First Published: Workers Vanguard, No. 144, February 11, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In an attempt to strike an unaccustomed “left” pose, the Maoist October League (OL) has renounced its support for Ed Sadlowski. The OL is calling for a boycott of the February 8 elections, insisting that “The most important struggle in the steel union today is not between McBride and Sadlowski; it is between these labor bureaucrats and the rank and file.” (Call, 24 January).
Over the years the OL has been among the most shameless apologists for liberal bureaucrats like Sadlowski and Arnold Miller. In an August 1973 editorial the Call blasted the Revolutionary Union (RU), its principal Maoist rival, for having the temerity to utter a few mealy-mouthed words of criticism of these labor traitors:
“On the question of supporting the Miller and Sadlowski campaigns, the OL takes sharp issue with [RU leader] Avakian’s line of “critical support.” Faced with the growing fascist assault of gangster miner-union leader Tony Boyle and USW boss I.W. Abel, it was the duty of the entire working class and its leadership to stand behind these two campaigns, which had the solid support of the rank and file.”
Today, however, the OL tells us that Miller, Sadlowski, etc., are labor lackeys of capitalism deserving of no support. But what has changed? Certainly it is not Sadlowski and Miller, who were every bit as reformist three years ago as they are today. Nor has the October League suddenly rejected trade-union reformism. This is underscored by its refusal to criticize its past support for Sadlowski as well as its assurance that “alliances with the labor union misleaders” cannot be ruled out in the future.
Zigs and zags in the workers movement are nothing new for Stalinist groupings. The OL’s “left” zag in the trade unions is not only designed to cover up its putrid record in the labor movement, but is closely bound up with its emergence as the Peking-loyal faction among American Maoists, most of whom have balked at endorsing the new Hua regime and/or supporting uncritically the increasing rightward thrust of Chinese foreign policy. Seeking to pose as the hard pole of orthodoxy within the Maoist movement, the OL proclaims: “From conciliating with the revisionists and with the Soviet Union, to prostrating before the liberals and the labor bureaucrats” various of its Maoist competitors “all now find common ground in their attacks on the party building forces and the October League at home and against China and the Marxist-Leninist movement internationally” (Call, 10 January).
There are two interrelated reasons why the OL would want to switch gears and come out against Sadlowski. For one thing, having more or less sewn up the Peking franchise Klonsky & Co. figure they are free to sound more “left” on domestic affairs–and in fact have a strong interest in doing so. In the last period, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP–formerly the RU) had struck a more militant pose than the OL in the trade unions, even at one point going so far as to denounce Sadlowski-like bureaucrats as “OOO’s” (”Opportunists Out of Office”). Now, with the RCP firmly on the Sadlowski bandwagon and “Oilcan Eddie” himself embarrassed over contributions from bourgeois liberals, the OL has a perfect opportunity to jump over its main rival within the Maoist spectrum and plant its banner just to the left of Avakian in the unions.
In opposing Sadlowski, the OL harps on the fact that he is supported by the Communist Party (CP), adding that the CP “hopes to use this left-liberal coalition tactic to expand support for the Soviet Union and its phony ’detente’ propaganda” (Call, 24 January). (The fact that yesterday the OL lined up with the CP in supporting Sadlowski and Miller is handily “forgotten.”) Here the OL appeals to reactionary anti-Sovietism, ostensibly as an argument for support to neither of the competing pro-capitalist bureaucrats. But just as Peking’s assertion that “Soviet social-imperialism” represents the greater danger leads to support to NATO and the most reactionary imperialist warmongers against the Soviet Union, so must it lead inevitably to political support to the most conservative, anti-Soviet wing of the labor bureaucracy. This is the clear logic of its politics and the logic of Stalinism, which everywhere betrays the interests of the working masses to the nationalist appetites of the bureaucracies of the deformed workers states.