Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

A Final Word On The OL’s Cowardice

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 6, April 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In a rather futile attempt to wriggle out of a self-laid trap, the October League has finally responded in its newspaper, the Call, to the RCP’s acceptance of their debate challenge. According to the Call article, OL is willing to “debate” by publishing articles in each other’s press, whereas the RCP is “insisting instead on a debate based on demagogy and provocateur tactics.”

The truth is simply that the OL, which called for the debate in the first place, actually wants no part of it and has been running like a scared rabbit to get out of it ever since the RCP accepted the OL’s challenge. It was plain as day when OL issued the challenge that it had in mind a direct face-off, with the two sides meeting each other on the same platform and in front of an audience that could put questions to each side. This is also the commonly understood meaning of the word “debate.”

Polemics in each other’s papers may go on, but this is no substitute for an actual debate. This latest nonsense from the OL is but another attempt to get out of a face-to-face confrontation, where its customary practice of lying and distorting–and hoping for ignorance on the part of Call readers–would be much harder to pull off and would be exposed, along with OL’s opportunist line.

OL raises a relevant question by asking “what are the facts of the matter?” But unfortunately, they answer in the typical OL style of combining deliberate distortion with half truths. The facts are that OL’s debate challenge was issued in the midst of the preparations for the New York conference, in a feeble attempt to sabotage this conference, which OL called a “circus.” As Klonsky and Co. also know quite well, the RCP recognized their purposes in issuing the challenge and refused to even discuss the question of a face-to-face debate until after the New York conference. Once the conference was over and the RCP accepted their debate challenge, OL pulled their disappearing act.

To justify their cowardice, OL claims that the New York conference was proof that a public debate with the RCP would only be “a haven for opportunists and provocateurs.” According to the Call article we organized cheering squads, silenced speakers from the floor and physically attacked at least three people. This characterization of the conference is completely at odds with the perceptions of over 2000 people who attended it. While there were certainly no “cheering squads” organized, there was enthusiastic applause for the correct line. And while it doesn’t justify their cowardly retreat from actual debate, one can understand OL’s reluctance to a public debate, and their fear that no one would “cheer” for them, given the widespread animosity their opportunism has earned them.

As for the three persons who were allegedly attacked for disagreeing with the RCP line, the only thing OL could possibly be referring to is when a number of drunken anarchists, armed with broken bottles, tried to force their way into an already overflowing auditorium, when everyone else was, as requested, going to the “overflow” hall where the debate was being piped in. After provoking an incident, these anarchists were dealt with by the security personnel–in a way that prevented any real disruption or serious injury.

Last but not least in OL’s list of fabrications was the charge that we insist that there be agreement “not to mention China or the struggle against the ’gang of four.’” What we did say was that the subject of the debate should be the international situation and the tasks of the American people in relation to this situation, and not any other subject. We stated that in this context the role of China in the international situation would obviously be a relevant point in the discussion, but that as for the internal situation in China and the current struggle against the “gang of four,” this was not the subject–not the point around which OL issued the challenge to debate in the first place–although that, we also acknowledged, wouldn’t prevent OL from bringing it up in any debate. The point was not, “what could be mentioned,” but what was the subject of the debate.

Knowing too well the antics of the October League, we fully expected them to raise as many side issues and spread as much confusion as possible in order to try to hide their own opportunism on the international situation. Nonetheless, we did feel, and still do feel, that a debate should have a subject–if only as a point of reference for the October League to depart from, and as a framework for people attending to understand and evaluate the lines put forward. (Incidentally, our exact words regarding the relevance to the international situation of the struggle against the “gang of four” were: “you can raise it and you get an answer; but it doesn’t have to be raised every two seconds”–from a tape recording of discussions with OL about the debate, made with their knowledge.)

It has become completely clear that the October League’s “debate challenge” was a charade from the start, that they were first desperately trying to sabotage the successful conference and are now just as desperately inventing one excuse after another for refusing to publicly debate the RCP. In short, there is only one word to describe OL’s actions–chickenshit.