First Published: The Call, Vol. 3, No. 8, May 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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As the struggle to build a new communist party intensifies, it is necessary for the party-building forces to deepen their critique of modern revisionism, in order to lay the firmest possible foundations for such a party.
One of the manifestations of this struggle has been the October League’s debate with the Guardian newspaper, a debate which was conducted short of open polemics until the Guardian began using the pages of its paper to attack the OL in their March issues. In the April issue of The Call, we responded to these attacks and developed some background articles pointing out the Guardian’s historic position of conciliating with social-imperialism, and distorting its real character. The Guardian responded to this by accusing us of “ideological lynching,” making a “shoddy case,” printing an “amalgam of deceptions, distortions and innuendo,” and of having no evidence, making charges that that are “preposterous and absurd.”
The truth of the matter is that we hit on a real weakness, but the Guardian doesn’t want to admit it. This is the reason for their rush to defend themselves. Instead of making a frank self-criticism based on the substance of what we pointed out, the Guardian resorted to 4,000 words protesting their innocence, evading the issues and scoring petty debaters points.
The main question of this entire debate concerns our attitude towards modern revisionism and its center, the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union and the U.S. constitute today the two imperialist superpowers whose contention and collusion pose the greatest threat to world peace, the independence of nations and the freedom of people everywhere. It is the two superpowers that are the target of the world-wide united front against imperialism. The Guardian’s view states that the U.S. alone is the main enemy and downplays the extremely important fight against revisionism and social-imperialism. This view minimizes the significance of the Third World countries’ fight for independence and national liberation, because this fight can only be grasped in its true world-historic sense if its enemy is seen as it objectively is-both superpowers.
Lenin defined imperialism as the “highest stage of capitalism.” This is a truth which all workers and students of Marxism learn in an introductory study circle. And he defined social-imperialism as “socialism in word, imperialism in deeds.” But apparently, the Guardian has lost track of the connection between these two basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. According to their editorials, the Soviet Union is a social-imperialist superpower. This is not the way they always refer to it, nor is it the way they referred to it two years ago when they generally defined it as a “semi-socialist, semi-capitalist” country, a wording which they never criticized but merely rejected as out of step with the Marxist-Leninist movement. But while calling the USSR a social-imperialist country, and a superpower at that, the Guardian also insists on its position that the Soviet Union is only “on the road” to restoring capitalism. How can a country which is not capitalist be an imperialist country? This is an impossibility. But for exposing this fact, the Guardian charges us with “sectarianism.”
In the April issue of The Call we elaborated fully on the Guardian’s erroneous assessment of social-imperialism. We hit especially hard at the preface they have given to a series written by former Guardian foreign editor Martin Nicolaus, in which Nicolaus is developing the history of the full restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the emergence of social-imperialism. In particular we criticized the Guardian for preceding this series by explaining that in the view of the editors, “capitalism has not been fully restored,” although a “class of state monopoly bureaucrats now exercises effective control over the means of production.”
Responding to The Call’s expose of this obvious sidestepping of the real role of capitalism in the USSR, the Guardian noted casually, “On reflection, we think our preface should more properly read, ’a class of state monopoly capitalist bureaucrats now exercises effective control, etc.,’ adding the word ’capitalist.’”
But we must ask, is this a serious way to go about changing one’s position on a highly important question lying at the center of our dispute? Without a line of explanation to anyone as to what this means, the Guardian goes and adds the word “capitalist!” Has Marxism-Leninism become a game of Scrabble where “adding a word” makes all the difference?
Even with the added word, however, the Guardian’s full formulation of what the USSR is today amounts to a mixed-up bagful of vague and contradictory phrases that makes no real sense. The new word makes it even more confusing. Capitalism has not been restored, but capitalists control the means of production? The Guardian editors who put together this mumbo-jumbo owe their readers an explanation of what it means and why they added the word “capitalist.” And they still have not yet taken a clear position either on which class in the USSR today really holds the most important thing: state power.
On one point after another, the Guardian’s April 16 response to The Call fails to base itself on the essential aspects of the questions of social-imperialism and the developments of the overall international situation.
For example, in April, we said, “The Guardian recently published articles written by open Trotskyists like Fred Halliday, carefully taking his name off the byline.” The Guardian responded with a counterattack on the smallest of points: we said articles (plural), and in fact it is one article. Perhaps it was the first article written by Halliday, but it was certainly not the first article written by Trotskyists nor the first to express a Trotskyite political line. In fact, the Guardian has published writings by Trotsky himself.
The fact remains that the Guardian did publish an article by the Trotskyist Fred Halliday putting out a Trotskyist view on the Persian Gulf on page 16 of the issue of February 12, and they did remove this fairly well-known Trotskyist’s byline. Is there a word of self-criticism in the Guardian’s response? On the contrary, the Guardian says it “will continue to use” this general sort of material “when appropriate.”
Here is another instance. We said in April that the Guardian had also fallen in with Trotskyism at one point in the Guardian pamphlet on China’s foreign policy by its Managing Editor Jack A. Smith, where Smith criticizes China around the Ceylon events of 1971. The Guardian thinks our criticism is “a staggering distortion.”
What Smith says in the pamphlet is that China was correct to support the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) government, but was wrong to say so in a letter and in public, because that gave “ammunition” to the Trotskyists. We say that if China followed Smith’s advice, then Mao Tsetung, Chou En-lai and Teng Hsiao-ping should not permit their writings on foreign policy to be published at all, and China should go back to the imperialist practice of “secret diplomacy,” because it is well known that anytime the Chinese leadership writes anything, there are Trotskyists to disagree with it.
In evaluating the concrete contention between the two superpowers, the Guardian has never been very clear. With reference to Europe, for example, which is the focus of superpower contention, the most the Guardian ever said editorially was that “the real danger spot in terms of U.S.-Soviet contention may very well turn out to be Western Europe.” That was July 17, 1974. But in its world survey of Jan. 8, 1975, even this begrudging but direct reference to superpower contention over Europe has vanished.
As for the role of revisionism as a political force in the world, particularly in West Europe, the Guardian observed in the July 17, 1974 editorial that the revisionist parties serve to win their countries over to alliance with social-imperialism. But just when the revolutionary struggle grows most intense, and revisionism is being exposed most concretely as an agent of social-imperialism, the Guardian conciliates with it, and ultimately glorifies it. This is the main aspect of the Guardian’s coverage of Portugal and the role of the revisionist Portuguese Communist Party.
The news coverage of Portugal has extolled the “progressive” and “democratic” character of the Portuguese revisionists. This praise has come at a time when the revisionists there are tightening a fascist grip on the labor movement, outlawing strikes, and banning genuine Marxist-Leninists from legal operation. The Guardian has also repeated the lies of the revisionists who call genuine Marxist-Leninists “ultra”-leftists and CIA agents. Moreover, while referring to the Portuguese revisionists as “independent of Moscow line,” the Guardian has failed to expose the significance of the tremendous Soviet economic penetration of Portugal now taking place, the use of “fishing bases” for the Soviet espionage fleet, or the signs of growing Portuguese dependency on the USSR.
To glorify the social-fascists just because they oppose the Spinola-fascists in their contention for power is nothing but betrayal of the Portuguese workers’ struggle, and its Marxist-Leninist leadership. Under the leadership of the revisionist Communist Party, the Portuguese people are in fact being set-up for the same fate as were the Chilean people.
In its coverage of the Middle East, the Guardian has also conciliated increasingly with revisionism, saying that it is the U.S. alone which is the principal enemy of the people of that region. The other side of this view, especially when the danger of social-imperialism is overlooked, is that the Mideast governments are nothing but puppets of the U.S. In propagating this view, the Guardian has linked itself to the chauvinism of the U.S. ruling class which daily slanders the oil-producing states and has wavered in its support of OPEC.
On Jan. 21 the Guardian correctly appealed for mass mobilizations to defend the oil-producing states of the Mideast against the sabre-rattling of US. imperialism. In its March editorial, the Guardian called off the mobilization against U.S. imperialism, and instead held the same oil-producing states up as caricature figures of “petroleum potentates” to be ridiculed and opposed. The Guardian based itself on a quote by Jack Anderson, whose longstanding Zionist views have earned him a feature spot in the Arab-baiting reactionary Zionist newspaper “Jewish Press.”
Is it “preposterous” of us to point out these things? No, what is truly preposterous and deeply disturbing to serious people is that the Guardian should stoop to relying on such “authorities” as Jack Anderson and secretly printing articles on crucial world hot spots by a Trotskyite like Halliday.
Even in one of its formerly strongest areas of news coverage, South Asia, the Guardian has begun to ignore the aggression of social-imperialism just at the time when it has reached its high tide with huge naval operations, the annexations of Sikkim and Kashmir, and the continued economic plunder of India. In its Jan 2, 1974 editorial, the Guardian recognized social-imperialism as predominant in “certain key countries” of South Asia. By July 17, however, South Asia is a Soviet sphere of influence only “possibly” and on Jan. 8, 1975, the Soviet presence in the region appears to the Guardian not worth mentioning. Leaving no room for doubt, the Jan. 8 editorial says, “In those areas of the world where mass starvation, disease and absymal living conditions are producing a slow genocide, the master criminal is U.S. imperialism,” and refuses to mention the role of exploiter of those underdeveloped countries which the Soviet Union plays.
We could go on to other regions, but the basic point should be clear enough. It is by no means “extremely difficult to dredge up any hard ’evidence’” to support our earlier criticisms, as the Guardian believes. The evidence of increasing conciliation to social-imperialism in the Guardian’s editorial line should be plain to anyone who studies its development.
In conclusion, we should take note of an important remark made by the Guardian editors in the April 16 response to The Call. Speaking of the evaluation of modern revisionism and the role of social imperialism, the Guardian says, “These issues will be the subject of struggle for many years to come and any effort to so narrow the Marxist-Leninist movement by consigning one side to the ’reactionary’ or revisionist dust-bin at this point is a sign of extreme political immaturity.”
It is an objective fact that the party-building movement includes many forces whose analysis of social imperialism is not complete, or differs from that of the October League. But this does not mean that we should urge liberalism, and drop the struggle for “years to come.” Rather, we should do everything possible to heighten and intensify it, to draw clearly the two lines on the question and expose the danger of conciliation.
In What Is To Be Done? Lenin said, “Under these circumstances, what at first sight appears to be an ’unimportant’ mistake may lead to the most deplorable consequences, and only shortsighted people can consider factional disputes and a strict differentiation between shades inopportune or superfluous. The fate of Russian social-democracy for many years to come may depend on the strengthening of one or the other ’shade.’”
A vanguard party of the working class must expose the two imperialist superpowers as the main enemy of the people of the world and take a concrete stand of opposition to modern revisionism in all its forms. To unite Marxist-Leninists around this principle will require considerable ideological struggle, but this struggle is of tremendous importance as our relatively young movement seeks to give genuine leadership to the working class. This struggle will determine the fate of the communist movement in the U.S. for some time to come.