First Published: The Communist, Vol. II, No. 4, December 15, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In the November issue of THE CALL, the October League (M-L) called on “the genuine Marxist-Leninist forces in the US to unite and build a new communist party.” In the spirit of unity-struggle-unity, we have taken steps to investigate OL’s call.
We unite with OL on some fundamental things: we unite on the need to apply the science of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung thought to concrete conditions of the US to make proletarian revolution; we unite on the struggle against modern revisionism and the full restoration of capitalism in the USSR; we unite on the need for a world-wide united front against the two superpowers and on the leading role of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Republic of Albania in this united front; we unite on our strategic objective to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat; we unite on the need to base our party on democratic centralism; we unite on the existence of an Afro-American nation in the Black Belt South and on the need to uphold the right of political secession; we unite on the demand for immediate Puerto Rican independence; we unite on the need to struggle for the emancipation of women; we unite on the need for struggle within the unions to isolate and expel opportunists from leadership.
However unity of phrases is not enough. We learned in the struggle within the old BWC that petty bourgeois liberalism and opportunism can cover themselves with Marxism-Leninism and that petty bourgeois democracy still has great influence within our movement. Unity must always be tested in struggle.
Our differences with OL largely concern economist and petty bourgeois democratic tendencies in the application of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought to the concrete conditions of revolution in the US. In a separate article appearing in this issue we take up some of the differences we have with OL’s line and practice over the past several years. In this article we take up our differences with the call to build a party.
OL states that it is the struggle against ultra-leftism that has set the ideological basis for the formation of the new party: “This fight against Trotskyism, anarchism, syndicalism and ultra-leftism in general also strengthened the movement and set the ideological basis for the formation of the new party.”
We have serious differences with OL on this point. We do not feel either that the struggle against ultra-leftism has set this ideological basis, nor could it. The primary errors our movement has made in the past period have been errors of right opportunism: belittling the role of theory and its organizing and transforming role, bowing to the spontaneity of the mass movement, amateurishness and primitiveness in matters of organization, lack of vigilance against revisionism and liberalism, a failure to take up the task of winning the advanced to communism as the first step in uniting socialism with the workers movement, and a failure to establish factory nuclei as the basic unit of communist organization. These are the primary things that have prevented us from overcoming opportunism and winning the vanguard of the working class to communism. And these errors are not overcome, nor do we establish the basis for overcoming them, by the struggle against ultra-leftism.
In fact this position of OL deprives the party building movement in the US of the ideological basis for the formation of a party. The Bolshevik party of Lenin and Stalin taught that the ideological basis of a Marxist Party are the lessons of Lenin’s WHAT IS TO BE DONE, which are primarily directed against economism and right opportunism (see HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION – BOLSHEVIK, Ch.2). Instead of applying these lessons to the concrete problems of party building in the US today, OL has reduced the question of setting the ideological basis for the party to a question of teaching better manners to those organizations among us that are too sectarian.
OL is also wrong on this point. They point to important gains our movement has made in moving beyond national forms of communist organization and in the growth of propaganda and agitational material. But for OL, winning the advanced sector of the class has not been seen primarily as a task of building and recruiting through Bolshevik cells in the factories, instead they have emphasized recruiting through the mass movement: “Under communist leadership a significant number of workers have joined the various fight back organizations and through them have been recruited to the Communist movement and into its leadership.” In the WC(ML) we support the most varied forms of worker organization and recruitment through them, but we emphasize the necessity to break with Social Democratic traditions and make factory nuclei the primary unit of our organizational life. To be primary means that recruiting cadres and training leaders comes primarily through the work of Bolshevik factory cells. This is the only way to ensure that the social composition of the new party will be a vanguard detachment of the working class in more than name only and to ensure a Bolshevik style of party life.
We find the form of these principles peculiar. What is called for is a draft party program that sets forth scientifically the objective conditions for revolution in the US and our tasks. This – and no bragging about a qualitative ideological leap – will show the theoretical development of our movement.
Furthermore, these principles do not draw lines of demarcation, but instead blur important theoretical differences. For example, the principles are intended to make a clean break with what OL calls neo-Trotskyism and what they consider one of the main representatives of neo-Trotskyism. But the RCP could stand on every one of the principles OL has put forth.
Finally, the whole method in which the principles are presented reflects the petty bourgeois politician’s search for votes rather than a proletarian presentation of an objective analysis: “These principles, of unity must be general enough to unite the forces, but particular enough to draw a line of separation from the opportunists.” But according to Marxism-Leninism, “generality” and “particularity” are concepts of science which flow from an objective analysis of concrete conditions, not a way to line up camps. In fact the implication that we know who the opportunists are and draw lines to exclude them is sectarian; the correct method is to draw lines of demarcation scientifically and wage the struggle against opportunism on that basis.
We take up separately line differences around the principles of unity.
We feel the mechanics of the proposal are inadequate to unite genuine Marxist-Leninists throughout the country. For example, OL emphasizes that at this time there are “nearly a dozen Marxist-Leninist publications including newspapers and theoretical magazines.” Therefore the conditions exist, it goes on, “for raising this to a higher level with the publication of a Leninist type paper that will appear under the auspices of the Party at least weekly.” A year ago (Nov. 1974) they suggested a merger of Marxist-Leninist newspapers but nothing came of it. What is their plan at this point? Considering the dozen publications realistically, unless the reference to them is mere form and what it means is to publish THE CALL weekly, ignoring the other 11, there is some difficult work that has to go down. That is why OL must speak in sober detail about the mechanics of a plan for party formation.
In the WC(M-L) we believe this process requires some form of organizing committee where differences among comrades can be fully debated on the basis of a draft party program and draft party rules. A Leninist type paper which genuinely unites the Leninist trend of our movement can make important contributions to bring this about. But OL proposes a good deal less than that.
They state: “We call for all Marxist Leninists to discuss this paper with us (“us” not “each other”) and to hold meetings where it can be debated and unity forged. After this discussion we propose that the new party be established around a temporary leading body which can survey the organizational forces represented by the party (??!!), establish democratic centralism and prepare us for our first Congress, to be held within a year of our founding.” No party program, no organizing committee and no founding Congress! This reflects a petty bourgeois democratic organizational style. It is too informal for a Bolshevik type party!!
We are seriously committed to building a new and genuine Marxist Leninist Communist Party in the US. It is our central task. The growing danger of a new world war underscores the urgency of that task. We share important points of unity with OL that must never be belittled. But there are also important differences which must be clarified through struggle. This struggle must be conducted in full view of all communists and advanced workers. To unite Marxist Leninists OL must draw a clear line of demarcation between its own line and practice and the petty bourgeois democratic trend of our movement on the burning questions we face. We expect OL to meet this frank statement of our views with a principled response in the spirit of open struggle to overcome differences.