First Published: Class Struggle, No. 7, Spring 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A two-day conference was held in April, bringing together 400 revolutionary agitators and propagandists who have been working around The Call. Focusing on the question of developing the type of Marxist-Leninist press necessary for the new Party, the conference included numerous speeches and workshops.
Below, we reprint one of the major speeches from The Call Conference, given by October League Chairman Michael Klonsky.
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Comrades, I’m glad we have so many enthusiastic agitators and propagandists here today. I talked with some people here this morning who have come from as far away as San Diego, California by bus. And I know that others have driven all day and all night from Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. I also know that the translators have stayed up until late last night worrying about how they’re going to translate these long speeches.
We work very hard to build internationalism and class unity between all of our brothers and sisters. This requires unity of language, unity of cultures and unity of nations. We shouldn’t forget that our enemy is working overtime to disunite us, to split us along the lines of language, culture and nationality. In The Call/El Clarin we take our language work very seriously. Our multi-lingualism is a powerful weapon against imperialism.
We should never forget that the aim of communism is to unite the people of the world into one, ultimately speaking the s^me language. However it does not mean to bring them together like the imperialists and social-imperialists do, by imposing the language of the great nation upon the other nations, but by uniting them all on the basis of equality.
I want to say a few words about the purpose of this conference. Chairman Mao Tsetung once pointed out that, “Cadres are a decisive factor, once the political line is determined.” This truth can be seen in the decisiveness of your work in turning The Call/El Clarin into the leading Marxist-Leninist newspaper in the U.S.
We hold these Call Conferences in order to practice the mass line, to bring us closer together with the comrades who are doing agitation and propaganda work out among the masses of workers and oppressed people. We have to get the masses’ criticisms and ideas in order to raise our level and to get supervision from below. Chairman Mao gave a talk in 1948 to the editorial staff of the Shansi-Suiyuan Daily where he said: “For over 20 years our Party has carried on mass work every day, and for the past dozen years it has talked about the mass line every day.” He added, “We have always maintained that the revolution must rely on the masses of people, on everybody’s taking a hand, and have opposed relying merely on a few persons issuing orders.”
This is our style of work, the mass line, “from the masses, to the masses.” So this conference has been called to mobilize the hundreds of people and in fact the thousands of people who are represented here, doing the day-to-day work of building The Call/El Clarin. We know that only when comrades understand the connection between the difficult daily work that they’re doing and the final aims of our struggle, and how one leads to the other, will they be able to carry out their work adequately.
We also see that while the majority of comrades are gripped with great enthusiasm, and should be because we are on the verge of founding our Party, there are some who are still pessimistic and gloomy. The only reason for pessimism at this time is because some don’t understand. Because they have been influenced by the reactionary propaganda of the bourgeois press and the revisionists, who thrive on spreading gloom and pessimism among the masses. This is inherent in their culture with its disaster movies which reflect the fact that even the most optimistic of them know that their days are rapidly drawing to a close. All they can think about is “Earthquake” and “Towering Inferno” and now a new powerful “monster” King Kong threatening their rule in Africa.
But we’ve got a more powerful earthquake waiting for them. And in a few months when our new party is founded, we won’t need any artificial devices to shake the movie theaters. We are going to change the whole course of working class history in this country and shake and destroy the very foundations of this capitalist system.
Of course, in order to do that we’ve got to bring this party into being as rapidly as possible. I can now report from the Second Unity Conference of the Organizing Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party that we are right on the doorstep of the first congress. And that all the groups in the OC, all the members of our trend, have unanimously agreed that The Call must be the newspaper of this party.
Now we’ve got to work twice as hard to live up to this important responsibility that has been handed to us. We’ve all got to raise our political level. Now we’ve got to skillfully and forcefully and militantly defend the correct line of our party. We must raise our level through hard study and criticism of revisionism. We’re not trying to build a party along the lines advocated by the revisionist Martin Nicolaus, where a few people supposedly master the science of Marxism-Leninism while the majority only run the mimeograph machines and hand out the leaflets.
Our science of Marxism-Leninism differs from every other science in the world. It differs precisely because it is the science of the working class that can be grasped by that class and used by that class to shape the destiny of mankind. It has a definite class bias, you might say.
Raising our level, in terms of Call work, must include the heightening of our struggle against revisionism. Our newspaper and our party could never have been developed to its present level and certainly not to the level it has to be, without a daily and consistent fight against revisionism. Revisionism is the poison that the capitalists spread within our minds, within our organizations and within our movement to weaken us and disarm us. As Lenin said, revisionism tries “to revise the foundation of Marxism, namely the doctrine of the class struggle.”
The bourgeoisie sends their “theoreticians” and agents into our ranks where they nestle and pose as communists, all the while attacking the line of class struggle. The revisionists like the Communist Party U.S.A., as well as the revisionist elements like Nicolaus, regardless of their organizational affiliation, are objectively as Lenin said, “a political detachment of the bourgeoisie, conductors of its influence, and its agents in the labor movement.”
From the superprofits they derive chiefly from the plunder of the third world, the imperialists have even been able to bribe the upper stratum of our working class. And this minority of bought-off workers at the top acts as a “trojan horse” within our ranks, spreading their poisonous ideology of reformism and chauvinism. Resting on this labor aristocracy, the labor bureaucrats have turned our fighting trade unions into their opposite. The revisionists have even used this bulwark of reaction to destroy the once-revolutionary Marxist-Leninist vanguard, the Communist Party. As we all now know, the revisionists have destroyed the birthplace of socialism, the Soviet Union, and turned it into a social-imperialist and social-fascist country.
The CP could not have been destroyed, however, simply by attacks from the outside, from the fascists and with police guns, or the vicious war against communism spearheaded by McCarthy in the 1950s. The heroic people of the Soviet Union were able to stand up to the biggest onslaught that the Hitlerites could unleash, because they were led by the Bolshevik Party headed by Stalin. In Cuba, the invasions and plots of the CIA could not destroy the revolution. In all these cases the fortress was taken from within. It was from within that the most dangerous enemy waited for its time to act–that enemy was revisionism. This is how the CPUSA was taken over, by eroding the internal fabric of the party.
The fact that the red flag still flies proudly over Peking contains many important lessons for us. The Communist Party of China has withstood the assaults from without and within and has grown stronger. The hundreds of millions of Chinese workers and peasants were educated in the fight against revisionism and every day, under the direction of Chairman Mao, the Party paid great attention to this question. This is why they were able to repulse the likes of Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao and most recently the “gang of four.”
Our organization, our movement and our newspaper were all born in the struggle against revisionism. We have always kept Lenin’s words in mind, that without the fight against opportunism, the fight against imperialism is a “sham.” Look at our history and see the different periods of development that we’ve gone through.
If we take the early formation of our small communist circles in various cities in the late 1960s as a starting point in the building of our new party, we can look at several important two-line struggles that were waged against the influences of revisionism within the ranks of our movement. The earliest of these struggles was around the task of resurrecting and restating the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism.
At that time, when the early initial breaks with the revisionist party were being made, the main form of work was in these small circles. We were very primitive and backward in that respect. We could not fully break with revisionism on the basis of these circles. And one of the early struggles in our ranks was to go over to agitation and to link Marxism-Leninism with the struggles of the masses. Looking back, we can remember the great enthusiasm felt by the cadres when for the first time, these circles began to integrate themselves in the struggles within the factories and working class communities.
Those who opposed this move ultimately left our ranks and went over to the Trotskyites and the legal Marxists where they could practice their petty-bourgeois communism in peace. At that time there was some Trotskyite influences in our ranks. One tendency always covers another. When you are fighting the rightists, the Trotskyites pop up and try to attack the party from the rear. When you are fighting tne Trotskyites, the rightists will pop up. And at that time, in our fight against the line of the CPUSA, some remnants of the Progressive Labor Party and other neo-Trotskyites were able to thrive for awhile, especially as long as we were separated from the proletariat. Some people have told me, I don’t know if its true or not, that the best way to lose a Trotskyite when he’s following you is to walk into a factory. At any rate these elements were even the founders of several groups posing as “anti-revisionists” even though they never made a break from the counter-revolutionary line of Trotskyism. Some are still active today, poisoning the air around the party-building movement.
Once this little band of Trotskyites and legal Marxists were exposed, we were able to make great leaps forward. Many advanced workers came into our ranks. The crowning point of this early struggle against revisionism and Trotskyism was the founding of The Call/El Clarin in October 1972. This was to become the weapon, the vehicle to bring our revolutionary theory into fusion with the working class movement.
The general education of the working class through propaganda and agitation became the chief form of communist work directed especially at these advanced workers.
Some of you might even have the first issue of The Call. You can go back and look at the front page of that paper and you will find a very important story. That story was about the Mead Strike in Atlanta, Georgia and was headlined: “IN ATLANTA: WORKERS FIGHT BACK.” Comrade Sherman Miller and some other comrades here today are veterans of that early struggle.
This was a significant struggle against the monopoly capitalists and their trade union lackeys, not so much because of what it meant right in that particular factory, but because it was the proof, the evidence, that our political line was correct. It was shown that Marxism-Leninism could be taken in a living way to the masses who were out on this long wildcat strike. To a large degree, this strike changed the course of the many wildcat strikes and militant labor struggles that were to take place over the course of the next few years. Marxist-Leninist agitation and propaganda became an important factor in these struggles and communist factory nuclei developed in a large number of strategically important places.
While the strike movement was growing at that time, the work of integrating communism with that movement could not be done without a sharp struggle against the line of the Revolutionary Union (now called the RCP) which was very influential in revolutionary circles at the time. The RU would not publish a Marxist-Leninist newspaper. Instead, they put out what they called their “workers’ papers.” It wasn’t until a year later that they finally published a political organ for their organization. But even then, they kept this supposed “communist” paper separated from the workers’ movement and used their economist “workers’ papers” to sell to the workers while their “communist” paper was reserved for the intellectuals. This separation of agitation from propaganda is a characteristic of all revisionists.
The RU’s practice stemmed from their revisionist line that building the mass movement was everything, while the task of party-building was “secondary.” They claimed that the party would eventually “grow out of the mass movement.” But our trend fought for the line that party-building had to be the primary task of Marxist-Leninists. Building the party had to be a conscious ideological and organizational task, not the spontaneous approach of “tactics as a process.”
We argued that the working class and the Marxist-Leninist organization had to retain its independence and leadership over the movement and not bury itself in the united front the way the RU advocated. The working class movement was more than one of “five spearheads” as the RU portrayed it. It had to become the conscious vanguard of the revolutionary struggle against capitalism.
The struggle against RU’s revisionism was closely linked to the struggle against the CPUSA, who are the number-one revisionists. The anti-party bloc, the “revolutionary wing,” the Guardian centrists, and dozens of other “revolutionary” phonies were also consciously or unconsciously doing the work of the modern revisionists in our ranks.
In many ways this fact came out most clearly on the international situation, where these opportunists covered, as they are covering today, for the crimes of modern revisionism internationally and are acting as apologists for Soviet social-imperialism.
Stalin summed up the teachings of Leninism by pointing out: “Formerly it was the accepted thing to speak of the proletarian revolution in one or another developed country as a separate and self-sufficient entity opposing a separate national front of capital as its antipode. Now this point of view is no longer adequate. Now we must speak of the world proletarian revolution; for the separate national fronts of capital have become links in a single chain called the world front of imperialism, which must be opposed by a common front of the revolutionary movement in all countries.”
Fighting for this proletarian internationalist view within the communist movement brought The Call and our trend into head-on conflict with the revisionists and opportunists. Again, you can look back at the stand of The Call even in those early issues and see the staunch stand it took in support of the third world struggles, such as the liberation movements in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
It was at this period, marked by the great victories of the Indochinese people, that our line on the international situation really developed, and again it developed only in the fight against revisionism. The victories in Indochina in many ways marked a new period in world history. This major defeat for U.S. imperialism, the second in 15 years, was accompanied by the emergence of the Soviet Union as a superpower on the rise trying to replace the U.S. as top-dog in the imperialist world. Now the peoples of the world had two main enemies to deal with, not just one.
Of course, even in defeat, the character of U.S. imperialism could not change and today it is still the same reactionary system that it. always was. But it was becoming a superpower badly weakened and a superpower on the decline. The Soviet Union developed its strategy of slipping in through the back door while the old imperialists were being kicked out through the front gate.
Now with its actions in Africa and the Middle East, the Soviet Union’s real character is being exposed and the peoples of many countries, especially in the third world, are getting acquainted with the new tsars first hand. They are coming to know the social-imperialists in the same way they came to know the Hitler fascists and the U.S. imperialists that preceded them.
The people in these countries have always faced two alternatives: will one colonialism, one imperialism, be able to come in and replace another, perpetuating oppression and bondage, or will the revolutionary struggle for independence be carried out in a thorough-going way, liberating the majority of mankind once and for all from the yoke of imperialism and hegemonism?
Angola is a prime example of this situation. After more than 400 years of fighting the Portuguese, now the Soviet Union dominates that country. The social-imperialists are likewise using Cuban mercenaries in an invasion of Zaire, along with the same reactionary Katangese forces that murdered Lumumba in 1960. Using “fraternal aid” to penetrate the liberation movements, the social-imperialists are trying to divide and conquer, pit one against the other and extend their sphere of influence into southern Africa.
But one by one the third world countries are standing up and saying, “We don’t want either superpower in our country. We want genuine independence and freedom!”
Of course our line met with stiff resistance from the opportunists whose class collaboration with imperialism, had to bring them into the arms of the Soviet social-imperialists, as it had brought them into the arms of their own imperialists. Certainly this resistance came from the CPUSA revisionists, who act as a “fifth-column” for their bosses in Moscow. And we expect a lot more from them. We know from bloody experience how these revisionist parties work–how they set the people up for slaughter and fascism. We saw what they did in Chile and how the workers blood spilled in Santiago after they were told by the revisionists that there could be a “peaceful transition” to socialism and that the capitalist army could be won to the revolution through discussion.
These lessons are clear, but our struggle for internationalism against those who called themselves “anti-revisionists” has been more complicated. They tried to peddle these same ideas like last week’s salad, only with a different dressing. Our early struggle against the Communist League (now called the Communist Labor Party) defended the concept of the “three worlds” as a powerful weapon against the two superpowers. They claimed, like all revisionists, that the brilliant theory of Chairman Mao’s on the three worlds was “unscientific” and “classless.” Now the CLP has gone over completely to social-imperialism, even defending “detente” and the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.
But The Call argued that the division of the world into these three components was indeed a scientific analysis. That in fact it served to isolate and defeat the superpowers, who make up the first world. These are the biggest international exploiters and oppressors of the people of the world.
The Call showed how the third world were the peoples of the oppressed and formerly oppressed colonial and semi-colonial countries. We showed how this was the firmest ally of the working class in all the capitalist countries and that no successful strategy for the fight against imperialism could be put forth without recognizing the third world as the main force. A major task facing us is to bring home to the working class of the U.S. the need to link arms closely with the peoples in the third world on the basis of our common interests. We must combat the chauvinism being spread against the third world struggles by the imperialists as well as the opportunists.
We should remember our battle with the revisionists when they attacked our support of the Cambodian people on the grounds that their leader was a prince. And even worse, we should remember that the opportunists in the RCP and the Guardian attacked our stand on the same grounds when it came to supporting the countries of the Middle-East against Zionism and imperialism on the grounds that these were “sheikdoms,” even to the point of joining in with the calls of imperialist aggression. They accused us of being “friends of the Shah” and supporters of royalty because we refused to join in with their chauvinist schemes.
The opportunists claim that the basis for support of a country’s sovereignty and independence is whether or not that country follows the path of bourgeois democracy. But Marxist-Leninists use a different standard. For us it is whether or not that country is defending its national interests and those of the third world against imperialism. Recently the RCP failed to oppose the threatened U.S. invasion of Uganda on the grounds that Amin was a “tyrant.” Aren’t they echoing the demagogic imperialist line of Jimmy Carter with his talk of “human rights.” Aren’t they violating their responsibilities as revolutionaries within the imperialist superpower? The question is–do you support the third world movement as a blow against imperialism and the two superpowers, or oppose the third world countries as “lackies” of one or another superpower the way the revisionists and opportunists claim?
To us the answer to this question is very clear. Those who fail to support the struggles of the peoples of the third world must themselves end up as class collaborators in alliance with one or the other superpower.
Between these two worlds stands the second world countries. These lesser imperialists of Europe, Japan and other areas are oppressors and exploiters themselves. But to one degree or another they are also facing the onslaught of the two superpowers. Our paper pointed out that our international strategy for the people of one of the first world countries, should be one of uniting with the second and third world against the two superpowers. This international front will be a powerful reserve in our own proletarian revolution for socialism in the U.S.
We must educate the working class, mobilizing our agitators and propagandists to write articles for The Call which expose the two superpowers and which give support to the peoples of the world struggling against them. It is especially important to expose the Soviet Union, which is the most dangerous of these two superpowers because of its “socialist” disguise. We strongly oppose the view that says there can be “equilibrium” or “parity” between the two superpowers.
When you have two imperialist superpowers, they have got to contend with each other and one will try to destroy the other in a war. This is why in the present situation a new imperialist war is inevitable.
It was this stand of ours that got the revisionists so upset. It exposed their lies of “detente” as nothing but a hoax. The RCP frantically screamed “of course, we’re against revisionism.” But, they said, let’s not direct our main blow there. They even called for “united action” with the revisionists and slandered the Leninist concept of “directing the main blow” at the revisionists, calling it a “joke.” They told us that the CP revisionists are simply a bunch of “tired, old reformists,” who cannot be called the main enemy within the ranks of the workers’ movement. This was the “criticism” of the revisionists, put forth in the RCP program, that they expected us to follow. But we don’t take the revisionists as a joke. It’s true that in this country they are not as strong as in other places. But don’t let that lull you to sleep for a moment, for the danger of the revisionists has never depended upon their size and strength in any one country. Today revisionism has state power in a number of countries. It has the most powerful military force ever assembled. It has its “fifth columns” in many countries, including the U.S., and it lives off of the reputation of the glorious history of Leninism. It uses Marx’s name at a time when the revolutionization of the masses is taking place at a rapid pace.
Our responsibility is to direct the main blow at the main conciliators, the main social props of imperialism within the worker’s movement. We must exploit their strategic weakness, their paper-tiger aspect, and expose them in practice before the masses. But to underestimate them tactically is in fact serving revisionism. This is what our opportunist “anti-revisionists” and centrists are doing.
The Call clarified this question and showed that by “the direction of the main blow,” we do not mean the target of the revolution or the main enemy. The main enemy of the working class in this country is, without a doubt, the U.S. ruling class. While internationally we have two main enemies, our revolution in the U.S. has one strategic enemy to overthrow. The direction of the main blow at any time, rather, is aimed at the main conciliators of imperialism within the ranks of the working class. The U.S. working class must storm and crush the fortress of its main enemy, the U.S. bourgeoisie. But this fortress has a number of guardians standing before its gates. These guardians must be smashed and dispersed in order to storm the fortress. That is the substance of the question of the “main blow.” We have also exposed and rejected the line of some people like Nicolaus and Hinton who call for an “alliance” with U.S. imperialism against Soviet social-imperialism.
We can see that revisionism takes on many different faces and many different covers. But ultimately it all boils down to the question of whether we are going to fight against imperialism, against social-imperialism and for socialism or not. Revisionism takes advantage of the confusion and the complicated situation in today’s world. It means that all of us must study hard to distinguish between real and sham Marxism and to defeat revisionism in the heat of the mass struggle.
We’ve got to grasp hold firmly of these major questions, to determine who are our enemies and who are our friends. Of our enemies, who are our main enemies? Both internationally and here at home.
We’ve got to link arms with our allies, both here and around the world, we’ve got to build our party and a broad united front against imperialism. Of all of our allies we must understand who are our main allies. Who is the main force to rely on? It is the movements of the oppressed countries and nationalities that are fighting our enemies, with and throughout the third world.
Our task as propagandists and agitators must be based upon a scientific understanding of where to direct the main blow. Who must be exposed before the masses and driven from the workers’ movement? Here in the U. S. we must see it is the reactionary trade union leaders and the revisionists of the CPUSA. They must be driven out of our unions, out of our movement–kicked out completely.
Internationally we must isolate and expose the revisionist social-imperialists and their agent parties throughout the world. The people of the world have had long experience with U.S. imperialism. They have learned quite a bit about the CIA, AID and the “Peace Corps.” Now they are learning new lessons about the KGB, “internationalist aid” and Soviet “peace councils.”
I hope this point about linking the fight against imperialism and revisionism in our newspaper work has been brought home: Some people say we talk about this too much, that we’re too concerned with the revisionists. They used to accuse the Bolsheviks of “Cadetophobia” when they carried on then struggle against the Cadet liberal bourgeoisie in Russia. Maybe the RCP and other centrists might accuse us of having “revisionistophobia.”
But we aren’t afraid of the revisionists. That’s why we can struggle so hard to wipe them out while the centrists can do no more than nuzzle up to them.
Finally, I would like to point out that this theme will be running through all of our workshops and our whole program this weekend. We’re calling on all our comrades to join us in this effort. We’re calling on The Call Committees to set up special anti-revisionist committees to do specialized study and research and to write extra articles on modern revisionism. Soon we will have to meet the needs of a daily newspaper. But our enthusiasm is not enough.
This Call Conference is a prelude to our Party Congress. The Party Congress is the pathway to the future victories of our movement.
Welcome the First Congress of our Party!
Build The Call/ El Clarin!
Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought!