First Published: Bolshevik, No. 1, May 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 Revolutionary Workers League recently emerged from a fierce two line struggle which was waged throughout 1975. The completion of that struggle has brought the exposure and isolation of the Menshevik line on party building and its exponents. This struggle arose from lower to higher levels as we developed a rational understanding of our own historical deviations, the deviations within both the opportunist and revolutionary wings of the communist movement and their relation to the burning question of the day. Through the course of struggle against the Menshevik lines of the RU, OL and WVO within our organization we have developed a firm and correct political line on the question of party building. Our line takes a clear position on the four key questions of party building – key link to party building, periods, fusion and advanced worker and strategic principles of party building (see the Atlanta Forum speech in this issue). The clear positions on these essential aspects of any correct political line on party building stands in stark opposition to all the forces in the opportunist wing , most notably, the October League and the Workers Viewpoint Organization. The OL, which boasts of having upheld party building as the central task since its formation, has yet, four years later, to take a clear stand on these key aspects. Instead, upholding the opportunist line under cover of the cry of unity, it holds up its incorrect summation of the ”level of unity of the majority of the Marxist-Leninists”. (November ’75, “Call to Marxist-Leninists to Unite”) (See the RWL presentation at Boston Forum, Palante, March ’76 and the Atlanta Forum speech)
The WVO does little better substituting its Anti-Theoretical Revisionist Premises for concrete answers to these questions without which there can be no scientific line on party-building in this period.
The RWL stands for a party of Bolsheviks. It will oppose at every turn the attempt to negate the historical experience of the proletariat and build a party of conciliation – one which attempts to unite two irreconcilable trends – Menshevism and Bolshevism – into a single whole. The attitude of the RWL toward this opportunist line and all forms of opportunism within our ranks and those of the entire communist movement is one of struggle – expose – isolate. This attitude towards opportunism is one of the hallmarks of the revolutionary wing.
The RWL now has a firm scientific position on the question of party building and each of its important aspects. But that has not always been the case. The first two years of our existence (since 1974) were characterized by incorrect ideological, political and organizational lines which found their root in our particular social basis and historical development. Emerging out of the eclecticism within the Black Liberation movement we had just begun to break with metaphysics and idealism, which is the essence of bourgeois ideology. The ideological basis of our deviations was bowing to spontaneity; the root of all opportunism, regardless of its “infinite variety of forms.” Within the RWL, empiricism and apriorism both flourished. The apriorist deviation showed itself mainly through strong tendencies toward rationalism and voluntarism. Briefly, by empiricism we mean regarding:
...direct experience as something absolute and rigid – using partial experience as an unalterable formula and applying it everywhere, using old experience to look at new things which have developed and changed, or over-rating our partial experience and under-rating or even denying the correct experience of others and the masses. (Study Philosophy – reprints, Peking Review: 19)
When we speak of rationalism, we speak of an idealist theory of knowledge that does not grasp the process of movement from lower to higher levels, from perceptual to rational knowledge in the heat of two line struggle. It holds that knowledge springs full-blown in the absence of class struggle. It opposes the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge which holds that:
...correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. (Ibid., p. 36) ...No one has made revolution after learning it first; instead, a person learns it in the course of making revolution. The world can only be known in the process of transforming it. (Ibid., p. 31)
Voluntarism – starting from the idea and attempting to wish things into being, not seeing a process of struggle and development; failing to start from objective conditions and establishing a concrete plan of work, instead “dreaming of accomplishing everything at one stroke.”
Lenin once said: that “anyone who is afraid of work cannot possibly arrive at the truth.” Chairman Mao also teaches us that “materialism and dialectics, on the other hand, need effort, and that unless one makes the effort, one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics.” (Ibid., p. 29) This is voluntarist.
These deviations, empiricism, rationalism, and voluntarism have led us to commit both right and left errors, with right deviations being the main danger within our organization. Politically, the main error we made was upholding the line of ideology as key link. This was a right deviation, tailing the objective level of development of the movement. This error led us to another error – simultaneously holding organization as the key link, that is, overemphasizing organization in a period when political line is key. This fusion of ideology and organization as key link ultimately unites with “build mass movements” line. All these deviations are characteristic of the opportunist wing. The OL, WVO, RU, MLOC and others all uphold the merger line of party building, that is , uniting communists organizationally on the basis of general principles, belittling the role of the program, the concentrated expression of political line.
The RU gives us a “program” devoid of proletarian line but filled with its own revisionist inventions appealing to the opportunism of its “better-off workers.” On the other hand, the OL blatantly revealed its opportunism on this question in the November “Call to the Party” where its line on party building called for the formation of the party and establishment of democratic centralism with no program to guide it for a year. In the face of expanding and sharpening criticism, the OL, in its March issue, slapped its own Menshevik wrist (it certainly wasn’t Bolshevik self-criticism) for its incorrect “idea” (!) on how to build the party.
The WVO calls for merger not on the basis of “a common program, strategy, tactics and organizational principles” as it says, but on the basis of its revisionist premises and other theoretical “contributions” – its peculiar version of the OL’s call to unite. Because of our own ideological deviations, our historical right error of upholding ideology and organization simultaneously as key links and the internal struggles against the more blatant right lines of the OL and RU, we too fell victim to the merger theory of party building and began motion toward merger with WVO. However, we have made great strides in overcoming that error in the sharp struggle that has taken place over the last few months, deepening our understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought (MLMTT) applied to party building in the U.S. and our deviations from it.
The RWL’s deviation on key link and our perceptual grasp of the relation of the central task to all questions led us into political errors on other questions as well, e.g., polemics, advanced worker, “proletarianization”, national question, etc. It also led to errors in our organizational line; mainly bureaucratic centralism, semi-autonomism and liberalism in its various forms. As we unfold more of the history of the RWL, a fuller grasp of the concrete manifestations of these ideological deviations will emerge.
The RWL has succeeded, in the main, in breaking through these ideological, political and organizational errors, although they cannot be overcome in a single stroke. Our ability to make the break and prevent our plunging head first into the home of swamp-creatures like the OL, the WVO, the RU, etc., has its basis in the strong proletarian kernel which has always existed within the PWL. While the manner of our formation and our perceptual grasp of burning questions enabled worshippers of the petty and big bourgeoisie to make temporary headway, there have been elements who have taken a consistent proletarian stand in the struggle against opportunism and adopted a correct attitude toward MLMTT and criticism, self-criticism. Only by maintaining these characteristics in the all-round struggle to forge proletarian political line, unite Marxist-Leninists and win the advanced to communism will the party be built.
The history of the working class movement in all countries shows that the better situated strata of the working class respond to the ideas of socialism more rapidly and more easily. From among these come, in the main, the advanced workers that every working class movement brings to the fore, those who can win the confidence of the laboring masses, who devote themselves entirely to the education and organization of the proletariat, who accept socialism consciously and who even elaborate independent socialist theories. (Lenin, “Retrograde Trends in Russian Social-Democracy” CW: 4)
The anti-revisionist communist movement emerged in 1969-70 and consisted of those who were, in the main, the advanced elements produced by the mass movements of the 50’s and 60’s. These were the elements who determined the character of those movements and who, in the ideological struggle against eclecticism, turned themselves into communists. They did so under the influence of the international communist movement and genuine communists in the U.S.
The historical development of the forces becoming the RWL, and the RWL itself, reflects the general – advanced elements transforming themselves into communists through the course of struggle and under the influence of domestic and international communist movements. However, it also reflects the particular historical conditions and the social basis from which we developed.
In the particular there are four basic factors which give our development its particular stamp. First, we developed mainly in the Black Liberation Movement. In that movement we carried out staunch and consistent struggle against the opportunism of the petty bourgeois elements seeking to dominate it. Our whole history is integrally tied up with the developments in the Black Liberation Movement (BLM). Secondly, in the course of this struggle we came to play leading roles in the development of the BLM on both local and national levels from 1970-71 and up to the present. The third factor was our development and turn to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought at a time when the U.S. anti-revisionist communist movement was already in existence. We developed under the influence of an organized domestic communist movement and in particular the RU. The fourth factor is our social basis which we’ll speak to shortly.
The importance of these three conditions lies in the fact that each provided conditions favorable to the development of our erroneous lines, as well as our advances. Through our participation in the BLM we came to be steeled in sharp struggle of many forms, including armed struggle. But our almost exclusive involvement in the BLM provided objective conditions for the development of Bundist deviations which we temporarily fell into even while fighting the “blue-eyed devil” line.
Our rise to leadership and gaining influence within the BLM without resorting to gimmicks and publicity stunts showed us the power of staunch organized struggle against opportunism. On the other hand, it also led to “big headedness”, a failure to divide one into two on our own lines practicing correct criticism/self-criticism and so laid the ground work for a philistine attitude toward internal struggle and hegemonist deviations in our relations with external forces. All this also enabled empiricism to become a strong and deep-rooted trend within the RWL – because our experience had been ”successful”.
The influence of the communist movement was also positive and negative. It brought us more rapidly to embrace MIMTT and indirectly aided our victory over the opportunists within the BLM. At the same time, it raised to a theoretical level the justification for bowing to spontaneity. We had struggled hard to defeat the vulgar and blatant line on spontaneity that permeated the BLM (“Black people are a natural people”, “Black people naturally do what’s right”) only to fall prey to the same old line in new form as we turned to MIMTT. These three factors had a significant impact on our development and struggle for the correct line. The internal basis for these deviations assumed a particular form because of our social basis. However, in each case cited it can clearly be seen that the essence of the error was our bowing to spontaneity – the root of all opportunism.
The social basis of the RWL, which is the fourth factor, is mainly former students of working class and working people background and a few intellectuals. This class background and the historically close relationship of revolutionary Black students and Black communities has been a very good thing. It has enabled us to maintain close contact with the Black sectors of the working class and its struggles, both inside and outside the plant. However, living the life of students gave rise to apriorist deviations. In particular, we developed rationalist and voluntarist deviations, which combining with our empiricist errors led to grave errors in political and organizational line mainly of a right character. Of these three philosophical deviations, empiricism is presently the main error in the RWL. But let’s go a little deeper into the historical development leading to the formation of the RWL.
We have noted that the entire student youth of the period was absorbed in Marxism. Of course, these students were not only, or even not so much, interested in Marxism as a theory; they were interested in it as an answer to the question, “what is to be done?”, as a call to take the field against the enemy. These new warriors marched to battle with astonishingly primitive equipment and training. In a vast number of cases they had almost no equipment and absolutely no training. They marched to war like peasants from the plough, armed only with clubs. (Lenin, What Is To Be Done, Selected Works: 1, p. 198)
1970-71 brought an ebb in the Black Liberation Movement. Many of the national leaders of the preceding period had either slipped into the swamp or had been killed or jailed. In these conditions, many of us who had been “secondary leadership”, guiding struggles on local and regional levels emerged as national leadership; we did so not so much individually but as a part of influential and/or national organizations, e.g. , Malcolm X Liberation University (MXLU), Youth Organization for Black Unity (YOBU), Lyn Eusan Institute (LEI), CAP, ALSO, Peoples College (PC) and others. Many of our forces developed in the mid-sixties as “grassroots, community organizers”, when we participated in and led sharp struggles around issues such as housing, welfare, urban removal, national oppression on the job and against police repression. Others developed in the militant Black student upsurge of the late 60’s struggling for Black Studies, open admissions, greater community participation and in the struggle for quality education. Most of us emerged as leadership which had been trained practically in certain methods of struggle and forms of organization. But we were theoretically unequipped to handle the daily struggle, especially under new and changing conditions; we had been the victims of the ”CP“USA’s betrayal of Marxism-Leninism and the eclecticism that came to take its place. Forces which eventually became the RWL were aware of our deficiencies and began to seek a theory which was much more consistent and explained how to deal with the every day struggle. We had entered the struggle with concepts of civil rights, Black power, community control, Pan-Africanism, “African” and “scientific” socialism. Chairman Mao says that ”there can be no knowledge apart from practice”, and that ”if you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality.” It was our social practice which had deepened our understanding of the need for a more integral and consistently revolutionary theory. We turned to MLMTT because we ran into a number of contradictions, theoretical and practical as we carried out our work, seeking to answer the question “what is to be done?”
If you can apply the Marxist-Leninist viewpoint in elucidating one or two practical problems, you should be commended and credited with some achievements. The more problems you elucidate and the more comprehensively and profoundly you do so, the greater will be your achievement. (“Study Philosophy”, Reprints, Peking Review, p. 29)
Long before we declared ourselves Marxist-Leninists, we grasped hold of and correctly applied to varying degrees certain aspects of MLMTT. Most of us upheld the principles of dialectical and historical materialism, class struggle, the leading role of the working class and democratic centralism 1 and a half to 2 years prior to the formation of the RWL in 1974. Our grasp of these questions though was limited, corresponding to our own limited practice. The aspects of MLMTT that we adopted served to answer certain immediate questions which confronted us, e.g., the role played by the petty bourgeoisie, both Black and white, in student and community struggles, the character of students themselves in struggle and their relationship to the working class; the repression of the state. We spontaneously grasped these concepts using them to deepen our work and defeat the opportunist lines within the BLM. But in the course of the struggle we made serious errors such as Lenin speaks of:
But, needless to say, the masses learn from life and not from books, and therefore certain individuals or groups constantly exaggerate, elevate to a one-sided theory, to a one-sided system of tactics, now one and now another “lesson” of this development. (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 16, p. 348-9)
We made this error many times. Even as we sought out Marxist-Leninist theory we would often fall back onto the line of:
respect experience but despise theory, and therefore cannot have a comprehensive view of an entire process, lack clear direction and long-range perspective and are complacent over occasional successes and glimpses of the truth. If such persons direct a revolution, they will lead it up a blind alley. (“Study Philosophy”, p. 28)
The error of elevating one or another “lesson” to a one-sided theory is in essence one of empiricism. If, however, one is able to maintain a correct attitude toward criticism, self-criticism, erroneous lines that develop as a result of this error can be quickly rectified. As already pointed out, this we failed to do and “became complacent over occasional successes and glimpses of the truth.” Mao says this will lead up a blind alley and for a period of two years we sought to find our way out of such an alley.
An important example of elevating a single aspect to a one-sided theory is the RWL’s adoption of the “proletarianization” line. For a long period before our formation, many of us upheld the concept of class struggle and then the leading role of the working class. As we came to grasp the fact that the objective conditions of the class make it the only revolutionary class, we shifted our work more and more toward it, eventually moving most of our ranks directly into it. This was the case even before the formation of the RWL. This was correct as we struggled to link ourselves directly with the class and break ideologically, politically and organizationally from the influence of the petty bourgeoisie. But in the struggle with the petty bourgeois forces in the BLM, we came to over-emphasize the objective conditions of the working class and belittled the role of the conscious element. This mechanical materialist error led us to the vulgar proletarianization line, which came to be the dominant line over the first two years. Because we failed to recognize that internal struggle is the basis of change and that knowledge develops from lower to higher levels in the course of struggle, we failed to divide one into two, conduct Bolshevik criticism and self-criticism and promote vigorous internal struggle. It is for this reason that what was initially a good thing eventually became a bad thing.
A second example. Based on our work within the BLM, our knowledge of the national divisions within the working class and our struggles against white chauvinism, we elevated national factors above the question of class and committed a Bundist deviation. This deviation, in concert with hegemonist tendencies dragged in from the pre-formation days, led us into a sectarian attitude toward the communist movement which, focusing on the RU-OL, we considered mainly white.
In short, our struggle against opportunism brought us to MLMTT; our empiricism led us to erroneous lines and up a blind alley.
The actual formation of the RWL in January 1974 was the culmination of the long historical process described above which began in 1969 involving MXLU, YOBU, LEI and Peoples College in 1973. During that period unity was forged in the course of struggle against petty bourgeois nationalists which preceded but culminated in the historic African Liberation Support Committee struggles of 1973-74.
In the course of the ALSC struggles, prior to our formation and for a short period after it, we came to uphold ideology as key link to moving the BLM forward – the re-affirmation of the general principles of MLMTT. For a period of time, ideology as key was correct and corresponded to the objective development of the communist movement. The deviations we made during that time were two. First, our identification of the key link was determined in relation to moving the BLM forward and not the communist movement and party building. How deep this error ran will become clear when we examine the initial principles of unity on which the RWL was formed. Second, when objectively the period changed to political line as key link, we continued to hold to ideology as key. Our failure to grasp this change lay in our view of focusing on the BLM and only perceptually grasping the question of party building and its relationship to national movements. Based on these two deviations, the RWL held, from the beginning, an incorrect line on party building; the correct line gained dominance only after two years of struggle.
In June of 1973, with the conscious preparation for the formation of the RWL, our line of ideology as key link mutated to organization as key link. In April of ’74, it mutated to “Build the workers movement” with the adoption of the proletarianization line. With the defeat of the petty bourgeois nationalists in the historic May conference of ALSC, that line was further consolidated. Objectively, we simultaneously held ideology, organization and “Build the mass movements” as key, shifting emphasis from one to the other in accordance with who and what we were dealing with at the time.
The eclectics, who see the opposing aspects of some process but do not know how to expose their internal connection and mutual relationships, grasp at now one, now another of its opposing factors, according to their point of view or to the changing situation, and whatever aspect they select they advance as the general characteristic of the whole.(Textbook of Marxist Philosophy, Leningrad Institute of Philosophy, p. 145)
Clearly, this was the deviation we made before and after our formation. Its essence was bowing to spontaneity. This cannot be over-stressed. Its principal form – empiricism. The secondary forms of rationalism and voluntarism came more clearly into play as we attempted to implement each of the “key links”. Chairman Mao points out that empiricism leads to complacency and self-satisfaction. We have pointed out that we fell into those very pits. This is at the heart of the errors committed in forming the RWL. We used “one prescription to cure all diseases.” Adopting an incorrect attitude toward criticism, self-criticism, we failed to divide one into two on our history and promote an attitude of struggle and repudiation of the incorrect line. We looked mainly at our successes and not our failures. In looking at our successes, we sought only the correct and not the incorrect. Consequently, we failed to correctly determine what was applicable, partly applicable or inapplicable and attempted to mechanically apply old experiences to new and changed conditions.
Through our active involvement and leadership in the BLM, we were trained in the art of “organizing” and “out-organizing.” The essence of this art was placing organizational methods of struggle above open struggle over line. Although both occurred, the struggle over line was sometimes sacrificed to expediency in order to gain “functional unity”. As we began to wage sharper and more intense struggle in ALSC, we began to break with this method more and more. The break was on a perceptual level and was never raised to a theoretical plane and the incorrect line repudiated. This method of reaching unity and carrying on struggle which leads to concessions of principle, was carried over into our struggle to form and consolidate the RWL. The effect of transferring this old experience on how to unite and consolidate organizations and expose opponents was that of a bureaucratic and conspiratorial method used to unite the RWL. No ideological struggle was firmly and consistently carried down through the ranks of the various organizations to draw sharp lines between the communists and non-communists in preparation for the formation of a single communist organization. Instead, struggle and unity took place among the leadership of the various organizations with the line remaining locked within it. Conspiratorial and bureaucratic methods were then used to unite several organizations into one. The effect of this was to build unprincipled unity on the lower levels between communist and non-communists In these circumstances ample conditions were provided for fostering the growth and spread of voluntarist and rationalist deviations which are clearly reflected in our formation and development.
For example, in much of our work we liquidated our responsibility to put forward clear independent communist positions and for a period of time we remained closet communists. We diluted even the partial views we had under the cover of “anti-imperialism” and “popularizing the science” while we attempted to develop a full blown ”blueprint” on each question before we put them forth for struggle. Our leading role in the BLM had given rise to a hegemonist deviation, among others. This deviation, combined with rationalist tendencies, led to a sectarian attitude toward the communist movement, and reflected itself in our conspiratorial line of forming a “secret” or “closed” organization. The purpose for remaining ”closed” was to enable us to “develop our line first” and “consolidate” before “going public”. Objectively, this line represented an attempt to develop line only so we could “step out bad” and play a role of leadership similar to that in the BLM. Subjectively, it reflected a philistine attitude toward struggle with the “more sophisticated”, “experienced” and “larger” organizations in the communist movement. It also reflected a rationalist view of how knowledge and “consolidation” develops – which is only in the course of struggle, standing on what is correct – repudiating what is incorrect.
Philistinism, aversion to struggle, conciliation with opportunist lines, seeking external solutions – summed up, these were the basic political and organizational tendencies engendered by the spread of voluntarist and rationalist deviations. These ideological deviations were strengthened by the process of formation which left an open door for opportunists of many kinds. In these conditions, opportunist lines were allowed to develop and eventually brought us to the edge of the swamp as our main exponents of Menshevism attempted to accept the invitations of the RU, OL and WVO to enter.
What was the basis of unity of the RWL? It was originally formed around principles of unity which served us until September ’74 when we adopted an unpublished “Political Statement”. These principles reflected the conciliation and unprincipled unity pointed to previously. Objectively, they represented unity of advanced elements in opposition to the petty bourgeois nationalists of the BLM and not the principled unity of communists. To illustrate: it failed to mention MLMTT, communism or a communist party. Instead, dialectical and historical materialism are substitutes for MLMTT and communism. A “multinational proletarian (Leninist) party” replaces “communist party”; our failure to take a position on central task even though a central task paper, criticizing the various positions within the communist movement had been submitted to the leadership several months prior to the formulation of these principles. This was a burning question in the communist movement but not one necessary to distinguishing ourselves within the BLM. We also failed to take up positions on other key questions in the communist movement; Soviet Social Imperialism; revisionism and other essential questions. In defining our tasks, “Black revolutionaries” is substituted for communists. In addition, though the principles upheld the need to build the working class movement, it made no mention of the need to actively build multinational unity.
The POU’s reflected the influence of the communist movement – “build the mass movements” and our Bundist deviations. But mainly, the POU’s represented a concession in principle to the revolutionary nationalists in our ranks who were unable to make the leap. Such a concession was expediency in the absence of genuine ideological struggle previous to formation. Once the organization was formed, it was a question of concession or bureaucratic expulsion. We upheld the line of attempting to build unity in the absence of class struggle – our wish to see former comrades in struggle in one set of conditions make the leap and become communists. Objectively, this line places personal and historical ties over questions of line. Such unity cannot last, inevitably it must disintegrate. From that point forward, we engaged in a series of line struggles which culminated in our Second National Conference and enabled us to find our way out of the blind alley.
We have come to our present state of development through the course of five major line struggles over the past two years. These line struggles reflect the development of our grasp of the principles of MLMTT and their application from lower to higher levels. All these line struggles touched upon important ideological, political and organizational questions. However, it was only with the latest struggle that the lines were fully drawn out. The principal deviation preventing the complete resolution of earlier struggles was the seeking of organizational resolutions to ideological and political questions.
The deviations made in the formation of the RWL, with its unprincipled unity and bureaucratism gave rise to our first major line struggle immediately after formation. The basic question was one of communism or revolutionary nationalism. However, the struggle took the form of struggle over organizational questions – bureaucratic centralism (identified as “elitism”), federationism and male supremacy in organizational matters.
The long history of bureaucratic centralism, particularly in YOBU and in the formation of the RWL, provided a concrete basis for struggle around the correct application of democratic centralism and making the leadership accountable to the rank-and-file. However, the struggle was never fully resolved. The basic reason for this – these questions were never linked to political line especially on party building. In our approach to these questions we upheld ideology-organization as the key link to party building. In the summation of the struggle, the leading body identified several ideological deviations in our line – “militant idealism”, ”spontaneity in line and practice”, “bourgeois nationalism”, “individualism”, to name the main ones. It identified the petty bourgeoisie as the social basis for these errors. However, it failed to link these deviations to political line and draw out the implications of them for proletarian revolution. It failed to draw out the two-line struggle over ideological and political questions – in particular party building when the opportunity clearly presented itself. This was the second time for this deviation and was a clear manifestation of philistinism which had been strengthened in the earlier struggle. The first struggle took place in YOBU.
From March-November 1973, a struggle between the “K” district of YOBU and the national office had raged over the questions of bureaucracy and federationism. But “K” attempted to directly link that struggle to questions of central task, strategy and tactics and dividing one into two on our history. Some major deviations were made by “K” and the papers primitive but they sought to link struggle over organizational questions to questions of ideology and politics. But in the end both the district and national office sought organizational methods of resolution; the former proposing federation, the latter conciliating with criticism in order to beat it back. Consequently, the conditions fostering the lines of federationism and bureaucratism were not removed nor the lines ideologically defeated and arose again in the first RWL line struggle.
Struggle over organizational questions served to cover questions of ideology and politics in the first RWL line struggle. The struggle was resolved in two ways. The first was the consolidation of the proletarianization line as a way to overcome the problem that arose from our social basis, that is, “elitism” and bureaucracy. From this point forward we belittled the role of the conscious element. The second was active struggle over the question of democratic centralism in communist organizations. As a result of this struggle the federation line was defeated at the First National Conference. During this struggle several elements resigned or were purged. This line struggle strengthened the RWL – ridding it of those elements who vacillated on the question of MLMTT and proletarian revolution; those who remained had been tested through struggle against an opportunist line and learned many lessons which were to prove valuable in later struggles. However, the important weaknesses in the struggle laid the seeds for future struggles.
The result of our failure to link this struggle to questions of political line and party building was the consolidation of ideology-organization as key link which enabled Menshevik intellectuals such as the renegade Akalimat to make head-way for their opportunist lines. Holding this line had us struggling up in the realm of ideology, while struggling to build our organization and the mass movements and retarding our development of scientific positions on burning class questions. It made us susceptible to the opportunist lines of the RU, OL and WVO as we sought a way out of the contradictions we began to encounter. Finally, it prevented us from carrying forward the simultaneous strategic principles of Marxists-Leninists Unite, Win the Advanced to Communism, which can only correctly be implemented when connected with the struggle for political line.
In the course of the struggle against bureaucratism struggle was also taken up on male supremacy in organizational questions and a blatant sexual opportunist line. This struggle was also not carried out thoroughly. These lines were defeated on a narrow political basis, identifying the damage done to our organization without clearly linking them to the working class and proletarian revolution. This struggle resulted in the expulsion of the renegade Duane Vann who pushed a line of multiple relationships within communist organizations.
The second line struggle was on the centrist line of the renegade Alkalimat and his conciliation with the revisionist “CP”SU and “CP”USA. This line of conciliation later mutated to conciliation with the revisionism of the RU. The line struggle at this time (summer ’74 – January ’75) was relatively more advanced and focused on the questions of Soviet Social Imperialism; the role of Cuba and its “anti-imperialism”; the role of students in the struggle for proletarian revolution and the role of the petty bourgeoisie.
On the first two questions, the essence of the Alkalimat line was that we should avoid openly taking sides in the international struggle and should proceed ”diplomatically” with the “CP”USA; he advocated co-operation and a united front from above, i.e., in the “CP”’s struggle to win over the membership of ALSC and gain hegemony over the BLM for its revisionist line. On the question of students, Alkalimat sought to prevent advanced students from grasping Marxism-Leninism and struggling against opportunism. This line led to forming the February First Movement (FFM) with the incorrect main task of “Build the Anti-Imperialist Black Student Movement”. Marxist-Leninist propaganda was replaced with comic books like “The Incredible Rocky” and propagated “anti-imperialism” as a new “ideology”
While pushing the line of “go to work”, Alkalimat independently developed “Pull the Covers off Imperialism” – the vehicle for materializing his worship of the petty bourgeoisie and its substitute for proletarian revolution – anti-imperialism.
Alkalimat and his line were beat back but we failed to draw out fully the political effect and ideological roots of his line and thus we set the conditions for its mutation within our organization toward the RU. However, in the course of this struggle, four major lessons were learned although not summed up to a theoretical level. The first was the need to overcome the philistinism in our ranks and firmly adopt the strategic attitude of struggle-expose-isolate toward all forms of opportunism. Secondly, we began to be trained in cutting through the sophistry that such opportunists substitute for Marxism-Leninism. Thirdly, in the struggle against his line on students we began first steps toward forging a revolutionary line on students. We should note here that the advanced comrades inside FFM were staunch in the criticism of RWL’s right opportunist line, and demonstrated the qualities of those who determine the character of the student movement just as advanced workers determine the character of the worker’s movement and devote themselves tirelessly to the revolution. These comrades are playing a key role in the development of this revolutionary line on students. Finally, we began to grasp more fully the character of our past deviations as we began to more boldly struggle and criticize revisionism within our own ranks, seeking the question of line in every struggle. It was our initial failure to adopt this attitude that allowed us to be temporarily taken in by this petty bourgeois swindler and careerist because of the philistinism that imbued our ranks from our formation. In not upholding vigorous internal struggle, we belittled the fact that the basis of change is internal. This deviation inevitably leads to looking for external solutions to internal problems. So it was with Alkalimat the swindler.
In our struggle to grasp MLMTT, particularly in 1973 during the struggles against the petty bourgeois nationalists in ALSC, Alkalimat came forward with much talk about MLMTT and in fact helped us to grasp more fully certain aspects of it. But we accepted it at face value, failing to divide one into two and adopt the strategic attitude of consistently struggling against all opportunism including him and incorrect lines on the “CP”USA. In the face of this conciliation he was able to temporarily win hegemony for his line. However, the proletarian kernal showed itself as the struggle against his line and our grasp of MLMTT moved from lower to higher levels. Finally, a year and a half after his entry into the RWL, he was purged in the course of the struggle against the RU line. Alkalimat, in the bourgeois tradition of “making trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again” sought to lead us to the swamp via Moscow, Havana, and finally Chicago where he now resides with his partners in revisionism – Avakian and Klonsky.
The third line struggle took place from January – June 1975. The question was one of national or multinational forms for communist organizations, in particular the RWL. This struggle was relatively shallow as it was being eclipsed by the emerging struggle around the RU line on party building. Out of these struggles, the RWL repudiated its former line of national forms as a tactical question, identifying the fact that, in essence, we had upheld a Bundist deviation on the question of organization. The basic deviation was elevating nationality over class and thus raising barriers to welding the unity of the working class as a whole. The basis of the error was again bowing to spontaneity, to the influence of the narrow nationalists within the BLM and the RWL. It is a clear example of determining our conduct:
...from case to case, to adapt itself to the events of the day and to the chopping interests of petty politics, to forget the primary interests of the proletariat and the basic features of the whole capitalist system, of all capitalist system, .of all capitalist evolution, to sacrifice these primary interests for the real or assumed advantages of the moment – such is the policy of revisionism. (Lenin, “Marxism and Revisionism”, Against Revisionism, p. 116)
The fourth line struggle took place from March – June ’75 and was only partially resolved. It was on the question of whether to enter the RU’s party building motion. The struggle was not carried through to the end because the correct line was not sufficiently strong to thoroughly route this line and the maneuvers of its exponents. Even though this was the case, the significance of the struggle lies in the fact that the correct line, drawing on the lessons and advances of past struggles, was able to broaden its scope, becoming more comprehensive and more profound in its elucidation of the problem. No longer focusing on questions of an organizational character divorced from the question of party building, it took up a deeper view of the communist movement, its line struggles and our relation to them. Through this struggle, the renegade Alkalimat was exposed as the main exponent of this line. In the face of his consistent refusal to be principled and open in the struggle, he was purged before’ its completion.
With the renegade’s expulsion, Mark Smith, then spokesperson for the RWL, immediately picked up his line and carried it forward, attempting to bring it in through the backdoor, resorting to maneuvers. Although the correct line was not sufficiently developed to fully expose his hidden line and maneuvers, it brought a sharper awareness of the Mensheviks within our ranks and prevented us from falling prey to the RU’s “brief period.”
The fifth line struggle from fall ’75 to January ’76 was a higher development of the struggle on the question of party building. It was a struggle for a revolutionary line and unity with the Leninist core and directed against the conciliators with the opportunist wing. Led by Mark Smith, the line of conciliation mutated from “enter the RU process” to upholding the OL line on party building. Our Mensheviks bowed to every new “call” to the party. Standing on no principles, they bowed to the apparent “strength” of first the RU, then the OL, bending like a twig in the wind. Fearing the developing strength of the revolutionary forces within the RWL, Smith refused to be open and aboveboard in his unity with the swamp. Instead, he sought to assert his line through maneuvers and ’left’ feints. All this was thoroughly exposed at the Second National Conference in January 1976. At that time, he was removed from all positions of leadership and placed in isolation as a special case for transformation. In the struggle leading up to the Second National Conference, the revolutionary forces took up two basic questions. The first was certain aspects of our historical development, mainly the existence of a strong philistine trend and the line of vulgar “proletarianization” guiding our work. Secondly, it advanced a comprehensive view of party building and all its essential aspects. In doing so, it established a firm view of the opportunist and revolutionary forces within the communist movement focusing on the Menshevik line of the OL. It was in this context that the Second National Conference was convened and took up its task. Its most important achievement was the complete exposure and isolation of the right line on all important revolutionary questions and its leading exponent – Mark Smith. In taking up this task, it established a revolutionary line, placing the RWL in the revolutionary wing of the communist movement. This line, which has been further developed in the course of struggle with Menshevism, especially that of WVO, over the past four months, is contained in this issue.
The Second National Conference adopted a mainly correct and revolutionary line. Since that conference the on-going struggle has led to the deepening of some aspects and the repudiation of others. One of the incorrect aspects that the conference adopted was a position of merger with WVO. In the main, we had developed an independent and correct line on party building, however, the line on merger was an error reflecting a certain internal basis and external conditions.
Internally, we were and still are fighting the ideological deviations of empiricism, rationalism and voluntarism. The internal struggle had dealt severe blows to these deviations but much of it was still on a perceptual level. Its been pointed out that these deviations led to several organizational and political errors – incorrect method of building unity, incorrect attitude toward criticism/self-criticism, latent hegemonist tendencies, holding ideology-organization as key link, “building the mass movement”, while seeking external solutions. These deviations, combined with WVO’s manruvering as well as its actual aid in overcoming some errors, brought us to adopt the “theory of merger”. This line is nothing but a cover for a hegemonist line on party building that holds ideology and organization as key link.
The revolutionary forces in the RWL were struggling to overcome the dominance of an incorrect line on party building, small-circle mentality and a build the mass movements line and doing so against a center which resorted to manipulation and maneuvering. In the course of this many of the deviations which had not been fully overcome manifested themselves in various forms.
The articles published by the WVO on the RU and OL and our direct contact with it served at that time to help advance the struggle within the RWL. This condition helped bring into play an empiricist error in struggle and in evaluating the revolutionary wing. The empiricist error in struggle was the development of an “oppositional mentality” in conducting the internal struggle which in turn helped foster the tendency toward seeking external solutions. The oppositional mentality is a carry-over from the “functional unity” method of struggle that prevailed during the earlier period in the BLM. This mentality manifested itself in the unity of the revolutionary forces in the RWL with the WVO in struggle with the RU-OL lines. But this attitude failed to divide one into two, and draw clear and sharp lines of unity and disunity as the method of broadening and deepening the unity. This was a manifestation of the failure to fully break with the Philistinism existing in the organization. It also reflected the tendency toward voluntarism, for there was a strong desire to break with the erroneous lines we had held, including the small-circle mentality. As a result, we, at different times, failed to divide one into two on the positions put forth by WVO, e.g., the theory of merger, their view of nationally specific forms of revisionism and two contending trends. Objectively, this represents unprincipled unity and led us to tail the WVO on some important questions. On merger, in particular, we relied solely on our direct experience with WVO and failed to fully investigate the lines of other organizations in the revolutionary wing. Consequently, we came to the erroneous conclusion that we had a “higher level of ideological and political unity” with WVO than with others in the wing, particularly PRRWO and ATM. Thus, we should merge. Objectively, this position upholds ideology-organization as the key link to party building: it affirms that lines of demarcation should be drawn within the Leninist core of the revolutionary wing around the general principles of MLMTT and not political line. In this period, that line inevitably leads to building your own organization and placing organizational unity over unity being built in the process of forging correct political line. This is a right line which attempts to drag us back into the past period and denies the key link of political line.
Our historical position of ideology-organization as key link and rationalist deviations brought us to readily assimilate important aspects of WVO line on party building contained in the premises article. Relying on our own experience, we also accepted the opportunist line at the heart of the premises – the view of the movement that all previous presentations on the question of party building had been either “eclectic or opportunist”. We thus negated the objective process of development of the revolutionary wing and of its position on party building from lower to higher levels. By examining these errors, it is clear that the ideological and political deviations that historically plagued the RWL continued to manifest themselves in the struggle to overcome them. It is obvious that the internal basis for these errors was principal; none-the-less, certain external conditions existed which tended to foster the development of our errors.
The basic external condition was the character of WVO’s involvement in building “unity” – both with the revolutionary wing as a whole and with the RWL. As stated previously, the WVO made positive contributions to the struggle inside the RWL and the communist movement. This itself was a condition which in combination with our internal conditions, fostered the growth of our deviations from a correct line. But the main condition which represents the main aspect was the leadership of WVO whose organizational maneuvering consisted of knowingly building unprincipled unity with the RWL and others in the revolutionary wing. On the one-hand, they made a left feint, adopting the line of political line as key link in order to enter the wing, while continuing to hold ideology as key. Secondly, they often played to our own latent hegemonist tendencies, glorifying our role in the BLM and the BLM itself. They even talked of “submitting themselves to the strategic leadership of the RWL.”
Our present grasp of many of our deviations and the opportunism of WVO emerged through the sharp struggle with WVO characterizing the last few months. As we deepen the struggle we will deepen the repudiation of our relationship with them and the assimilation of certain incorrect lines that we have held.
We have made open and public self-criticisms on our erroneous lines in ALSC and FFM and now before the communist movement and advanced elements. We have and do now submit ourselves to open and sharp struggle in order to more fully draw out the implications of opportunist lines in the struggle for proletarian revolution. Unlike WVO and all opportunists, we don’t fear criticism, we welcome it – even from the opportunist wing – in order to more fully expose the class character of such forces, while ridding ourselves of opportunist deviations in the struggle for a U.S. Bolshevik Party. Unlike the OL, we will openly struggle with criticism we consider incorrect and make thorough-going repudiation where we are wrong. Unlike the RU, we will not attempt to brow-beat those who raise perceptual criticisms of us and develop theoretical justifications when opportunism is exposed. We will instead seek to find the 5% which is correct and deepen it through the course of principled struggle.
We offer this initial summation and self-criticism of the RWL to aid the struggle for a genuine Bolshevik Party. We know that genuine self-criticism will enable genuine Marxists-Leninists and advanced elements to draw lessons from the concrete implications of the right opportunist line which is the main danger today.
FORWARD TO THE U.S. BOLSHEVIK PARTY!!!
MARXISTS-LENINISTS UNITE – WIN THE ADVANCED TO COMMUNISM!!