power chauvinism in its relations with the East European socialist states as the United States is in relation to its own client governments. (The Guardian will send a copy of the entire three-quarter page long editorial to anyone who sends in a stamped self-addressed envelope.)
Weak? Vacillating? Sentence or two? It is true that we would not write the exact same viewpoint today in 1975. In 1968, there were Trotskyist, revisionist and anarchist tendencies on the Guardian staff and some of these points of view crept into this statement. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, we believe it was a forthright and energetic condemnation of the Soviet invasion. Since that time, the Guardian has restated and strengthened its condemnation of the Soviet attack.
(8) The OL charges “the Guardian stood silent” on the coup in Afghanistan. We admit we didn’t carry much news on this event. Hard information was difficult to come by.
But on at least two occasions, Guardian columnists have cited “the Soviet-inspired coup in Afghanistan” in detailing the crimes and aggressions of Soviet social imperialism.
(9) The OL: The Guardian “generally supports every secessionist movement or organization without any consideration of whether that movement will strengthen or weaken the strivings of the two superpowers.”
Has the OL so quickly forgotten Bangladesh? Not only did the Guardian go against a considerable tide in the U.S. left at that time in refusing to jump on the Indian expansionist/social imperialist bandwagon, but it backed up its principled stand with several articles (and a detailed chapter in Smith’s pamphlet, “Unite the Many, Defeat the Few”) which clearly and factually demolished the revisionist-promoted myths concerning the dismemberment of Pakistan.
In the cases of Biafra, Baluchistan and the Kurds, the Guardian has either opposed these secessionist movements outright or exposed the machinations of the superpowers in them. On Eritrea, the Guardian has not yet summed up its views and has printed articles advancing different viewpoints.
True, unlike the OL, the Guardian emphatically supports the national liberation struggle of the people of Dhofar against both the Sultan of Oman and an invasion by Iranian troops. In our view, the OL has been so bedazzled by the anti-Sovietism of the Shah that it now mistakenly tends to see this struggle against the Shah as being primarily an aid and comfort to social imperialism.
(10) The OL: “The Guardian recently published articles written by open Trotskyists like Fred Halliday carefully taking his name off the byline . . . etc.”
First, comrades, why the plurals? You know you are discussing only one article by one writer. Or are you so anxious to make a case that would show a “pattern” of promoting Trotskyism that you have to deviously invent some other examples?
Halliday, a Trotskyist writes occasionally for Pacific News Service, whose dispatches the Guardian frequently uses. It is not uncommon for us to remove bylines from news service stories. In our view, the article in question (dealing with the role of the CIA in the Gulf states) was factually accurate although not an analysis of all aspects of the situation. This was provided in a subsequent lengthy editorial on the Middle East.
Halliday is not the only non-Marxist-Leninist news source we use. We have occasionally found the work of certain bourgeois journalists to be reliable and useful and will continue to use those when appropriate.
(11) The OL: The Guardian “also relied on the Trotskyist Halliday’s reporting of the events in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in April 1971 to criticize China’s open condemnation of the phony ’uprising’ there.
The amount of distortion in that one phrase is staggering. Halliday is indeed quoted in Smith’s pamphlet, not in connection with China, but to show how even the Trotskyists themselves admitted that the uprising was an error–not for its correct view of the nature of the uprising–but because of its subsequent public use.
We must also note that this is the very first time that the OL has even acknowledged the existence of this pamphlet, generally conceded to be one of the most useful summations and explanations of China’s revolutionary line in foreign affairs in the English language and one of the best exposures and refutations of the revisionist and Trotskyist slanders of China’s line. The OL has never reviewed it or offered criticism of it until this moment, when it chose to deal with one minor item, taking it out of its context of support for China’s line on Ceylon and distorting it, in effect to damn the entire pamphlet. [This 40-page pamphlet is available from the Guardian for 65c.]
(12) The OL: The Guardian is “wavering in [its] support for the just struggles of these countries [third world and lesser capitalist countries] for independence from the two superpowers.”
An absolutely incredible charge refuted by any issue of the Guardian over the past several years.
(13) The OL charges that on International Women’s Day the Guardian “congratulated the CP for initiating and building” the mass rally in Union Square.
The operative word here, of course, is “congratulated.” It certainly wouldn’t have helped the OL’s case any to say that the Guardian reported on the role of the CP. Here is what the Guardian wrote (March 19):
The CP participated in building the action from the beginning, in contrast to the past several years when it has held small observances of Women’s Day pretty much on its own.”
Perhaps in the OL’s mind-set, the above constitutes congratulations. To us, the OL’s accusation is a slander suggestive of a prosecutorial mentality which is not above abject misrepresentation.
(14) The OL: The Guardian “opposed the aims of the revisionists in word, but still voted for the Havana conference [international conference in solidarity with Puerto Rican independence] being the main program of the Puerto Rican Solidarity Committee (PRSC).”
Again, the OL is so anxious to score its point, it is obliged to distort the facts. It was never suggested that the international conference was to be “the main program” of the PRSC. It was one of five projects undertaken by the organization for 1975. The Guardian conducted principled struggle within the PRSC for an independent delegation to Havana and for a political line which would reject “detente” for being in contradiction with the aims of the national liberation struggle.
The Guardian expressed public agreement with the views put forward by El Comite on this question. Now notice how the OL describes the role of El Comite at the conference and contrast it with their view of the Guardian which took the same position:
While not opposing attendance at the Havana Conference [El Comite voted far the motion], the delegate from El Comite expressed clearly the danger of ’relying on conferences’ rather than building the mass struggle [a point likewise made by the Guardian]. In addition the delegate from El Comite expressed the need for the PRSC delegation to put forward an independent line challenging the question of ’detente’ as something that must be exposed as a betrayal of the national liberation struggles.”
The inevitable consequence of slanders–political slanders in particular–is that more time and space is required to refute them than to make them. However, we thought it best to do this job thoroughly at this time and hope our readers will bear with us.
There are, of course, larger political questions involved in all this, but we think it suggests something about the level of political maturity of an organization and its views when it resorts to such an unconscionable method of political struggle as the OL has done in its distortion-wracked piece on us.
What are some of these larger questions?
(1) In the view of the Guardian, the main enemy of the world’s peoples and nations at this historical moment is U.S. imperialism. As we have pointed out on numerous occasions, we also consider that Soviet social imperialism other peoples and nations against both superpowers. But it seems self-evident to us that the U.S. is still the more powerful of the two superpowers and that it is precisely the struggle against U.S. imperialism which has become the focus of revolutionary movement throughout most of the world.
The practical implications of this view are also important. First, as U.S. revolutionaries, we can never lose sight of where the main focus of our struggle must be–against the U.S. monopoly capitalists, their imperialist system and military machine.
Second, many genuinely revolutionary forces in the world have not yet recognized out of their own experience the imperialist character of the USSR. Some forces, who obviously see the dangers emanating from the Soviet revisionists, believe that they can take advantage of the contradictions between the two superpowers to advance the cause of liberation. It is the view of the Guardian that in the long run, Soviet social imperialism is bound to expose itself as a betrayer of liberation movements–as it already has done in Cambodia and other places.
But when compared to the crimes of U.S. imperialism–and its role as the chief exploiter of the third world and the foremost supporter of reactionary regimes everywhere–it is clear why most peoples throughout the world still perceive the U.S. imperialists as their foremost enemy. In Indochina, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, southern Africa and all of Latin America, it is U.S. imperialism which is the direct oppressor of the people or is the chief prop behind racist, feudal and comprador regimes which work hand-in-glove with the U.S.
(2) In the view of the Guardian, socialism no longer exists in the Soviet Union, capitalist class relations now generally prevail and a class of state monopoly capitalist bureaucrats now exercises effective control over the means of production.
But frankly, we just don’t think the case for “full capitalist restoration” or “fascism of a Hitler type” has been made. At least, on the basis of what we have been able to study so far, we have not been convinced.
(3) The Guardian does not share with the OL what we consider to be its one-sided view of the struggles of certain countries in the third world against the hegemony of the two superpowers. We also do not share the essentially Trotskyist view that sees absolutely no significance in the fact that even the reactionary ruling classes of such countries as Iran and Saudi Arabia have taken some significant steps towards independence from imperialism.
It is one thing to recognize and support any moves towards independence these native ruling classes may make. But in the long run, communists know that the bourgeoisie in these countries cannot be relied upon to carry through the struggle for independence, liberation or revolution. Only the working class, in close alliance with the peasantry, is capable of leading the struggle through to the end. It is, therefore, the obligation of communists practicing proletarian internationalism to support those movements in each country whose aim it is to win leadership of the independence struggle away from the bourgeoisie and put it firmly in the hands of the toiling masses.
It is only on the basis of working class leadership that a meaningful alliance with the patriotic bourgeoisie can be established.
(4) The OL makes a big stir over the question of “united action with revisionists.” All well and good. The Guardian is firmly opposed to joining in actions of any sort, the main aspect of which is the strengthening of the CP.
Unfortunately, recent practice demonstrates that the OL has used this principle to justify a narrow and sectarian view toward mass actions in which the CP plays an active role.
As our movement grows in strength and deepens its ties with the masses, it will undoubtedly be able to take the lead in organizing mass movements that win further eliminate the revisionists and Trotskyists as significant forces. But to put that position into practice in a mechanical way at this moment means winding op with the kind of action the OL initiated on International Women’s Day, one that objectively serves to reinforce the hegemony of revisionists and reformists over the mass struggle.
It would have been unprincipled for Marxist-Leninists to refuse to participate in the broad antiwar coalitions because revisionists played a leading role in the various coalitions. We know with what disastrous results some “Marxist-Leninist” forces pursued such a policy.
The view of the Guardian is that the task of revolutionaries and the revolutionary organizations is to unite with the masses, fight to expose the revisionists, reformists, and Trotskyists and to develop a mass line that takes into account an accurate perception of what the general level of mass political consciousness is at any given moment In other words, build political unity with honest forces around a minimal program while always advancing the independent views of the Marxist-Leninists and the final aims of the struggle.
We have gone to some length here to make our views clear so that there will be no misunderstanding of where the Guardian stands. We are confident that readers of the Guardian will recognize that what has been stated above is essentially what the Guardian has stood for in the recent period and that attempts to distort those views and represent them as a “cover for social imperialism” or a “conciliation with revisionism” will be seen as the absurd charges they are.