First Published: The Call, Vol. 5, No. 9, June 28, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In a June 4 speech that was a hodgepodge of revisionism and Trotskyism, centrist spokesman Irwin Silber of the Guardian put the finishing touches on his newspaper’s break with the Marxist-Leninist movement.
Silber acknowledged to the New York City audience of over 700 that the differences between his line and the line of the anti-revisionist movement “are irreconcilable.”
While Silber’s attacks on Marxism-Leninism were welcomed by the Trotskyites and followers of the revisionist CPUSA in the audience, for the honest forces, they served as an exposure of the bankrupt, revisionist essence of the Guardian executive editor’s line.
After lecturing the audience at dreary length on the need to base our analysis on the scientific study of objective conditions, Silber summed up his own “scientific analysis” of the present-day Soviet Union by saying “we all know there’s something damned wrong with the Soviet Union.” This gem of subjectivism and evasion solved the problem Silber faced all through his tour: How to call the Soviet Union social-imperialist in order to maintain credibility among Marxist-Leninists and at the same time deny that capitalism had been restored in order to keep the door open to the revisionists. In New York, Silber solved this problem by ceasing to refer to the Soviet Union as imperialist at all. The fact that the Guardian now openly pretends that the USSR today is not imperialist helped to open many people’s eyes to the real meaning of centrism.
The Guardian editor’s efforts to cover up the role of the USSR also came out in a laundry list of “questions” he presented as alleged reasons why he is “not convinced” that the USSR is capitalist. Every relevant item on this list – unemployment, profits, planning – was answered with facts and figures in a series of articles that ran in the Guardian’s own pages last year. (The articles are reprinted in a book by Liberator Press). To this day the Guardian editors have been unable to say a word in refutation of that analysis, but are pretending it doesn’t exist. It is evident that they have made up their minds to throw in their lot with the Soviet revisionists, and no facts will budge them.
Unable to present a scientific defense of its pro-revisionist, pro-Soviet social-imperialist position, the Guardian has launched a barrage of slanders and distortions against Marxism-Leninism.
For example, those who take a Marxist-Leninist line on international affairs and uphold the revolutionary foreign policy of China, are accused by Silber of believing in the “papal infallibility” of Chairman Mao Tsetung. It is not enough for Silber to slander the whole U.S. Marxist-Leninist movement as “flunkeys,” as he again did. He must also go all out to try to smear the Communist Party of China and its great leader.
In his Chicago speech a few weeks earlier, Silber revealed his thoughts on this point a little more fully. Answering a question about the social base of China’s foreign policy, which he had characterized as “reactionary,” Silber said, “You can’t tell what forces in China are on top now.” Evidently Silber thinks that “something is damned wrong” in China, too. But what it might be he won’t or can’t say any more than in regard to the USSR. Silber’s inability to distinguish between the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in the USSR makes one wonder how he can pretend to take any part in the fight for the proletarian dictatorship in the U.S.
The reactionary slanders hurled at China by Silber under the guise of “friendly criticism” are not original inventions. They come almost word for word from the pages of the Daily World and the Militant.
Silber’s charge that the October League and other Marxist-Leninists have the line of “class collaboration with U.S. imperialism” is taken from the same source. Ever since the October League was founded, we have been fighting in the heat of the class struggle to build a new communist party to overthrow U.S. imperialism.
Recently, the October League has played a leading role in bringing about the unification of a trend representing several Marxist-Leninist groups in the Organizing Committee for a New Marxist-Leninist Party. The Organizing Committee is carrying out the work of bringing more Marxist-Leninists into the unity trend, drafting and organizing he debate around party program and laying the groundwork for a Party Congress this year.
Meanwhile, Silber openly admits that the Guardian has no party building plans. Ignoring the need to organize the vanguard of the working class in order to wage revolutionary struggle, Silber confines the question of party building to a topic for “future discussion.”
Silber must think his audience is too ignorant to know that the Guardian editors, totally divorced from the working class, do not organize any fighting force worth speaking of against U.S. or any other imperialism. The Guardian’s chief pen pusher is in no position to lecture the Marxist-Leninist movement about “fighting U.S. imperialism.”
Also typical of the Guardian’s technique of evasion and distortion is to keep reciting (and misquoting) William Hinton’s article on China’s foreign policy. Whether Hint on proposes an alliance with U.S. imperialism or not, in either case, Hinton speaks only for Hinton. Only China can speak for China, and China does not propose such an alliance.
The Guardian aims its main blow at the October League and other Marxist-Leninists because, in the fight to overthrow U.S. imperialism, we fight at the same time to avoid falling prey to the other superpower.
The decline of U.S. imperialism in the world is an objective fact. Soviet social-imperialism is on the rise. It is already stronger militarily, especially in Europe, the focus of contention between the two superpowers. Everywhere in the world it is not only infiltrating, but aggressively expanding and preparing to move in. It is the main source of the threat of world war. Its “socialist” label and its big lie of “detente” still deceive many people, just as Hitler did. These, too, are objective facts. This is why, in the concrete world situation of today, Soviet social-imperialism has become the more dangerous of the two rival imperialist superpowers. Of the two principal enemies of the peoples of the world today, the USSR is the main danger. In our propaganda and agitation work, we hammer home these objective facts.
The Guardian, by contrast, in concert with the revisionists, praises such deeds as the instigation of civil war and occupation of Angola as “proletarian internationalist aid” and similar euphemisms.
Does our opposition to the other imperialist superpower bring us in to “alliance” with U.S. imperialism? Nonsense! Our line is solidarity with the struggles of the world’s people against both superpowers. Our line heightens the revolutionary consciousness of the masses and raises the level of preparation against imperialist world war. Our line combats the pacifist and reformist illusions spread in the working class by the bourgeoisie and teaches genuine internationalism. This line alone can train and consolidate the vanguard of the working class, which will lead the struggle to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, into revolution. We aim our main blow against the revisionists who attempt to sidetrack the revolutionary struggle into the bloody dead-end street of reformism and capitulation. This is the only way to ensure that the struggle to overthrow U.S. imperialism, our “own” ruling class, will be victorious.
It is not we who play into the hand of U.S. imperialism, but those who cover up the source and danger of imperialist war, who grossly magnify the power of U.S. imperialism in the world, who promote unity with revisionism and Soviet social-imperialism, and who are trying with every means at their command to prevent a genuine communist (Marxist-Leninist) party from being born. If the editors of the Guardian wish to see who props up U.S. imperialism and delays its revolutionary overthrow, they should examine themselves and their allies.
The overwhelming majority of Marxist-Leninists will certainly agree with Irwin Silber’s conclusion in his June 4 speech that the differences between his line and our line are irreconcilable and allow no compromise. That is why the Guardian editors as political figures, and their newspaper as an organized force (such as it is), can no longer be considered as a part of the Marxist-Leninist movement. The task now is to step up the exposure and struggle against the ideological influence of their line.
The Guardian editors summed up Silber’s speaking tour with its New York climax as indicating “a vast reservoir of political sentiment and cadres” for the Guardian’s line.
In reality, Silber’s speaking tour, including his final act of denying that the Soviet Union is imperialist at all, is only welcomed by the revisionists and Trotskyites.