First Published: Resistence, Vol. 8, No. 6, July 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In the latest issue of Unity and Struggle (Vol. VI, no. 1-6), RCL (Revolutionary Communist League-MLM) listed a series of “unities” and dis-unities with LPR-ML. The purpose of this article is to answer the criticisms raised by RCL; show how they distort our line in said criticism, while not putting forward their own position on the different issues; and how on every issue they conveniently forget to deal with the essence of the open struggles we have had in different forums, coalitions, meetings, etc.
In Resistance Vol.8, #16, LPR began polemicising with ATM. We are also doing an analysis of ATM’s line which will be forthcoming. But we see the need to raise questions to LPR about these polemics. In a forum in Newark several months ago, LPR repudiated the position they previously had held in common with the ATM on two-line struggle being the exception to the rule inside communist organizations. Since LPR repudiated this erroneous line, we question why we have not seen this repudiated publicly or seen it in the criticism of ATM. Unity & Struggle, 6/77
In August, 1976, we held a closed forum with ATM in New York. At the forum ATM put forward its position that two-line struggle is the exception in a communist organization. They equated two-line struggle with the existence of an opposition line within a communist organization. At the forum we united with this position. Weeks later and after further struggle within the organization and with some of the comrades who attended the forum, as well as further study on the question – particularly the section on the “Basic Line of the Party” in A Basic Understanding of the Communist Party of China (Toronto: Norman Bethune Institute, 1976), we concluded that this position was incorrect. It is a right line that leads to the liquidation of all struggles within an organization.
In October, RCL sponsored an open forum in Newark, and LPR-ML used the occasion to read a self-criticism and repudiation of the line referred to above. This was obviously a public self-criticism. LPR-ML has also repudiated this erroneous line at other forums and at closed and open meetings held in other places.
It is very revealing that RCL has kept complete silence in relation to ATM’s turn toward consolidated right opportunism and instead of polemicizing against them, the main proponents and defendants of “two-line struggle – the exception”, they prefer to try to score some points by implying that LPR-ML did not make public self-criticism. (For more on ATM and two-line struggle see an excerpt from a speech given by Colorado Organization for Revolutionary Struggle (COReS-MLM) that appears in the latest issue of Resistance (Vol. 8, No. 5,p.8).
We have already criticized LPR for the formulation, “Revisionism is the main danger in the communist movement and reformism is the main danger in the workers movement.” LPR still has not offered sufficient basis for their position and in studying this further we found further justification for RCL’s line that revisionism is the main danger in the communist and workers movements. Ibid, page 11.
The “further justification” they give consists of quotes, neither of which deals with the essence of this important question.
LPR-ML does uphold that revisionism is the main danger for the U.S. communist movement and reformism is the main danger for the U.S. workers’ movement. The line was explained and defended by us in the Newark forum. But RCL again prefers to try to score some points by just saying “we have already criticized LPR” and conveniently forgets what our position was.
Our position is based on the understanding that due to the low level of fusion in this country, there do exist two distinctive movements – a communist movement and a workers’ movement.
As Lenin said in A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy:
The separation of the working class movement and socialism gave rise to weakness and underdevelopment in each: the theories of the socialists, unfused with the workers’ struggles, remained petty, fragmented, and did not acquire political significance, was not enlightened by the advanced science of its time. For this reason we see in all European countries a constantly growing urge to fuse socialism with the working class movement in a single Social-Democratic movement. Lenin, Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy, LPR edition, p. 3.
Revisionism, right opportunism is indeed the main danger to the entire international communist and workers’ movements. This means that right opportunism, in the form of revisionism is overall the main danger. How does this apply to the U.S.? Right opportunism is also the main danger in the U.S., both to the U.S. communist movement as well as to the U.S. workers’ movement. In the U.S. communist movement right opportunism takes its highest form in revisionism which is the main danger. In the U.S. workers’ movement right opportunism takes the form of reformism, the main danger.
It is clear that neither the revisionist, right opportunists nor the “left” opportunists and trotskyites have real influence among the masses. The right opportunists obviously have a little more influence among the masses than the “left” opportunists, but their influence is very weak and limited in comparison to that of the labor aristocracy, the labor bureaucrats, the poverty pimps, etc.
The “C”PUSA, R“C”P, “C”P-ML, PRRWO-RWL, WVO, ATM, MLOC, etc. together don’t account for half the influence among the working class exercized by Meany, Miller, Fitzsimmons, Watts, Sadlowski, Gottbaum, etc. This is why we consider it incorrect to say that revisionism is the main danger in the U.S. workers’ movement today.
In any of the big industries, whose ideas do the great majority of the workers follow, George Meany or Gus Hall? Who are the ones that are in control of the workers’ struggle – R“C”P or the union bureaucrats? In the great majority of the shops in this country, comrades, it is not the OL (now they call themselves the “C”P-ML) implying that it is the party, or WVO with its “two contending trends”, or ATM with its “agitation in the forefront”, who represents the main danger. It is the Meanys, the Sadlowskis, the Millers and local bureaucrats.
In Italy, Spain, France, etc., in contrast to the U.S., revisionism is the main danger to both the workers’ and communist movements. In those countries, the revisionists have control over the trade unions. Labor aristocrats, labor bureaucrats, and revisionists are one and the same. This is not the case in the U.S., with a few exceptions. Revisionists such as the CPUSA are part of this main danger as they are in theory and practice essentially reformists. However their influence and control over the U.S. workers movement is minimal compared to those of the other reformists in the working class, the rest of the labor aristocracy who are not revisionists but simply reformist labor bureaucrats, reformist trade unionists, etc. By not making this qualification that corresponds to the concrete conditions of the U.S. working class we would be reducing the main danger – and thus the object of our attacks – to the revisionists. This would result in many comrades leaving other reformists off the hook in their agitation and propaganda in the plant and concentrating their attacks in an enemy who very probably has no work developed, or influence at that plant. Thus we consider correct to refer to the main danger as reformism in the U.S. workers movement, and not exclusively or mainly revisionism.
Instead of attempting to prove us wrong, to show us what is incorrect in our analysis, RCL wants to solve very complex problems by taking a quote out of context and relating only to the general, and never to the specific, concrete situation we are analysing.
Remember that PRRWO, before its complete degeneration, denied the fact that within a particular organization “left” opportunism can be the main danger, despite the fact that right opportunism is the main danger for the movement as a whole. And the failure to make concrete analysis contributed a lot to their degeneration.
Here again RCL distorts our line and conveniently forgets the essence of the struggle we had in the Newark forum.
LPR once denied, but now openly and fully embraces the line reminiscent of the left in form right in essence “wing” and Liu Shao-chi line “the masses are backward.” Ibid, page 4.
This is a distortions of our line as well as a repulsive method of struggle. Every time that we have written or addressed ourselves to this question, we have always put forward that the majority of the workers in this country are part of the backward or lower stratum of the working class. What is repulsive is RCL’s opportunist method of struggle on this question. They try to discredit our line not by proving it incorrect, but by trying to link it to the “wing” and Liu Shao-chi without concretely proving it. (RCL’s mention of Lui Shao-chi reminds us of the thief crying thief, as we will see further on.)
RCL has obviously inherited WVO’s discredited football “theory”. According to this “theory” the working class is shaped like a football. At the two ends of the ball are the advanced and the backward workers, in the middle are found the majority of the workers – the intermediate workers.
WVO,(apparently also RCL) equates backward workers with reactionaries, with lumpen elements, with labor goons, those “thoroughly entrenched with the old world outlook and cannot see beyond their own individualistic self-interest...” etc. (WV Journal, #4, pg.6). WVO puts forth this view in their polemic against PRRWO stating that PRRWO “shows disdain and pessimism because if the majority of workers are backward, how can you win them over to overthrow the bourgeoisie?!” (WV Journal, No. #4, p5-6)
WVO’s view is pure revisionism. Backward workers can definitely h» won over to overthrow the bourgeoisie. As Lenin said, and WVO denies:
Even the most backward worker will understand the idea, provided of course, the agitator or propagandist is able to approach him in such a way as to communicate the idea to him, to explain it in understandable language on the basis of facts the worker knows from everyday experience. But this condition is just as indispensable for clarifying the economic struggle;....it is an idea that can be absorbed by a few educated workers whom the masses will follow guided by their instincts and their immediate interests. Lenin, CW, Vol. 4, page 291.
Obviously, it was not just PRRWO who was showing disdain for the masses, but also WVO. PRRWO, coming from the far “left”, from neo-trotskyisn, disdains the masses and refuses to have anything to do with them, (only party building, only the advance, only polemics, etc.). WVO, coming from the far right, from consolidated right opportunism and revisionism disdains the masses by calling backward workers reactionaries, goons, etc. But more importantly, by denying that revolutionary theory can in fact raise the consciousness of the masses of workers and move the great majority of the workers to fight, under communist leadership, for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. WVO is in fact liquidating proletarian revolution because proletarian revolution is impossible without the participation of the broad masses.
In contrast to this incorrect line, we uphold that the number of advanced, intermediate and backward workers in a given society is determined by the level of fusion between Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse-tung thought and the working class movement that exists in that society. The higher the fusion, the larger the number of advanced workers and intermediate workers.
Further, we believe that in the U.S. the majority of the workers are backward. The working class in the U.S., or in capitalist countries, when divided in terms of political consciousness look like this:
On the top are the advanced workers, the smallest stratum; underneath them is a broader section – larger than the advanced, but smaller than the backward – of intermediate or average workers; and at the bottom, the great majority of the workers, the lower stratum, the backward worker: This view of the working class is correct because it conforms both with the theory of Marxism-Leninism on this question (as enunciated basically by Lenin), and to the concrete conditions of the U.S.
The fact that Lenin considered the majority of the workers not only in Russia, but also in the developed countries of Western Europe backward can be properly documented:
To refuse to work in the trade unions means leaving the insufficiently developed or backward masses of workers under the influence of the reactionary leaders, the agents of the bourgeoisie... Lenin, Leftwing Communism..., LCW V. pages 52-53.
And the Comintern under Lenin’s and the CPSU(B)’s leadership wrote:
In those capitalist countries where a large majority of the proletariat has not yet reached revolutionary consciousness, the communist agitation must be constantly on the look for new forms of propaganda in order to meet these backward workers halfway and thus facilitate their entry into the revolutionary ranks. The communist propaganda with its watchwords (slogans) must bring out the budding, unconscious, incomplete, vacillating and semi-bourgeois revolutionary tendencies which are struggling for supremacy with the bourgeois traditions and conceptions in the minds of the workers. Third Communist International, Principles of Party Organization (Thesis on the Organization and Struggle of Communist Parties, Mass Publications, Calcutta, Nov. 1975 (LPR-ML emphasis)
This quote also shows the Marxist-Leninist concept of backward workers as opposed to WVO’s revisionist position on them. RCL serves objectively as a receiver for WVO’s quarterback and ends with the football in its hands.
RCL, despite its denials, is following in WVO’s footsteps on this question. In the Newark forum in October 1976, RCL said that they don’t have a position on this, that they were not upholding the football theory. In their paper, they don’t put out any either. If the majority of the workers are not backward for RCL, what are they? And unless RCL believes that the majority are advanced workers, then, they receive the football from WVO’s hands.
This becomes clear when RCL, like WVO before them, states that saying that the majority of workers are backward is insulting them, and that this is equivalent to taking Liu Shao-ohi’s line.
In his book on self-cultivation, Liu Shao-chi puts forward that the masses of Chinese people were backward and that they would remain so. Liu Shao-chi denied the transforming power of theory and saw Marxism-Leninism as the private property of the revolutionary intelligentsia, denying that it is the masses and not individuals who make history.
Lenin, on the contrary, realized that the majority of workers were backward, that it was necessary to change this situation if revolution was to take place. He consitently pointed out that it was the task of communists, in relation to the broad masses of the backward workers, to change this situation. See quotes above that address the question.
This is where the difference lies. Liu Shao-chi like WVO, used the word backward in a derogatory sense and denied the possibility of changing the situation. This led to the demagogic accusation put forth by WVO and now echoed by RCL, that LPR insults the workers because we recognize that the majority of them are backward.
The simple fact of the matter is that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts will develop only trade union consciousness. This consciousness is a bourgeois, capitalist consciousness. This is a matter of Marxist-Leninist truth, and not an insult to the workers or anything of the sort. Australian Communist, No.82, page 95.
On the one hand, RCL puts forward:
Lower strata represents an economic strata as well as political consciousness, because of their economic situation workers from this strata are usually at a lower level of consciousness although you will find some advanced in the lower strata. Ibid, page 4. (emphasis LPR-ML)
On the other hand, a couple of paragraphs later they state:
Even though Lenin stated the masses are lower strata, this was a description of the economic level not political consciousness. Ibid, page 4. (emphasis LPR-ML)
How soon RCL forgets its own “as well as political consciousness.”!
Now that RCL introduces Liu Shao-chi into the debate, let’s remember comrades that the main line that characterized this traitor was the revisionist line of the theory of the productive forces. And RCL’s position on the advanced worker is not “reminiscent of that line”, but it is in fact the same line. Let’s hear from them.
We held that the productive forces in the U.S. had produced more advanced workers but that because of the absence of a genuine CP and the level of opportunism created by imperialism and the scattered state of the anti-revisionist communist movement, fusion was low. Ibid, page 8 (Emphasis ours).
“Productive forces” “produce more advanced workers.” This is an outright revisionist line.
How is it that the productive forces produced advanced workers who “consciously accept socialism” and all the other characteristics listed by RCL? How can somebody claim that they uphold the essence of Lenin’s definition^ and on the other hand uphold that the productive forces are what produce, advanced workers? Lenin himself explained how communists develop advanced workers from the intermediate workers.
The newspaper, on the contrary, must raise their level and help promote advanced workers from the middle stratum of workers. Lenin, Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy, LPR Edition, page 27.
It is clear that when Lenin talks about the newspaper helping to promote advanced workers from the middle stratum he is referring to a strata based on consciousness and not on economic status as RCL claims. It is not with a raise in economic status, but in consciousness that we are dealing with. RCL’s line if taken to its logical conclusions, will lead to say that the advanced workers come from the labor aristocracy, who, economically speaking, would be the “better situated strata” of the proletariat. However, the “better situated strata” as Lenin used it refers to the industrial proletariat – workers who, because of their relationship to the means of production are placed in a better position to grasp socialist ideas because of their highly socialized labor, their link to the key sectors of the capitalist economy, etc.
Consistent with their line on “the productive forces” being the determinant factor, RCL puts forward in the conclusion of their criticism us:
Given the advanced state of the productive: forces, we would question whether in the U.S. today the largest masses of workers would find a communist newspaper “completely or well nigh inopmprehensible to them”. The masses of Russian workers in Lenin’s day were illiterate, Russia not even a bourgeois democracy. But these conditions that produced the makeup of the U.S. working class must be studied, practically before we come to a conclusion. And the LPR “lazy bones approach” merely repeating Lenin, and incorrectly at that, will not do. (Unity and Struggle, Vol. VI, No. 1-6, page. 4)
If we follow RCL’s logic we would have to conclude that the Great October Revolution in Russia (as well as the Chinese and Albanian revolutions) were “historical accidents.” This would be so because revolution did not take place in those countries with highly developed, productive forces and a more educated working class, i.e. Germany, England, France, etc., but in backward countries with illiterate masses.
We are sure that the illiterate Russian pre-October Revolution proletariat grasped alot more Marxism-Leninism than the educated U.S. proletariat of today. And this is so, comrades, not because of the level of the productive forces, but because of the subjective factor. “Theory, when grasped by the masses, becomes a material force,” and that is what happened under the leadership of the CPSU(B) and the great Lenin and Stalin in backward Russia.
Obviously, the fact that such a party does not exist in the U.S. and that the level of fusion of socialism with the working class is so low indicates that not only are the U.S. workers today less advanced than those in Russia before the Revolution, but also that a communist newspaper will be completely or well nigh incomprehensible to them.
And this comrades is something that has been tested in practice by those honest Marxist-Leninists that know what the U.S. proletariat is, not from book definition but by actual participation in their day to day struggles.
To say the contrary (“we would question”) would be the equivalent of saying that concepts such as “imperialism”, “state”, “socialism”, “Marxism-Leninism”, “contradictions”, etc., etc., are comprehensible to the largest masses of workers because they can read, and this is pure and simple petty bourgeois nonsense. If we follow RCL’s logic, we can just sit down and wait until the same productive forces that “produced more advanced workers” in the U.S., that allowed the largest masses to understand a communist newspaper, take care of building the party. Maybe they can even transform capitalism into socialism!!!
What is absent from RCL’s position is the fact that of all the differences that exist between RCL and LPR the fundamental one which we have struggled on repeatedly is the position on China – and not on questions of definitions, quotes, etc. Since the great victory over the “gang of four” in China, LPR has raised that it is a matter of principle and proletarian stand to support the CPC, while RCL all this time is still “studying the question.” and keeps dead silence on the matter and the struggles we have had on it.
(MORE ON THIS MATTER IN OUR NEXT ISSUE)