From the pamphlet: Party Building in the Heat of the Class Struggle, February 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
(The following presentation was made by the PRRWO at a series of forums: a forum sponsored jointly by the PRRWO and Workers Viewpoint Organization in NY in November 1975, forums in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego sponsored by the August 29th Movement in December 1975, and forums in Detroit and Philadelphia sponsored by the PRRWO that same month. (A more in-depth analysis of the consolidation of revisionism at the “CP”USA’s l6th National Convention in January 1957 has been added in response to correct criticisms raised during the forums.)
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The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization welcomes you here tonight to this comradely polemic on party building. We urge you comrades in the audience to help us by stating your unities and/or disagreements with the positions put forward by our organization, raise questions, help shed clarity.
We have the responsibility to unite Marxist-Leninists and reach advanced elements in the heat of the class struggle–two integral tactics of party building. We certainly welcome all principled discussion in the interests of building our party and carrying forward our responsibility of proletarian revolution as part of the international struggle for the overthrow of capital– most especially against the two superpowers, U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism.
As communists, advanced workers, revolutionary intellectuals inside one of the superpowers, we must pose and answer the critical questions faced by our movement in order that we may smash the bourgeois state that under the facade of “democracy” plunders, rapes, loots and viciously exploits and oppresses millions of people throughout the world, and lays the burden of its crisis on the backs of the working and oppressed masses here at home.
The recent talk of the inevitable default in New York City is one example and growing testimony of the depth of the crisis of imperialism and of the growing fascist menace. As the capitalists centralize their power more and more, pretending that they are going bankrupt, that the cities are “mismanaged,” the federal government must come in to “establish law and order” they tell us. They set up “Big MAC” which did not come from McDonalds’ hamburgers, but indeed is the monopoly capitalists running the city government straight up.
They try to tell us that there is too much waste. All we need, they say, is the police, firemen and emergency rooms. They try to give us a picture that Ford is responsible for NY defaulting, in an attempt to blind us to who is really responsible for the waste–an unplanned economy, anarchy in production, resulting from the socialized character of production and private ownership of the means of production. Ford is a puppet of the monopoly capitalists, like every state official.
They throw the burden of the crisis on our backs, threatening the working masses with more layoffs, payless weeks, maybe months, taking back pay increases, cutting back on rights so bitterly fought for, like bilingual education programs. They are trying to disarm the inner cities by passing gun-control laws. All this, as they increase the repression, especially against the oppressed nationalities, brutal police killings of Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Asians and other oppressed nationalities, increasing the deportation of undocumented workers.
The crisis of imperialism is at the hearts and guts of NY or any other city defaulting. We cannot for a moment think this is strange, without reason or logic. This is by far the worst crisis in the history of cyclical crisis periods that capitalism inevitably goes through. For the U.S. imperialists, this is indeed the worst crisis in their history, and it can only get worse. The U.S. has reached its highest capitalist development; it is decaying, moribund, decadent, a wounded paper tiger, as Chairman Mao put it directly to Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State.
But of itself it will not crumble; only the masses led by the party of the working class can overthrow it. Until we do, we must take it seriously. As a wounded tiger it is highly dangerous and must be taken seriously tactically.
As we debate these questions, the bourgeoisie is not sitting still. In fact, the intelligence community of this country has been very busy– Operation Chaos, headed by the CIA, was designed to infiltrate our movement, preparing the groundwork for the rest of the state machinery to try to crush us.
More than anything else, they fear the coming into being of the organized, advanced detachment of the working class, its vanguard communist party. They are banking on our amateurishness, primitiveness, and disorganization. They promote dissension in our ranks. They count on sectarianism and pessimism as factors that will make it, they think, impossible for us to build our party. They collaborate with their partners in these crimes, the revisionists of the “CP”USA and the “RC”P, an offshoot of the right opportunist, Revolutionary Union, as well as with all trotskyites and opportunists inside and outside our ranks.
In fact, we think that the recent split in the Black Workers Congress is testimony of how the bourgeois agents in collaboration with internal opportunists work to destroy our organizations. We don’t see their badges, but their presence is felt. We must rid ourselves of these agents by intensifying the struggle against opportunism and close our ranks by purging ourselves. This is how the party becomes strong. This is why Lenin said that the struggle against imperialism without a struggle against opportunism is a sham and a humbug.
The central question all communists and advanced elements must deal with is party building. We must grasp firmly that we indeed are building the organization, the highest form of organization of the proletariat, capable of leading all of its organizations–from trade unions to armed units, capable of mastering all forms of struggle–legal and illegal, capable of mapping out the strategy and tactics.
By strategy we understand to mean–the direction of the main blow of the proletariat at a given stage of the revolution, the corresponding plan for the disposition of the revolutionary forces, main and secondary reserves, the struggle to carry out this plan during the whole period of the given, stage of the revolution. By tactics we mean, as Stalin said–tactics is the doctrine of the forms of working class struggle.
We must build the organization capable of leading the armed uprising which will lead to the seizure of state power for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the organization capable of consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. This organization is the Marxist-Leninist Party of a New Type, the general staff of the working class, its advanced detachment–composed of the very best, most committed men and women, committed to the cause of the proletariat for its total emancipation.
This task has been made difficult in all capitalist countries by the treacherous role of the revisionist parties. In our country the revisionists have a long history and continue to perpetuate the traditions of the Second International. In our country’s history the deep-rooted trend of belittling theory in fact plagues us today as we still suffer from empiricist thinking, resulting in pragmatism, a particularly strong ideological trend in the U.S.
This brings us to one of the questions posed for discussion here tonight–that is, the question of revisionism in the U.S.
Revisionism is the ideology of the bourgeoisie inside the communist and workers movements. Posing as Marxism-Leninism, revisionism’s aim is to disarm the proletariat, divert it from its revolutionary path into the blood-stained hands and clutches of the bourgeoisie, twisting the revolutionary soul of Marxism-Leninism, trying to conciliate the antagonisms between the proletariat and the” bourgeoisie in the class struggle for power.
In Lenin’s time the revisionists on the question of the role of the state, which all revisionists distort, held that the role of the state was that of conciliator of class conflicts within society; because, according to them, a democratic society is ruled by the will of the majority.
In 1932 in this country, veterans of World War I, seeking the bonus that had been promised them, were attacked at their encampment in Washington D.G. by troops under the command of General Douglas McArthur, using bayonets, torches, guns, tanks and tear gas. Two members of the Bonus Expeditionary Force, William Huska and Eric Carlson, were killed. Is this an example of the conciliation of class conflicts?
In fact the state, said Karl Marx, is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another. No matter how much the Soviet revisionists call the state, “the state of the whole people,” the fact is that the new bourgeoisie in Russia uses the state for the oppression of the Russian working class. In fact, they are fascists.
Historically, the revisionists have tried to cover up the role of the state and have attacked both the party of the working class which’ will lead the class to smash the bourgeois state, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the form of class rule over the bourgeoisie. Take for example in our country’s history, where before Khruschev of the USSR, we had Earl Browder, who in 1944 liquidated the party into a “Communist Political Association.”
“That Americans may think together, act together“–said Earl Browder. We quote:
We want to convince the capitalists of America that we are serious and earnest in our proposals for a national unity broad enough to include capital and labor. (Earl Browder at the National Convention of the Communist Political Association, May, 1944)
Although Browder was later expelled from the CP, this rotten revisionist line was not thoroughly rooted out. William Z. Foster, who led the struggle against Browder, failed to get to the essence of Browder’s line; and he himself later put forward the revisionist line of the anti-monopoly coalition. In 1949, Foster said:
Our Party’s political line is thus based upon the assumption that it is possible under present political conditions in the U.S. for the broad masses of the people, militantly led by the trade unions and a strong mass political party to elect a coalition anti-monopoly government.
He went on to say:
The struggle for socialism grows inevitably out of the everyday fight of the workers and their allies, especially against the present menaces of economic chaos, fascism and war. In all good time the American people, on the basis of their existing conditions, will decide how and in what form they will introduce socialism. (Twilight of World Capitalism)
So here Foster was advocating the “peaceful transition to socialism” upon which the anti-monopoly coalition is based. This line denies the class nature of the bourgeois state and the need to smash it and substitutes instead the election of representatives to Congress to “break up the monopolies.” It negates the Marxist-Leninist law that in an advanced capitalist country like the U.S., we either live under the dictatorship of the proletariat or under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This line also belittles the role of the vanguard party and the need for Marxist-Leninists to bring scientific socialism to the working class. The masses themselves, said Foster, “will decide how and in what form they will introduce socialism”–the erroneous line that consciousness comes from within the spontaneous mass movement.
By the l6th National Convention of the CPUSA in January 1957, both Browder’s line (which still had followers in the party) and Foster’s line were still struggling for hegemony. One group, led by John Gates, wanted to liquidate the CP into a political action association, similar to what had been done under Browder’s leadership in 1944. In November, 1956, during the pre-Convention struggle, Gates argued that:
We have entered into a protracted period of peaceful competition during which the struggle in our country will be of an evolutionary character, and lead to an eventual revolutionary transformation. The path towards the triumph of socialism here is one of peaceful and constitutional struggle. We need a, party geared to that kind of situation and struggle. We need a fully democratic party, a party that is legal and is solidly based on American reality and will be recognized and accepted by American workers as their own. (Political Affairs, November 1956)
In addition, Gates called for “changing” the party’s name, form and structure, including the elimination of democratic centralism.
This liquidation!st revisionist line was opposed by Foster who raised in opposition another revisionist line. Let us “retain and strengthen the Communist Party,” he said, to deal with the rising struggle and attacks on the American workers. However, he also put forward that:
The CPUSA stands committed to the possibility of a parliamentary road to Socialism....
This revisionist line triumphed and was consolidated at the 16th National Convention of the “CP”USA in January 1957. But more on this later.
The working class paid dearly for this betrayal. We are still paying today for the revisionist-led reformist illusions, social-pacifist cry babies who fear the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie as they tremble before the mighty force of the proletariat surging forward like a mighty storm which will sweep them away.
We must build an anti-revisionist communist party; and in order to do so, we must understand the social and ideological basis for revisionism. Browder is dead; so is Karl Kautsky and many other renegades, but not revisionism. This is because revisionism has a social base for its existence, and it will exist as long as the world capitalist order exists. This is so because the bourgeoisie has been able to share crumbs from its banquet table, thus corrupting and buying off some workers in the upper strata of the working class–the labor aristocracy, the social basis of opportunism in the ranks of the working class. This strata defends the interests and expresses the mentality of the bourgeoisie, causing splits and divisions among the workers.
It has been this strata and its leaders, the trade union bureaucrats, revisionist and social-democratic parties, that spread their national chauvinist ideas, their racist views to divide the class down national lines. Take for example, the recent attacks on Black and Puerto Rican construction workers at the City College construction site just this year (April ’75) in NY. That upper stratum of white construction workers who have a long history of trying to exclude oppressed nationality workers from their ranks,, competing for jobs rather than uniting with class brothers and sisters to fight against the capitalists–they attacked the Black and Puerto Rican workers, causing them and supporting students bodily harm. Their union leadership led them in carrying out the work of the bourgeoisie inside the workers struggle.
This is the same stratum who throughout the country supported the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Korea before that. They support the plunder of Latin America, Africa, and Asia from where they get their spoils. They peddle the line of the bourgeoisie that the Arab nations are responsible for the oil shortage, actively seeking support for Israeli Zionism. In fact, in this crisis, many have given up their checks to help the company get over whatever financial difficulties they are having. Many expect and will promote that more workers do the same. The labor aristocracy has a stake in trying to save capitalism.
It is this small stratum that makes it possible for the labor hacks to sell out the rest of the class, even on the most basic economic demands and political rights so bitterly fought for throughout the history of the trade unions and labor movement. Comrades should read the recent issue of Palante, the article on the history of repression on the working class to get a better picture of the rich history that the working class in this country has, which has been so belittled historically.
To continue, it is these partners of imperialism who are worried about the crisis. Take NY’s default. They are not worried because of the hardships suffered by the working class; the labor bureaucrats have sold out the working class. They are slapping us in our very faces with contracts designed to aid management, “no-strike” clauses written into the contract. Victor Gottbaum (head of DC 37) and the rest of them are sitting back as workers are getting laid off–meeting and collaborating with the ruling class, waiting for orders from the bourgeoisie to aid them in repressing the working class.
But the trade unions were not built by these men. They came out of the struggles of the working class itself–and we must work in the trade unions to make them fighting organizations like they used to be. We must fight for union democracy and for the independent action of the rank and file, for the right to give out political literature and express your political demands. We must organize to rid the unions of the soldout hacks. We must bring the unions under communist leadership. Communists must develop the factory nuclei style of work to lead the fractions, caucuses and other forms inside the trade unions.
This brings us to the question of how we see trade union work at this time and our differences with some comrades in our movement on this question.
We do not have a completed analysis and therefore a completed stated policy; and this is a problem in the whole communist movement. The polemics that we wage on this, one of the crucial questions of our movement, will aid much in the development of one line that will unite our forces.
On the question of tactical alliances with the union leadership at this time. This question keeps coming up–the united front from above and below–and this is how we see it. We believe that the united front from below must be applied at all times and places; but that the united front from above must not be seen in the same way. The united front from above must be carried out from a position of strength.
The problem we see is that the necessary work to build the united front from below is not being carried out. We believe that this is so because of the incorrect stands taken on the advanced workers–who under communist leadership are the driving force in uniting the rank and file and providing strong nuclei upon which we may rely to then negotiate with the union leaders.
The application of united front from above in this time, place and conditions has led to an erroneous line on the question of alliances with the bureaucrats, administrators and even the revisionists. Take for example in April of this year, where the NY hospital administrators were “leading” demonstrations against the budget cuts. The slogans were designed to accommodate workers and management under the same banner, e.g., “They say cutback; we say fightback,” etc. In one particular hospital the application of united front from above, with the director of the hospital, aided in covering him up, a man who has a long history of double-talk–whom we can predict is going to sell out the workers at the drop of a dime. Instead, some comrades applied the united front from above to “facilitate the work from below.” But the outcome was that the director of the hospital was able to pretend he was militant, confusing some intermediate and many of the backward workers. It raised the illusion that management could lead the workers’ struggle. Meanwhile, as they deluded the workers and stalled for time, management and the union officials were collaborating on how to best lay off workers without too much turmoil, take back the pay increases; and now they are discussing how to close the hospital altogether, make it into a rehab hospital which means more layoffs–and no hospital for the community.
In fact, the united front from above facilitated the work of the management and the bureaucrats.
We also recall that at the demonstration itself, the comrades that held the united front from above line did not fight to maintain the independence of the communist line. In fact, the comrades took a low profile and never once raised independent slogans, submerging themselves to the slogans approved by management and the bureaucrats.
In 1925, the Comintern had this to say about the tactics of the united front:
The tactics of the united front is only a method for agitation and the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat for considerable periods. All attempts to interpret these tactics as a political coalition with counter-revolutionary, social-democratic parties are opportunism and rejected by the Comintern. (Thesis on Tactics)
The Comintern in the same Thesis makes this additional point:
Unity from below and at the same time negotiations with the leaders–this is the method that will have to be applied very often in those countries where Social Democrats are still strong.
The negotiations between the leaders must not bind the communist independence of the Party. The fundamental part of the tactics of the united front in these countries must be unity from below. All forms of negotiations such as open letters, etc., with the official organs of the Social Democrats must not become stereotyped. The most important thing is to prepare the minds of the workers including the Social Democratic workers and incline them towards a general action to fight and only then turn to the official organs of the Social Democrats, so as to confront them with the fact that certain definite sentiments are present in the minds of the working class, and if they refuse to support the struggle, to disclose the treacherous character of Social Democracy. (our emphasis)
So it was not forming a united front from above and below that was incorrect in principle. What was incorrect was to place more emphasis on the united front from above, when in our present situation the work has not been done of raising the level of the advanced to understand their role in uniting the rest of the rank and file, and over what issues we would then negotiate with the “leaders.”
Our position, therefore, is that the united front from above in general terms is not applicable at this time, place and condition; although in a particular situation where some work with the rank and file has been accomplished, where there is some strength and the advanced elements are clear as to the tactic, then it may be applicable.
The Comintern made this additional point. We quote:
The revolutionary united front tactics can be correctly applied only when each section,fully conscious of the dangers of those tactics and without adopting mechanical formulas, sets itself the concrete tasks of winning the masses in the fight for definite daily aims and daily demands, organizing them, gathering them round itself always keeping the revolution in view, and with the aim’ of leading decisive sections of the proletariat in fights and therefore facilitating the passing over to attack against the bourgeoisie.
The united front from above tactics at this point, in our present conditions–without clearly stating or analyzing what period we are in, who comprises the decisive stratas of the proletariat in relation to our central task at this time, and therefore how do we concretely move to build the united front from below as the priority in our work, to prepare the conditions to be able to negotiate with the leaders, making use of the tactical differences among the bourgeoisie-is incorrect. To dogmatically insist that the united front from above and below tactics are applied at all times, places and conditions to facilitate the work from below, we believe is a right deviation that has led to the following errors:
1) Belittling the role of the advanced and being more concerned with the sentiments of the intermediate and backward.
2) Covering up the class collaborationist character of the bureaucrats and management.
3) Submerging the independence of the communist line, losing independence and initiative.
4) Building alliances with the revisionists, such as International Women’s Day in NY (1975).
We certainly welcome more polemics on this question in the question and answer period.
To sum up this part of our presentation, the social basis of revisionism and opportunism in the communist and workers movements is the labor aristocracy, led by the union hacks and the revisionist parties. The trade unions are organizations of the working class which we must actively work in to make them fighting organizations rather then what the bureaucrats have made them to be. Communists must build the factory nuclei, lead fractions inside the unions, lead the caucuses or whatever other forms develop, expose the bureaucrats (in fact, the main blow must be directed at them and the revisionists), and imbue the rank and file to take independent action against the capitalists and their partners, the union bureaucrats. We must organize to fight actively against the growing fascist menace and one of its manifestations–union busting. We must begin to prepare rank and file actions against any threat by the government to go to war.
We must fight the no-strike clauses and “rules” against work actions. We must lead a fight against the increasing economic hardships. We cannot accept cuts in wages, vacation, sick days, holidays, etc. None of this came on a platter; we must not let them take it back without a fight.
Now we move to the next point, the question of the ideological basis of revisionism and opportunism.
In What Is To Be Done, Lenin brilliantly makes an analysis of the ideological root of all opportunism. In struggling against the economists who belittled the role of the conscious element, who refused to understand that the upsurge of the mass movement placed new theoretical, political and organizational tasks before communists, who bowed to spontaneity, continuing to tail behind the mass movement–Lenin said they “reduced the role of Social Democracy to mere subservience to the working class movement.”
It is no wonder that with the long history of belittling theory– which Marx and Engels long ago said was one of the main problems of the American working class movement–it is no wonder that the ideological manifestations of revisionism and opportunism are so deep rooted.
In our specific situation, in the U.S. the worship of spontaneity has led to empiricism, that way of thinking which negates indirect experience and places all conclusions on direct experience only– therefore negating Marxist-Leninist theory which is the summed up experience of the labor movement the world over. Empiricist thinking has led to pragmatism, a particularly strong trend in our country, the idea that we must practice anything, it doesn’t matter, by doing we’ll find answers to our problems–once again belittling that which has already been discovered and scientifically proven, and which must be applied.
The Communist International and Comrade Stalin criticized the CPUSA for “American Exceptionalism” which led to the line that conditions in the U.S. had reached such a level of development that a violent revolution was no longer necessary. And so the revisionist line of peaceful transition to socialism was theoretically justified.
After the “CP”USA consolidated its revisionist line thoroughly (we believe this took place at the 16th National Convention in 1957) the movement was left without conscious leadership–bourgeois ideology firming its grip over the masses. Because of its significance, we would like to briefly examine the line consolidated at the 16th National Convention in January 1957.
First, we should keep in mind that in 1956, at their 20th Congress the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had denounced the great Marxist-Leninist, comrade Joseph Stalin, declared that wars under Imperialism were not inevitable, and said socialism could be achieved through a “peaceful transition” from capitalism. By attacking Stalin and revising the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism that Stalin staunchly defended, the Soviet revisionists aimed at burying Marxism-Leninism, paving the way for the growth of revisionism and counter-revolution around the world.
For its part, the “CP”USA hailed the 20th Congress as a “truly historic event” and quoted it extensively to justify their abandoning of Marxism-Leninism. The Constitution adopted at the l6th National Convention provides living testimony of the consolidation of revisionism in the “CP”USA. In it, all reference to Marxism-Leninism as the science of class warfare was eliminated after a vote. This was replaced in the preamble by the following:
The Communist Party bases its theory generally on the scientific, humanist and democratic heritage of mankind and particularly on the principles of scientific socialism as developed by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and V.I. Lenin....In the struggle for democracy, peace and social progress, the Communist Party strives to carry forward the democratic traditions of Jefferson, Paine, Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, and the great working class and socialist traditions of William Sylvis, Eugene V. Debs and Charles E. Ruthenberg.
Here the revisionists reduced Marxism-Leninism to part of the “humanist and democratic heritage of mankind”–that includes the early American bourgeoisie like Thomas Jefferson. Their babble about “mankind’s” humanist heritage is designed to gloss over the very real class antagonisms that exist between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the real world.
The Constitution restated the line of “peaceful transition to socialism,” making it “official.”
We advocate a peaceful democratic road to socialism through the political and economic struggles of the American people within the developing constitutional process.
In a report to the Convention on the Constitution, Fred Fine, co-chairman of the Constitution-Organization Committee stated:
Our new draft Constitution, in its Preamble and various clauses, reiterates and makes clear that we have no room in our ranks for those who advocate force or violence or terrorism, or who by word or act seek to subvert, undermine or overthrow the institutions of American democracy through which the majority of American people can maintain their right to determine their destinies.
In keeping with this, the “CP” Constitution reaffirmed and publicly restated its “faith” in bourgeois democracy:
The Communist Party upholds the achievements of American democracy and defends the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights, particularly the 14th and 15th Amendments which guarantee equality to the American Negro against those who would destroy democracy.
In order to further convince the bourgeoisie that they were just another “all-American” party, the “CP” also passed a resolution at the l6th National Convention where they swore that they would not try to bring the trade unions under Marxist-Leninist leadership. They called for complete “independence” of the trade unions. Lenin polemicized against this line of “trade union neutrality” and exposed it as a line that serves only to strengthen the influence of the bourgeoisie. Let us compare Marxism-Leninism and the “CP”s line.
It is a question of the fact that a socialist party and trade unions exist in every capitalist country and It is our job to define the basic relations between them. The class interests of the bourgeoisie inevitably give rise to a striving to confine the unions to petty and narrow activity within the framework of the existing social order, to keep them away from any contact with socialism; and the neutrality theory is the ideological cover for these strivings of the bourgeoisie. (Lenin, “On Trade Union Neutrality,” Vol. 13, Collected Works)
However, the “CP” said:
It is not the policy of the Communist Party to interfere with, ’bore from within,’ or to seek to capture or control the trade unions. We reject any allegation that this is our policy. We respect the complete political and organizational independence of the trade unions and other organizations of the working class. (Resolution on trade unions, l6th National Convention, “CP”USA)
Implementing this line, the “CP” belittled the role of the party, reducing it to a tail of the workers movement. In this it also belittled the role of the advanced elements, blaming their own cowardliness, and bourgeois world outlook on the masses by saying that there was a lack of “mass receptiveness for Socialism.”
They distorted the real objective situation to justify their revisionist line. 1956 was a year when the country was caught in the post-war recession which followed the Korean War. Unemployment had risen as the war-induced “boom” ended. In 1956, it was and rising steadily. Unemployment for Blacks and other oppressed nationalities was 8.3%. There were 3,825 strikes which involved 1,900,000 workers. The Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 had also marked the beginning of more than a decade of the civil rights and later Black liberation movements. And the “CP” said:
The type of struggles within the working class and between the working class and the monopolies, and within the atmosphere of current political events is not such as to create any mass receptiveness for socialism.” (“On the Role of the Party, Political Affairs, January, 1957)
From their erroneous analysis of the objective situation, they went on to promote their revisionist line on the party’s role:
Our organization will have to discard certain distorted concepts of what constitutes a vanguard role. No Marxist organization or combination of Marxist organizations is, or is likely to become in the immediate future, the actual leadership of the working class in the sense that the working class or decisive sections of it look to such an organization for leadership. More than this, the immediate problem for us is not how to lead the working class movement, but how to become connected with it.
We cannot make grandiose proposals to the working class as to what we think it ought to do. Rather we must determine what actions it is now taking which, if strengthened and given more consciousness, will aid the forward movement towards independent action and socialist consciousness. (ibid., emphasis in original)
Here the “CP” reduces the party to a recorder of events. Since the masses will get socialist consciousness by themselves, through the struggle for reforms, they said, our task is to “connect” with the workers movement, but not to lead it. Now, if these so-called “communists” were going to “connect” to the workers movement but not lead it, this means they could only be tailing it, “strengthening” the spontaneous actions that they believe will lead to “socialist consciousness.”
Here is what Stalin said on the role of the party as the advanced detachment of the working class:
The Party must stand at the head of the working class; it must see farther than the working class; it must lead the proletariat, and not drag at the tail of the spontaneous movement. The parties of the Second International, which preach ’khvostism’ (tailism) are vehicles of bourgeois policy, which condemn the proletariat to the role of a tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Only a party which adopts the standpoint of advanced detachment of the proletariat and is able to raise the masses to the level of understanding the class interests of the proletariat–only such a party can divert the working class from the path of trade unionism and convert it into an independent political force. (Foundations of Leninism)
So, following their l6th National Convention, the “CP” phrasemongered about “independent action” but in reality left the working class unarmed, under the unchallenged influence of bourgeois ideology; and they themselves spent their time as Lenin said, gazing at the posteriors of the working class movement.
Faced with the undeniable revisionism of the “CP”USA, two attempts were made to build a new party, both failing. The Provisional Organizing Committee (POC) degenerated into a sectarian sect, all honest communists having to abandon it. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP) also degenerated into trotskyism–isolated from the masses and especially the industrial proletariat. Progressive at its inception, PLP degenerated quickly though, because its base was mainly petty bourgeois;–and because it had not thoroughly made a break with opportunism, reflected in its political line on many questions–most blatantly expressed in its line on the national question. They, like the New Voice and other organizations today, denied that there was a national question in our country. They said Black workers, for example, were just super-exploited and the problem was racism, denying the right of the oppressed Black Nation in the Black Belt South to self-determination.
The PLP degenerated so terribly that they wound up attacking all the national liberation struggles, saying that all nationalism was reactionary. The PLP called itself something that it was not, the Party of the working class–although it too denied the role of the advanced elements who, confused, were seeking to study hard to become class conscious elements.
These words of Lenin are very important to our understanding of what happened to PLP:
A political Party can combine only a minority of the class in the same way as the really class conscious workers throughout the whole of capitalist society represent a minority of all the workers. For that reason, we are compelled to admit that only a class conscious minority can guide the vast masses of workers and get them to follow it...If the minority is really class conscious; if it is able to reply to every question that comes up on the order of the day, then it is in essence a Party. If the minority is not able to lead the masses, link itself closely up with them, then it is not a Party, and is good for nothing even if it calls itself a Party.
So even though PLP called itself a Party, it was not able to link itself closely to the masses. It did not get the masses to follow it. It could not reply to even some questions of the day. And in fact PLP’s line was not in conformity to Marxist-Leninist theory or to the real conditions of the U.S. revolution. PLP like so many forces today only saw the student, anti-war and women’s movements. Some forces today see the tremendous force in the national movement. Many revolutionaries don’t know or negate totally the revolutionary workers movement that arose in the late ’60’s and in fact together with the national movement was the most significant development in our country in that period.
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers was a revolutionary workers organization that grew out of the struggles of Black auto workers, mainly in Detroit, but it rapidly grew and spread throughout most of the industrial Midwest–the heart of industry in America and the most strategically important area in the U.S. HRUM (Health Revolutionary Unity Movement) also grew out of struggle and began as a multi-national form. Its essence was very similar to the League although it was an independent collective.
New forces had come forward in the upsurge of the spontaneous movement, confronting new tasks–the ideological, political and organizational tasks, suffering from the lack of revolutionary theory. A blind movement, stumbling in the dark. This brings us to the next questions posed for discussion.
It is an indisputable fact that the party of the proletariat must be built firmly on the ideology of the proletariat, Dialectical and Historical Materialism. The ideology of the proletariat grows strong in a fierce battle against metaphysics and idealism, the ideology of the bourgeoisie, the oldest and most influential ideology in society. This fundamental question, i.e., the question of basing the party firmly on its ideological foundation, is the essential question throughout the periods that party building goes through including and even more so after the seizure of state power.
In the first period of party building–we say roughly from 1957 to 1972–the ideological task was also the key link to party building, that task which most clearly united the many scattered forces and crystallized the political and organizational tasks.
All the years of revisionist traditions, the betrayal of the “CP”USA who literally rewrote many of the Marxist-Leninist’ texts to suit their revisionist interpretations, their attacks on China and Albania, on all the national liberation struggles–we had to fight, as we continue to fight today, to reaffirm and defend the teachings of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought. Concretely, we had to fight against an eclecticist trend, a manifestation of opportunism within the developing communist and revolutionary movements.
Advanced elements were coming forward in the struggle, thirsty for knowledge that explained the deep causes and effects of this system and how to change it, searching for scientific answers only to find a mishmosh of literature, from Fanon to Bakunin, Leon Trotsky, Che Guevara, our own so-called theoreticians like James Forman (remember Control, Conflict, and Change?). It may all seem so very funny today, but advanced elements were studying this–much of it a mishmosh itself–some Marxism-Leninism with a lot of the idealism of its authors. Trotsky of course was one of the greatest renegades and traitors to the international communist movement.
The study of Fanon, for instance, led to the theory of colonized mentality, which led to placing ideas before matter. An erroneous view developed that the oppressed were one big mass rather than that the masses are divided into classes; and that in fact ideas come from social practice. That is to say, man’s consciousness comes from his relation to production. Fanon was very popular in the movement in the Sixties, as was Bakunin, who Marx had taken on and defeated in the First Communist International. But almost 100 years later in the U.S., many organizations were pushing Bakunin’s line that the lumpen-proletariat was the vanguard of the revolution.
The Black Panther Party, Young Lords Party, I Wor Kuen, the Brown Berets and many revolutionary-minded people and collectives, reflecting upon the phenomena of unemployment, inevitable in this society, mistakenly analyzed a part of the proletariat as lumpen-proletariat. This trend was consciously led by petty bourgeois leaders like Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and Felipe Luciano, to name just a few, who this line benefitted. And so they meant that the lumpen-proletariat, the scum of the earth, would lead the revolution; this declassized strata who leach onto the rest of society, live a hustle-existence, con-artists who have been and will continue to be used by the police for counter-revolutionary activities. Individuals of this strata may come over to the side of revolution; but as a strata, the lumpen-proletariat is counter-revolutionary, and like the petty bourgeoisie provides a social basis for anarchism and ultra-leftism In the main. The lumpen-vanguard line led to many setbacks in the old period.
Once again, this points to the effects of belittling the role of the conscious elements; replacing scientific socialism with eclecticism. This was real in our movement. The eclecticist trend gave rise to many unsound theoretical justifications for bankrupt political lines and erroneous organizational manifestations, resulting from a lack of theoretical clarity. This obviously meant that we had to fight for the clarity and reaffirmation of Marxist-Leninist theory.
Advanced elements were studying, studying, studying hard, trying to turn themselves into class conscious elements, and even elaborating independent socialist theories–e.g., the BPP 10-Point Program, HRUM’s 10-Point Health Program, YLP’s 13-Point Program, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers’ Program, the BWC Manifesto. But these were not scientific socialist theories. This theory can only be brought from without the spontaneous struggle, interjected by the class conscious element.
You take for example a struggle at any plant. Of itself, a given struggle at X plant will raise the trade union issues, the contract, layoffs, a grievance against the company, understaffing, etc. The question of the broader issues and the essence of the problem–that is, capitalism as the cause of unemployment, harassment, cutbacks, the role of the state, the army, police, laws, courts, injunctions in case of work actions–this knowledge is introduced from outside the trade union movement by class conscious elements who study the laws of capitalist development, Marxist-Leninist theory which explains scientifically why capitalism is bound to be replaced by the socialist order. In turn, this understanding is first grasped by the most advanced elements in that struggle, being more broad in their outlook and connecting the different phenomena that are taking place–layoffs, cutbacks, police repression, the class collaborationist role of the union bureaucrats, etc. The advanced can grasp the essence: the drive of the capitalists for profits at any cost; the question of surplus value; and the real reasons for the crisis–the falling rate of profit, high organic composition, and overproduction} inflation and depression as symptoms of the overall crisis of imperialism; the export of capital; the contradictions between the imperialists themselves for the redivision of the world, which leads to wars between them like the first and second world wars, and the great possibility of a third world war.
These questions can only be understood by the conscious study and application of scientific socialism, the only logical and true explanation of what’s going on and how to change it.
The advanced elements upon being armed with this understanding– obviously not all at once or overnight, but in the course of struggle – study, back to practice–struggle to win over intermediate elements, who although they are open to socialist ideas cannot elaborate independent theories or become leaders of the struggle. The outlook of the intermediate elements is not as broad. They have difficulty interrelating the different phenomena to get to the essence of the problem. Many times they see reform and not revolution as the answer. This is why many of the leading reformist organizations–RU, before it totally degenerated, and the OL today–gear much of their slogans and programs of action to this strata: “Throw the bum out,” or “Dump the bum,” and so on.
However, the intermediate elements too are anxious to study and open to socialist ideas; and advanced elements have a responsibility to provide this education to them and struggle to advance their outlook– to turn them into advanced elements. In fact, many of the intermediate elements in motion yesterday have turned into the advanced of today, according to how advanced elements struggle to develop them. Just as some advanced elements’ development is hurt when their role is belittled.
Lastly, the intermediate elements must struggle to win over the more backward strata who are very narrow in their outlook, can only deal with a given issue at a time–let’s say a wage cut. Sometimes they come forward as militant trade unionists, many times are anti-communists. They are mainly concerned with their own narrow interests; and as such, bourgeois ideology has even a greater influence over them. Hence, they sometimes manifest reactionary ideas in their attitude towards change. Like the backward idea that many men have that their wives are cooks, mothers, and should not become involved in revolutionary activity or any other activity for that matter.
Then there is a small reactionary minority, the organized right wing: the KKK, John Birch Society, etc.–the organized basis of fascism.
Indeed, the masses are divided into advanced, intermediate and backward. And as such, when we speak of organizing the masses, we must be scientific and place emphasis on that minority of advanced elements who, linked to the vast majority of the masses, act and speak in their interests.
But there is a retrograde trend in our movement, which is presented in arguments such as: “the advanced elements have not been preconditioned,” or that “the advanced are just open to socialism.” This is confusing the intermediate with the advanced, resulting in belittling the role of the advanced, worshipping spontaneity–the ideological basis of opportunism–instead of utilizing the power of orientation provided by revolutionary theory, meeting and acting upon the tasks of the day to prepare the conditions for the revolutionary battles that are to come, and which we must not fear, but welcome. The future is bleak for the imperialists and bright for the masses. It is as Marx said, “the working class has nothing to lose but its chains.”
But this retrograde trend leads to economism in practice, organizing the masses just around their economic interests, not educating them to their long-range interests, which leaves the masses unprepared to deal when the crunch comes down. And in fact it is coming down. We cannot panic too but rather must firm up our ideological understanding so that we may lead the masses. Fascism is not inevitable. We can organize to stop it; and in the event that we can’t, we must organize to resist the attack of the bourgeoisie; we must organize the civil war in case of an imperialist war and overthrow them. The role of the social-fascists of the “CP”USA and “RC”P is to make us think that we should not fight back because we’ll be crushed; they do this to pave the way for fascism.
The economist trend aids this. It is concerned with quantity, the bigger numbers of intermediate and backward elements, building paper organizations, like RU’s intermediate forms of organization. Thus, the masses do not get organized around their long and short-range goals; but instead the movement becomes everything, the final aim nothing, strengthening therefore the influence of bourgeois ideology over the masses.
We must rely on the advanced, in struggle raise their level of consciousness, group them into study groups, and use the chief form of activity at this time–propaganda, to interject scientific socialist analysis into the spontaneous movement. We hold to the essence of the definition of advanced elements as Lenin described them in “A Retrograde Trend in Social Democracy,” although we realize that the conditions are not exactly the same.
The right deviation on this question is to belittle the role of the advanced to the point of confusing the intermediate element for the advanced. This leads to economism. The left deviation is to try and isolate the advanced from the spontaneous movement, which leads to adventurism, heroism, cliquism. The main danger is the right danger.
In the first period of party building we had to fight to defeat the eclecticist deviation. This led to a victory on the ideological front primarily, although obviously aiding the political and organizational tasks. We established that indeed the proletariat, the working class, was the leading force in the revolution and the guiding ideology, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought.
This victory created the basis for some organizations to go forward, grasping the period that we were in and the new tasks we confronted. Others, like IWK, never broke with the retrograde trend; to this day IWK is vascillating on what indeed is the central task–to this day, holding a Bundist position. The BPP totally degenerated, although in the BPP there were advanced elements, some of which were able to break with the backward thrust of the BPP and joined other organizations–today they are part of the forward motion of the struggle to build the party.
In fact, the majority of the movement, except for the organizations most riddled with petty-bourgeois elements, moved forward and defeated eclecticism. Thus, the new anti-revisionist communist movement was born in the fight for the fundamental question of party building, the struggle to reaffirm the ideology of the proletariat, Dialectical and Historical Materialism.
The defeat of the line that said we had to build parties for all the different nationalities was a great political victory. This Bundist trend caused great setbacks, the struggle against it disclosing the national chauvinist and narrow nationalist ideological basis that gave rise to it.
On the organizational front we have had to fight for the principles of democratic centralism as a criteria for distinguishing between a genuine communist organization or a broad, revolutionary organization. It also helped us distinguish the genuine from the sham–those who professed to be one thing and did another, who had no real standing among the masses.
We had to and continue to struggle today for the principle of criticism and self-criticism, the hallmark of a truly genuine communist organization. In fact, we recall many organizations that would call us “ultra-leftist,” not because of the “left” errors we were indeed committing and still commit today, but because criticism and self-criticism meant to seriously disclose one’s errors, the basis for them, present how to rectify them, and move to do so in practice. For the hidden opportunists this meant exposure of their rotten views and lines which they peddled in our movement. They knew we were serious about building a Bolshevik Party and that we would exclude any known Mensheviks.
The birth of the new anti-revisionist communist movement, which included RU, OL, the Guardian, IWK, PRRWO, WVO, La Raza Labor Committee–many of the comrades are with ATM today– BWC, and some independent collectives of advanced elements, like the Chicano-Boricua Collective–this was indeed a great step forward in our struggle to build a Bolshevik Party. But the anti-revisionist communist movement was not pure, and within it were two trends in constant battle, clashing and causing forward motion–a revolutionary trend and an opportunist one, led by the RU.
This opportunist trend took the form and content of right opportunism, manifested in economism, crystallized in the line that the central task was to build the revolutionary unity, consciousness and organization of the working class. Due to the lack of theoretical clarity on many questions, most especially on party building, this trend took hegemony over the movement for a long time. In fact, the OL, who originally held to party building as the central task copped to RU’s line, mainly because of their internal base, mainly petty bourgeois, and also because of their experience with the trots of the Communist League (today, the “C”LP) who represented the “left” line on party building. The OL also belittled theory. Today, their reformist line is shown even more crudely on many political positions. This is why OL and RU, although apparently at each other’s throats,could unite on their reformist slogans–“Throw the bum out,” “Dump the bum,” “Fight, don’t starve,” etc. In fact, the RU tried to swallow up OL, proposing merger to them over two and a half years ago, as part of RU’s manuevering during the period of the National Liaison Committee.
The economist trend was strong, bringing under its wing most of the conscious elements who for two years would helplessly bow to the spontaneity of the masses, tailing behind some of the more backward and intermediate elements, becoming more and more isolated from the advanced, which further develops the ideological root of opportunism. That is why we believe that the dialectics of the two tactics in party building–uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning the advanced to communism– must be firmly grasped; and any attempt to try to disassociate these two tactics must be actively combatted in order that we may fuse the communist and workers movements.
It got so bad for us that we even liquidated our newspaper Palante for a while. Much of this decision was based on RU’s “advice” (They saw Palante as another of their intermediate (anti-imperialist newspapers) aided by our internal opportunists, our internal economists who were very happy following the path of least resistance.
We tried to deal with the real phenomena that the class is divided; but we were going in circles, because in fact our responsibility was to put all our efforts into organizing the only organization capable of uniting the class–the party of the working class. But instead we were building intermediate forms of organization, liquidating the role of theory and propaganda, basing our work on the intermediate and backward elements–who RU described as advanced even if they professed anti-communist ideas. Just as long as they were “respected” and “militant” that was cool. The RU’s treachery has caused us tremendous setbacks; although, on the other hand, our struggle against economism and the RU brought forth advances–the dialectics of this struggle giving us tremendous lessons to draw from.
Although the RU has changed its name, their character has not changed in the least. The “RC”P is one of those good-for-nothing parties that Lenin described. They have continued to develop their bankrupt line, building their ”Party” for a short period, immediately going back to “uniting” the class. Throughout the history of the development of their raggedy line, the RU has never disclosed the social or ideological basis for the divisions in the class in the first place. Listen to what they say in their program:
Within the working class, there is a stratum of better off workers which the bourgeoisie tries to use as a social base for spreading reformism and accommodations to the system among the masses of workers. (“RC”P Program, p. 84, our emphasis)
In all our studies of Marxism-Leninism we find not that the bourgeoisie “tries” to use this stratum, which is very scientifically called the labor aristocracy, the upper stratum of the working class and not the ”better off” workers– it has been shown how indeed that this is the social basis of opportunism in the working class movement.
We quote from Two Opposing Lines in the World Trade Union Movement by Filip Kota, Party of Labor of Albania:
Historically, the bourgeoisie of every country has bought off some of the qualified workers, the working class aristocracy, and detached them from the masses of the proletariat, by providing them with easy jobs and posts with fewer headaches but greater rewards. Fat salaries, favours and advantages brought about their gradual estrangement from the working class, both economically and ideologically. By backing the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy of the working class turned into a fifth column, spreading bourgeois ideology in the ranks of the working class and the trade union movement. Without their assistance, the bourgeoisie would not have been able to keep the working class under its domination. (p. 68)
The RU is not ignorant of this fact–far from it. The “RC”P must use soft language to cover up its social base; at the same time that they try to confuse honest elements who may not know that, in fact, the labor aristocracy does back the bourgeoisie and it’s not a matter of the bourgeoisie “trying” to use them. In fact, RU’s practice is in conformity with its social base. They spread chauvinism. Take for example their position on the CCNY struggle that we mentioned earlier. They said that bourgeois narrow nationalism had been responsible for the split in the ranks of the class in that situation. This is in keeping with their chauvinist line that the main danger in the movement is bourgeois nationalism.
In fact, it was the RU who was responsible for the split in the communist movement. Seeking hegemony of the bourgeois line they represent in the movement, building their organization on the basis of quantity, bringing together all the petty bourgeois elements they could muster, they developed a bureaucratic centralist apparatus– which, like a big corporation could at first impress the rest of the movement which was suffering from amateurishness; but once you went beyond the rosey-painted door, you would find an organization riddled with factions, careerists building thrones, crushing ideological struggles. In fact, we remember how in our last meeting with them, the NLC meeting of October 1973, “they prided themselves because they didn’t have two-line struggle in their organization. They were intact, they said, steadily growing. The truth is that they were quickly dying; they kept their cadres ignorant, robbed from them the power of orientation, feeding them instead Red Papers and demogogic speeches by Bob Avakian, so as to consolidate them on their bankrupt line.
Their organization was in fact never a truly multi-national organization. It was mainly white and petty bourgeois; because they could not link themselves up to the working class in general, and to the oppressed nationality workers in particular. They thought that oppressed nationality revolutionaries were stupid and that they could get next to us and fulfill their plan–which was to submerge our organizations, or divide us from within. And they tried. At the last NLC meeting, these wounded paper dummies tried to pit BWC against PRRWO. When that failed, they tried to pit PRRWO Secretariat members against each other. You should have seen these conniving hidden scabs, like Leibel Bergman, ex-“CP”USA revisionist. We must know these names and remember them, for they have caused great harm to our movement. But they found out in fact that we were not stupid, that in fact we could grasp the science of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism, and that we could in turn take the science to the masses, who they fear more than anything else.
But we are grateful to the RU for one thing. They helped us rid ourselves of some of the most bankrupt elements in our ranks, aided in disclosing who in the movement was peddling the same line, and in the struggle against them, the revolutionary wing of our movement was forged tight.
The RU hung out for a while, because in words they professed to be “anti-revisionist.” We’re sure that many of their cadres at first were, but as time went on and RU gave more and more theoretical justification for worshipping spontaneity–as they tailed behind the Farah workers’ struggle where they didn’t develop not one communist, or behind the farm workers, or leading Attica Brigade into their adventurist little caper at the Statue of Liberty, as they built their paper organizations, like UWOC, Final Warning, and all their so-called “Workers Committees” to do this and that, they indeed began to consolidate their cadres around a retrograde trend.
This past Mayday, RU had the gall to say that Mayday was a workers day, communists had nothing to do with the international holiday of the working class. We wonder why the 1st Communist International adopted the struggle for the 8-hour day as a struggle that the international communist movement had to lead in every country. Let RU tell the Chinese and Albanian Communist Parties that. We say to them that RU is dizzy from tailing behind its own raggedy tail.
Indeed the struggle against RU’s line sharpened the line of demarcation between the two trends and two wings of our movement. The RU aided the struggle against eclecticism, only to come up strongly representing the new trend of the old period, economism. A struggle which we continue to wage today. In fact, economism and right opportunism in general is the main danger in the communist movement holding back the motion towards party building.
We will be continuing the polemics against the “RC”P in coming issues of Palante. Now, to the present period of party building.
In late 1974, it had become clear to most communist organizations and advanced elements that the central task was to build the party.
The struggle was sharpest around what was going to be the party’s basic line on the most burning questions faced by our movement–class analysis, the national question, the trade union question, in the main. The polemics around these questions has crystallized who in fact is applying the ideology of the proletariat to our Concrete conditions.
The wings in the communist movement, we believe, break down in this way. The opportunist wing is composed of the RU, OL, the Guardian, IWK, RWC, WC. (Since this speech was presented, the position of the PRRWO is that the “RC”P is a revisionist organization and is no longer in the communist movement.) The genuine wing of our movement is the August 29th Movement, the Workers Viewpoint Organization, the Revolutionary Bloc, and the PRRWO. There are a number of organizations that we believe are honest and taking clearer stands with the revolutionary wing of the movement. They are Resistencia Puertorriquena, El Comité, and the Revolutionary Workers League, although we have not at this time been able to thoroughly analyze the line of the comrades of the RWL.
We think we have, in our pamphlet, In the U.S. Pregnant With Revisionism: the Struggle for Proletarian Revolution Moves Ahead, made clear why we think OL, the Guardian and IWK are opportunist organizations. The RU is revisionist; and as we said before, we are in the process of writing up a public polemic against them. The RWC and WC we believe continue to represent the trends they represented within the BWC.
The Workers Congress has more fully consolidated a “left” dogmatic line, most especially applied to party building. They see organization as the key link, outstripping the period we are in. Their proposal for an Iskra-type organization is a mechanical application–the Iskra, suitable for Russian conditions–but we do not believe their line stems from a concrete analysis of our situation.
The Revolutionary Workers Congress represents a backward thrust. We believe their newspaper,Movin’ On, clearly reflects this trend. They try to hide themselves behind the concept of “mass line,” only to belittle the role of the advanced elements. That is why their newspaper put forward that they would cover articles “even the advanced would understand.” In the period that we’re in, we gear our propaganda to the advanced. We don’t lower the politics so that “even the advanced understand it.”
This ’working-class intelligentsia’ already exists in Russia, and we must make every effort to ensure that its ranks are regularly reinforced, that its lofty mental requirements are met and that leaders of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party come from its ranks. The newspaper that wants to become the organ of all Russian Social-Democrats must, therefore, be at the level of the advanced workers; not only must it not lower its level artificially, but, on the contrary, it must raise it constantly, it must follow up all the tactical, political, and theoretical problems of world Social-Democracy. Only then will the demands of the working-class intelligentsia be met, and it itself will take the cause of the Russian workers and, consequently, the cause of the Russian revolution into its own hands. (Lenin, “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy.”)
If there has been any change in the RWC, we don’t know it since their newspaper has not come out in some time. We welcome struggle from the organizations mentioned, most especially the OL and the WC. We realize we were not thorough in the presentation. We encourage comrades to read our publications and to ask questions or polemicize with us tonight so we may make our positions clearer.
The thrust of the genuine wing, we believe, is Marxism-Leninism. All the organizations we mentioned have a consistency in their capability to sum up, repudiate erroneous lines, and correct their errors in the real world, strengthening their relations with the masses. We especially have learned from the comrades of ATM, who although as an organization are relatively new, the comrades are strong. They are based in the working class, with clear ideological stands reflected in the line of the organization on most of the burning questions. In fact, the ATM was the first organization in the country that sent a solidarity statement to Federico Gintron, a Puerto Rican revolutionary and political prisoner. Everyone should study ATM’s publications, the Unity Statement, Selected Speeches, and very soon their national newspaper.
Our other fraternal organizations are the Workers Viewpoint Organization and the Revolutionary Bloc.
Comrades of the Workers Viewpoint, we believe have taken their stands in the struggle against opportunism, most especially they have been leading the struggle against the erroneous positions of the OL. Our unities on line are a reflection of our ideological grasp of the tasks at hand. We do believe that the comrades of Workers Viewpoint are making right deviations. We believe this is due to not grasping thoroughly that the ideological basis of opportunism is the worship of spontaneity, and so they belittle the role of the advanced element – confusing the intermediate element with the advanced. They have also shown a right deviation in relation to factory nuclei style of work, which we believe they replace with the “Budget Cut Coalition” form of organization. In fact, we know that this form is where WVO places most of its energies and priority. We think this is a mistake. We do believe firmly that our comrades of the WVO are honest and will repudiate the positions that are not in the interests of proletarian revolution and will move forward–as we know they are upfront with us and have given us many valid criticisms to help us move forward.
The comrades of the Revolutionary Bloc represented the most correct stand in the BWC split. Unfortunately, we will not be able to give a full analysis of what we think led to the split in BWC. We ask the comrades of the Revolutionary Bloc to take the lead in answering any questions related to this split that come up tonight. At the same time, we also offer the comrades this criticism–in light of the many opportunist groupings that sprang out from the BWC split and the valuable lessons that must be drawn, we believe it has taken much too long for comrades to supply the movement with this analysis, therefore aiding in covering up the RWC and the WC and what they represent. It is crucial that the comrades of the Revolutionary Bloc move on this–as we are sure they will. In our relationship with them, we know they are honest and down to build the party, committed to the revolution.
This then brings us to the final point. How do we see Marxist-Leninists uniting and the winning over of advanced elements in this new period of party building.
We must first understand that the ideological tasks are far from over. In fact, this task, as we said before, goes on throughout the struggle to abolish classes. We must continue the steel-to-steel struggle against revisionism in its past, present and future manifestations. We must draw lessons and avoid repeating the same mistakes. The empiricism in our movement must be defeated. There are organizations who have to try everything themselves before they are convinced it’s wrong.
Thus, on the ideological front we must intensify the struggle against the worship of spontaneity which has led to five main ideological manifestations of opportunism: empiricism, reformism, chauvinism, centrism, and voluntarism. We have tried to cover empiricism, reformism, and chauvinism. Just a few words on centrism as a growing dangerous phenomena.
Centrism is manifested through the conciliation of the bourgeois and proletarian lines. Take for example all those centrist forces who, although they know better, refuse to take a stand against Soviet social-imperialism and at the same time pretend to be with the international communist movement led by the CPC and PLA. Centrist forces never want to go to what’s principal in a contradiction. For the centrists, everything has truth to it, nothing is key-the theory of equilibrium. The Guardian is one of the representatives of this trend, as shown in their stand, or we should say lack of a stand against the recent Havana Conference on the Puerto Rican national liberation struggle led by the “CP”SU and their lackies, the “CP”USA and PSP.
Voluntarism is that ideological trend which divorces ideas from matter, wants to will the consciousness of the masses into being, outstripping stages and never concretely arming the masses with an understanding of where we are in the struggle today and what must be done to move forward in the future; but rather raises the subjective side, consciousness, at the exclusion of the spontaneous, objective side. Voluntarism leads to left errors in politics, for example–organization is key in party building; and to anarchy in organization, against centralized leadership, etc.
Fighting therefore against these particular manifestations of opportunist trends in our specific conditions, we must move to unite Marxist-Leninists and win the advanced to communism.
We believe the key to this at this time is unity on political line.
In the old period the fundamental and key question, ideology, crystallized the political and organizational tasks. In this period, it is the struggle over the party’s basic line and program of action which is crystallizing the ideological and organizational tasks. Take for example the struggle on line over the advanced elements. This struggle is crystallizing ideological questions. The line of demarcation is being drawn as to what kind of party do we want to build, one that indeed brings in the best that the working class has to offer, or a loose-knit association of petty-bourgeois and intermediate elements. It crystallizes the reformist trend and revolutionary-trend in battle over the political line on advanced elements.
In the organizational sphere, it has made clear two trends–that which is stronger, the social-democratic line on organization, which leads to liquidating the factory nuclei style of work even before it’s begun; and the Bolshevik style of organization, democratic centralism, factory nuclei as the basic unit of a communist organization and the party when it’s built, and the question of developing an illegal apparatus.
The struggle over line today is drawing even more clear and definite lines of demarcation between the sham and genuine wings of our movement. The forward thrust of the movement indicates that we must take on our theoretical tasks and unite the communist movement on the political line. If we are to unite our scattered forces, we must do it on the basis of analyzing our concrete conditions. We must take this analysis to the advanced elements. If the line is in conformity with Marxist-Leninist ideology, we will see definite advances in our party building work.
It is on the basis of a correct or incorrect political line that we indeed see who is using dialectical and historical materialism as the basis for analysis and who is not. OL, for example, has shown its chauvinist views in the line they have taken on the busing issue. They have shown that they unite with the “liberal” bourgeoisie, and the essence of their line leads to reformist illusions that there can be so-called “integration” in this society–as if capitalism itself will resolve the national question. They too, like the “RC”P, therefore give only lip service to the right of self-determination of oppressed nations. The line of demarcation has been drawn with OL on this question, their political line a reflection of metaphysics and idealism.
But some comrades say that any hippy could say they’re united with us on the basis of giving lip service to the line. We think these comrades do not understand what we mean by unity based on line. What we mean is this. Since the line of the party must be derived from the ideology of the proletariat, it must therefore represent its interests. It must be a concentrated expression of the universal laws applied to a given class question, the relation between theory and practice, let’s say, on the national question. The political line in fact will draw clear lines of demarcation between the class conscious elements and the unstable, unreliable elements that will try to sneak into the party. Furthermore, we are not speaking of a Menshevik party where any striker or hippy who says they support the party will be a member. We believe the Leninist criteria for party membership must be strictly observed and applied.
Our task at hand is to raise the movement from our scattered, narrow circles, fight sectarianism and weld a core capable of carrying through the theoretical work necessary to make a scientific analysis of our concrete conditions. The welding of a core cannot be accomplished if voluntary unity on line, and therefore unity of will and action, at least on some of the most basic questions, is not achieved. On the basis of what will Marxist-Leninists unite in this period of party building, if not on how we are applying the theory to our concrete conditions. And rather than phrasemonger about our problems, we must move to make analysis and propose plans that come from investigation and in the spirit of uniting our forces on the basis of political line which will reflect our fundamental Ideological unities.
We must test our unities in practice, sum up, draw lessons, consolidate our advances, and move to resolve new problems that undoubtedly will arise. We cannot continue to go in different directions. We must grasp what is the key link to achieve the most qualitative changes ideologically, politically and organizationally. We believe that the key link which most clearly strengthens all three tasks is the fight for the political line.
We are not going to struggle against the tailist traditions by just understanding the ideological manifestations of opportunism. Ours is the responsibility of changing this situation by grasping the lessons that are being drawn from past mistakes as we hammer out and struggle over the party’s line and program of action, which will be the basis for strategy and tactics. The question of an analysis of classes in U.S. society is crucial in determining friends from enemies and disclosing exactly the direction of the main blow. We have the embryo of a class analysis in the revolutionary wing of the communist movement, and we must nurture this to take it to a higher level of development.
We will continue to be narrow in our scope because our line is not developed sufficiently to reach advanced elements even in places where there is no significant communist presence, like in the Southern U.S. By the end of the year, most of the organizations in the revolutionary wing will have a national newspaper. Let’s unite on a division of labor which, of course, must be guided by a centralized plan.
We will continue to kid ourselves if we think that we can go on in our scattered ways to unite Marxist-Leninists and win the advanced to communism. We must build a party that will be united as one man. Our conditions–that is, the fragmentation of groups, collectives, etc.–provide a basis for factionalism, small groupism to develop within the party, which will provide the ground for the bourgeoisie to corrode the party from within.
The task of organizing among the industrial proletariat has hardly begun. This situation must also change. We must move to defeat the social-democratic methods, legalism, social-pacificism– a reflection of the petty bourgeois base of our movement–and move our work to the factory nuclei style of work, grasping legal and illegal forms of struggle.
To sum up, the ideological task of the party is the fundamental and essential question. In the first period we had to struggle to reaffirm the ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism, making it clear that this was also the key link moving the political and organisational tasks forward.
Today, although the ideological task is still fundamental, the key link has shifted to political line, which in turn serves our ideological and organizational tasks.
Comrades, we ask you to join with us in doing the theoretical work necessary to raise the level of consciousness of our movement so that all the cadres of the revolutionary wing of our movement are clear on the tasks of today and how this will aid the tasks of tomorrow. In turn, the cadres will be more equipped to arm the advanced elements with this understanding, winning them over to communism and bringing forth the best that the working class has to offer.
We don’t for a moment pretend that this is an easy task, and we know that the retrograde trend is strong; but we have confidence that the conscious element in the U.S. will not abandon our responsibility. History would never forgive us if we did. Let’s build the highest form of organization of the proletariat.
Marxist-Leninists Unite! Win the Advanced to Communism!