First Published: The Guardian, March 24, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Some U.S. Marxist-Leninist organizations have taken a class-collaborationist stand in relation to the national liberation struggles of Africa and elsewhere.
This was the political conclusion advanced by Guardian executive editor Irwin Silber in a series of public forums in California during the week of March 6-13. The meetings were held in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach and were arranged by the Guardian’s local bureaus in southern California and the Bay area.
“Let’s be completely frank about it,” said Silber. “Many groups claim to be fighting both superpowers equally. But more and more, both in practice and in words, they have clearly come to the conclusion that the Soviet Union is the principal enemy of the world’s peoples. But this is not merely an ’analysis’ which is confined to one’s newspaper or journal. It is the basis for a strategy which is obliged, by all logic, to direct the main blow against the Soviet Union.”
For U.S. Marxist-Leninists, he said, this can lead to a weakening of the struggle against American imperialism. In the case of Angola, Silber continued, it has led such groups to find themselves advocating the exact same “solution” as the one put forward by their “own” bourgeoisie, to echo U.S. imperialism’s slanders against the Angolan national liberation movement and to virtually shut their eyes to the role of racist South Africa.
Silber cited a recent article in The Call, the newspaper of the October League (OL), which declared that the Soviet Union is “the main enemy in Angola.” To buttress this contention, he said, the OL was obliged to distort the real situation in Angola. Thus, in the current issue of The Call, the OL says: “The map of Angola on the day the Portuguese left last November shows that UNITA controlled approximately 50% of the country, FNLA 30% and MPLA 20%. They gained control of these areas through armed struggle against the Portuguese.”
“But the fact is,” said Silber, “that the FNLA-UNITA forces had seized control of large areas from the MPLA in the weeks immediately preceding formal independence, a feat they were able to accomplish by virtue of armed intervention from South Africa and Zaire.”
Serious though this incorrect stand on Angola is, charged the Guardian’s executive editor, its real danger rested in the fact that “Angola is the opening battle in the war for all of South Africa. Where will these groups stand when the rest of the African ’dominoes’ start falling? Will they once again stand with the racists, with the colonialists, with the ragtag army of fascist mercenaries defending ’the free world,’ in short, with their own ruling class against the people of Southern Africa?’’
Given their view that the Soviet Union is the principal enemy, Silber stated, ”such a possibility is real.” Speaking of African liberation forces which receive or may receive Soviet military aid, he argued: “If self-determination means anything, it means that people struggling for their freedom have the right to determine for themselves their strategy and tactics in the revolutionary war, including whose support they will accept. It is an act of national chauvinism for those who call themselves U.S. communists to make acceptance of their world view or political line conditions for their support to the national liberation movements.”
Silber also cited Puerto Rico and Oman as other areas in the world where some U.S. Marxist-Leninist organizations had taken stands putting them in objective alliance with their own ruling class. He specifically charged that a recent issue of “Revolution,” the newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP–formerly RU), which had contained an eight-page “expose” of socialist Cuba as a Soviet “pawn” and “neocolony,” was providing a “left cover for the military aggression which both Ford and Kissinger have been threatening against Cuba in recent weeks.”
During the question-and-answer sessions that followed each talk, organizations that put forward the above views did not deny Silber’s assertion that they had come to see the Soviet Union as the principal enemy in the world. The Guardian’s view is that U.S. imperialism is the principal enemy, while Soviet social-imperialism is a secondary danger.
Several questioners noted that the People’s Republic of China seemed to have developed the same position which the Guardian was criticizing and asked Silber to comment on that. “The important thing is not whether we agree or disagree with China,” Silber replied. “We have respect and admiration for the People’s Republic of China as a country whose socialist society has been an inspiration to the entire world. We have a great many points of agreement with China, but we have always maintained the necessity of each party and movement in the world developing its views in an independent fashion. We are basing our stand on the concrete conditions in Southern Africa and the concrete tasks facing U.S. Marxist-Leninists within the U.S. and have come to a differing conclusion regarding the principal danger.”
More than 400 people from the San Francisco Bay area attended the meeting in Oakland, held at the Laney College auditorium. Also speaking on the program was Maria Elena Salazar, a representative of CASA, General Confederation of Workers, a Mexican Marxist-Leninist organization.
Some 200 people attended the Los Angeles meeting, with smaller audiences in the other cities.