First Published: The Communist, Vol. 1, No. 2, May 1, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Workers Viewpoint Organization is only one of a number of petty bourgeois sects currently billing themselves as the genuine saviors of the American proletariat, or to put it in WVO’s own words, “The line of the WVO is the correct line in the U.S. communist movement and . . . the WVO is the leading circle, the only organization that can serve as the base of operations for the formation of the genuine communist party.” Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, this is not the case. WVO’s much vaunted correct line and theoretical mastery are nothing but the self-confident dogmatism of the intellectual who has read a couple of books. To them, like the other grouplets that made up the “revolutionary wing,” the grinding of their own mental gears is infinitely more precious than the struggle and the knowledge of the working class and the masses of people, whom they regard as vessels to be poured full of WVO’s wonderful ideas when the time is right.
WVO arrived at its dogmatism along a little different route from groups like the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) and the August 29th Movement (ATM), which have roots in radical elements from the struggle of oppressed nationalities. Originally the Asian Study Group (ASG), WVO’s founding leader was a former member of the Progressive Labor Party who left that organization at the point of its denunciation of China as capitalist in 1971– long after PL’s denunciation of the Vietnam revolution as a plot of the “Washington–Moscow–Hanoi axis,” long after PL’s all-out campaign to wreck and split SDS, the largest and most influential mass anti-imperialist organization of the 1960s, long after PL’s attacks on the Black liberation struggle and their declaration that “all nationalism is reactionary.” As its name indicates, the ASG from its inception held that the most important task for the newly developing Marxist-Leninist forces in this country was study (see accompanying article in this issue of The Communist).
The last few years has seen the ASG transform itself into the multinational WVO, set up shop in several major cities and establish itself as the wordiest of the small “left” dogmatist sects that took up opposition to the formation of the RCP.USA as a major task.
The WVO established as its “line of demarcation” with the RU and other forces forming the Party, the question of the role of theory. They attacked the RCP as pragmatist, claiming that it was incorrect and opportunist to form a Party on the basis of applying the theory of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought to the practice of building the struggle of the working class and other sections of masses and from the knowledge gained in this practice formulating a programme for revolution in the U.S.
Dismayed by the fact that their polemics had not prevented the formation of the RCP, WVO hooked up with a number of similar grouplets in the “revolutionary wing” to try and form their own party as quickly as possible. Alas, the careerist appetites of the leaders of these outfits were too great–especially as compared to the meager meal they had before them, the small numbers making up this “wing”–to sustain such unity. The “wing” has fragmented with WVO and PRRWO/RWL each on the verge of declaring itself a Marxist-Leninist party and some of the more marginal “wing” components back in limbo, either too timid or too realistic to assume the mantle of the Party, but with little other idea of what they should be doing.
The formation and disintegration of the “Revolutionary Wing” took place amid a flurry of polemical articles which provide us with an opportunity to examine the line of the Workers Viewpoint Organization from a different angle than their “defense of theory” from the RCP’s onslaughts. The accompanying article in this issue of The Communist demonstrates that the “theory” of WVO is dogmatism which denies the dialectical-materialist understanding of knowledge and the actual relationship between theory and practice. Workers Viewpoint vehemently denies that it’s dogmatic, of course, and uses the convenient imbecilities of the nakedly dogmatist PRRWO to display their less crude–although no less wrong – views in the most favorable light. PRRWO has never shaken off the ill effects of its brief courtship a few years back with the “Communist League” (now the “Communist Labor Party”), which held that practice could only be “bowing to spontaneity” and that the “spontaneous acts” of the masses could not even “contribute to the revolution.”
Thus, today, PRRWO and their cohorts in the RWL maintain the narrowest possible interpretation of such dogmatist “unity” principles as “(1) propaganda as our chief form of activity,” and “(8) upholding the leading role of M-L theory and party building as the central task.” (reported as unity principles of the “Revolutionary Wing” in Workers Viewpoint newspaper, Aug. 1976, p. 7) PRRWO interpreted the first of these to mean propaganda must be the only form of activity and openly denied that there can be any relationship between building the “spontaneous” struggle of the masses and the “central task” of party building.
This is grist to WVO’s mill. PRRWO is “forcing themselves into dogmatism and sectarianism, the two ideological deviations that Lenin so aptly warned us to guard against,” they scold, then piously assert, “Communists must undertake our practical tasks among the working class as theoreticians, propagandists, agitators and organizers.” (both quotes from Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 8-9)
Here is the heart of the Workers Viewpoint pitch: first and foremost, they claim to be theoreticians, pointing to their penchant for polemics which are richly larded with quotes from Marxist classics and are positively stupefying in their long-windedness and incoherence. But in addition to their theoretical claims, the WVO boasts of its participation in the mass struggle, of having as long as “three years ago” (!) “allocated the overwhelming majority of our forces to do work among the proletariat” and as “is known to all” of having “led mass movements of tens of thousands among different oppressed nationalities.” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, January 1977, pp. Sl-2, italics in original) With this formula WVO is moving to corral demoralized members from other sectlets and hopes to attract people who were once active in the student and national movements.
But for all the “lines of demarcation” WVO and PRRWO strive to draw between themselves, the fact is they “fought so bitterly simply because they were the opposite poles of the same stupidity,” to borrow Engel’s characterization of two disputing ruling class parties in the Germany of the 1860s. (The Peasant War in Germany, Preface to the Second Edition, International Publishers, p. 15) In claiming to uphold participation in the struggle of the working class, the Workers Viewpoint Organization is marching under a flag just as false as the “theoretical guru” banner they wave. To understand how this is so it is necessary to pose only one question to our dogmatists–why is it the WVO advocates participation in mass struggle, in practice?
The WVO makes no bones about it. “Propaganda to win over the advanced is our chief form of activity” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, Aug. 1976, p. S2), but to find advanced workers to propagandize and win to WVO, this activity must be carried out “in the thick of class struggle.” (Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 7) In short, they enter the mass struggle in order to strip the leading elements away from it.
If this seems a harsh characterization, consider the following list of six ways in which the WVO considers that participation in the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC) “can serve our tasks of party building, helping to carry out our responsibility to support national liberation work”–
(1) ALSC as an organization of advanced and intermediate, can help to identify and win over advanced workers and elements.
(2) can support national liberation struggles and carry out ideological preparation against the danger of world war, in particular superpower contention in southern Africa, through propaganda.
(3) can help consolidate and train advanced workers already under the guidance of communists.
(4) can help develop through struggle political line, particularly on the international situation.
(5) can provide a form to struggle for unity and joint work with other communists, as well as to aid in demarcating the genuine from the sham.
(6) can help accumulate revolutionary forces under the leadership of communists, while forging the party. (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, Sept.-Oct. 1976, p. 9)
Obviously, Workers Viewpoint sees ALSC as little more than a game preserve where “advanced workers and elements” can be lured, trapped and “trained.” Most significantly, even in their one token point on supporting the national liberation struggles (how?) there is not a word on building the struggle of the American people against the criminal role of our own imperialist bourgeoisie in southern Africa, on uniting with and deepening the powerful sentiments in support of African liberation which are widespread in this country, particularly among Black people, or on linking this battle with the overall struggle against the monopoly capitalists in this country and the struggle in southern Africa and worldwide against the two superpowers.
This is not an accidental omission. In article after article WVO carries on about the importance of winning and consolidating the advanced as communists, but one searches in vain for one of Mao Tsetung’s most important teachings on this question: “The masses in any given place are generally composed of three parts, the relatively active, the intermediate and the relatively backward. The leaders must therefore be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate elements and win over the backward elements.” (“Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership,” Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 118) For WVO the advanced are simply building blocks from which they can construct their “party.” They do not understand that the advanced workers (including both those who have and who have not yet been won to Marxism-Leninism) are a lever, and that communists unite with the advanced precisely to set into motion against the bourgeoisie ever larger sections of the proletariat and assist it to become a class for itself. Furthermore, WVO cannot comprehend that it is principally in the course of leading the broad masses of workers forward, that, through the work of the Party, new communists come forward from the ranks of the advanced.
Workers Viewpoint does not enter into struggles as Marxist-Le-ninists-rather their approach is that of Trotskyites who “intervene” in the masses’ battles in order to advance their own narrow and reactionary aims. WVO’s sectarian arrogance is blatantly flaunted in a leaflet they addressed to electrical workers in the Chicago area in the midst of a strike last year. This leaflet preaches to the strikers that “workers can win strikes and real gains only when we fight with all of our organized working class strength under communist leadership.” First of all WVO is departing completely from reality in saying that strikes–and other struggles–can only be won when they are led by communists. Such a statement also makes the essence of communist leadership the question of whether or not people can win reforms without communist leadership–which reduces communists to the best fighters for reforms. (Of course, in keeping with its customary stereotyped sloganeering, WVO builds this to a conclusion which besides demanding “Communist Leadership of the Trade Unions!!!” includes the following slogans: “Workers Unite! End the Criminal Rule of the U.S. Monopoly Capitalist Class!! Fight for Socialism!!!” “Fight the Danger of World War! Oppose Both Superpowers!! Support All National Liberation Struggles!!” “Study Marxism, Criticize and Combat Revisionism!! Build the New U.S. Anti-Revisionist Communist Party!!!”) Thus, while having a “left” form, the line put forward here by WVO is clearly right-wing in essence; it is defeatist with regard to mass struggle, reformist in its presentation of the role of communists and openly self-serving. What WVO is really saying is–fire the trade union misleaders and hire us, only by following us can you get anywhere–a posture typical of petty bourgeois elements trying to impose themselves on the masses as “saviors.” It is certainly true that workers do fight more effectively and in a more class conscious way when led by genuine communists applying the mass line–but that has nothing whatever to do with WVO’s declaration of its leadership.
Genuine communists everywhere, and certainly here in the United States where the Marxist-Leninist forces were born largely in the struggles of non-proletarian strata, seek not to intervene from on high, but to integrate with the working class, to become one with the masses. This is not, as dogmatists like WVO would portray it, “tailism.” It is not a passive act, nor can we passively take part in and serve the existing struggle. Instead we work to develop every struggle as a battle in the class war to overthrow the bourgeoisie and in order to do so keep three main objectives in mind in every such struggle:
... to win as much as can be won in the immediate battle and weaken the enemy; to raise the general level of consciousness and sense of organization of the struggling masses and instill in them the revolutionary outlook of the proletariat; and to develop the most active and advanced in these struggles into communists, recruit them into the Party and train them as revolutionary leaders. (RCP Programme, p. 102)
For WVO, only the third objective really exists. The second is absent entirely.
Let us now anticipate the denials of the WVO–“The RCP is slandering us. Propaganda to win the advanced, that’s only for the present. In the next stage we go to the masses. This is exactly what Lenin says to do.” But, as usual, what we get from WVO is a perversion of Lenin.
Let’s look at WVO’s second stage. Unfortunately, WVO’s formula does not call for them to discard their dogma, or their characteristic petty-bourgeois contempt for the working class and the masses of people. “The communist movement goes through two general steps–one, to win over the class conscious proletariat to the side of socialism, to organize the vanguard of the proletariat; and two, to search after forms of transition of the approach, to link up the vanguard with all the oppressed and lead them to the offensive position.” Then WVO helpfully explains that “these two steps mutually exclude and overlap each other.” (Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 34) If this means anything at all, it says that the two tasks may be carried on simultaneously, but have no connection with each other. Another masterpiece of metaphysics!
What WVO appears to be basing itself on is the last chapter of Lenin’s “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, “Some Conclusions.” Here Lenin speaks of a maturing revolutionary situation, and says under these conditions the proletarian party must seek “the forms of transition or approach to the proletarian dictatorship.” And in doing so he places major emphasis on the fact that Marxist “propaganda and agitation alone are not enough,” that for the masses to grasp the need for revolution and actively take up revolutionary struggle, “the masses must have their own experience.” Poor WVO, this horrible word from Lenin’s own lips.
Not only is the situation in the U.S. not now a revolutionary one, and unlikely to become one in the immediate future, but even under those conditions WVO would be a prime example of exactly the “left” infantilism Lenin is polemicizing against.
Workers Viewpoint envisions the first stage as a rather protracted one, citing the prevalence in the U.S. of a “high degree of political liberty” which “breeds bourgeois-democratic illusions,” with the result that “the fulfillment of this step is extremely difficult.” (Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 18) This difficulty means that “our emphasis on propaganda to the advanced may even continue for awhile after the new communist party is built.” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, March 1976, p. SI)
Even assuming that WVO eventually does “overlap” into its second stage, there is no reason to believe that their approach to the broad masses of workers and other strata oppressed by the monopoly capitalists will include learning from the people. The question of “winning the masses to communism” is for WVO the task of elevating the lowly to the towering theoretical pinnacle they occupy.
Nowhere in WVO’s carryings on can one find the spirit or practice of the basic stand summarized by Mao that “The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.” (“Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys,” Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 12) Or as Mao put it on other occasions, in order to be a teacher, one must first be a pupil.
The WVO’s view of organizing the masses is displayed in pathetic microcosm in their trade union articles. These are invariably written in the first person plural and “we” go through some heavy changes. At the beginning of a typical article written during the rubber strike, for example, they say “though the trade union mis-leaders (TUMs) have refused to fully mobilize and organize us for the strike (thus revealing their reactionary stand with the bourgeoisie) we ourselves have taken up this task. In spite of court injunctions limiting the number of pickets, still we have continued mass pickets . . .” However, two pages later, “at this time, communist propaganda is our chief form of activity,” and so on. (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, August 1976, pp. 2, 13, italics ours) What must “we” do as “we” change in one leaflet from “ordinary worker” to dogmatist? Throw the hacks out of our unions, build a party, get set for the dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Nowhere in all this is there a sense, a glimmer of understanding of the ability of the working class to recognize its class interests and transform itself, and to know and transform all of society, through struggle. As pointed out in the preceding article, WVO displays a typically petty bourgeois “incapacity to see beyond the limitations of capitalist society.” This certainly holds true for their view of the proletariat.
The WVO understands all too well–and waves as a banner to oppose the struggle of the proletariat–that the working class by itself cannot develop revolutionary consciousness and ideology.
Marxism first arose, both historically and in the recent history of this country, among a section of intellectuals who have had the opportunity to study and grasp theory and who have taken up the stand of the proletariat. And it comes to the working class in the course of struggle–not spontaneously, but through the work of genuine communists, and today through the work of the Party. But for WVO, with their contempt for experience and practice, this is where it ends and they see themselves as Prometheus bearing the fire to an ignorant and trembling world.
In reality, understanding this means understanding only half the process. In taking Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought to the working class, we are taking it home. As Mao Tsetung summed up in On Practice, “It was not until the modern proletariat emerged along with immense forces of production (large-scale industry) that man was able to acquire a comprehensive, historical understanding of the development of society and turn this knowledge into a science, the science of Marxism.” (Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 296) Marxism-Leninism is the science of the working class and only when it is taken up by the working class can it become a material force for changing the world.
Let us now consider the “forms of transition” to socialism, as WVO presents the question. One that WVO has already discovered is the art of proclamation. For instance, one of their leaflets issued during the 1976 auto strike raised the slogan “Immediate and All-around Preparation for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat!!!” (WVO Auto Bulletin No. 5, exclamation points in original) The “explanation” appended to this call does not even explain what the proletarian dictatorship is, nor does it bother to identify the present system in this country as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (although a note promises a later “Bulletin” on the subject). This is not propaganda. It is not agitation. It is the ranting of the self-righteous, concerned primarily with the correctness of the ritual. Were there the least danger that workers would pay serious attention to it, this call would also be thoroughly adventurous. The seizure of power in the United States is not an immediate question confronting the working class. Doing revolutionary work in ordinary times, in a non-revolutionary situation, is a complex and challenging task, which certainly does include doing propaganda around the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat in correct relationship to mass struggle and in a scientific and popular–not dogmatist and stereotyped–way. Proclaiming the “immediacy” of the proletarian dictatorship can only turn attention away from this task.
This kind of “Revolution Now” rhetoric does serve a useful purpose for WVO, however–it covers the fact that they put forward no clear strategy for revolution in the United States. In fact, they attack outright the proletariat’s real strategy, the United Front Against Imperialism.
This cannot possibly be the strategy for revolution according to WVO, since the “united front is a tactic” (Workers Viewpoint Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 24) and nothing more. Having thus defined the possibility of the united front being a strategy out of existence, WVO goes on in this article to talk about what they mean by united front. Typically, they quote, within a few pages, from Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Dimitroff and, at greatest length, from their own previous writings to comment on certain questions relating to tactical united fronts–unity “from above and below,” “uniting to expose,” etc. And the united fronts they refer to are specific tactical united fronts–International Women’s Day coalitions, unity with trade union hacks around particular issues, etc.
Alas, in their sectarian bickering with PRRWO and their narcissistic elaboration of their own ideas, Workers Viewpoint has managed to overlook or ignore the very existence of an entirely different type of united front, the strategic united front, like the worldwide United Front Against Imperialism, aimed at present at the ruling classes of the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, and the United Front Against Imperialism in this country, aimed at the U.S. bourgeoisie.
These united fronts are strategic because they are a plan for basic realignment of class forces. In this country the united front is the strategy of the U.S. working class, to carry out a realignment of the class forces to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat. “It is the overall political plan of the proletariat for bringing together under its leadership all possible social forces and movements, in order to concentrate the most powerful blows against the ruling class and defeat it.” (RCP Programme, p. 99)
It is not surprising that the WVO can’t see this. A sect which has such contempt for the working class cannot help but have complete contempt for other popular classes and strata–for everyone and everything but themselves. According to them, the rage of the petty bourgeois elements as they are crushed by the monopoly capitalists evidently provides no basis for unity with them. (At first this may seem strange since WVO itself is of the petty bourgeoisie, but such sectarianism is typical of the petty bourgeoisie, which is characterized by individualism and narrowness and which has no basis of unity as a class.)
In reviewing Roots (described as a “sinister attempt,” a “most sinister attempt” to “split the working class” along national lines, “promote division and antagonism among the Afro-American people” and cover for the ruling class’ efforts to usher in fascism), WVO says of “petty bourgeois reformists” like Alex Haley, “Independent of their will, they become better defenders of the bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie itself.” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, February 1977, pp. 27-8) Nonsense like this is nothing but a petty bourgeois attempt–more pathetic than sinister at this point–to isolate the working class from its potential allies.
Another example of this kind of petty bourgeois arrogance, the contempt of the elect for the uninitiated, occurred at a forum on the Boston busing plan held by the Revolutionary Union in New York in 1974. During the question period, a spokesman for the Asian Study Group identified himself, stated his group’s “70% agreement” with the RU’s line and went on to say that if they were in Boston, the ASG would work among both the white opponents of busing in South Boston and those Blacks who had been mobilized in defense of the busing plan–in order to keep them apart! A speaker from the RU had to state that there was no 70% agreement with this, that the task of communists in such a situation is to expose the bourgeoisie’s divide and rule schemes and unite the masses in both communities against their real common enemy.
The attempt to deny the working class its allies and its revolutionary strategy is entirely consistent with WVO’s failure to grasp the real revolutionary potential of the working class, as commented on earlier. It is precisely by engaging in and leading all struggles against oppression and its source, the bourgeoisie, that the working class comes to see the class nature and interests of other strata in the battles and understand its own great historic role as the liberator of all humanity from capitalist enslavement and class society. A key part of this is for the proletariat’s own Party to enter into and give leadership to the struggles of the various non-proletarian forces and strata. However, to leave it at this, as WVO does, only indicates that they see themselves as superhuman saviours and don’t understand that the proletariat as a class can and must take up in its millions these struggles and, in the course of fighting and leading them, develop its ability to seize and hold power.
The Workers Viewpoint Organization’s denial of the United Front Against Imperialism leaves them, as stated above, without a clearly stated strategy for proletarian revolution. They have, however, collected some bits and pieces of a strategy which are sufficiently misguided to suggest that WVO will continue its rejection of the proletariat’s strategy.
For one thing they espouse the “main blow” theory which declares that the proletariat’s main blow should be so directed as to isolate the middle of the road social and political forces in any given situation. The RCP’s position on and criticisms of this theory have been laid out in some detail in a recent Revolution article–“OL Bloodies Own Nose With Its ’Main Blow.’” (Revolution, Feb. 1977, p. 5) Briefly, the article counterposed to this incorrect approach, adopted from two articles by Stalin and “enriched” by various opportunists, the strategy of the united front which is aimed at uniting against the main enemy all possible forces, even the most wavering, and in this process isolating enemy agents.
In its comments on the article (in Workers Viewpoint newspaper, Jan. 1977, p. 17) the WVO nervously attempts to defend the “main blow” while simultaneously trying to disassociate itself from the OL and its position. The defense part consists in large part of citing a quote from Lenin (on the tasks of the victorious proletariat in suppressing counter-revolution) and claiming that although Lenin didn’t call for the strategic “direction of the main blow” at what Stalin called the “compromising” forces, he meant it. (In fact a serious study of Lenin’s writings will show that he did not put forward the “main blow” as the basis of the proletariat’s strategy.)
The WVO, having dished up this crude invention, faced another problem. The Revolution article also pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party disagreed with the “main blow” approach. WVO chose to try and pretend that the Chinese really didn’t mean what they said and that the position the Revolution piece had paraphrased, of aiming the main blow at the main enemy, applied only in Third World countries, while in advanced capitalist societies the “main blow” formula still applies.
To “prove” this they cite the original Chinese quote, adding their own italics and an editorial note in brackets: “’. . . In certain circumstances it may be correct to isolate the middle forces, but it is not correct to isolate them under all circumstances. Our experience [note they qualify it as their own experience] teaches us that the main blow of the revolution should be directed at the chief enemy to isolate them, while as for the middle forces, a policy of both uniting with them and struggling against them should be adopted.
Here again WVO exposes the narrowness of its view of experience–WVO thinks the fact that the Chinese mention that their view is derived from experience is a “qualification” and that because it is summed up from experience the Chinese line can’t possibly be a generally applicable approach. No, it can have application only in China and perhaps, by extension, in other semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries. The phrase “in certain circumstances it may be correct. . .” is then taken as evidence that the main blow theory is in fact generally applicable in the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries. What sophistry!
WVO would do well to look at some of the other writings of the Chinese Communist Party, in particular the “Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement.” The general line of the international communist movement is “one of forming a broad united front ... of boldly arousing the masses, expanding the revolutionary forces, winning over the middle forces and isolating the reactionary forces.” (p. 4) This is the same basic formulation the WVO is trying to restrict to the Third World, while the “Proposal” says it points “out the basic direction for the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat and people of all countries.” (p. 5)
As well as trying to hide from the Chinese line, WVO has to duck the OL’s stupidities about “directing the main blow internationally” at the Soviet social-imperialists who are “the main social prop of imperialism.” WVO does so by echoing the Revolution article. This does not, however, let them off the hook on the international situation. They are in complete agreement with the OL on the most important thing, the line that of the two main enemies of the world’s people, the Soviet Union is the real main enemy or as WVO puts it in the same article “more sinister, more dangerous” than the U.S. It is “the most dangerous” of the two superpowers. Then, quickly switching from “the” to “a” they say the RCP doesn’t recognize the Soviet Union as “a main danger” (italics ours) to “the people of the world in all continents, in all corners of the world.”
Here WVO is trying its hand at a little smuggling. They know full well that the RCP, like all genuine Marxist-Leninists, consistently identifies the USSR as one of the two main enemies of the world’s people. But what WVO is trying to say in the phrase cited above is not “a” but “the main danger.” How is the Soviet Union the main danger to the people of such U.S. dominated Third World countries as Iran, such imperialist junior partners of the U.S. as Canada and how the hell is it the main danger to the American people? This “in all corners of the world” business is nothing but the same social-chauvinist line of U.S. “revolutionaries” covering for the U.S. bourgeoisie that the October League is notorious for.
In spite of all WVO’s fancy footwork on this question, the fact is they still uphold the essence of the OL’s “international main blow,” as well as insisting on the “main blow” formula as a strategic rule for the U.S.
The target of this “main blow,” the “social props” are never too precisely identified–“labor misleaders,” “reformists,” “liberals,” “misleaders”–but WVO assures us that “the plain truth is that we still have to spend more time exposing and fighting the misleaders than we will spend on the bourgeoisie itself! (Workers Viewpoint journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 39)
The end result of applying this approach as the general line guiding revolutionary work in this country can only be, as pointed out in the Revolution article, lumping together as enemies the bourgeoisie’s lackeys and vacillating social forces, while letting the ruling class itself off virtually scot-free–without even winning the masses away from the leadership of various reformists and thoroughly exposing opportunists and misleaders, since they will be able to pose as the real and consistent opponents of the monopoly capitalists!
Along with this “main blow,” WVO appears to have come up with some more ideas on the “forms of transition,” for their “second stage.” In fact, they appear to have arrived, hopefully independently and not through study, at a primitive approximation of the notorious “transitional program” propounded by the counterrevolutionary traitor Leon Trotsky in the 1930s for his “Fourth International.”
Trotsky held that between the minimum program of the masses’ immediate demands and the maximum program of the seizure of state power it was necessary to propound a series of transitional demands. These demands would be ones that would sound just and reasonable to the masses but be essentially impossible to win under capitalism. If the bourgeoisie was so weak it could be forced to grant them, why you’d practically be at socialism. If not, the masses who’d been suckered into fighting for them would see how lousy capitalism is anyway and decide to overthrow it.
Here we have once again the petty-bourgeoisie’s characteristic contempt for the masses. Their struggles and demands aren’t good enough, can’t be built as revolutionary, can’t contribute to the struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Instead, they have to be sucker-baited into revolution with a set of demands specially designed to result in losing struggles!
WVO with their contempt for the masses’ experience and struggles, their fondness for theory for its own sake and the working out of ideas in isolation from the actual class struggle, is now treading this same path. In each issue of their paper they come up with a more elaborate set of demands for the workers in whatever industry they are commenting on.
One of their major focuses is on the shorter work week (which appears in Trotsky’s transitional program as “the sliding scale of hours and wages”). This drew the maximum attention from WVO during the contract strike by auto workers against Ford last fall. It is necessary to examine the context in which this was done. The issue of the shorter work week was raised during negotiations by the top labor traitors of the UAW as a cynical smokescreen to hide their sellout maneuvers and a diversionary tactic to focus the attention of the workers away from the fight against layoffs and speedup, attacks which the companies had made with vicious intensity in the time since the previous contract.
Rather than analyzing the issues of the strike and putting forward a program that would help the auto workers to advance their interests and those of the whole class, WVO devoted most of its propaganda to touting the virtues of the shorter work week.
Their four page Auto Bulletin No. 4 is devoted entirely to the demand for the “six hour day, no cut in pay” and it is explained that this demand if it is raised only for the auto workers stunts the growth of class struggle and that the auto workers must raise the demand “the six hour day for the whole working class.” This leads into a denunciation of the OL for raising the “vague” demand for a “shorter work week with no cut in pay,” and not including the whole class. The CPUSA and others are criticized because they raise the demand of “30 for 40” “within the context of bourgeois legality–through negotiations, by appealing to the bureaucrats, the government and the company.”
Along comes Auto Bulletin No. 5. Now the main focus is on the slogan “30 for 40” (meaning a thirty hour work week with a paycheck as large as that formerly paid for forty hours of work). WVO’s new criticism is that this promotes the conservative, bourgeois motto “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” (Under some circumstances at least, it could do that, but WVO’s treatment of this, true to form, is a perversion of Marxism.) They explain, “During 40 hours of work we are producing much more than the 40 hours of pay that is given us. What we should ask for is all the fruits of our labor, including the surplus that the capitalists have robbed from us.”
This sounds logical and Marxist, although perhaps a trifle confusing to those “advanced elements” who haven’t yet run into the concept of surplus value. But the logic is bourgeois and the formulation is an anarcho-syndicalist one. Even under socialism, the workers will not receive in pay the value that they produce. If WVO’s glorious idea were carried out, workers in nonproductive jobs, for example in the sphere of distribution, would receive nothing. No funds would be available to operate the proletarian state apparatus. With no money to invest, production would stagnate instead of surging forward, free of the chains of capitalism. As different workers produce different amounts of value, vast differences in pay would exist. This is bourgeois right run amuck.
Furthermore, to draw a strong line of demarcation between themselves and those who call for “30 for 40” the WVO dropped the part of their slogan which called for “no cut in pay.” In its tender concern that the workers not get any wrong ideas, the Workers Viewpoint Organization appears willing to submit on their behalf to a 25% wage cut!
And this is not the end of the story. The Aug.-Sept. WVO paper carried a sum-up article on the Ford strike which included some sections of the leaflets, like the “fruits of our labor” passage. WVO adds that the demand “Fight for the six hour day for the whole working class” is a propaganda slogan because actually fighting for it will “divert” the workers in many industries from the issues they really face. For auto workers, however, they say the six hour day is an action slogan because it can be won there under present conditions. Leaving aside the incorrectness of this judgment, what happened to the “stunting” of the class struggle that was supposed to occur if this was made just a fight in auto? What WVO is revealing is that the words “for the whole class” are formalistic window dressing designed to impose on (rather than develop in) the workers a strong class consciousness.
Furthermore, WVO has continued to throw the shorter work week around in other industries, most recently in the construction industry, where their pompous advice to the workers includes the suggestion they demand ”a shorter work day.” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, February 1977, p. 9) No explanation accompanies this slogan so we are left in the dark as to what exactly is the critical difference between this and the October League’s “vague” and “reformist” auto strike slogan of “a shorter work week.”
WVO has been all over the map on the question of the shorter work week, but the motion was all in their minds. For them the auto strike provided an opportunity to preach to the ignorant and to work out in their own minds, with no relation to the actual struggle, the ideas which they were preaching.
In the real world, the shorter work week demand in the auto strike, whether in Woodcock’s version or any of the “new improved leftist” forms, was a red herring. The hacks peddled it to the workers and, through the media, the public, as a magical cure for layoffs and unemployment in the industry, in order to prevent struggle around these sharp issues and to cover their own sellout and disguise the actual causes of layoffs and unemployment. Denouncing it as an attack on the workers was a necessary step in building the actual struggle of the auto workers, working to formulate clear demands around the attacks they faced and developing organized resistance to the sellout the capitalists and their labor lieutenants had prepared. Among the results of this correct approach to the auto strike were significant advances in class consciousness among many workers and the greater consolidation of a new national rank and file organization in the industry.
Another example of WVO’s idealist imposition of demands on the struggle crops up in the construction workers article. Along with a considerable number of other suggested slogans appears “Uphold the right of self-determination of the Afro-American nation in the Black Belt South, up to and including secession.” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, February 1977, p. 30)
Discriminatory practices and white chauvinism are deeply rooted in the construction industry and unions, and have inevitably aided the capitalists in their attacks on construction workers, especially in recent years. Communists must analyze and explain these issues and build struggle around them, but the Workers Viewpoint approach won’t help at all. First, the demand they raise is in itself incorrect, and secondly, it has nothing to do with the actual struggles construction workers are engaged in and face–including the struggle against discrimination.
Once again the actual struggle of the workers is not good enough for WVO; it can’t be the basis for their developing class consciousness and revolutionary unity in connection with the work of communists. No, they must accept special demands formulated for them by WVO or their struggle can’t develop.
One more absurd instance of this kind of thinking cropped up in the article on the rubber strike, cited previously. The article carries the subtitle “Turn Economic Strike into Political Strike Against Capitalism.” The article carries the same exhortation–but it never explains the difference between an economic and a political strike. And as for what the focus of this “political strike” should be, no particular issue is raised. Instead WVO proceeds to recommend to the workers “the armed overthrow of the monopoly capitalist class.” (Workers Viewpoint newspaper, August 1976, p. 13) So the rubber strike should have become a strike for the insurrection? This is not “theory,” it is fantasy!
Thus, the Workers Viewpoint Organization is twice a fraud in their claim to uphold revolutionary practice as well as revolutionary theory. In their “first stage” of “winning the advanced,” they seek to pull the advanced away from the struggle into their study groups and “party forming” spasms. What can already be seen of their “second stage” shows the same contempt for the struggle of the working class and the masses.
It is this struggle, the class struggle which irrepressibly flares up in spite of everything the ruling class can do, that provides the basis for grasping, applying and developing revolutionary theory and is the training ground on which the working class learns how to unite with and lead its allies in overthrowing the parasite class and how to build a new world. Communist practice means nothing if it does not mean entering wholeheartedly into this struggle in order to develop its full potential as revolutionary class struggle.
The Communist Manifesto itself delivers a stinging rebuke to dogmatists of WVO’s stripe, stating that genuine communists
... have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement....
The theoretical conclusions of the communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered by this or that would-be universal reformer.
They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. (Foreign Languages Press, Peking, pp. 47-48)
 The WVO also takes the RCP to task for ridiculing those self-proclaimed revolutionaries in this country who try to mobilize the masses to “fight appeasement” of the USSR and the “appeasers” in the U.S. ruling class. WVO says indignantly that the real question is “exposing appeasement” and that Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP’s Central Committee, made up the idea of “fighting appeasement” out of pure wickedness. “There is no such thing as ’fight appeasement.’ Appeasement itself is a dangerous line, which feeds the other imperialist’s appetite, provoking its wild ambitions.” (also in Workers Viewpoint newspaper, January 1977, p. 33, italics in original)
This is metaphysical and idealist on several counts. One, the OL, among others, does regularly call for the masses to “oppose” or “fight appeasement,” instead of, like WVO, just implying it. Two, of course erroneous lines can be fought against and not merely exposed because lines are not merely words but take concrete forms in the actions of those who hold them. Three, as pointed out in “The Real Dynamics of the Arms Race” (Revolution, April 1977), the policies put forward by the U.S. ruling class, including those who take a so-called “moderate” stand toward the Soviets, are “fundamentally opposed to the policy of appeasement practiced by Britain and France towards Germany before World War 2. Then the Allied imperialists hoped that unhinging the geopolitical balance would set the Nazis against the Soviet Union. While today attempting to set the Soviet Union against China is a part of U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. imperialists recognize that Europe is the grand prize the New Czars seek and nothing can substitute for NATO military might in preventing them from achieving their aim.” (p. 18)
All of this “concern” by so-called communists in the U.S. about appeasement by the U.S. ruling class amounts to nothing more than a call for our own bourgeoisie to be more vigorous in pursuit of its imperialist aims.
 Until recently the WVO, as an organization made up largely of Chinese-American petty-bourgeois elements, was narrow nationalist principally “on behalf of” Chinese-Americans. In fact they even engaged in “nation-building,” or at least ”national minority building,” by insisting on the existence of a single “Asian” national minority in the U.S. This flew in the face of the reality that there are several distinct and significant national minorities in this country which originally came from Asia, including Chinese, Filipinos and Japanese, with different languages, histories and cultures.
As for the Black national question, WVO for several years boasted of its “partial position,” which it emphasized did not include a line on the Black Belt nation. In the last year or so WVO has recruited a number of former RWL members, almost all Black, and the group has “broadened” its approach by conciliating to narrow nationalism among Blacks also. One symptom of this was the sudden appearance in the Workers Viewpoint newspaper of the Black Belt nation as a line of demarcation for all communists and revolutionaries. (This issue of The Communist contains “Living Socialism and Dead Dogmatism,” a criticism of sterile adherence to the line that the key to Black liberation is the right of self-determination in the Black Belt.)
This is also a good time to note WVO’s pose as the biggest defenders of criticism and self-criticism: “Whether one practices it or not–or whether one practices it boldly or not–this constitutes the line of demarcation between sham and genuine, staunch and vacillating communists today.” Yet another “line of demarcation.” (Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 37-38) How come, then, WVO has thus far published not a peep on why their line changed, what the thinking is behind their new position and why it took them so long to arrive at it?