First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 2, No. 1, May 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The economic and political crisis of the U. S. monopoly capitalism has not only inflicted greater misery on the working class – it has called forth our greater resistance. Thus, the rapidly growing revolutionary trend is racing fiercely with the trend of fascism and war which the present condition of capitalism inevitably brings forth.
Today, intensified class and national oppression has met the response of fresh waves of class and national resistance, opening up new vistas and scope to our class struggle. At the same time, rapidly changing conditions and the zigzags of bourgeois tactics under this crisis has thrown the communist movement into temporary disarray. Under such conditions, opportunists and revisionists of all shades are jumping out.
Life itself has verified in the briefest period of time possible, the importance of the correct line which places theoretical tasks for the communist movement at the forefront. Those comrades who have been following the “practice, practice, practice” line, plunging from one spontaneous struggle to another, now find themselves in great difficulty trying to keep up with the speed and complexity of struggles. These struggles are rising out of new streams of protests, broader and deeper than before. These struggles call for new tasks ahead. Mere shades of theoretical differences have proven to be of great significance to the direction of our movement. The richer and deeper class struggle has given fuller content to the theoretical questions on which we have been polemicizing, and thus, immediately serves day to day struggles.
The working class sorely needs its vanguard party. After years of an incorrect leading line on this question, the question now is still how to correctly build the party of the working class.
So far, the presentation of the party building question has been eclectic. How do we build an anti-revisionist party? What is at its ideological foundation? How do we give it an anti-revisionist character? How do we protect it from revisionist degeneration? How would the pragmatic line on party building, based on a subjective interpretation of the period, undermine the ideological foundation of our anti-revisionist party? What has been the role of polemics up to now and what ought the role of polemics in the development of the party programme, strategy, tactics and organizational principle be? Do we want a mass workers party or a cadre party now? How is this question related to the past movements and character of advanced elements? Does the danger of fascism and the upsurge of the working class mean that we have to put a party together in a hurry and what are the implications of two lines on this question? All these questions are interrelated and must be presented as a whole. Any eclectic presentation of these questions shows a lack of clarity and opportunism to justify past mistakes around it will do great harm to the building of the party.
The following are some positions that we hold:
Party building must be linked with line. But line is not simply political line, i.e., positions on trade unions, Black national question, busing, etc. It is ideological and political line. A shortcoming of the communist movement in the U. S. is that the need for ideological line is not fully understood. Not understanding this ideological question, an anti-revisionist party cannot be built. Why? Because revisionism patently follows from the very nature of this policy and lastly, that it assumes an infinite variety of forms, and that every mo re or less unexpected and unforseen turn of events, even though it changes the basic line of development only to an insignificant degree and only for the briefest period, will always inevitably give rise to one variety of revisionism or another. That’s why the revisionist political line will not simply repeat itself. The lines of the Communist movement in the U.S. in. 1975 are not and cannot be the same as the particular lines in Russia in 1900 or in China in the 1920’s. They will always appear in a more sophisticated and will take on more disguised forms. Wrong political lines are like cockroaches and germs, they mutate. The communist movement, therefore, is less vulnerable to old diseases such as old dual-unionism, economism, etc. We are more vulnerable to new diseases and new germs – mutations of the old diseases. That’s why, in order to combat it, we need more than knowledge of the past but most importantly, the basis, the premises which are at the root of these diseases, and not understanding the ideological task, we are not vaccinated against new germs and new diseases. That’s why we are putting forth a set of anti-revisionist premises, rather than simply a set of political positions on current events. Now, we know you can’t be totally vaccinated against new strains of germs and diseases. That’s why the anti-revisionist premises themselves have to be developed as we go along in struggle, in addition to what we can sum up from the classics and all historical experiences both here and abroad. On studying these particular questions and topical issues and combatting the specific manifestation of revisionism on different questions and issues, we can in turn sharpen our understanding of revisionism and deepen our formulation of the anti-revisionist theoretical premises. This is so because the generality (of revisionism) exists in the particularity (of specific manifestations) and correct lines are developed in the process of combatting incorrect ones. But these different political positions have to be systematized and generalized into their roots and theoretical premises. Having a firmer and stronger grasp of these theoretical premises is the only safeguard against degeneration, the only guarantee to detect shades and forms of revisionism, defeat its particular manifestations and repudiate it as an integral whole.
Following is a brief description of a set of anti-revisionist theoretical premises that we think are necessary for the building of a staunch anti-revisionist party, so that the new party would not, as the “C”PUSA, the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC), Progressive Labor Party (PLP) and others, degenerate from good to bad and from bad to worse, under certain conditions.
The theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought itself is a part of our anti-revisionist premises. It is what some call the “premises of the premises.” The theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought is the most advanced knowledge of mankind in history. It is not only a view point and methodology, but a world outlook which serves no other class than the working class and all the oppressed. Thus, it has a stand. Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought is both a telescope and a microscope. For it can give the proletariat the farsightedness and understanding of essence, the details of different things, that range from laws governing larger social movements to the laws governing minute details of world outlook. Thus, theory can not only tell us about what’s wrong or right, but what’s at the basis of the rights and wrongs. It enables us to understand the internal basis of change and the dialectics of change. Lenin said that if we were to belittle socialist ideology in any way, we would allow the far stronger bourgeois ideology (in forms of views, forces of habit, mood, or prejudices) to prevail, rather than the theory of MLMTT. This would, under rapidly changing conditions and the zigzags of bourgeoisie’s tactics, transform us into opportunists or revisionists betraying the revolution, unless MLMTT is in command. In the Workers Viewpoint #2, in the article “Marxism or American Pragmatism,” in the section “Some reasons why Marxist-Leninist theory is the key,” we said:
At this period, we are at the crossroads between two historical periods and two movements. First, the international communist movement has made a rupture with the modern revisionists and has begun a new, international communist movement. Second, in this country, the spontaneous movement of the most conscious sectors of the population in the sixties and early seventies (fire at the treetops, as Lenin would describe it) has given way to the beginning of a gigantic upsurge of the US working class (fire at the tree trunks). The role of communists is to lead this upsurge and, through our leadership, merge the working class movement with the communist movement. This is contrary to the approach of passively serving the spontaneous movement in each of its separate stages. It means, as Lenin put it, ”.. .the mass movement places before us new theoretical, political, and organizational tasks, far more complicated than those that might have satisfied us...”
Both of these historical junctures demand that we arm ourselves with the weapon of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought to create the basis to smash the international revisionist trend in the US movement. To plunge unarmed from one spontaneous movement into another will certainly lead to nothing but total defeat and demoralization.
Third, communist movements in advanced capitalist countries go through two general steps before the vanguard can mobilize the masses for the final onslaught against the bourgeoisie. As Lenin stated, these two general steps are: l) to win over the class-conscious proletariat to the side of socialism, to organize the vanguard of the proletariat; then and only then 2) to search after forms of the transition of the approach, to link up the vanguard with all the oppressed and lead them to the offensive position. While these two general steps are not mutually exclusive historical stages, we must bear them in mind to help us understand how we can distinguish the principal task from the secondary tasks.
We are still in the first step, that of wining over the class-conscious proletariat to the side of socialism. In an advanced capitalist country like the US, where, unlike semi-feudal, semi-colonial or autocratic states, bourgeois democracy is “almost complete,” the fulfillment of this step is extremely difficult. The existence of a relatively high degree of political liberty is a condition that maintains the separation of the mass movement of the working class from the communist movement , for it breeds bourgeois democratic illusions among the masses.
In the advanced capitalist countries, reform is “the principal strategy of the ruling class to divert the struggle of the working class from socialism. .. .This condition of relatively broad political liberty and reform, therefore, permits open political propaganda and agitation. At the same time, it makes economist and revisionist errors, such as serving the mass movement passively at each separate stage of its development, especially dangerous. This demands special efforts to inject socialist ideology into the advanced elements of the working class, in the context of day-to-day defensive struggles against the bourgeoisie.
Fourthly, as Chairman Mao wrote: “The next fifty years or so, beginning from now, will be a great era of radical change in the social system throughout the world, an earth-shaking era without equal in any previous historical period. Living in such an era, we must be prepared to engage in great struggles which will have many features different in form, from those of the past.” “Countries want independence, nations want liberation, and the people want revolution.” Never before have the struggles of Third World countries against the imperialists been so powerful and never before have capitalist countries been in such deep crisis; in the last half year, almost 10 major capitalist countries have undergone swift changes in their governments as a result of the collapsing of the old world order. In the midst of such great changes and gr eat turbulence and the emergence of new and richer varieties and forms of struggle, theory, as a guiding force, takes on a particularly crucial role.
Fifthly, Lenin long ago contended that, due to their historical traditions, the US and England are countries where the people are the least theoretically oriented, where the philosophy of “do it” has prevailed more than anywhere else. For socialist ideology and theory to root in our working class, the vanguard absolutely must respect it and adopt it as its own.”
As we stated in Workers Viewpoint #2, “We must not only understand revisionism as an international trend but must also seek out, predict, and grasp that which is nationally specific and nationally distinct-American pragmatism is one such nationally distinctive and specific ideology. This tendency must be thoroughly understood and repudiated, for otherwise we will not be a correct party, but another revisionist one. “Pragmatism seeks expediency, fast results, short cuts and justifies then with demagogy.” “Whatever works is correct”; that is the motto of pragmatism. It is bourgeois methodology which elevates tactics-as-a-process into a principle.
Empiricism is the theory of knowledge of pragmatism – “Whatever I experience is true.” This substitutes the absolute with the relative, the objective with the subjective. This is substituting Marxist-Leninist theory, which is the science of the whole of human experience of class struggle, with one’s own narrow experience, as in RU’s line: “Our revolutionary program can only be created by summing up practical work and the experience that have been accumulated in the last period.” So now they reduce party building to merely “break with your hang-ups.”
As a force of habit, this line prevails whenever Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought as an ideology is not in command or does not exist. RU’s line of practice-practice-practice serves to build its own organization at the expense of the communist movement. CP, PL are two organizations which degenerated, at least partly (if not mainly) due to pragmatism. This lesson must be grasped tightly. If it’s not grasped tightly, then it’s not grasping it at all.
3. Bourgeois Democracy
Revisionists always laud “democracy” in general without making any distinction concerning the class character of democracy and different historical roles, Bourgeois democracy went through three phases. First, in the fight against feudalism, it was revolutionary. It ceased to be revolutionary as capitalism grew. Now, in its last stage, bourgeois democracy is thoroughly reactionary and it becomes the best “shell” of bourgeois rule. Under parasitic, decaying and moribund capitalism, bourgeois democracy’s main role is to contain the proletariat struggle, to straitjacket it. Thus, it has been transformed into its opposite.
Revisionists, centrists, and Trotskyites always view democracy abstractly, formally and outside of its historical context and time. They confuse the call for consistent democracy by the proletariat and its real content, which is to abolish the classes themselves with the bourgeois slogan of formal democracy (see our article on the OL). They cannot distinguish appearance from essence. Under today’s condition of world war and fascism versus revolution – two contending trends – bourgeois democracy helps to smother the masses’ revolutionary movement and helps to usher in fascism.
Revisionists believe in incremental democracy leading toward “advanced democracy,” “peaceful transition to socialism” and “structural reforms” within the framework of bourgeois democracy. They don’t understand the real dialectics between the proletarian minimum democratic demands and socialist revolution. They don’t understand the need to fight for democratic demands in a revolutionary way – to go beyond the bounds of legality, right up to the seizure of state power.
The revisionists have illusions on the nature of the bourgeois state. They don’t understand that the bourgeois state machinery has to be smashed – and that there must be the dictatorship of the proletariat. Revisionists don’t understand the role of force in history. They don’t understand that “force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one” and that bourgeois society doesn’t fall rotten ripe by itself. It has to be forced through revolutionary violence. The revolutionary proletariat must wield military power which defends the revolution. As we witness the tragic reversal of revolution in Chile and the massacre of thousands of comrades, workers, and peasants, we must draw a firm line of demarcation with revisionists – whether they call themselves official revisionists or not. Revisionism is characterized by muddle on the question of bourgeois democracy, which objectively disarms the proletariat and the oppressed.
Marxist-Leninists must provide an analysis of the role of centrism around the world today and centrism in the international communist movement and the communist movement in the US. The understanding of the nature of centrism as a “third” or “neutral” ideology and as an eclectic set of political lines is crucial in fighting revisionism.
The theory of centrism is the theory of the “golden mean,” taking the average of two opposites, balancing out the two aspects of an antagonistic contradiction, staying neutral in the struggle between two lines. Centrism is an eclectic theory of “on the one hand, and on the other...”; on the one hand, the revisionists are correct in a sense, and on the other hand, the Marxist-Leninists are correct in a sense, and in this patchwork of bits and pieces, it combines two into one and compromises between revisionism and Marxism-Leninism. So truth becomes all relative; one sees only the relative and not the absolute. Politically, this can only lead to collaboration with the revisionists and the bourgeoisie. But there is no third ideology, and there is no neutral ground in a two-line struggle.
In wavering between two lines, centrists tend toward opportunism. Historically, we have seen many examples of how the centrists derived their strength from the revisionists and how they objectively aided the revisionists. In a period similar to the period between the Second and Third Internationals, centrism generally came from a weak stand on proletarian internationalism and a weak stand with their own proletariat. Kautsky Plekhanov and Trotsky were all once centrists and then degenerated.
Today, with revisionism mutated to the higher form of modern revisionism, with the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the transformation of the Soviet Union into a Social imperialist state, centrism will be more dangerous in the future and aid the restoration of capitalism in socialist countries.
With the bloodshed of the masses and many communists in Chile due to the CP’s “peaceful transition to socialism,” with the assassination of the Naxalites and communists in India by the official Indian revisionists in collaboration with the government, with the banning of the real Marxist-Leninists in Portugal from electoral politics by the Armed Forces Movement with the full support of the CP, and most important of all, with social imperialism’s role in national liberation struggles around the world, it is imperative that we have a clear understanding of the historical role of centrism. We must learn its characteristics and use the Marxist-Leninist classics as well as our own experience in dealing with the centrists. In particular, we must analyze the role of centrism in PSP (Puerto Rican Socialist Party) and NAM (New American Movement) and other social democratic tendencies. Without an understanding of the “buffer” and “roadblock” of centrism, we cannot fully combat revisionism.
We derived these four premises from specific struggles with the lines of the RU, OL and other organizations in the communist movement. We think that these premises are the basis of deviations that have characterized revisionists historically. For example, we derived the premises of bourgeois democracy from studying the implication of the OL’s Boston Busing position; Watergate position; community control issues and in trying to understand why their position is similar to the revisionist “C”PUSA, SWP and other opportunist organizations’ positions. From that we draw the conclusion that it is clear the communist movement, due to its character and history, has not made a necessary rupture with revisionism. And until these premises are studied and grasped firmly, the communist movement, and communist organizations will degenerate as the CP, PL and others have. We derived the premises of pragmatism from the experience and study of the PLP and other organizations which have degenerated. We derived these premises not only by studying their political positions but also their history and more importantly, the methodology by which they operated and arrived at their positions on various political questions.
Certainly there are more anti-revisionist premises than the four that we have listed. For revisionism, based on bourgeois ideology, takes infinite variety of forms. But these four premises are some of the most common basis for revisionist political positions in the U.S.
We think that the communist movement should take up these premises and vigorously struggle with erroneous lines around burning questions of the day, based on these premises. In the process we hope other comrades would formulate and suggest other anti-revisionist premises. This would help to root out some basis of revisionism in the movement and help to accelerate the process of drawing the line of demarcation in the movement. This is also how new “vaccines” are developed in the course of struggle against revisionism. This is also concretely how, our communist movement would mature and prevent its degeneration into revisionism.
In every twist and turn of struggle to build the party, we move forward by breaking away from retrograde trends and the primitiveness of the past.
And in the communist movement today, there are always present many positions and various formulations of positions. However, according to the law of principal contradiction, there is only one that’s principal; the resolution of that principal contradiction leads to the development of the movement as a whole. For that reason there is always a dominant line – whether visible or not– and there is always struggle against the dominant line, whether it’s relatively correct or not.
Periods in the communist movement are characterized by either unity or disunity. Unity generally characterizes the domination of a line. In a period of general unity practice is generally stressed. And in a period of disunity, when there is a visible and sharp struggle against the dominant line, theory is generally stressed.
But ideological and political struggles go on at all times. For that reason, unity or disunity in the movement and struggle and resolution goes on at all times. That’s why the periods in the movement are relative.
There are periods and periods. The rupture with “lumpen as the vanguard” as a dominant line characterized an end to a period for many organizations in the late sixties and early seventies. The rupture with the “petty bourgeoisie as vanguard” line also characterized an end to a period for many student-type organizations in the sixties. It marked a new period.
But the period we want to end in order to build an anti-revisionist communist party requires the grand sum total of not just these ruptures in the immediate past, but also the experiences and resolution of line struggles against revisionism throughout the international and American communist movement. Particular importance should be attached to ferreting out the nationally specific forms of revisionism in the histories of the CPUSA, the POC and PLP. That’s what it takes, and what’s necessary to end this particular pre-party period in order to build an anti-revisionist party that would be safeguarded from degeneration. This safeguard is what we call anti-revisionist premises. This is our strategic conception of party building.
There is another approach which is to define the party building period as the span of time immediately preceding us now and to build a party around that – around some necessary basis of unity such as the reaffirmation of the proletariat as the vanguard class for revolution – such as the RU and other organizations are doing today. But this is not sufficient and in fact is sophistry. Why? Because it uses the working class’ name but doesn’t use what the working class movement and the communist movement learned in the past to serve them. For example, the “C”PUSA was a working class party for many years, but this shows that simple gut feeling for the working class or even working class background is not sufficient to prevent revisionism. Here RU is saying “break with your hang-ups” and take a working class stand. That way of ending an old period and ushering in a new period as the task of party building is more like a reaction of the petty bourgeois class to the working class movement as they see the power and might of the working class movement and the decay of their own. But you can’t build an anti-revisionist communist party of the working class just by breaking with your hangups? To build an anti-revisionist working class party you must break with revisionism, which has plagued the working class movement itself for many, many years.
To justify their party building effort – to “roll on and roll over”– RU quotes Chairman Mao about “a revolution is not a dinner party,”etc., as if building a party is a bitter pill to swallow. For the petty bourgeoisie, we agree. Party building is brutal, not so refined and magnanimous. To them it is an act of violence, because it does take quite a bit for them to make a real rupture. But for the proletariat, in our opinion, it is no traumatic experience and certainly is a thousand times better than going to a dinner party!!!
In fact, the RU’s whole definition of a period is eclectic and subjective. Last year they said ending the period means the “accumulation of enough experience” through practice “to flesh out the party programme.” To them, then, a period was defined by “practice” and “experience.” The April issue of Revolution now claims that the “seeds of the new period” was actually “theory.” And in their special supplement on the Guardian they say essentially that the rupture with a petty bourgeois background is what marks a new period. But which is it? Just as they used “practice” to justify their pragmatism in defining the party building task, and now “theory” to justify the liquidation of polemics which are so necessary for the present period in order to end it; they are similarly now using an arbitrary definition of “period” to justify their pragmatic party building effort.
It’s clear that the RU’s definition of a period is individualized and tailor-made. It’s like the pragmatist preacher who pushes the “experience God” business, any way you “see” him and any way you “feel” him, as long as you “experience” him, then he exists. RU’s individualized period is based on the same sophistry. As long as you feel you are going through the “experience” of rupturing with the “past period,” then you are ready. Just rupture with it and you will have a party. That in essence is RU’s pragmatic “roll on and roll over” method of party building – without taking up the indispensable task of establishing the ideological foundation of the party, its anti-revisionist premises. Lacking this ideological foundation the party will degenerate – as historically happened to the “C”PUSA, POC, and PL – and will become a real roadblock to the working class movement.
Some people may ask but what do you consider sufficient anti-revisionist premises? Isn’t it true that fighting against revisionism can be never-ending and doesn’t that mean that you’ll never be able to have a party? Our position is that the main problem so far is that the communist movement, due to pragmatism, has no such strategic conception of building an anti-revisionist party up to this point. What is needed is a vigorous struggle around this question to weed out revisionist tendencies within the communist movement, to draw lines of demarcation and, at the same time, to develop anti-revisionist premises. This should be an integral part of our party building task.
We don’t think, by the very nature of revisionism as a manifestation of bourgeois ideology, that we can have a whole or complete set of premises. They will have to be and will be developed as the forms of revisionism changes and mutates as the class struggle marches forward. But whatever can be extracted from the historical experience of the anti-revisionist struggle, from the time of the First International to the struggle against modern revisionism vanguarded by the Communist parties of China and Albania, and in particular the experience of the CPUSA, POC and PLP, must be summed up as much as we possibly can. This historical experience must be an integral part of our task in establishing the programme, strategy and tactics of the Proletarian Party of a New Type.
There is no way to absolutely guarantee that the party will not degenerate into revisionism. The four premises that we are suggesting are merely the ones that we can see so far. But the whole point is not to try to work out some magic guarantee. It is to use Marxism-Leninism as a science to raise our vigilance about revisionism and to bring the conscious element to the forefront. This conscious element and vigorous ideological struggle is the only long-term safeguard against revisionism. In China, over 700 million people are studying the teaching of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Chairman Mao on the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat. To them, to fight revisionism is a strategic task with “immediate implications and long-term significance.” And all of this is taking place under the dictatorship of the proletariat! Even though the social basis for revisionism here is different, in a land that’s pregnant with revisionism, with reformism the outstanding characteristic of the US working class movement, the strategic task of combatting revisionism is even more imperative and necessary. The ideological line against revisionism must be established. Forming anti-revisionist premises must be taken up as a fighting task!
* * *
We have stated the four components of the principle task of Party Building in the Workers Viewpoint #2. They are:
– the study of MLMttT and its application to concrete conditions and topical issues.
– consolidation of advanced elements, particularly the advanced workers, around MLMttT.
– engaging in polemics within the communist movement for the correct programme.
– and the linking up of our organization with other communist organizations, based on agreement around programme, strategy, tactics and organizational principles.
While the task of study and imparting the science of MLMttT to the advanced elements is part of the principal task, actual unity and the task of calling a party congress around a correct programme, strategy, tactics and organizational principles can come only from principled polemics for the correct line. This means that inter-organizational and general polemics by all come to the forefront.
How do we carry out this task of polemics? In our opinion, what Lenin presented in his “Draft Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra” about the role and purpose of polemics is essentially correct. There he said that “open polemics, conducted in full view of all Russian SD and class conscious workers, are necessary and de -sir able 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 of various views, various localities, or various “specialties” of the revolutionary movement inevitably fall. Indeed, we regard one of the drawbacks of the present day movement to be the absence of open polemics between avowedly differing views, the effort to conceal differences from fundamental questions.” (Draft Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra) This is the most immediate task in establishing a set of anti-revisionist premises for party building.
There is another deviation in the movement today around the question of polemics. Some comrades and certain people feel that the existence of democratic centralist organizations is hindering the process of polemics necessary in formulating the party program.
We disagree. There is no doubt that some of these comrades’ feelings towards this question are strengthened by the incorrect approach towards polemics and the lack in practice of principled polemics in the movement. But this line which advocates the abolition of democratic centralism as a means to facilitate principled polemics is one erroneous trend covering another.
In our opinion, this “no democratic centralism” line (besides being a reaction to an incorrect line on democratic centralism) is itself based on some of the most retrograde trends and social bases in the movement. It is based on the petty bourgeois fear of “don’t fence me in” and a refusal to be “cogs and wheels” of a big “bureaucratic machinery” which deprives them of their personality. This is based on a non-Marxist -Leninist understanding of the nature of the relation between the classes, masses, parties and leadership in the parties. It is a denial of uneven development of communists and cadre in communist organizations generally, and most dangerously of all, a denial of the role of centralized guidance to help accelerate the development of lines and cadres in communist organizations. This line basically denies the dialectical relation between form and content – how higher ideological struggle requires a higher form to clothe the content and in turn serve it. It views organizational form as a block, as an obstacle in the way of ideological and political struggle by absolutizing content. This is the opposite of the “factory nuclei is the key to party building” line which essentially absolutized organizational form and degrades the role of ideology and political struggle and the role of principled polemics.
Moreover, to us the question of democratic centralism is not just a method or merely an organizational principle. It is a part of the proletariat’s world outlook. Under a correct dialectical materialist outlook, and under the principled unity of theory and practice through linking the objective with the subjective, a democratic centralist organization is the best condition for developing political lines and the programme. Under the discipline of constant and vigorous practice and struggle – and under the higher form of democracy and centralized guidance – the process of struggle, formulation, practice and reformulation, all based on Marxism-Leninism-Mao-tse-tung Thought, can bring about the speedier affirmation of the correct aspects of the line and rejection of the incorrect aspects along with the basis for deviations. And with a similar process going on all around the country under different particular conditions and among different sectors of the population – all based on the guidance of the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-tse-tung Thought – and open, principled and vigorous polemics in a healthy atmosphere between all these different individuals and organizations (grouping and regrouping as a result of struggle) we can best develop the lines and programme and draw lines of demarcation. Democratic centralist organizations, with their higher form of organization facilitating the line struggle, will contribute the most in these struggles.
Today this Leninist teaching on the purpose and role of polemics has been distorted. There are numerous examples of how polemics are being misused due to pragmatism and opportunism.
An outstanding example is the recent “polemics” between the OL and the Guardian. After years of identical positions on some of the most crucial questions, ones which have divided up the whole anti-revisionist movement (such as the Boston Busing question, Watergate, the liberal reformist trade union misleadership, the “mini-state”, community control, etc., just to name a few) suddenly the OL jumps out and denounced the Guardian for being revisionist. What a new discovery! And in particular, they raised the question of social imperialism, whether capitalism has been fully restored in the Soviet Union or not. But the Guardian has had an incorrect position on that for a long time. In fact, they had a centrist position on many questions related to it consistently for a long time. But there were no polemics. Why. Because the OL, how seeing that the RU has its draft program out, is desperate. Since the year “1975 is a decisive year for party building,” they now want to look anti-revisionist. That’s how they do “polemics.” This also explains their “left” feint position of “no unity with revisionism” in the recent International Women’s Day coalition. They now want to look and appear as anti-revisionist. In the absence of a genuine Marxist Leninist line, and because of their inability to even understand one, the OL now has to “in principle” withdraw and stay away from all broad coalitions with “C”P revisionists participating in them. That is how they “split with revisionism” – by splitting away from mass movements! But that is the price they have to pay for being, in essence, revisionist, and trying to look like communists. And that’s how they wage “polemics” with the Workers Viewpoint.
Another outstanding example of unprincipled methods, which are detrimental to the communist movement, was the way the RU avoided polemics with the Trotskyite “C”L. Afraid that polemics would build them up and make their name more widespread, the RU, for many years, just acted like an ostrich, pretending that the “C”L didn’t exist. And only a couple of months before the “C”L party congress, after many forces went over to the “C”L side, did the RU come out with their special “supplement” to polemicize with them. Meanwhile, “C”L’s influence had grown.
Similarly, on the Busing question, there was a clash between the OL and the RU and other forces. The RU, with their typical mechanical positions, and the OL, with their typically wishy washy-revisionist positions, gave a headline to the issue, and then just dropped the issue!! There was no struggle around the root of their positions. They just dropped the whole issue! Besides the practical consideration, that, when school opens in September, the ruling class will push the busing issue in order to generate racial hysteria, the RU and OL, as communists, have not tried to resolve this struggle or to raise it to a higher level, which can only hurt the working class movement. Only thru “tit for tat” polemics can this struggle be resolved; only thru const and clashes and many, many rounds can the two lines be clear and a correct line emerge. Polemics, in this principled fashion, would benefit the communist movement tremendously, for the implications of these lines will eventuality affect other issues. This struggle both the RU and the OL avoid, and, as a result, line struggle and the revolution of lines are being kept at a very low level.
Mistakes and wrong lines still have great currency. The end result is that the working class movement is harmed. Here we come to the question of communist broad mindedness and humility, which Chairman Mao always talked about. Having a correct position is relative and making mistakes is absolute. Only MLMttT enables us to make less mistakes in the course of struggle. That is why a political party’s attitude to its own mistakes is “one of the most important and useful ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfills in practice its obligations to its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, analyzing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of rectifying it – these are the hallmarks of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duty; that is how it should educate and train its class and then the masses.”
Polemics are for struggling for a correct line. If the line or an aspect of the line is wrong, then it should be acknowledged. This will help the speedy resolution of line struggle and push the movement to a higher level. The RU doesn’t practice this. For the last couple of years, they desperately argued for their principal task of “building the struggle, consciousness and unity of the working class,” which viewed the party building task as essentially accumulation of experience. Namely, practice-practice-practice. Then, as the popularity of Marxist-Leninist theory spread, they switched to “now the principal task is theory and party building in the brief period ahead.”
Now, in their latest analysis, they claim that “the seeds of the new period” was actually “theory,” for the mass movement had no Marxism-Leninism to guide it. So now, which is it??
Certainly, this difference on theory and practice has held the movement back at least a couple of years. Polemics are not useful if mistakes or incorrect aspects of line are not acknowledged or if the sources of the mistakes are not identified, for then there will be a repetition of mistakes. And no real unity can be built around that kind of bourgeois methodology. The RU’s “theory is principal now” line raises theory only to liquidate it. Their line is aimed at “ending the period” in the brief period ahead, not in forcing the correct line to emerge thru principled polemics. So instead of using theory to help spur the movement out of primitiveness and opportunism, the RU uses theory to ride on it, to decorate themselves with it. And now to raise theory just to liquidate it.
Pragmatism is the line that the RU and OL follow in their party building. Sophistry is how they justify their line. Their resistance to engage in the methods of principled polemics in a hindrance to struggle and retards the movement. Pragmatism, which is characterized by using “theory or practice” depending on whatever works, is dangerous. “If practice can hold a group together, then do it, regardless of what kind of practice is needed.” Or “if that argument can beat the opponent, then use it.” These are examples of pragmatism. Or worse yet, pragmatism can be whether or not to even have a line, or whether to be open about it or hide it, or whether or to silently mutate the line. Their lines and resulting practice show the grip of bourgeois ideology in the movement. These pragmatic tendencies are particular forms of revisionism in the ranks of communists.
So far, this has been, in the main, the manner in which the anti-revisionist movement has conducted its polemics. To end this period, we must start up principled polemics. This is the only correct approach towards the formulation of a correct programme, strategy and tactics, and organizational principles.
The power of the theory of Marxism and polemics in the communist movement lies with their criticalness, their combative quality. Polemics based on MLMttT forces out to the light of day all primitiveness and opportunism. Its serves the proletariat by pressuring the movement, by ruthlessly exposing all deviations, by analyzing its class content and vacillations, and by steering the movement back to a proper path. Theory and polemics should be used to push the movement forward. They should not be used as decoration or to justify incorrect lines.
Along with the question of periods, anti-revisionist theoretical premises and the role of polemics in party building is the question of whether we should build a mass worker party or a cadre party in the immediate period ahead. Our position is that our new anti-revisionist communist party must be a party of professional revolutionaries highly consolidated around M-L program, strategy and tactics and organizational principles. We must build such a cadre party as the foundation of the future mass worker party. The party we want to build is not a mass workers party. We see that the Iskra core had three key characteristics. One was that it laid the basis for the ideological and political line of the Second Congress of the RSDLP. Two, it was used as an organizer to build the national skeleton of the Party. Three, because of the situation of autocracy, it did not directly link the national theoretical leadership with the practical leadership, and the Iskra was published from abroad by a theoretical circle.
It should be a cadre party with advanced elements from all backgrounds, in addition to advanced workers. The particular character of the party we want to build is based on an analysis of the character of the immediate movements preceding this period and the advanced elements coming out of these movements.
In Russia, the Bolshevik party developed through three stages in its formative years. First the welding of the main core, especially the “Iskraist” group. This Iskra core laid the basis for the cadre party in 1903 (2nd Congress), which expanded after the 1905 up- surge into a worker s party. Under Russian autocracy, many of the best Marxists were persecuted and exiled. It was very difficult for them to publish and carry on the propaganda work within Russia. Thus many early Marxist theoreticians formed circles and existed out- side of Russia.
In Russia, during the first period (1884-94), Marxism began to spread among the revolutionary intellectuals and in the struggle against Narodism, the ideological and programmatic foundations for the future party were laid. The small communist movement lacked any connections with the working class movement. Groups such as the Emancipation of Labor Group, headed by Plekhanov, made great contributions to the Russian communist movement, but in the absence of a mass working class movement which we see today in America. Subsequently, about 20 Marxist workers circles were united into the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. The communist movement grew and established its first connection with the advanced workers. That was the beginning of the cadre party, which was composed of professional revolutionaries made up of both intellectuals and workers. Then it moved from study and propaganda to make agitation among the working class, establishing the political and organizational foundations for the party. This was the development of the Bolshevik Party in Russia. In America today, where there is relatively greater political freedom to do theoretical work, agitation and propaganda and day to day practice, such theoretical literary circles are incorrect.
Under the autocracy, Russian communists even had to divide the leadership into the CO and CC where, to escape Czarist prosecution the CO resided abroad providing continuity to the critical leadership, and the CC remained within Russia to provide practical leadership. Even though Lenin demanded complete harmony between these two centers, we can imagine the difficulties they must have had in arranging secret conferences just to be able to link the objective with the subjective. Here, where it is possible to have a greater degree of integration between the theoretical leadership and practical leadership, it would be incorrect to separate the different kinds of leaders, such as the CC and the CO.
Objectively the working class movement in the U. S. is surging forward. Underneath the M-L movement and propelling it forward is the intense spontaneous struggle of the working class. In this period communists must participate in these struggles to provide Marxist-Leninist leadership, to win over the advanced elements, sharpen the focus of our theory and submit our line to the test of class struggle. The combination of theoretical work and practical day to day work in autocratic Russia and white areas of China, were extremely difficult. Here, we don’t have the same conditions and thus the necessity. This is a question of freedom and necessity. Under different conditions, necessity and freedom vary, though in America, relative political freedom is usually compensated by other greater difficulties – i.e., larger role of reformist and social props. The U.S. being the heartland of imperialism and where bourgeois democracy is highly consummated (compared to Russia), is a fertile bed for revisionism and opportunism. Inner party life is a reflection of the class struggle in the objective world. To be truly the vanguard of the working class, the party must relentlessly struggle against the bribery and corruption within its party ranks. It is of particular importance that communists should take part in the immediate struggle and transform the subjective world in the process of transforming the objective world. This is a strategic component of the Bolshevization of the pre-party formations and thus the future party itself. This is a prerequisite for anti-revisionist parties in advanced capitalist countries. In this country, there must be a greater integration between theory and practice although in this period, theory is principal.
In short, while the communist movement goes through two general steps – one, to win over the class conscious proletariat to the side of socialism, to organize the vanguard of the proletariat; and two, to search after forms of transition of the approach, to link up the vanguard with all the oppressed and lead them to the offensive position, – these two steps mutually exclude and overlap each other. In advanced capitalist countries, these two steps are more overlapped. We don’t think that literary, Marxist circles are the correct and proper types of pre-party formations now, though we think they have made contributions.
In this country, due to vastly different origins of the spontaneous movement, small collectives have in the past played a role in spreading MLMttT. They came from struggles against different forms of oppression – of women, nationalities, students, communities, and at the point of production. They have created conditions for people in different spontaneous struggles to accept the stand, viewpoint and method of MLMttT as a guide to action in the face of the revisionist betrayal of the “C”PUSA.
These small collectives have played their role and now, must try to negate these circle forms. They must combat these forms and transform circle spirit into the party spirit and create the great whole which is the concentrated will of the proletariat and the most advanced. This negation of the negation, the elimination of the old forms – the collectives of the nationalities, of students, of factories – requires what Lenin called “the slaughter of organizations”. This process is inevitable in a country where bourgeois ideology is so fully developed and entrenched and where the world outlook of the petty bourgeoisie, of abstract “freedom and democracy”, of “do my own thing” of “absolute freedom”, of “don’t fence me in” are so prevalent. This transformation of the old small collective, study circle and mass organizations into a Bolshevized communist organization requires the most radical rupture with old ideas, and will prove to be terribly fierce. The force of habit and old ways of non-proletarian ways of thinking will be a formidable obstacle to this transformation. But these petty-bourgeois retrograde trends, the petty bourgeois undercurrents in all organizations and the obsolete demagogic leadership with mountain stronghold mentalities must be rooted out. A tit-for-tat struggle over the task of party building, and the question of “for whom” must be waged.
As we said before, what we are building now is a cadre party and not a mass worker party. In Russia, 1905 marked the beginning of a new phase of mass militant upsurge of the working class. As soon as the freedom of assembly, of association and of the press were wrested from the Czar, the RSD emerged from its underground activity and took up open work. There was a great influx of workers into the RSD party. In the same year, Lenin pointed out the reason why the sudden influx of large numbers of non-social democrats would not cause the Party to dissolve among the masses.
The danger (of the party ceasing to become the vanguard) could become very serious if we showed any inclination towards demagogy, if we lacked party principles (programme, tactical rules, organizational experience) entirely, or if those principles were feeble and shaky. But the fact is that no such ’ifs’ exist. We Bolsheviks have never shown any inclination towards demagogy. On the contrary, we have always fought resolutely openly and straightforwardly against the slightest attempts at demagogy. ..We have preached discipline and demanded that every Party member be trained in one or other of the Party organizations. We have a firmly established Party Programme which is officially recognized by all SDs and.. .we have resolutions on tactics which were consistently and systematically worked out at the 2nd and the 3rd Congresses and in the course of many years’ work of the SD press. (Reorganization of the Party, 1905)
Until we have a cadre core that is highly consolidated on party programme, strategy, tactical and organizational principles, to rush blindly ahead to build a mass workers party would be suicidal. Although the danger of fascism makes it more urgent to build a Party, without the consolidated cadre core, it would be incorrect to build and form a Party hastily, just for that reason. We believe, however, that communists should have unity of action in this period. Furthermore, such a cadre party of highly consolidated professional revolutionaries is necessary to preserve the party intact when conditions change abruptly. Such was the case with the Bolsheviks during the stormy and sometimes grey years after 1906 (1905-07 period of flow, 1908-11 period of ebb). Their stability in those difficult times ensure the eventual victory of the Bolshevik revolution, as compared to the Cadets, the Social Revolutionaries and the petty bourgeois “socialists” who became totally lost in the twist and turns of bourgeois tactics and eventually selling themselves out when the crunch came. For us today, with the development of modern revisionism, our anti-revisionist party must be particularly consolidated around the need for armed struggle, rejecting any illusion of “peaceful transition to socialism.” Without this cadre core, no workers party is possible, (see anti-revisionist premises #3). Since the economic crisis in the imperialist system has opened up the minds of vast numbers of workers, and many more are now open to socialism as the alternative. But to establish a workers party, there must first be the core cadre party, which, as we said before, must be highly consolidated. Again there is a contradiction caused by the lagging of the subjective factor behind the objective factor. While the objective condition for the mass workers party is ripening, the subjective factor, vanguard party of the proletariat, does not yet exist to consolidate them to lead the working class. This makes our principal task of building a cadre party urgent.
Where would the cadres of this cadre party come from? Where is the “cadre pool”, so to speak, for the new anti-revisionist party? Do advanced elements in this period mainly come from students’ or workers’ class background?  On the question of advanced workers there is a right and a left line in the movement.
The more dangerous right economist position given by the OL and the RU. OL typically never states explicitly their concept of an advanced worker. But what seems to approach it is that “if a worker-comrade understands the need for revolution and submits to the discipline of the organization, he will be admitted.” The RU’s position is that an advanced workers ”Wins the respect of the fellow workers; is someone one comes to in trouble and when one needs to discuss problems, is someone other workers rally around when faced with a collective problem, provides leadership in struggle; demonstrates class stability and serve the people attitude and someone who may even profess anti-communism.” (Red Papers, #5) While most of the components are correct, the last ideological point is the point which turns everything around. The RU claims that an advanced worker may profess some anti-communism because it is conditioned by society and the media. This is a rightist position because it only emphasises aspects related to winning respect but completely liquidates the ideological and political aspect. This is certainly related to their principal task of “building the struggle, consciousness and leadership of the working class”. A retrograde trend adapts itself, as Lenin put it, “to the lowest level of understanding.” (Retrograde Trend in RSDLP).
Our position is that advanced workers have to be open to socialism. How could you win advanced workers – as compared to middle elements – to socialism if they are anti-communist and not open to socialism?
We also have disagreements with comrades and other organizations who hold a left line on this question. The PRRWO comrades dogmatically take the definition of advanced workers straight out of Lenin’s article “Retrograde Trends in RSDLP” (1899). It states that “those who can win the confidence of the labouring masses, who devote themselves entirely to the education and organization of the proletariat, who accept socialism consciously and who even elaborate independent socialist theories,” and those who “possess so much character and will-power that they study, study, study, and turn themselves into conscious SDs” (pp. 280-281). The problem with adopting this is that it is taken out of the historical context of time and place! It is an ultra-“left” conception of advanced workers representing an overestimation of the subjective level of advanced elements, based on objective conditions which simply do not now exist. When Lenin gave that definition, the Russian working class already had a tradition of political struggle – both against their ideological enemies, the Narodniks, and the entire Czarist regime, and had established ties with the advanced workers through the St. Petersburg and other Leagues. That’s why Lenin could say that ”Those advanced workers were Social-Democrats; many of them even took a personal part in the disputes between the Narodnaya Volya adherents and the SD.” (p. 260) Only because the communists and working class movement had been fused to an extent that hasn’t happened here yet, although it’s happening, could Lenin say that the advanced workers were the ones who “accept socialism consciously, and... even elaborate independent socialist theories,” and can “become independent leaden of the SD working class movement”. Why? Because as Lenin put it “Those advanced workers were SDs”.!!!
Advanced elements are historical products of past movements; they are not ahistorical and metaphysical categories. To view them ahistorically would be non-Marxist. Concretely, the advanced elements open to Marxism-Leninism in the last few years came mainly from two sources. One, the movement of the oppressed minorities. Two, the movement of students and the petty bourgeoisie who fought against the War and imperialism. Besides some workers among the oppressed nationalities, and a few white workers and anti-revisionist ex-“C”P members, all of whom are open to socialism, there exists a sizable cadre pool of advanced workers. Why? Because the immediate past movements were not movements of the working class as a whole. They were movements among the most conscious sector of the population – the oppressed nationalities, and students, youths, and revolutionary intellectuals.
Concretely, this means that we are building a party that would be composed mainly of advanced elements from all backgrounds in addition to advanced workers. This must be a core that is highly consolidated around M-L, and who are tested fighters of the class. Special attention must be paid to the consolidation of advanced workers. An increasing number of advanced workers has come to the forefront of the struggle against monopoly capitalist. These advanced workers are open to the ideology of MLMttT and are staunch fighters of the working class who are able to win the confidence of the class.
We wish the RU would make up their minds if they are building a mass worker party with anti-communist “advanced workers” before they are going to bring more confusion to the movement.
We must guard against the left error of over-estimating the objective factor in terms of the political level of the working class. This would objectively lead to the belittling of the workers who are open to MLMttT and the same forsaking of the communist duty of the ideological consolidation of the advanced workers of this period. It would also lead to the belittling of the role of day-to-day mass struggles and the advanced elements that emerge from these struggles.
The new anti-revisionist party will mark a giant step forward in the process of the fusion of the socialist movement among the revolutionary intellectuals and the and the working class movement in the U.S. Historically, these two movements exist separately in every country. As Lenin pointed out:
The separation of the working class movement and socialism gave rise to weakness and underdevelopment in both: the theories of the socialists, unfused with the workers’ struggle, remained nothing more than Utopias, good wishes that had no effect on real life; working class movement remained petty, fragmented and did not acquire political significance, was not enlightened by the advanced science of its time. (Retrograde Trend in RSDLP)
The process of fusion in the U.S. has just begun. To promote the fusion of the two movements is part and parcel of our party building task. The building of the anti-revisionist communist party is its elf a giant step forward in this fusion process.
When this fusion takes place, the class struggle of the workers becomes the conscious struggle of the proletariat to emancipate itself from exploitation by the propertied classes, it is evolved into a higher form of the socialist workers movement – the independent working class Social Democratic Party. (Retrograde Trend)
EROL Note: The following was included in an addendum sheet inserted into this issue of the Workers Viewpoint Journal.
* * *
The Workers Viewpoint has adopted the question of anti-chauvinism as a part of our anti-revisionist theoretical premises. The article “Party Building and Anti-Revisionist Premises” in the May issue however, did not include this fifth point in the text. The following text should be added
National chauvinism and male chauvinism have historically been a common trait to revisionists from the 1st International to the present day Modern Revisionists. Kautsky and the other misleaders of the 2nd International, for example, have viewed national-colonial struggles as being dependent upon the ’proletarian struggle’ of the ’civilized countries’. In essence, their chauvinism belittled the role of the national struggles and such movements’ role in aiding the struggle of workers in advanced capitalist countries. Thus, chauvinism betrays proletarian internationalism and the workers of oppressor countries.
Modem Revisionists do the same today. They put forth the theories of ’three peacefuls,’ the doctrine of ’Limited Sovereignty’, and the ‘Socialist Community of Nations’, to justify their social-imperialism and chauvinism internationally and domestically. Chauvinism similarly jumps out historically around different national questions, such as the Black National Question in the United States. In the name of ’class struggle’, chauvinism liquidated national and racial oppression and thus played into the hands of the bourgeoisie. It has historically harmed the proletarian struggles in the US as a whole (see our Preliminary Draft of the Asian National Question in the U.S., Part 1) and served as an obstacle to the path of proletarian class emancipation. Chauvinism can also turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, to restore capitalism in places where the proletariat has already seized state power. The material basis of chauvinism is the bribery of a small sector of the proletariat, and the perpetuation of the forces of habit and world outlook of the bourgeoisie, Social chauvinism in the communist movement is generally magnified a hundred-fold in the mass movement. Therefore, it must be struggled with ruthlessly and exposed in order to put the working class movement onto a proper course for emancipation. Male-chauvinism similarly divides the oppressed class and blocks the class struggle, Chauvinism is a form of opportunism, and once latched onto by the communist movement, makes the movement deteriorate and rot. Opportunism, if not rooted out completely, can grow and mature from childhood to adolescence to become revisionism.
 A classical example of pragmatism and blind empiricism on this question was committed by the PLP in the late 1960’s. At the height of the student movement, the National Committee (leadership of the PLP) made a sum-up. Seeing that the organization was overwhelmingly students, and that only a handful remained in working class jobs (many returning to petty bourgeois jobs like doctors and lawyers) the PL leadership concluded that people from student background could not be transformed and stay in the working class. This meant that only proletarian elements could be recruited, restricting the recruitment of students; their new set of rules specified that students could be recruited only if preceded by two workers or national minorities. Of course, this mechanical scheme was never really carried out by the PLP, but the plan reflected their typically pragmatist, empiricist methodology of using only their own experience as a guide. Like all revisionists, the PL didn’t understand the need for active ideological struggle to transform world outlook of cadre with student or petty bourgeois backgrounds. But more importantly, this plan revealed their total ignorance on the question of what period and what objective movement preceded that stage in the movement.