First Published: The Call, Vol. 5, No. 7, June 14, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Representatives from Marxist-Leninist organizations and collectives spent the Memorial Day weekend hammering out a unified line and laying the groundwork for the formation of a new communist party.
The unity meeting succeeded in drafting a new statement of unity and formed the Organizing Committee for a New Marxist-Leninist Party. This committee will have the responsibility of guiding the writing of a draft program and organizational rules which will then be debated and discussed in the period leading up to the first party congress.
Taking part in this first of several unity meetings prior to the congress were: Bridgeport Workers Organization (M-L), Buffalo Marxist-Leninist Organization, Dallas Collective, League for Marxist-Leninist Unity, Marxist-Leninist Student Collective, October League (M-L), Philadelphia Party-Building Collective, Tallahassee Socialist League, W. Jean Pierre (a former leader of the Black Workers Congress and the Revolutionary Workers Congress) and Clay Claiborne, a former leader of the Federation of Marxist Organizations. Veteran communist leader Harry Haywood also attended the meeting and delivered a statement.
The unity meeting heard an opening presentation from October League Chairman Michael Klonsky who summed up the main features of the growing communist unity trend. Klonsky pointed out mat unity was the main trend in the communist movement and criticized those who saw only disunity and division. He said that the unity trend was having a profound impact on every group in the communist movement and that the forces for unity on the basis of Marxism-Leninism were coming forward within each organization.
This could be seen, Klonsky said, in the disarray of the anti-unity forces such as the “Revolutionary Wing” and the centrists who are grouped around the Guardian. Both of these anti-party trends are wracked with splits and divisions as rank-and-file forces are expressing opposition to their opportunist lines.
Klonsky pointed out that the trend toward Marxist-Leninist unity was also growing internationally. He said that, “to better understand the growing unity trend we must view our movement in the context of the international movement of which we are an integral part.” He cited the examples of Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American and European countries where the communist forces were scattered and where several parties or communist organizations existed. “In all these countries,” he said, “concrete efforts are being made to forge one single unified party.”
Much of the discussion within the unity meeting centered around how to evaluate the communist movement today. Unity was reached on the need for the Organizing Committee to boldly arouse all the Marxist-Leninist organizations and to struggle with them to unite. It was agreed that this could only be done in the course of struggle and polemics against the various opportunist trends. Lines were drawn to distinguish between the revisionist Communist Party, the Trotskyists, the Communist Labor Party and the centrists such as the Guardian, on the one hand, and the Marxist-Leninist organizations who had not yet united in the unity efforts, on the other. While sharp differences exist between the Marxist-Leninists, the need to handle those contradictions differently from those with the revisionists, centrists and Trotskyists was clearly expressed.
The discussion was made concrete in the course of drafting a new unity statement to take the place of OL’s call for “Marxist-Leninists Unite to Build the New Party” which was published in the November 1975 issue of The Call. The new unity statement reflects the basis of unity established by all the groups present at the meeting. It will be published in the near future.
Struggle developed in the meeting over a number of questions, most of which were resolved with unanimity. Could a party congress be called and a definite date set? Were lines of demarcation sufficiently drawn with the opportunist anti-party groups such as the “Wing” and the centrists? What kind of concessions could be made in the unity statement to broaden our unity trend?
On these questions, the meeting decided: 1) A date for a congress could and would be set before next year; 2) While the lines of demarcation would have to be further drawn through polemics and in the course of the revolutionary struggle, definite trends had clearly emerged and the basis existed to form the party as a first step towards a single unified party; 3) We have to combine flexibility around secondary questions with firmness on matters of principle to unite the broadest forces of Marxist-Leninists.
Harry Haywood addressed the meeting and summed up his own experiences in trying to build anew party since his break with the revisionist Communist Party USA in 1959. Haywood said, “This is a happy day for me. For the past 25 years the masses have been without a communist party to lead them. At last we’re on the verge of forming a new party. Why did it take so long?”
Haywood showed how early attempts, such as those of the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC), “fell prey to sectarianism.” Those who fought for a mass program to keep the Leninist forces from turning inward and becoming isolated from the masses,” he said, ”were condemned for not being ’pure’ enough.” He added, “We started with broad support inside the CP. Instead of using their influence inside the CP, the sectarians forced a premature split, playing into the hand of revisionist leaders like Eugene Dennis, who used this as an excuse to expel the Marxist-Leninists.”
Haywood concluded: “It is essential to struggle against ’left’ as well as right opportunism.”
Haywood also spoke in depth on the importance of the Afro-American question within the program of the new party. “When the CP abandoned the revolutionary principle of the right of Afro-American self-determination, they opened the floodgates to chauvinism inside the party.”
Haywood added: “Our opponents distort the right of self-determination and say it is identical to calling for separation. But separation is only one of the options available to a liberated nation. Which option communists support depends on what will best advance working class unity ... This unity is the overriding goal of our program on the national question.”
The discussion around the draft of the sew unity statement summed up the development of the present communist movement as having risen in the struggle against right and “left” opportunism. Groups like the POC and Progressive Labor Party (PLP) were early attempts at building a new party m the ’50s and ’60s. Both of these efforts failed primarily because of ultra-’leftism” and neo-trotskyism. Presently, the main danger in our movement is right opportunism and those who conciliate to the modern revisionists. The new statement focuses on right opportunism as the main danger and also opposes the “left”-opportunism of the “Revolutionary Wing.”
The Organizing Committee was selected on the basis of one representative from each organization. Eileen Klehr, the vice-chairman of the October League, was selected as the head of the committee and will have the responsibility of coordinating its work.
The Organizing Committee was given authority to bring in new organizations if they were in agreement with the principles of unity. The necessity of winning the honest Marxist-Leninists was greatly stressed. The committee was also given editorial authority in the publication of common literature and a bulletin which will be used to carry on the pre-congress debate around program. It was assigned to organize speaking tours, to carry on liaison work, raise funds, organize joint study and direct the polemics against opportunism.
While the committee will represent the unity forces as a whole, each organization will continue to maintain its independent forms as well as its own organs.
A draft program will be written prior to the second unity meeting. The next unity meeting will be held within three months, after which the draft will be published and widely circulated during the period immediately preceding the congress. The rules and agenda for the founding congress will also be formulated by the Organizing Committee.
The meeting was summed up by every representative as an excellent beginning to a long and difficult process. A representative from Philadelphia said: “This meeting lays a good basis for us to carry on further party building work in Philadelphia.” A representative from Buffalo compared the method of struggle in the unity meeting with that in his previous organization, saying: ”After being in an organization marked by splits for years, it was a great thing to work with people who, while not burying differences, kept the interests of our class in first place.”
Another representative called the meeting the “beginning of a new stage in the development of our movement.” He added, “It shows that unity is the main trend in the communist movement today.”