First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 1, No. 7, November 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The central task for all U.S. Marxist-Leninists is building a genuinely anti-revisionist Communist Party. In the past several years much fruitful work has been done in defining the character of the Party, charting its aims and course, establishing its methods of work, and actually organizing it. The struggle over lines on Party building has been the focus of struggle within the Communist Movement. Whether or not we build the Party correctly decides the course of the struggle to overthrow the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and build socialism.
In the past one and a half years, the struggle over this question has been particularly intense. Many proposals have been put forth to the movement, vigorous polemics have raged back and forth and, as a result, much greater clarity has emerged. But what we are reprinting and criticizing below is a proposal almost no one knows about because it was distributed secretly to a very small number of organizations. It is the Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee’s proposal to “Concentrate Superior Forces to Smash Revisionism and Build the Party.” We are exposing this not because the MLOC is a force to be reckoned with in the Communist movement or among the masses, but as an example of one of the many opportunist trends that has a fertile class and social basis in the U.S. But some honest forces may be taken in by the MLOC’s “profound” and “theoretical” look, and not recognize the formalism, careerism and unscrupulousness lurking just beneath the surface. We are reprinting and criticizing it to move forward the struggle to criticize revisionism in the communist movement and so deepen the communist movement’s grasp of the correct Marxist-Leninist line and principles on Party building.
Before going into a full analysis of this proposal, let us answer several questions that have been raised about our publishing a secret document. We are publishing it because in our view questions of line on Party building are matters for the whole Communist movement to debate openly, not matters of backroom maneuvering.
Studying the document convinced us that the document itself reflects the opportunism it claims it wants to defeat. This opportunism must be ruthlessly exposed, dissected and criticized before the Communist movement if we hope to break with it.
The secret document, like other MLOC publications, tries to present itself as a product of a most profound synthesis of the science of MLMTT with the concrete conditions of making revolution in the U.S. In fact it is a sham. It proudly boasts that “concentrating a superior force to destroy the enemy force stems from a dialectical materialist world outlook and methodology,” and that all our work must be based on a “granite theoretical foundation.” But the MLOC never explains how or why concentrating a superior force is the correct method for Party building in the U.S. or how it reflects a dialectical materialist outlook. Nor does it tell us what the “granite theoretical foundation” is exactly. These are puffed up words to lend this thoroughly opportunist proposal an air of authority to inflate the MLOC’s image.
MLOC is quite concerned about its “image.” Recently, in an informal meeting with MLOC, we told them we had gotten a copy of their document and that we thought it should be published and criticized since it was thoroughly opportunist. They said it was being criticized, but no public statement would be made. Moreover, they said that we had no “right” to try to publish a secret document, that it was an internal matter. About two weeks after this exchange, we were called, told that there was going to be a public self-criticism in January which would be part of the organization’s general criticism and summation of its work, and they asked if we were still planning to reprint it. We told them that our view was unchanged and that trying to prevent us from printing it was itself a clear reflection of the opportunism of the document.
This kind of unprincipled, maneuvering and double-dealing convinced us even more that the MLOC Party Building line needs to be published and fully exposed, and that the task of correctly criticizing the document not be left to the initiative of the opportunists themselves. The attempt to hide the document only brings out the basic opportunism of the organization more clearly. The MLOC put forth their line in secret; they liquidated open polemics for the correct line; they tried to organize communists to struggle against opportunism based on only the vaguest and flimsiest principles, seeing the struggle in military terms when in fact it is an ideological and political struggle; all these reveal the essentially bourgeois careerist character of the MLOC Party building line. This represents nothing but an attempt to intrigue and conspire to build a revisionist Party. It is no wonder MLOC panicked at the thought of our releasing it.
Several arguments have been advanced on why not to publish it. First, the view that this document should not be released because it is a secret document, and we should not let the state see it. But this is just another cover. The document has nothing in it that could possibly be used by the state to injure the Communist movement or the masses. There is much in it, however, that is instructive for the Communist movement and class conscious workers, all of it by negative example. The secrecy of the document is nothing but an attempt to avoid struggle over the line. This, like MLOC’s general opposition to open polemics (Unite, Vol. 2, No. 2) violates Lenin’s basic teachings on the role of open polemics.
Open polemics, conducted in full view of all Russian Social-Democrats and class conscious workers, are necessary and desirable in order to clarify the depth of existing differences, in order to afford discussion of disputed questions from all angles, in order to combat the extremes into which representatives, not only of various views, but even of various localities, or various ’specialistes’ of the revolutionary movement, inevitably fall. Indeed, as noted above, we regard one of the drawbacks of the present-day movement to be the absence of open polemics between opposingly differing views, the effort to conceal differences on fundamental questions. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 4, p. 355)
The development of the correct line and the victory of that line, must take place “in full view” of the Communist movement and the class conscious workers. Open polemics serve to educate, temper and orient the movement. Incorrect lines that are put forth must be defeated and their class and ideological roots exposed, to prevent recurrence and to prevent decay into revisionism. Only in struggle against incorrect lines can the correct line emerge. Hiding our shortcomings or weaknesses, failing to expose incorrect lines, hurts the entire revolutionary movement. It preserves backwardness and one-sidedness, keeps comrades working along incorrect lines and in this way disorganizes the work. It prevents clear lines of demarcation from being drawn, and unity of will and action based on firm principle from being reached. MLOC’s philistinism hurts genuinely revolutionary work. Raising security when no security question is involved only covers the MLOC’s opportunism. It keeps this opportunism a secret not from the state, but from the Communist movement. It becomes a line of concentrating a superior force to smash the genuine one by one!
Another objection raised was that publishing the document is violating the wishes of the authors, and that we have no “right” to ignore the MLOC’s request for confidentiality in this way. Here again one of the principal shortcomings of the Communist movement today is the refusal by groups to engage in principled, sharp polemics. How is it true that all groups have the “right” to try to conceal their mistakes, and even their views. This is a bourgeois “right” we are not bound to respect. We also have the right, in fact, the obligation, to point out how this goes against the revolutionary interests of the proletariat and the vast majority. This MLOC document is the most fully developed version of this cowardly view. It abandons all responsibility for defending and justifying its line before the Communist movement. It uses the cover of military operations to justify, and to hide, its own backwardness, its own lack of any clear lines on any of the burning questions of our movement or any plan to unite Marxist-Leninists based on principle.
The question we must ask ourselves is this: should we cooperate in keeping this thoroughly retrograde line hidden or should we expose it to the light of day? Only in hiding can this line survive, and concealment may even allow it to spread. Comrades, the question is not one of do we or don’t we have the “right”? The question is one of class stand and of serving the interests of the vast majority.
Our action in publishing MLOC’s secret document has historic precedents. In 1899, Lenin got hold of and published a document called the Credo, a statement of views by a group of Russian Economists, attacking the basic principles of revolutionary Marxism. The authors had intended for this document to be kept secret, but Lenin “published it without the consent and perhaps against the will of its authors.” (What Is To Be Done?, FLPH Edition, p. 2) The same thing was done by Lenin with the Profession de Foi, also an opportunist manifesto, published by the Kiev Committee of the RSDLP in 1899. Both documents were published with full criticisms of the line, and both groups howled that they were not consulted. Lenin observed that the general feature of opportunism revealed here was “a fear of publicity” (Ibid, p. 22) by groups that “disapprove of all theoretical controversies, factional disagreements, broad political questions, schemes for organizing revolutionaries, etc...” (Ibid., p. 22)
In this case too we expect similar fling disapproval, cries of “violating security” or “you’re being unprincipled publishing this.” But in fact, issuing a military call to the Communist movement to organize secret sorties, using military tactics “to smash revisionism” is a violation of the basic Marxist principles of being open and aboveboard, and practicing Marxism and not revisionism, and is an attack in principle on the principle of open polemics. We did have some hesitation about publishing the document and the polemic against it, but this was not for any of the reasons mentioned. We are quite sure that OL will use this document and the polemic against MLOC as a further piece of evidence of their opportunist theory that all the organizations in the communist movement are allied against OL in an “anti-Party bloc.” MLOC had to “in fact” hit the OL in order to attempt wiggle its way into the then genuine revolutionary wing. Undoubtedly, the OL will try to use the release of this secret document, directed primarily against them, as a way to further consolidate their cadre. This will very likely be used to feed the OL revisionist machine. But we felt that we should not try to hide the truth simply because e opportunists will try to distort it in order to make use of it. In fact, deeply grasping the opportunism of the OC will help in combatting the main danger of revisionism, represented by OL.
Chairman Mao has taught that we should practice the “three do’s and the three don’ts.” He called on all communists to “practice Marxism and not revisionism, unite and don’t split, be open and above-board and don’t intrigue and conspire.” Comrade Chou En-lai, at the Tenth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in discussing these three general principles, said:
Chairman Mao thus puts forward the criterion for distinguishing the correct line from the erroneous line, and gives the three basic principles every Party member must observe. Every one of our comrades must keep these three principles firmly in mind, uphold them and energetically and correctly carry on the two line struggle within the Party. (TNC Documents, p. 18)
In this proposal MLOC makes a mockery these principles. In organizing secret maneuvers in the Communist movement against the right opportunists, they hopelessly confuse military and ideological and political struggle. The effect is to engage in totally unprincipled methods of struggle.
In the words of the recently published manual, A Basic Understanding of the CPC, “Is a person open and aboveboard, does he intrigue and conspire? This forms the dividing line between proletarian revolutionaries and bourgeois careerists.” (Shanghai, 1974, p. 64) This reflects very well the essence of the MLOC line on Party building – a line of bourgeois careerism and opportunism.
MLOC’s intrigues and conspiracies should be quite evident from reading this secret proposal. It is a call to sneak around the country organizing secret raids. In this way, the MLOC uses OL’s and RCP’s revisionism to justify its own retrograde character. In addition, they tried to use this unprincipled method to buy admission into the revolutionary trend. But this ticket is really a certificate of poverty. MLOC admits in its proposal that it has no line, and so it reduced to such tactics. They try to get it by with stacks of undigested reprints to cover a careerist scheme to wiggle its way into the revolutionary wing. Yet, as is clear from this document, the MLOC itself does not even know where it is going.
This proposal reflects a rotten world outlook. It reflects the striving of the petty bourgeoisie to remake the world in its own class outlook, which only serves the bourgeoisie. It must intrigue and conspire since it is unable and unwilling to struggle openly for the correct line. This kind of secrecy about one’s political views is characteristic of all exploiting classes. The bourgeoisie has interests that are objectively opposed to the working class. Hence, the bourgeoisie must lie to the workers about their real views in order to keep control over them. This“ is in sharp contrast to the method and outlook of the proletariat. The outlook of the working class is fearless because history is on its side.
The working class is convinced of the justice of its cause and certain of its ultimate victory. For this reason the Communist Manifesto proclaims “The Communists disdain to conceal their view and aims.” (p. 76)
In all aspects, the method of struggle against opportunism put forth by the MLOC is saturated with the old world outlook. First, it begins without any clear and firm line of demarcation. It lists seven principles, but these are called “questions of line.” They are not principled lines of demarcation. It quickly erases even these by saying “it is not a mechanical question of whether or not a single organization unites with all seven points.” Although the MLOC hoped to unite with the revolutionary trend, it reduces the lines of the trend to a “question” and an “attitude.” “The revolutionary trend,” the document states, “is both a question of political line, and of the attitude toward unity and the importance of particular organizations on the overall struggle of the proletariat.” This is the “firm” foundation on which MLOC hopes to build its Party, and to smash revisionism. In the process, they end up being to the right of those revisionists they are “smashing.” Flexibility of tactics should not be confused with political instability.
Second, the MLOC advocates struggling “to destroy the enemy one by one.” In warfare, the principle of struggling on one front at a time to conserve forces is correct. In ideological and political struggle, it is necessary to struggle on two fronts. This is because, as Chairman Mao teaches, in line struggle one tendency covers another. This is generally true. And in the U.S. Communist movement we can see this today. The “left” otzovist PRRWO/RWL and the right opportunist OL are the best examples. Each waves a baton at the other to cover their own opportunism.
One cannot develop a correct line without struggling on two fronts. Moreover, MLOC not only abandons the struggle on two fronts, but advocates that we take on one opportunist organization at a time. Comrades, this also is thoroughly bankrupt. The struggle against opportunism and revisionism is a long-term struggle that we must wage whenever and wherever we spot opportunism and revisionism in the working class movement. We cannot simply “destroy the enemy one by one” and hope to be rid of opportunism and revisionism.
Third, in struggling against opportunism, it is never correct to concentrate all our efforts to strike the opportunists where they are weakest. Lenin’s polemics always strived to proceed from the strongest argument of an opponent. Anything less is pragmatism. We are not trying to win bourgeois debates by scoring points by any method available; we are trying to struggle out the correct line by which to lead the working class to battle with the bourgeoisie. We must dismantle the opportunists’ best line so that it will not dupe the masses, not just side points and slips of the tongue. This is no Ford/Carter debate we’re engaged in here. It is a question of clearly demarcating lines so the masses can be clear.
Fourth, the task is not to defeat opportunists “on a local basis in order to strike a decisive blow by surprise.” The task is to expose the opportunist line showing how it doesn’t reflect nor serve the interests of the proletariat and put forward a correct line; to expose the people who cling to the bankrupt line while winning- away the honest elements. It means persistent exposure of the class arid ideological basis of incorrect lines. It means showing how these lines do not reflect reality and tend to mutate under criticism. None of this is a question of “local superiority,” but a question of the general line. Least of all it is a matter of. “surprise,” a matter of the work being conducted “in a quiet, secretive manner, until such time as a superior force has been assembled... not to surprise the watch dogs at the gate before we are inside.” It is a matter of persistent exposure before the masses so that the masses can be perfectly clear on who struggles in their interests and whose leadership they should follow.
Opportunism is the influence of the bourgeoisie on the workers’ and communist movements, but we must not forget that it is an ideological and political influence. If we are attacked we should most energetically defend ourselves and strike back. But this is not the character of our struggle now. Opportunism must be exposed before the masses in order to win the masses to the correct line, and prepare for armed overthrow of the bourgeoisie. In Lenin’s words,
preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat calls, not only for an intensification of the struggle against reformist and ’Centrist’ tendencies, but also for a change in the character of that struggle. The struggle cannot be restricted to explaining the erroneousness of these tendencies; it must unswervingly and ruthlessly expose any leader of the working class movement who reveals such tendencies, for otherwise the proletariat cannot know who it will march with into the decisive struggle against the bourgeoisie. This struggle is such that at any moment it may – and actually does, as experience has shown - substitute criticism with weapons for the weapon of criticism. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, pp. 189-190)
This is the task of ideological and political struggle. Without it, the revolution cannot move forward at the decisive moment with the masses fully prepared to take up arms against the bourgeoisie and their agents. MLOC, by its confusion of ideological and political struggle with armed struggle, advances a strategy that makes correct ideological and political struggle impossible. The result, for all its military allusions, is to fail to prepare the ideological and political conditions to actually move forward to real military struggle when the time comes. Comrades, MLOC is among those careerists and swindlers who must be exposed, isolated and defeated to move the working class to revolution!
Principled proposals to unite the communist movement must be based on an analysis of the communist movement, its history and development, the main tendencies within it and clear lines of demarcation between genuine Marxist-Leninists and opportunism. MLOC’s proposal has virtually none of these.
MLOC fails to draw the correct conclusion from the struggle against RU’s economism. They say that as a result of years of struggle, “many Marxist-Leninists came forward to recognize the necessity of party building as the central task in this period.” However, the other, more fundamental line which emerged was a grasp of the leading role of theory. It is this which MLOC cannot grasp. This is not just a misformulation. As we will show below, it reflects how in fact MLOC was never part of the second period and tried to but was unable to sneak into the third.
The RU led the struggle to defeat eclecticism and uphold MLMTTT in the first period. In the second period, the communist movement divided into two and the RU turned into its opposite by opposing both party building as the principal task and the leading role of theory. It became the main proponent, along with OL as a junior partner, of a blind “practice, practice, practice” line, ideologically rooted in pragmatism. To uphold a strict, scientific approach in all our work was the basis for the formation of the revolutionary theory trend of the communist movement. The struggles in the communist movement over these questions resulted in a general victory for the role of theory and the line of party building as the principal task; even the sham forces, OL and RU, took up party building. RU jumped out ahead and “completed” the task of building its sham party first; OL is now stumbling along to its first Revisionist Party Congress. The victory of the line of grasping the role of theory in party building as the principal task was in 1975. At that time, the third period began with the struggle over political line as the key link for the revolutionary wing.
MLOC latched onto and pretended to join these forces in upholding party building as the principal task and in giving lip service to the role of theory. And it failed to grasp what this means in terms of the specific tasks of making revolution in the U.S. The result is that MLOC could never be in the revolutionary theory trend, no matter how much it pretended.
For all their repeated calls to base unity in the communist movement on a “granite theoretical foundation,” MLOC has done nothing to improve our use of theory to make revolution in the U.S. Less than nothing. MLOC has taken no position on burning topical class questions of the day. It has not used theory to illuminate contemporary social and political life. Instead, it has “mostly reprinted Comintern, Albanian, and Chinese documents, provided some historical introductions and produced some tedious articles on the contemporary situation that are just long strings of quotes from the classics. They have made no attempt at independent analysis. This is why we say MLOC does not grasp how theory plays the leading role. They have promoted a servile, formalism, of the xerox-type, toward theory, endlessly quoting the works of the great Marxist teachers and leaders, but never grasping the spirit and essence of MLMTTT.
This deviation is expressed in the MLOC slogan “theory is decisive.” This slogan, on first hearing, sounds very learned; it seems to render Chairman Mao’s statement, “the correctness of incorrectness of ideological and political line decides everything,” more profound. But on close examination, this distortion of Chairman Mao’s works is really evidence of MLOC’s own opportunism.
When someone says something is decisive, we must ask, “For what?” In the case of Chairman Mao’s statement, correct ideological and political line is decisive for leading and making revolution. In other words, this slogan means that a correct world outlook, and correct program, strategy and tactics are decisive in leading and making a particular revolution. What does it mean to say “theory is decisive?” Decisive for what? In examining MLOC’s slogan, let us assume the best and say MLOC would answer the question by saying “theory is decisive for making revolution.” But what, then can this mean? Theory is the summed up experience of the international communist movement taken in its general aspect. How can the general experience of the working class movement decide the fate of our particular revolution in the U.S.? What is decisive is how well we are able to grasp this theory and find our bearings, politically and ideologically, and lead the class forward through the twists and turns of class struggle. Other countries’ experience and theory provide invaluable light to help guide our way, but theory must be applied as a guide to the concrete conditions of the society to give the movement clarity and direction in the struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie. In Lenin’s words:
a movement that is starting in a young country can be successful only if it implements the experience of other countries. And in order to implement this experience, it is not enough merely to be acquainted with it, or simply to transcribe the latest revolutions. What it requires is the ability to take this experience critically and to test it independently. (What Is To Be Done?, p. 29)
Comrades, ideological and political line is always decisive! MLMTTT is the theoretical basis guiding our thinking, a necessary basis for ideological and political line. In the second period, the key link was grasping the role of theory in party building, necessary (but not sufficient) in itself for developing the correct ideological and political line. The slogan “theory is decisive” is a crystallization of the MLOC ’s view of theory. All the reprints and attempts to render Chairman Mao more “profound” cannot erase the fact that MLOC raises the banner of “theory” only to liquidate the role of MLMTTT as a living guide to action, and to liquidate the decisiveness of ideological and political line.
This explains why MLOC could never take its place in the revolutionary trend of the communist movement. Basing itself on a fuller understanding of the role of theory guiding the development of line, the revolutionary wing took all the tasks of developing line seriously. The correct view of theory led it to struggle fiercely for the truth, sparing neither itself nor others in the struggle for the correct line. This is as it should be. This is why engaging in polemics is a principle, and why a correct view of criticism, self-criticism, repudiation, and transformation is necessary. If errors are made, if we are subjective in our thinking, the errors must be ferreted out. They must be hunted down to their ideological and class roots, their class effects exposed, repudiated and transformed. And this must be done to educate the communist movement and class conscious workers.
This is in sharp contrast to MLOC, which, when it listed the seven points of unity of the revolutionary trend, omitted open polemics and criticism, self-criticism; moreover, as this whole proposal for party building shows, the MLOC fails to uphold these two basic principles in practice. But the role of theory, polemics, and criticism, self-criticism were the real basis of unity of the revolutionary trend.
MLOC was never in the revolutionary trend; and they could never grasp the real basis of unity of the revolutionary trend. The deviation of the PRRWO/RWL clique, their “left” dogmatism, is totally different from the MLOC’s deviation, formalism of the xerox-type. But in the case of the otzovists before they degenerated into a consolidated revisionist sect, they struggled for their line. MLOC, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in the “theory” it so pompously puts forth, so it fails to struggle openly, mutates its lines and tries to sneak into party building efforts based on no line at all. In this way MLOC raises theory only to liquidate it.
While pragmatism was defeated in the communist movement and the opportunist OL and R“C”P sorted out, pragmatism by no means died. In fact, as part of the bourgeois ideological superstructure, pragmatism influences our thinking. MLOC, with its thoroughly opportunist attempts to squirm its way into the revolutionary trend, represented an attempt to import pragmatism (running any kind of “theory” that works) into its party building efforts in order to cash in on the victory of the revolutionary theory trend in defeating the economist RU and OL.
MLOC’s proposal tries to “unite” with other groups who are struggling against opportunism. But it never defines, ideologically or politically, what is the specific content of opportunism. At the same time, it puts forth the struggle against opportunism as the only basis of unity for the revolutionary trend. Opportunism is defined as certain groups - the R“C”P and the OL, not in terms of the ideological and political line of the opportunist trend. So, without understanding the lessons of the second period, by simply opposing the recognized right opportunist organizations, MLOC tries to sneak into the third period and so into the motion to build a genuine Communist Party. Just as OL points to the “C”PUSA and cries “revisionist” to cover its own revisionism, so MLOC points the finger at the OL and the R“C”P to cover its own unprincipled character and dishonesty. And this dishonesty is best revealed by its secret proposal.
First, as already stated, the supposed 7 points of unity are presented as optional. Even MLOC’s criteria demarcating groups in or out of the communist movement are entirely subjective. They say that OL is still in the communist movement while R“C”P is “consolidated bourgeois elements,” but give no basis for this different view of the two main opportunist groups.
Second, they call for unity before they have even developed political lines on which to unite. In fact, the theoretical work MLOC calls for under section (3) is the main content of the political line around which Marxist-Leninists would unite. Most groups already had definite views on these questions. Yet MLOC put forth that the theoretical work to hammer out line on these questions was the view of unity.
Third, in the development of program, MLOC has a wholly un-Marxist stand. It states “In struggling to unite Marxist-Leninists, it is obligatory for communists to seek and find compromise with the program of other genuine Marxist-Leninists when this does not violate one’s principles.” This formulation is, at best, hopelessly confused. Does it mean that our program and principles are different things? What can this mean except that our program is unprincipled? The fact is that MLOC does believe program is entirely separate from one’s principles. This is most clearly shown in their recent issue of Communist Line (Aug. 1, 1976), where they issue a call for joint work on the Program. They invite everyone and anyone to join them in this opportunist venture, not drawing lines of demarcation based on the fruits of the last 7 or 8 years of line struggle in the communist movement. They even leave out their earlier seven points of unity which they had called “the most important questions of line at this time.” So indeed, the worst is true; for the MLOC, the party’s Program is nothing but a bargaining chip.
What basis can there be for unity? MLOC had to resort to the most retrograde, subjective methods to tie this thing together. It calls up bourgeois friendship ties; “In uniting Marxist-Leninists, we must first develop fraternal relations among organizations in order to unite the revolutionary trend.” This is a method that Social Democrats always resort to in order to keep their organizations together.
One view on unity may place in the forefront the ’reconciliation’ of given persons and institutions. The identity of their views on Party work, on the policy of that work, is a secondary matter. One should try to keep silent about differences of opinion and not elucidate their causes, their significance, their objective conditions. The chief thing is to ’reconcile’ persons and groups. If they do not agree on carrying out a common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine ’conciliation,’ which inevitably leads to sectarian diplomacy, to ’stop up’ the sources of disagreement, to keep silent about them, to ’adjust’ conflicts at all costs, to neutralize the conflicting trends – it is to this that the main attention of such conciliation is directed. (“Notes of a Publicist,” In em>Against Liquidationism, p. 76)
This cannot be the method to build a revolutionary party. But given the fact that all MLOC has is “good” intentions and a stack of Comintern reprints, all it can offer is a handshake and a smile.
“Organizations stand abreast,” says MLOC and “Marxist-Leninists must begin to work together in a much more intense way, on the basis of equality and mutual respect.” What is this but a catering to retrograde circle sentiments, belittling of line and “philistine conciliation?”
Before MLOC’s document was written, about 7 or 8 years of intense line struggle had already sorted out many groups based on the struggle against opportunism. MLOC appears suddenly, rising out of a split in the Black Workers Congress, admitting that it has no positions on any major questions. What few principles it does have are easily discarded, and it tells the communist movement that “all organizationS are equal.” MLOC has the nerve to tell the other groups to be “bold” in uniting, that the main danger in the revolutionary trend was “requiring over-baked unity” and that “comrades must develop the ability to become Marxist-Leninist statesmen, capable of uniting not only with those “with whom there is agreement, but with those with whom there is disagreement...” Coming from a group that has no principled basis on which to demarcate itself from anyone, what can all this possibly be other than a naked attempt to sneak into the revolutionary trend, based only on maneuvers and not on line?
Line differences are all supposed to be erased, according to MLOC, and we are supposed to “think in terms of the majority.” In uniting genuine communists, we must always think in terms of the correct line. This is the only way to serve the vast majority. Thinking in terms of the vast majority means thinking of how to move forward revolution, which is always a question based on the correct line. By abandoning the attempt to unite on the basis of the correct line, MLOC abandons the only real way to serve the interests of the vast majority. By raising ”think in terms of the majority” as a principle of Marxism-Leninism to the forefront, the MLOC only means that we should try to please everybody.
This is made completely clear by their philistine view of polemics – that there should be no public polemic until private discussions have exhausted this possibilities. Rather than expose differences to the whole communist movement as a way of pushing us all ahead, MLOC prefers instead to have friendly chats. On the one hand, it presents the face of “reasonableness” and patience” to the communist movement as a whole. On the other hand, the MLOC secretly tries to appear to the revolutionary trend as a ruthless fighter against all opportunism, calling for military strategy “to strike a decisive blow to defeat the dominant economist line in our movement.” But this call for military strategy inside the communist movement is a sham. It is meant to create the illusion of staunch opposition to opportunism, just like the MLOC reprints reams of old documents to create the illusion of firmly upholding the leading role of theory. In reality it is nothing but double-dealing to create in image in the communist movement. MLOC raises the “opportunist tide” to try to “impress” the revolutionary trend with maneuvers against revisionism. But MLOC’s method for “struggling with opportunism” amounts to diving in and swimming with the tide, and, as their “credo” program shows, is opportunism concentrated and personified. A brief look at MLOC’s “heroic” struggle against OL will show this.
It is clear from this proposal that the motion of OL toward its revisionist party was the immediate stimulus to MLOC to put out its proposal to practice revisionism and to intrigue and conspire. Repeated references to the OL’s “size,” its “imminent” party building motion, and its newspaper circulation, make this clear. These references point to the wholly philistine attitude of the MLOC, its petty bourgeois blindness of only seeing numbers but never quality, the OL’s social democratic line. Let’s look at MLOC’s “struggle” against the OL, the strategy of open accommodation and closed maneuvering.
MLOC tells us that “an adequate struggle on a national level, conducted in a principled manner, has yet to be waged with the OL.” We assume, MLOC means their secret proposal to be the basis for this “adequate...principled” struggle. The general statement that “an adequate struggle has yet to be waged” is a denial of the definitive polemics on OL that had already been waged by the WVO (WV Journal #3, May, 1975, and elsewhere), clearly demonstrating OL’s character. Given MLOC’s lack of specifics, we can only take this to mean a general promise to do better.
But did they do better? Shortly after this proposal came out, OL unveiled its plan to form the party. The reaction in the communist movement was universal and immediate. Almost all the forces publically polemicized against OL taking this step, since it could only further consolidate its already opportunist line. MLOC waited. It maintained its closed liaison with OL. It formally, endorsed and attended the Fightback Conference, in order to “struggle in a principled manner with honest forces in the OL and around them.” Only in the Feb-April 1976 Unite did it finally openly criticize OL’s flagrantly opportunist call for a party. MLOC was the last organization in the communist movement to take an open stand against OL’s sham motion. But still it maintained its closed liaison with OL. And, since there has been no self-criticism, we assume it also kept up its attempt to “concentrate superior forces” against OL.
In Aug. 1976, it openly admitted maintaining its liaison with OL, even wanting to consult privately with them about their Organizing Committee. And MLOC has the audacity to criticize right opportunist OL for not getting back in touch with them after MLOC contacted the OL to talk about the unity conference.
In Sept. 1975, MLOC put forth that “an adequate struggle has yet to be waged with OL.” In Aug. 1976, the MLOC, whimpering like a hurt puppy, tells OL that it should have returned their call. This is MLOC’s “adequate struggle.” MLOC’s proposal was “to strike a blow by surprise.” But who was “surprised?” By having secret chats, rather than public polemics, MLOC conciliated with the opportunists and thus gave OL time and room to maneuver to fool more people. But the error is much more serious than this. With no principles of its own, therefore failing to demarcate itself or to base itself on principles, MLOC inevitably rushed toward the OL. In fact, MLOC criticizes OL from even further from the right! It has criticized OL’s Organizing Committee for being too ideologically and politically rigid and exclusive: “the stand of the OL as a major force in building the OC was not one of seeking to struggle out differences, but of subjective selection based on the degree of unity with the line of OL.” (Communist Line, #9, Aug. 1976, p. 3). Comrades, OL/OC is a model of Menshevik ideological looseness and flabbiness. No wonder MLOC’s call for joint programmatic work dropped all its prior “principles.” (By comparison with MLOC, OL, which mutated most of its major lines between Nov. 1975 and May 1976, is a model of revolutionary consistency!) And MLOC’s organizational line for the Party is a model of petty bourgeois liberalism and looseness, promoting autonomism and anarchy. Telling the revolutionary wing that “no organization stands at the head at this time,” but rather that “organizations s land abreast,” that “no single organization will achieve hegemony” – all these statements liquidate the decisiveness of line. And it is with the purpose of preserving the circles and of not offending the petty bourgeois proprietorship mentality that MLOC advanced these positions to further its own schemes. This is clear from its argument that “each organization rely upon their own practice in evaluating a question... (and)...maintain its own independence and initiative.” This is an invitation to autonomism, petty bourgeois anarchism, a formula for a social democratic organizational line. This is a theoretical line for circle spirit. This is above and beyond OL’s classical Menshevism in their, promise of “full democracy for all” line. MLOC in fact advocates the modern revisionist “advanced democracy for all.”
Like the bourgeoisie’s struggle against the proletariat, MLOC’s method of “struggling against opportunism” has two tactics: open conciliation (MLOC’s opportunist conciliation with OL’s opportunism) and secret preparations for a “military” strategy. On no level does MLOC take up principled struggle, the only real way to combat opportunism and revisionism.
MLOC’s opportunist view of opportunism, as discussed above, is that it is only located in certain-definite organizations, and that these organizations must be isolated and smashed. MLOC distorts ideological and political struggle in the communist movement with military struggle and united front tactics against the bourgeoisie and imperialists. In the final analysis, this represents a complete lack of understanding of what it means to build the party ideologically. This is shown in both its general statement about the task of building the party and the specific proposal realized to unite Marxist-Leninists.
MLOC’s proposal reflects the outlook of the petty bourgeois radical intellectual striving not to serve the movement of the working class, but to wriggle and jump out and take the leadership. This bourgeois outlook can only lead to setbacks for the working class. But in the final analysis, class struggle will expose and smash opportunists like this.
The petty bourgeoisie has no understanding that the struggle to overthrow the rule of finance capital will be a prolonged, bitter, life and death struggle. Its orientation is to look for short cuts, easy ways out. Its position is that of a transitional class caught hopelessly in the struggle between labor and capital. It s political temperament fluctuates widely. Exaltation and despair rapidly alternate. As a class, it cannot generate sustained, stable political work, just like a small business under monopoly capitalism cannot produce a stable life for its owner. As the petty bourgeoisie must depend on itself for survival, it sees only itself in the political arena. The vast working masses are only an army waiting for the orders of the petty bourgeoisie Yet it is an ambivalent, vacillating force, unable to carry revolution out systematically in all spheres, unable to combat the bourgeoisie on all fronts This is because the petty bourgeoisie secretly harbors wishes of becoming the big bourgeoisie, of some day being rich and independent. Its ambivalence makes the petty bourgeoisie a wholly unreliable, two-faced force in revolution. And this wish for independence, generated by its isolated conditions of work, makes the petty bourgeoisie hate and fear organization. Organization means it must subordinate itself-to the general whole. But the petty bourgeoisie cannot do this for it wants to direct all the work.
Proletarian work requires the opposite attitude and outlook. The struggle to overthrow bourgeois rule will be long and tortuous. And while capitalism’s fall is inevitable, and revolutionary upsurges possible at any time, the struggle will be protracted and hard, going through many twists and turns, with defeats as well as victories along the way. Opportunism, the bourgeoisie’s useful tool in crisis, is a social prop which supports its rule when it is threatened with revolution. Opportunism will have to be combated every step of the way up to and especially after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. MLOC’s attempted short cut, to “strike a decisive blow against opportunism,” “to qualitatively transform the balance of forces in the revolutionary movement between Marxism and opportunism,” liquidates this truth. It is as if this absurd proposal for a lightning series of attacks on the opportunists will magically blow them away.
Nowhere in this document, either in the spirit or the letter of it, does MLOC show any evidence that it understands the long, uphill struggle that must be waged.
The deep class and social roots of opportunism make opportunism inevitable. It will not be dislodged as long as there are classes. MLOC’s proposal is especially absurd when we realize that by abandoning principled ideological and political struggle, we abandon the only way we can really defeat opportunism.
But at the same time as MLOC addresses its brave “anti-opportunist” military strategy in secret to the revolutionary wing, it continues to meet in private with OL, the enemy they have sworn (secretly) to defeat. And they not only continue private meetings, but whine about the fact that OL didn’t invite them to their Unity Conference. And then it calls for an OC with less principles than OL’s Unity Conference! What staunch fighters against opportunism! This petty bourgeois spinelessness, a cover for its careerism and nhilistinism, is the real content of its call for the communist movement to “become Marxist-Leninist statesmen.” It is a call to exchange firm, stable principles and principled struggle and struggle for the correct line, for equivocating, vacillating, and unscrupulousness maneuvering.
MLOC’s proposal is conscious bald-faced, doubled-dealing bourgeois politics, a naked bid to promote themselves into the leadership of the revolutionary trend of the communist movement. It is based on no principles, no history of line struggle and no history or possibility of mass work. Like OL or any other bourgeois politicians, you are willing to bribe and flatter your way into leadership, making offers to organizations to “maintain independence and initiative” and telling them that “organizations all stand abreast.” You are willing to promote autonomism to promote yourselves, and to undermine the proletarian organizations of the Party in order to secure yourselves a place. This is your “Marxist-Leninist statesman’.”
The working class needs leadership, genuine proletarian leadership and not petty bourgeois careerist leadership, to wage all-sided struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie! Its Party must be based on strict principles of democratic centralism, binding members together with strict proletarian discipline based on the correct line. MLOC’s proposal is designed not to provide that, but to cater to petty bourgeois prejudices, autonomism and circle spirit, and represents a clear attempt to liquidate the role of theory as a guide to action and the decisiveness of line.
MLOC’s formalism, scholasticism, and careerism led them into this bankrupt-“military” proposal and united front tactic to unite Marxist-Leninists. Taking an important and correct article from Peking Review on military strategy (Dec. 27, 1974), they one-sidedly miss the essence in their rush to promote themselves. The article makes clear that even in the military sphere, concentrating superior forces follows from a correct ideological and political line and its centralized leadership. MLOC s proposal as we have shown is an attack on both! Like some petty bourgeois academic professor graciously offering his leadership to the working class from his lectern, the MLOC eclectically cites articles and engages in empty phrasemongering about how “whether or not to concentrate superior forces as the basis of strategy and tactics for party building is a fundamental question of a dialectical materialist outlook and methodology.” Meanwhile, MLOC has no line at all on the burning questions facing the working class movement, provides no guidance at all for the day-to-day struggles of the masses. This means that anyone following the MLOC’s line cannot possibly do any communist mass work. It also shows how cushioned these academics are from the class struggle. And by providing no leadership on any of these questions, MLOC insures that this separation from the masses will continue.
Comrades, MLOC is the most flagrant example in the Communist movement of the petty bourgeois class stand. Not only do they refuse to subordinate themselves to the interests of the vast majority, or to do patient work among the masses, but they are willing to hurt the interests of the proletariat and the vast majority to promote themselves and their sham unity plan.
Comrades, many elements from the petty bourgeoisie will be drawn to the Party of the proletariat. And as Lenin said:
There is nothing abnormal or terrible in this, if the proletarian Party is able thoroughly to absorb these foreign bodies and not be controlled by them, and is able to see in good time that some of these elements really are foreign bodies, and that in certain conditions one must clearly and openly dissociate oneself from them. In order to fulfill this obligation of the proletariat, it was necessary to take patiently in hand and reeducate those who had been attracted to Social Democracy by the days of liberty... who were attracted chiefly by the vehemence, revolutionary spirit and ’vividness’ of our slogans, but, who, though militant enough to fight on revolutionary holidays, lacked the stamina for workaday struggle under the reign of counterrevolution. Some of these elements were gradually drawn into proletarian activities and assimilated the Marxist world outlook. The others only memorised a few slogans without grasping their meaning, could only repeat old phrases and were unable to adapt the old principles of revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics to the changed conditions. (In Against Revisionism, pp. 43-44, emphases added)
MLOC is a group from which we “must clearly and openly dissociate.” The MLOC’s opportunist use of theory “sounds good” to some honest comrades because MLOC seems to take our theoretical tasks seriously. But beware, comrades, their petrified formalism and thoroughly degenerate world outlook can only build a revisionist clique. Look beneath their rhetoric. Their “granite theoretical foundation” is really quicksand! Break with this retrograde trend or you will sink with the MLOC!
Comrades, our movement is surging forward! The historic march of the communist and workers movements, building on the rich lessons of the last 7 or 8 years, will brush aside this band of fellow-travelers who attempt to deceive those comrades who have not and are not trying in earnest to repudiate their petty bourgeois baggage and embrace Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.
Forward To The Party Congress!!