Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

Conference Big Success: 2300 Meet On Int’l Situation

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 2, No. 2, December 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Conference on the International Situation, War, Revolution and the Internationalist Tasks of the American People held in New York City November 20 was a tremendous success. Over 2300 people registered to take part, including people who have recently come forward in the workers movement, many students and youth, people previously active in the movement against the Vietnam war, teachers and scholars and others. The broad and enthusiastic participation showed very strongly that as these questions grow increasingly sharp, more and more people are concerned about grasping them clearly and taking action.

The conference opened in the morning with an overflow crowd at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, as speakers laid out different general perspectives on the international situation and the tasks of the American people in regard to this situation, including some summary of the importance and lessons of the anti-Vietnam war movement. These speakers were Nick Linger for the Revolutionary Communist Party; William Hinton, former chairman of the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association; and Eqbal Ahmad, an author and activist in the antiwar movement.

Highlighting the importance of the subject of the conference in the light of the revolutionary struggle and turmoil in the world were messages of solidarity from the Group of Khmer (Cambodian) Residents, Indian Peoples Association in North America, Iranian Students Association, Linea Roja Movimiento Revolucionario 4 de Junio (Dominican Republic), Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

In the afternoon, at Columbia University, there were two sets of workshops in which there was lively discussion and debate between panelists and other conference participants. The first set focused on the issues and tasks arising in particular areas and countries (Angola, Latin America, Southern Africa, East and Southeast Asia, The Mideast and the Gulf Area, and Europe); the second on specific questions (U.S. Foreign Policy, the Nature and Role of the Soviet Union, China’s Foreign Policy, the Third World and the New Economic Order, Fascist States and “Junior Partners,” Detente and Disarmament).

Three Basic Positions

In the evening there was a debate between Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Central Committee of the RCP, Dave Dellinger of Seven Days magazine, and William Hinton. In practice, discussion and debate at the conference fell out around three main points of view on the international situation. The first of these positions says that U.S. imperialism is the main enemy of the peoples of the world, and the USSR, while not necessarily a reliable ally of these struggles, is not as great a danger either. The second position holds that in a world situation marked by a growing threat of world war and sharpening revolutionary struggles, inside the U.S. the main blow should be directed against U.S. imperialism while opposing both superpowers on a world scale. The third view also sees the growing struggles and danger of world war, but that holds that on a world scale the USSR is the greatest enemy of the world’s people, and must be the main target of the peoples’ struggles internationally. These lines were brought out both in an overall way and in relation to specific questions through the speeches, workshops and debate.

The conference was not meant to arrive at any unified conclusions or to form any sort of ongoing coalition. But it served an important purpose–to bring together many different kinds of forces who have been and will continue to be politically active around these kinds of questions in order to discuss and debate what stand to take and how to move forward. Through this discussion the issues were clarified, and there developed a greater understanding of the various political trends– an important step since only the correct political line will enable the masses of people in this country to stand up and fight in their own interests and the interests of the overwhelming majority of the world’s people. However, even within this framework, some groups and individuals refused to take part, or took part in such a way as to hold back the discussion and struggle over what political stand to take on these questions.

The Guardian newspaper, for instance, which recently called for a debate on different lines on the international situation, refused to participate in the conference. In light of this refusal, and in light of the fact that the Guardian’s call for the opening of a debate has been the excuse for opening a sewer of slander against China and its foreign policy, many people, including supporters of its political line, have begun asking if the Guardian has raised these issues in order to build the struggle, or only to peddle their papers and serve their own narrow interests.

Then there was the October League, which refused to take part in the conference on the grounds that the conference organizers did not distinguish between what the OL called “Trotskyites and revisionists” and what the OL called “genuine Marxist-Leninists,” namely the OL. They argued in effect that to mix the two together in debate only provided a cover for revisionism.

What’s wrong with this argument is two things: the overwhelming majority of the conference participants, while not all Marxists, were certainly not revisionists or Trotskyites, and it was a very good thing that different kinds of forces with a real desire to fight imperialism came together to discuss and debate on these issues. Secondly, the October League has long ago proved that they are not Marxist-Leninists, and as for failing to distinguish them from Trotskyites and revisionists, their own antics at the conference certainly led even more people to wonder if there is any difference at all. After denouncing the conference in a conference organizing meeting and in their paper, the OL was forced to come anyway because the conference was an important political event that couldn’t be ignored, but they came with the single purpose of disruption. In neck and neck competition with the Trotskyite Spartacist League, they popped up in succession, repeating their latest list of memorized slogans and phrases and trying to turn the workshops into shouting matches. That they tried to associate themselves and their sectarian and reactionary carrying-on with Marxism and China only served to throw mud on these things in the eyes of some politically inexperienced people, just as the Trotskyite Progressive Labor Party played a similar role in feeding anti-communism in the early days of the antiwar movement.

The people who came were almost all concerned with how to build struggle against imperialism and its crimes. In fact, although a panelist in one workshop turned out to be a Trotskyite, his repeated attempts to turn the workshop into a forum to attack China finally led to a mass walkout, emptying the room.

When the conference organizing committee first began its work, some people predicted that either no one would come or nothing would be accomplished. Although there was a lot of enthusiasm about the idea of the conference, there were also some real difficulties, as some forces tried to organize a boycott, and a few pulled out. On the eve of the conference, the New York Times denounced the conference and tried to scare people away by red-baiting it as a front for the RCP.

But because of the way many people worked and struggled hard to overcome all this, to build the conference and take it out as broadly as possible among the people, and because its theme really put its finger on issues that are becoming increasingly deeply felt by more and more people, the conference was a success. Many people came, and they participated in a constructive way, to discuss and learn and struggle for a correct stand to guide action. That’s why the conference generated so much enthusiasm.

The issues and lines were brought out far more sharply to broader masses of people, advancing the struggle on this front. It brought out the need for further discussion and struggle on these questions, going into the basic outlines and significance of events and into their many particularities. Further, the conference made it clear that it is necessary and possible to find ways to unite all who can be united to carry out concrete actions opposing the aggression, interference and war preparations of the U.S. imperialists in this country and both superpowers internationally and support the struggles of the peoples of the world, such as right now in southern Africa.