Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Guardian Viewpoint: Sectarianism

First Published: The Guardian, April 16, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Guardian has been under intense political attack during the recent period.

This should surprise no one. Imperialists, revisionists, Trotskyists, social-democrats, libertarians and liberals have despised this newspaper for years.

Except that some of the more recent attacks have come from a couple of organizations within the movement which the Guardian has supported, served and participated: the new communist left.

In most ways, of course, political criticism is a good thing and we welcome it. Such criticism serves to sharpen the struggle required to contribute toward the development of the revolutionary forces in this country. In some ways it is hot so good, particularly when the criticism is dogmatic, sectarian or false, offered with the intention of “finishing off” an ally with whom one has differences rather than strengthening that ally against the common enemy.

The latest attacks have come from the Revolutionary Union and the October League, two organizations whose otherwise disharmonious views need no elaboration here. Each of these seems to view itself as the principal organization within the new communist movement and as the basis for any new Marxist-Leninist political party this movement will develop in the next year or two.

The RU’s extraordinarily long-winded attack on the Guardian as a “reactionary” tool of imperialism has already been commented upon in these pages. It was an ultra-“left” sectarian assault unworthy of serious consideration.

The OL’s criticism, briefer and more rational, was published in the April issue of the organization’s monthly newspaper, The Call. It is reprinted in full below, followed by a detailed reply and some conclusions by the Guardian.

According to the OL, the Guardian “covers up the real character of Soviet social imperialism . . . has wavered in the fight against modern revisionism” and often plays “the role of conciliators here in the U.S.” of the Communist party.

Our opinion of these charges is that they will only benefit the revisionists who, when sufficiently recovered from their shock upon learning that the section of the new communist movement they have vilified the most (the Guardian, by far) was actually a hidden accomplice, will take great solace in the knowledge that the Marxist-Leninist opposition to the Communist party is apparently unable to distinguish friend from foe and is consuming itself in sectarian infighting.


An important and many-sided ideological struggle has developed in the ranks of the new communist movement over the past few years. During that struggle, it has been possible to isolate and defeat two generally incorrect lines–those held by the Communist League (now the Communist Labor party) and the RU. But the struggle is far from over and many outstanding questions remain to s resolved. Of immediate concern in the present instance, however, is the deterioration of principled ideological struggle into unprincipled slander and dogmatic vilification. No organization which relies upon such methods of political struggle will ever succeed in building a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. Still, we believe that Marxist-Leninist forces in our country are growing stronger each day and will surely be able to overcome what we hope are temporary aberrations on the part of some organizations.

Serious political differences exist between the Guardian and the OL. We believe that our general political line, which is still developing, is basically correct, although we certainly make no claim to infallibility. Even if subsequent events prove that some of our analysis is not sound, it is preposterous to characterize the Guardian as a cover for revisionism.

Whatever the Guardian’s shortcomings, such charges harm the U.S. Marxist-Leninist movement. Given the nature of the class struggle, the responsibilities of this newspaper to reach a relatively large audience, the Guardian’s consistent struggle against U.S. imperialism, Soviet social imperialism, revisionism and Trotskyism and its militant support for the third world and the revolutionary forces, these charges can only serve to discredit the largest circulation independent newspaper in North America that puts forth Marxist-Leninist ideas.

The two biggest differences between the Guardian and the OL have to do with the Soviet Union. We believe that U.S. imperialism is the principal enemy of the world’s peoples and that Soviet social imperialism is a secondary enemy. OL posits that both are equal enemies. Secondly, we believe the USSR is no longer a socialist country and that it is on the road toward fully restoring capitalism. OL posits that capitalism has been fully restored in the USSR and that the Soviet Union is a fascist dictatorship similar to that in Germany under Hitler.

The Guardian is not unaware that it differs with People’s China in this regard. We have never permitted this difference to prevent us from being among China’s foremost supporters or to relent in our struggle against Soviet social Imperialism or the revisionism of the U.S. Communist party. On the contrary, we believe that in practice this newspaper has made a substantial contribution toward developing the Marxist-Leninist movement in this country because of our principled stand against the superpowers and the revisionist parties.


The Guardian believes it is necessary for the young Marxist-Leninist movement in the U.S. to be broad enough in its developing stages to encompass these differences. These issues will be the subject of struggle for many years to come and any effort to so narrow the Marxist-Leninist movement by consigning one side to the “reactionary” or revisionist dust-bin at this point is a sign of extreme political immaturity. If the words “friend” or “ally” in the anti-imperialist fight mean only those with whom one is in 100 percent agreement, the communist movement in the U.S. simply isn’t going to get anywhere.

We are not advocating “unity” at any price. To reject as reactionary or as a cover for revisionism, however, those forces which fight openly and hard against revisionism and Soviet social imperialism but believe the main blow must at this time be delivered against U.S. imperialism, is little more than sectarian posturing. The RU is well-known for this practice. The OL has had a much better record, not only on the question of unity but on political line questions in general (the Guardian and OL have many points of agreement). We think it is most unfortunate for the Marxist-Leninist movement that the OL seems to be reverting to a sectarian approach that the organization well rid itself of several years ago, particularly at the crucial stage when party-building has become such a high priority.

Fortunately, the Marxist-Leninist movement is considerably larger than the two component organizations mentioned here. Quite a few Marxist-Leninist formations, which differ with the Guardian on these questions, view our contribution as well within the framework of revolutionary politics. Also, we believe, an abundant number of American Marxist-Leninists share the Guardian’s point of view, while respecting and learning from other points of view.

What no one respects or learns from, except by negative example, however, is the kind of dogmatic sectarianism which characterizes both the RU’s massive broadside against us and the OL’s critique.