First Published: The Communist, Vol. II, No. 5, January 15, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Workers Congress (M-L) Introduction: The following are letters that we have received from around the country in response to our articles on OL, on OL’s call for the party, and from people who attended the Fight Back Conference. We feel that these letters are an important aspect of how we see THE COMMUNIST– a paper that serves and helps consolidate the Leninist trend. The letters may not always represent the line of the Workers Congress (ML), but they do reflect the motion of advanced workers and Marxist-Leninists in taking their responsibility to participate actively in the process of party building through ideological struggle and in bringing forward summation of their experience as part of a nation-wide trend.
“The main trends have already been demarcated. A clear-cut Marxist-Leninist trend has emerged in opposition to both Right and Left Opportunists.” This is the same thing that the RCP and CLP said when they pronounced themselves parties. Do we have a program on the National Question, Woman Question, Peasant Question or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat? If we had we would be closer to the party. Objective reality shows we are yet to break with the “economist” trend, and that we are still acting like amateurs in matters of organization.
As the OL moves closer to declaring itself a party, I would like to share some experiences I had with OL in order to show what sort of a “party” they will become. They involve the New York Coalition Against Repression, in which I worked from fall ’74 to summer ’75.
The OL has long claimed that it saw party-building as primary over united front work. But the experience of this coalition proves otherwise. The coalition was started by the Congress of Afrikan People and The Committee For Justice For Claude Reese, a community group in Brownsville formed to protest the murder of Claude Reese, a 14 year old Black youth murdered by a white cop. Soon OL and a number of other Communist groups joined the coalition. In the time immediately after Claude Reese’s death there was a mass upsurge in the Black community and the coalition grew. But as the issue died down and the cop “retired” from the force, the coalition dwindled down to just the Communists and two or three community people. Continuously, the OL opposed bringing communist politics to the people. For instance, at one forum, the OL (and the RU) opposed the inclusion in a coalition speech of a quote from Lenin on the class nature of the state. They said that would mean you had to be a Marxist-Leninist to join the coalition. While it was pointed out that one quote from Lenin is not Leninism, just as including one quote from, say, Malcolm X would not mean people had to agree with everything he said, OL persisted in using the cry of “ultra-leftism” to cover their own reformism.
Soon after the forum, which also did not build the coalition, most groups decided to move our activities to the Bronx, where another Black youth had been killed. When this move was done, not one person from Brownsville was left in the coalition – only the Communist forces. There the same pattern followed – a flurry of activity, a few rallies with good community involvement, all followed by a dwindling down of the coalition to just revolutionaries. The OL’s “solution” was to jump back to Harlem, where someone else was killed, and later return to Brownsville! All this tailing of events and failure to consolidate the coalition was due the fact that OL, along with other groups, failed to win the advanced to communism, thus creating conscious, organized forces in the various communities to continue work when the spontaneous upsurge died down. OL was one of the most backward forces in the coalition, once even saying that ideological struggle should go on outside coalition meetings(which they didn’t do), with the meetings only discussing tactics, etc.
A forum in the Bronx in March further showed OL’s ideological bankruptcy. At a meeting of about 50 people, half from the community and the other half communists, it was a perfect place for communists to explain why police repression was an inevitable product of capitalism, the M-L analysis of the state, the relation of police repression to national oppression, etc. What did we get from OL? First they limited themselves to calls to build the coalition. But then they added that this was not enough, that we should form a communist party. Imagine! Calling on a meeting of communists and non-communists to form a new party! Instead of really training the people to make revolution, OL views a public call for a party as absolving them of the charge of reformism. No, comrades, you were merely whistling in the wind, not training cadre...
The experience of this coalition fully confirms what has been said of OL many times before:
1. They tail the spontaneous movement.
2. They fail to merge communism with the peoples movements by winning the advanced to communism.
3. Their own cadres are poorly trained.
4. In reality they have put building coalitions ahead of building the party.
5. They shun principled polemics and instead engage in unprincipled factionalism, maneuvers and intrigues.
6. They do not do consistent communist propaganda and agitation.
...The OL seems to have abandoned the road of building factory nuclei to that of caucus building and Fight Back work. Where in THE CALL have we seen summation of work in building nuclei?... Were in any OL publication, have we seen a strategic approach for building trade union work laid out based on nuclei? Nowhere! In its practice OL consistently fails to train a core of workers or build nuclei. In discussion I had with OL cadre about their work in a local plant where OL has several cadre and friends, I asked whether these people met together as a nucleus or at least studied together. The answer to both questions was “no.”
In regards to the correspondent’s views of the Fight-Back Conference:
The workshop on trade unions was introduced as how to build a caucus, but the first several people spoke of the need to build factory nuclei. In reply to this, a member of the OL Trade Union Commission replied, ’workshops should stay on a mass level and deal with the fight back, not Marxism-Leninism or theory. Fight Back is a mass organization, not communist.’
Here we have it from a leading OL member–communist theory and strategy is not for the mass of cadres and workers. But others in the workshop followed with calls to build nuclei, to have as a major task to bring theory to the working class as well as provide leadership to the practical struggle. Others raised that their experience in caucus building was not successful because they didn’t use Marxism-Leninism as a guide. One worker criticized the OL leadership of the workshop for putting organization first over theory. He said OL was advancing an economist line. A suggestion was raised that the Fight-Back Organization take on the task of pointing out that it is a political struggle–a class struggle–that is in front of us. At every step of the way, OL opposed the discussion of building nuclei, opposed discussing the need to place Marxism-Leninism in the lead, not economism...
Comrades of the OL–What are you hiding in not talking of socialism, of building factory nuclei as the basis of a new party, of raising theory in the working class? Marx said it best:
The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time...Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. (MANIFESTO OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY, Marx and Engels)
On Dec. 27-28, the OL held its first national convention of its Fight Back Organizations with the purpose of uniting them into one single body with one program. While the conference itself, reflecting the burning desire of the passes to oppose the crisis and the growing danger of imperialist war and fascism was a good thing, I would like to point out here the role of the OL in the conference, as a communist organization.
Economism and right opportunism in general reared its head once again to Marxist-Leninists and advanced workers who saw clearly the OL’s line of “building the mass movement.” That is, the OL, bowing to the spontaneity of the masses and not winning over the advanced workers to communism, of not diverting the movement from taking its own course, refusing to raise the masses to the level of class consciousness. A good example was when a comrade from Los Angeles spoke, giving an account of the struggle of workers against employers for better working conditions, for better sale of their labor power, and against fascist deportations of immigrant workers. This is only the embryo of class consciousness, for as comrade Stalin says,
“There is a capitalist system. There are workers and masters. Between them a struggle is raging. So far there are no signs what so ever of scientific socialism. Scientific socialism was not even thought of anywhere when the workers are waging their struggle... Yes the workers are fighting, but they are fighting separately against their masters. They come into collisions with their local authorities.
“There they demand rights from the government. There they proclaim a boycott. Some talk about the political struggle, others the economic struggle and so forth. But that does not mean that the workers possess social democratic consciousness, it does not mean that the aim of their movement is the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the socialist system...that they regard their conquest of political power (the dictatorship of the proletariat) as an essential means for achieving socialism.” OL rather than raising the level of those who came to the conference tailed and worshipped the views that came from the spontaneous movement.
This was the inevitable fruit of the view that giving the advanced workers the weapon of Marxism Leninism, to organize/educate and win the broad masses to the side of communism, that building the party ahead of the united front etc., was “ultra-Leftism” that was to be routed from the communist movement at all costs.
It has now become clear to comrades that Right opportunism in all of its forms is still the main danger in the communist movement! OL’s formulation of “ultra-leftism” as the main danger has led them into following the footsteps of social democrats, disorienting comrades from taking a correct Marxist-Leninist stand against both forms of opportunism...”
...OL is incorrect in stating that, from its very beginnings to the present time, this movement has viewed party building as central among its many tasks. This statement is untrue and belittles the struggle which was/has been necessary in order to arrive at a general understanding of party building as the central task in the communist movement. In’ doing this, as well as pointing out that OL maintained this position as early as 1972, OL lays the basis for placing itself in the role of leadership within the communist movement. Obviously this gives further impetus to its “Call” for a party. We unite that ’under the leadership of a genuine communist party, the masses themselves can understand through their own experience the necessity of smashing the existing order..., but we maintain that a Party can only be built with the finest, the best representatives of the workers’ movement, i.e., the advanced.
We question what specific conditions make party building a “question of immediacy” at this present time for OL. We perceive all this talk of immediacy, the pressure felt by one organization to equal or better the opportunists of another in “getting the jump” on the establishment of a “party”...
...Comrades note well the centrality of the struggle around a Leninist Party Program and Leninist Party Rules, (HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION (BOLSHEVIK) notes these as the foundations for ideological and organizational unity within the party, as conditions for the organizational formation of a party. There has been no significant struggle for Marxist-Leninist clarity in these vital areas. Clearly such struggle is important in order that a decisive victory may be achieved over opportunism. And without such a victory, a genuine party cannot be formed, particularly because we cannot win the advanced unless we win them from opportunism (It is opportunism in all its forms that keeps the advanced from communism)....
Clearly it is erroneous to suggest that “leftism” is based on a great influx of petty bourgeois elements–ignoring that all deviations bear a petty bourgeois character; and that petty bourgeois elements are given to Right opportunism as well as “Left”...
...OL lauds the victories in the sphere of ideological struggle and we unite that there have been victories over opportunist ideas and trends, but the hegemony of the Leninist trend has yet to be established and opportunism of all shades decisively put to rout...