Published: The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 5, January 2, 1978.
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.
According to the October issue of REVOLUTION, the newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), the Revolutionary Workers Congress (RWC) was recently dissolved and many of its members joined the RCP. We have had some close experience with these organizations – in particular with the RWC – which consolidated the main right opportunist tendency in the old Black Workers Congress (BWC) and find the result a predictable outcome of the failure of either to take up the tasks of party building or the struggle to defeat right opportunism and economism in our movement.
The RCP has used the occasion to dredge up discredited lines of the old Revolutionary Union (RU) on party building and the Black National Question.
The vehicle is a history of the National Liaison Committee (NLC), a coalition formed by the RU, the BWC and the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO) in 1972 to carry on joint work and to lead to a party. Speculating on the ignorance of many comrades new to the struggle, a former leader of the BWC and the RWC, “D.B.”, rewrites the history of the NLC making three basic points: (1) the NLC was a correct method to build the party sabotaged by the BWC and PRRWO; (2) the NLC was sabotaged by the narrow nationalism or “bundism” of these organizations; and (3) the lines of the RU/RCP were right all along on party building and the national question.
The fact is that the NIC was fundamentally incorrect as a method of party building and was rejected by the whole movement. This for two reasons: (1) during the life of the NLC neither the RU nor any other member considered party building the central task of communists; (2) in a movement characterized by circle autonomy, amateurishness and lack of training, the NLC did not have a plan to prepare the conditions for a party nor did it address itself to the task of preparing the conditions.
Although he once learned better in the BWC, “D.B.” now argues that it is dogmatic to consider party building as the central task whenever you don’t have a revolutionary vanguard party. In spite of the degeneration of the CPUSA, “D.B.” has adopted the RU line that before 1974 “building the new Party was not the main task because the young communist movement in this country had not accumulated enough practical experience in mass struggle....”(REVOLUTION, May 1974)
This is a line which belittles the indispensable role of the conscious element at all times and all places if our practical political work is to have a class conscious revolutionary character. It is a product of tailest work in the spontaneous movement. In other words, it is in essence a theoretical attack on the leading role of a vanguard party and an ideological justification for bowing to spontaneity.
The RCP and “D.B.” claim that accumulating experience in the mass movement prepares the conditions for party building. We agree that the conditions mist be prepared to organize a party. But these forces expose their backwardness by attacking party building as the central task on this basis. Instead it is essential to see preparing the conditions as a decisive part of the task of party building. A Marxist-Leninist approach insists on identifying openly and attacking in a conscious way the obstacles of theoretical backwardness, organizational amateurishness and political narrowness which prevent the formation of a solid, vanguard core. These struggles axe necessarily linked to the task of fighting for the practical leadership of the day to day struggles of the masses, but there is a world of difference between “accumulating enough experience in mass struggle” and fighting for the leadership and conscious political unity of the vanguard.
However, adapting the narrow economist view that characterized the RU/RCP party building effort, “D.B.” writes: “As the objective conditions were changing, including the fact that the struggle of the whole class was beginning to grow, the mass movement had corns up against the absence of a genuine vanguard to lead the struggle...”
Not before?! Not in the Civil Rights movement or the great national rebellions of the 60s?! Only at the point where RU cadres had accumulated enough experience in practical activity?! Not since, as in last year’s rebellion at Humboldt Park?!
To insist on this reasoning today is laughable, laughable and hypocritical. Though standing now on the RCP’s line that party building could not have been the central task before May of 1974, “D.B.” suggests that the NLC could have formed a party if it had not been sabotaged by the BWC and PRRWO. We disagree, the NLC could not have led a genuine party building effort under any circumstances because at that time the conditions for a new party had not been prepared and the NLC had no plan to prepare them. The only proposals brought forward were for a merger of the leading bodies of the RU, BWC and PRRWO and for “flying squads” to contact and collect local groups that were ’out there’. The proposal did not identify the source of fragmentation and disunity in our movement. It did not propose a concrete method to overcome these obstacles and lay the foundation for principled unity. No proposal was put forward for organizations and collectives to develop their work in a step by step way around a common plan, no proposal for revolutionary training, no plan for developing and stiffening organizational life, no method for protracted struggle over differences – in other words, a plan that was no plan. Honest comrades thirsted for direction, but the NLC offered none. After all, party building was not the central task.
As the BWC pointed out long ago, the basic view of the RU regarding the NLC was that it was a way to form a party before opportunist elements (meaning the October League and the Communist League) formed one first.
Shamelessly capitulating to the RCP’s opportunism, “D.B.” now claims that the NLC was split because of the “bundism” or narrow nationalism of the BWC and PRRWO.
These two organizations grew out of the Black and Puerto Rican national movements of the late 60s and early 70s.
From the outset the BWC was saturated with petty bourgeois tendencies and petty bourgeois nationalist tendencies also. But the effort to make these the main thing in the struggle is incorrect and an obvious reflection of the RU/RCP’s longstanding national chauvinism. It is nothing but a new attempt to revive its discredited line that narrow nationalism, not great nation chauvinism was the main danger to the communist and party building movements in 1974.
The BWC made serious nationalist errors, the most important of which was to justify a nationally exclusive form of communist organization as reflected in its name. But with study and progress in the grasp of Marxism-Leninism – progress which took a qualitative leap forward as the struggle with RU unfolded – it repudiated these lines and made public self-criticism. The break with the RU in the NLC, in other words, did not reflect a turn toward nationalism, but a higher level of Marxist Leninist consciousness on party building and the national question.
On the other hand, it was the backwardness and social democratic character of the organization that left it vulnerable to continuing nationalist tendencies in its ranks. The BWC’s error on “revolutionary nationalism” is an example of this. At one point the BWC called Mao and other Marxist-Leninists of the third world revolutionary nationalists. What Mao said is that communists of an oppressed nation are patriots who give staunch support to the revolutionary aspirations of the masses for national liberation. This patriotism he called applied internationalism. But while a communist can be a patriot and be in the forefront of the national struggle, he is not a revolutionary nationalist, but a Marxist-Leninist. The BWC’s failure to distinguish in an effective way between nationalism and patriotism showed an important theoretical confusion, but not ‘bundism.’
These errors came forward in a militant effort to defeat the much more grave national chauvinism of the RU which denied that the nationalism of the masses of oppressed nations is revolutionary. DB now joins in criticizing that line and writes: “revolutionary nationalism is itself a question of motion, and in the final analysis, again, either it must take a qualitative leap to the stand of the proletariat or go backward to bourgeois nationalism.” This is abstract reasoning that liquidates the revolutionary significance of the national question under imperialism today. The political fact is that the aspirations of the Afro-American masses for national liberation in the Black Belt South are a component part of world proletarian socialist revolution and, in the “final analysis,” are aspirations for the seizure of state power. That is the point the RCP liquidates. Of course communists will wage tireless struggle to raise the revolutionary class consciousness of the Afro-American proletariat. A Marxist-Leninist is never content with national consciousness only. But the genuine national aspirations of the popular masses of the Black nation are revolutionary without any leap to proletarian class consciousness.
But of course “D.B.” and the RU/RCP also disagree on the question of state power for the Afro-American nation. Comrades remember that according to the RU because the “negation” had been “negated” we had entered a new era on the national question in the U.S. – a “nation of a new type” had emerged. Under rising capitalism the national struggle is an anti-feudal struggle and an internal and particular state problem. But as Lenin and Stalin make clear, in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, the national problem in an oppressed nation is an anti-imperialist struggle as well and becomes part of the general international problem of worldwide proletarian revolution. This would seem clear. But, creative to the bone, RU explained that we had entered a new third period where the Black National question in the US was once again a particular and internal state problem based on the completely superficial fact that the Black nation fell within the boundaries of the U.S. state.
The RU also explained that a nation of a new type was one that existed anywhere in the US Black people happened to be – that is, one that did not conform to the scientific criteria for the existence of a nation established by Stalin and the Bolshevik Party.
Can there be any doubt that these bizarre formulations, which the BMC and PRRWO adopted for a tine, were at the source of their split with RU – and not the strawman of “bundism”. These “young communists” from RU who had not accumulated enough practical experience to make party building their central task nonetheless took on the task of substituting their “new type” of views on the national question for the bested principles of Marxism-Leninism. In fact they came up with nothing new at all – their results were classical revisionist positions and the method was a classical ruse of petty bourgeois liberals as Lenin explained in WHAT IS TO BE DONE:
As this criticism of Marxism has been going on for a long time now, from the political platform, from university chairs, in numerous pamphlets and in a number of learned treatises, as the entire younger generation of the educated classes has been systematically trained for decades on this criticism, it is not surprising that the ’new, critical’ trend in Social Democracy should spring up, all complete, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter. The content of this new trend did not have to grow and take shape; it was transferred bodily from bourgeois literature to socialist literature. (Pek. ed., p. 8)
Practical experience had to be accumulated (though not even much of that!), but Marxist theory was easy – that could be transferred bodily!
The attack on one error covers another and it is indisputable that the RU/RCP’s attack on narrow nationalism was a cover for its own liquidation of the national question and of its revolutionary significance. Self-determination is not at the heart of black liberation, the RCP says, and yet self-determination is the highest, essential democratic right of every nation. The right to self-determination, which means the right to political secession and state power, can not be reduced to the status of just another demand in the struggle against discrimination. As Lenin said:
This privilege (state power) was not mitigated by secession (the essence of reformism lies in mitigating an evil and not in destroying it), but entirely removed (the principle criterion of the revolutionary character of a program.) DISCUSSION ON SELF-DETERMINATION SUMMED UP.
For the RU/RCP, and for “D.B.”, self-determination is a reformist demand.
The line of the RU/RCP also pretends that the proletarianization of the Black nation solved the land question in the Black Belt South and belittles the significance of the control of territory for an oppressed nation. But proletarianization has not eliminated the anti-imperialist tasks of the Black liberation struggle. It has not transformed economic control over land and capital in the Black Belt South by the bourgeoisie of the oppressor nation. It haa not reduced the national question to a question of class exploitation only. To merge the national and class struggles in the US does not mean that there is only the struggle against common class exploitation. The point is that the common struggle – in both cases for state power against the same enemy – is the basis for an alliance that will destroy US imperialism. But this involves the common revolutionary front of two struggles, not the liquidation of the one or the other.
Can there be any doubt that the revisionist and national chauvinist lines of the RU/RCP sabotaged what principled unity had been achieved in the NLC?
The real failure which led to the disintegration of the BWC was the failure of those leaders who went on to the RWC to take up the struggle against right opportunism, economism and a social democratic style of work in the old organization. They refused to give up the habits of an earlier period and justified the refusal theoretically. They attacked the necessity to centralize the leadership of the BWC and defended the autonomy of local districts, they attacked the lending role of leadership, they attacked democratic centralism and the need for a unified center, they attacked regular reporting (one leader claiming that the tradition of the Black masses is oral), attacked the role of the newspaper in party building and the task of deepening and expanding the scope of propaganda to the advanced, and yet they developed a bureaucratic and cliquish style of work thoroughly isolated from district life which left them unable to give principled direction to inner-party struggle.
Their work after the formation of RWC was a reflection of the bankrupt principles they had defended in the BWC. Their call was “back to the mass movement” and they showed themselves incapable of taking on the tasks of party building. Their newspaper “Movin’ On!” was painfully economist and written in a condescending style of false simplicity which reflected their contempt for the working masses, and especially for advanced elements. This newspaper appeared only sporadically for a few issues. Later another paper, the “Revolutionary Worker,” was published only long enough to attack the line of the Chinese Communist Party on the international situation and to abandon dialectics, calling both superpowers the same danger to the same degree and to the same extent.
Errors which plagued the leadership of “D.B.” and others in the BWC also undermined the work of the African Liberation Support Committee, which to our knowledge is the only systematic task the RWC did take up. Although in leadership of this organization for a certain time, they did not provide systematic summations of the organization’s work to local chapters or reports on the work of leadership. There was no conscious planning for a newsletter or national campaigns. When local chapters took initiative on these points, there was no coordination of work. In short, a downright sloppy style of work provided the elements for the disintegration of that mass organization as it had earlier done in the BWC.
There is a lesson here exposing the RU/RCP Line on party building: Practical experience in the mass movement is worthless unless it is based on the effort to develop a vanguard style of work based or the revolutionary theory and method of Marxism-Leninism. But this in turn requires training and a conscious plan which considers first of all the task of training the advanced from our midst and from among the masses. The leaders of the RWC fought this line in the BWC and social practice has demonstrated with what results.
(An expanded version of D.B.’s history of the NLC is in the Fall/Winter 1977 issue of the RCP’s theoretical journal.)