Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee

NUWO: Dual-Unionism and Betrayal of the Party

Published: Unite!, Vol. 3, No. 9, October 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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With the cost of living having doubled in the last 10 years, cutbacks in wages and benefits in labor contracts have led to strikes across the country. The bourgeoisie has retaliated with savage attacks in the form of mass layoffs, union-busting drives and unemployment insurance cutbacks. Underhandedly, they encourage the growth of the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, and other fascist groups, especially in the Black Belt South. The goal is to win over the most backward elements of our class, divide us along national lines and intimidate us with fascist terror. Imperialist war has always been the temporary solution for capitalism in crisis. Preparations for a third world war are today underway.

Such are the conditions facing the U.S. working class. Strikes, struggles against the trade union misleaders, struggles by national minorities and women for democratic rights, and an upsurge of resistance among the masses of the Black Belt Nation are all an indication of the fighting mood of the class.

In this situation, what does the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) offer the U.S. working class?

Labor Day weekend in Chicago gave us the latest glimpse of the RCP’s continued trek down the path of right opportunism and revisionism. On September 3rd and 4th, the founding congress of the National United Workers Organization (NUWO) concluded months of work by RCP cadre, contacts in their mass organizations and their contacts on the shop floor. The RCP has built the NUWO because the working class needs, in their view, “a unified center of leadership, a united force of active fighters from the working’ class able to mobilize the strength and power of millions of workers in key battles...capable of waging major fights nationwide, as well as local fights, in every major industry...around the key social issues of the day.” (A National Workers Organization, A Powerful Weapon of Our Class, RCP Pamphlet, page 4).

Clearly this is true. But the essential question remains. What form of organization does the class need? And who is to provide the leadership?

Verdict on the NUWO

No matter how sincere, or energetic the people involved in the NUWO are (for the spirit of the congress was that of a pep rally), in the final analysis, this new organization is doomed to failure. The building of such an organization strikingly illuminates the RCP’s revisionism on two fundamental questions of Marxism-Leninism the role of the party as vanguard of the class, and the role of the trade unions as mass organizations of the class. Rather than actively and fearlessly taking up the fight inside the trade unions in an all around way to kick out the trade union bureaucrats and win over the masses of workers to the side of the communist party, the RCP has built the NUWO both to usurp the party’s role as the leader of the day to day struggles of the class, and the trade unions’ role as the basic fighting organizations of the class, for both the immediate demands and the long term goal of socialism.

Role of the Trade Unions

Of the organizations the class needs to “mobilize the strength and power of millions of workers”, “wage major battles”, and fights around the “key social issues” one already exists. This is the trade unions. The other, the party, does not yet exist. The NUWO is clearly a dual-unionist organization, no matter how hard the RCP bends over backwards saying it is not. Examining their work in steel over the past year will give a good example.

Their work consisted of actively supporting Ed Sadlowski’s campaign for union president. Rather than fighting hard, agitating and propagandizing about the need to transform the steelworkers’ union into a rank and file fighting organization, and kick out the trade union misleaders (including Sadlowski), they supported him uncritically during the long months of the campaign. At the same time, they put their major effort into building support for the NUWO among their contacts in the USW. Rather than fighting hard inside, they objectively pulled workers outside the union, splitting the union.

Their splitting work in the USW is consistent with their syndicalist line on the trade unions. They have built their own organizations for miners, the Miners Right to Strike Committee, one for autoworkers, the Autoworkers United to Fight, and so on in many major industries. So instead of waging struggle in the unions for class conscious leadership they have pulled workers into these organizations to challenge the existing unions.

Long ago Stalin condemned this kind of splitting activity:

Over there in the west, there are still individual ’communists’ who refuse to understand this particular specific feature and continue to make play with the anti-proletarian and anti-revolutionary slogan: ’Leave the trade unions!’ It must be said that nobody can do more harm to the communist movement in the west than these and similar ’communists’. Regarding the trade unions as the enemy camp, these people contemplate ’attacking’ them from without. They fail to realize that if they pursue such a policy the workers will indeed regard them as the enemy. They fail to understand that the trade unions, whether good or bad, are regarded by the rank and file worker as his fortress, which help him to protect his wages, hours and so forth. (On the Opposition, page 202).

Stalin continues, “Hence, the main task of the Communist Parties in the west at the present time is to develop and bring to a successful conclusion the campaign for trade union unity, to see that all communists without exception join the trade unions, to work in them systematically and patiently for uniting the working class against capital, and in this way to enable the Communist Parties to have the backing of the trade unions.

The trade unions are the most basic, broadest working class organizations. They are the organizing centers for developing class consciousness and leading the class struggle. Their role must be to take up and fight for the day to day demands, both the economic demands on the shop floor and the key social issues of the day. The struggles of the unemployed, of national minorities and women, and struggles such as the fight to free the Dawson 5 are all issues for the trade unions. In addition, the trade unions must actively take up the fight for socialism.

As the educating, organizing and mobilizing center in the class struggle, the trade unions are the reservoir from which the party draws its ranks. They serve as the “transmission belts”, uniting the party and the entire mass of workers. The larger they are, the greater are the potential supporters and recruits for the party. Any policy that splits the unions, or narrows their influence, weakens the party’s ties with the masses and isolates it from the class. This is precisely what the RCP has done when it built the NUWO to take up the rightful tasks of the trade unions.

Role of the Party

A genuine communist party is a political party of a new type, very different from bourgeois political parties. It is made up of the most dedicated, capable working class fighters. The party leads the day to day economic struggles through its secret factory nuclei in the shops, secret fractions in the trade unions, and participation in trade union caucuses. It leads the struggle of the working masses for democratic rights, against fascist terror, etc. But in the struggle for the short term goals, the party never loses sight of the ultimate aim the seizure of political power for the working class. The party must link up these two, correctly handling the relation between the struggle for reform and the struggle for revolution.

When the RCP assigns the NUWO the task of leading the day to day struggles, from coast to coast, among the unemployed, for democratic rights and against fascist terror, the RCP is giving up its “leading” role as a vanguard party.

Pessimism and Passivity

The source of the RCP’s revisions of these essential questions of the revolution stems from their view of the objective situation of the working class today. While tremendous confusion and vacillation on this question is evidenced in their Central Committee report in the May issue of REVOLUTION, the essence is their assessment of the situation as “non-revolutionary”. While it is true the state of the struggle today is not one of manning the barricades, the principal aspect of this epoch is that of proletarian revolution. As Albanian comrade Enver Hoxha has said, “The world is at a stage when the question of the revolution and national liberation is not just an aspiration and a perspective, but a problem taken up for solution.” (Hoxha, The Theory and Practice of the Revolution, page 2).

Seeing the U.S. as an exception, apparently, the RCP has made the question of revolution merely an aspiration. They have assessed the majority of the U.S. working class too “bourgeoisified”. In their view, the class is not ready to take up the struggle for socialism. This is essentially the line of the “whole working class is bribed” stripe. In other words, they raise the aspect of the bribery of a strata of the class from the superprofits of imperialism to the principal aspect of the class struggle. They conclude the class is too bought off to have a material basis for grasping and taking up the struggle for revolution. Except for a mild speech at the closing of the NUWO congress, the struggle for socialism was not on the agenda”, as one worker in a trade union workshop was told. The low level of struggle was clear in most all the workshops. The low level of leadership by RCP cadre was also clear. In the miners workshop, people spent over an hour discussing whether or not the capitalists wanted the miners to strike over the loss of medical benefits, vainly trying to get some participation from the few rank and file miners who were here. With the serious state of affairs in the UMWA, and the militant, fighting mood of the miners, this is nothing but tailism at its very worst.

Rubbing Shoulders Theory

How does the RCP propose to “eventually” bring the masses around to the struggle for socialism, since today only the struggle for the immediate demands is on the agenda? “As these kinds of classwide campaigns (referring essentially to economic strikes and demonstrations) get built, the movement of the working class will begin to take a qualitative leap to a higher level.” (Ibid. RCP Pamphlet, page 34). The implications are that “getting out there and fighting” which was referred to so many times during the congress, will lead to a scientific understanding of the class struggle and to a correct program for proletarian revolution.

This is classic economism refuted by Lenin in WHAT IS TO BE DONE? decades ago. It underestimates the objective conditions for revolution in the U.S. today, tailing behind the spontaneous struggle. It belittles the fighting, class conscious activity of the workers, seeing the principal aspect of the U.S. working class as “bourgeoisified”. It belittles the transforming role of theory and workers’ ability to grasp the science of revolution, objectively belittling the historic mission of the proletariat. And finally, it belittles the role of the communist party, separates the party from the masses, and upholds the line of the “two movements”. Nowhere was this more clear, in the past, than in their press. They have a “communist” newspaper, REVOLUTION, and they have their “Worker” papers. Now with the formation of the NUWO, they have their “communist party (RCP) and their “workers party” (NUWO).

In Conclusion

When we condemn the RCP for forming the NUWO, we are condemning them for their revisionism on the question of the revolutionary role of the trade unions, the role of the party and the correct relationship between reform and revolution. The RCP has built the NUWO because in their own passivity and pessimism, they are unwilling to take up the struggle of the working class. They are unwilling to actively, tirelessly and fearlessly take Marxism-Leninism to the masses in the trade unions and in every major shop, mine and mill in this country. To cover for their own revisionism, they blame the masses, calling the class “bourgeoisified”.

The formation of the NUWO is but another example of how the RCP is not the vanguard party of the working class. They have led the way over the past 10 years in revising Marxism-Leninism on all major questions facing the working class on the role of the trade unions, the role of the party, and on the national question they have even gone so far as to say that Stalin’s formulation of a nation no longer applies. Such revisers of the theory and practice of proletarian revolution can not possibly lead the working class except down the road of class collaboration.