Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Proletarian Unity League

Bring Home the Struggle Against “Left” Sectarianism: A Further Response to the Committee of Five


First Issued: November 1, 1977. Published in Party Building and the Main Danger, September 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Since the drafting of our September 1, 1976 Statement and our paper, “More on Dogmatism and the Main Danger,” (November 1, 1976), the conference organizers have produced a set of Unity Principles for a Marxist-Leninist Conference. Some of the organizing groups have also issued statements or given speeches on various points under discussion. These additional statements have served to clarify the conference 0rganizers’ perspectives on some questions. In this paper, we will take up some further problems raised by the conference organizers’ initiatives in the past few months, drawing mainly on the Unity Principles, a speech by a representative of the PWOC, and some other documents. The conference organizers themselves have asked us to update our position in light of the Unity Principles.

Our previous two papers have dealt with our differences around three main questions: the nature of the main danger to the communist forces; the place of differences around international line in current party-building discussions; the analysis of the present-day Marxist-Leninist movement and the party-building line underlying some of the differences on the first two points. On these basic matters, the position of the conference organizers remains essentially unchanged. What has changed is what the comrades have called the “context” of their efforts. We will begin with a look at that context.


In a change from the earlier statement, the letter accompanying the Unity Principles no longer speaks of “dogmatist” and “anti-dogmatist trends,” though constituent groups like the PWOC still do. Unfortunately, the letter offers no explanation as to why the term “trend” has now been dropped. We assume this is because the notion of “the Marxist-Leninist wing of the party-building movement” has replaced it.

The notion that the communist movement has undergone a fundamental division, “a definite break” (Guardian supplement) producing two distinct trends, wings, or even consolidating into “a new totality, the anti-dogmatist/anti-revisionist communist movement (Ann Arbor Collective (M-L)) has become quite popular in the last eight months. None of those who believe that the movement has split in this way has offered a shred of theoretical argument to support this definition of the communist forces, except to mention the admittedly sharp differences that have cropped up over the international situation. In that sense, this division, like the ultra-Left’s various “revolutionary wings,” “Leninist trends,” “unity trends” and what have you rests on unproven and in our view subjectivist assessments of the current situation. No section of the movement has demonstrated either practically or theoretically that it constitutes a definite, correct Marxist-Leninist trend, consolidated ideologically and politically, as against the ultra-Left trend in the communist movement. (For this reason, among others, we reject the thesis of the Ann Arbor Collective (M-L) and the Guardian that “economism” or “pragmatism, economism and conciliation with revisionism” constitutes the main danger in the anti-dogmatist “movement” or “trend.” The reaction to dogmatism, sectarianism and ”left opportunism has not consolidated itself into a “movement” or “trend.” It lacks the internal coherence to make talk of a main danger to it meaningful.)

In a recent Boston speech, a comrade from the PWOC asserted – without any explanation or concrete evidence – that the “anti-dogmatist trend” had somehow reached its “threshold of maturity.” Unsupported by any definite criteria or preconditions, such a claim bears no small resemblance to those of our “Parties,” who have crossed any number of those “thresholds.” Just as “the multiplication of parties, pre-parties and other groups belies” the CLP’s, the RCP’s, CP(M-L)’s, etc., declarations that the period characterized by many disunited groups has drawn to a close (Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type? Against the Ultra-Left Line (TTM), p. 40), so the continued existence of real differences within the emerging anti-“left” tendency belies the PWOC’s rosy view of the anti-dogmatist “trend.”

Even in this same speech, however, as well as in conversation, many comrades from the committee of five have recognized the extremely undeveloped state of this “trend,” its ideological, political, and organizational weaknesses, the relatively superficial and untested character of its unity, the inexperience of many of its adherents, and so on. Some have even agreed with our use of the term “tendency,” calling it an “unknown quantity.” And judged against Marxist-Leninists’ struggle for a genuinely multi-national Party, the immaturity of this developing tendency becomes pretty clear. In this regard, the PWOC spokesperson’s statement in Boston to the effect that we developed into Marxist-Leninists primarily in response to the Vietnam War and out of the anti-imperialist movement reflects a rather myopic view of the communist movement, let alone the “anti-dogmatist trend” – ignoring as it does the enormous and seminal role of the Black Liberation Movement in the formation of today’s Marxist-Leninists.

The difference in these assessments has practical implications for the construction of an anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. Each is closely related to a view of what step we have reached in this difficult process. In their original letter of June 9, 1976, the committee of five said, “We view the development of this trend which is both anti-revisionist and anti-dogmatist as important to the development of the revolutionary movement in this country.” They recognized there that “...defining this trend, the unities and differences existing within it, requires that we attempt to contact and have principled discussions with other organizations and individuals throughout the country.” It was “within this context” that they “discussed the possibility of organizing a conference of Marxist-Leninists based on two points of unity...” In their statement of January 31, 1977, however, something new appears: the aim of this conference has become establishing “an ideological center for the Marxist-Leninist wing of the party-building movement.”


While the idea of an “ideological center” is not spelled out in this statement, it has come to have a special place in the minds of some of the conference organizers. For them it relates particularly to the level of unity necessary for this conference: we have been told several times that this is not simply a “conference on party-building,” as we have put it, but a conference to establish an ideological center which is narrower than the trend itself. Therefore we must set the highest level of unity possible. But possible for what?

Perhaps the process mentioned in the June 9 letter of “defining this trend, the unities and differences existing within it” has somehow taken place behind the scenes in the months from June to January. We ourselves are all for an ideological center, or for that matter a political and organizational one. Without some center, and without taking the steps necessary to build one, the current anti-“left” reaction will remain what it is – a potential embryo of a real trend. But without the preparation, the organizational work and ideological struggle necessary to give legitimacy to the authority of some center, the committee has chosen to exclude from all conference work forces which are (by the committee’s own admission) “within the trend.” They have done so in the name of the “ideological center,” explaining that given ours and others’ line on the “main enemy to the world’s peoples,” we cannot belong to it. Comrades, how did you decide this?

An objective assessment of the actual state of the “trend” – and PWOC’s own contradictory remarks only confirm this – leads us to believe that we remain at the point of “defining this trend, the unities and the differences existing within it.” The first step in this process is to organize broad, democratic ideological struggle among all anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist forces around these questions, and the role of any center is to help promote, clarify, centralize, and formulate a plan for the resolution of this struggle. A center which stifles rather than promotes, reverses positions rather than clarifies them, disorganizes rather than centralizes, and formulates a plan which suppresses rather than resolves this struggle would not push forward the fight against modern revisionism and contemporary ultra-leftism.


The present formulation of the conference organizers on the main danger represents a slight change from their original position. We must assume that since no explanation of this difference accompanies the new version, the conference organizers therefore see the two as basically the same.

The comrades write,

While in the long run the main opportunist danger to the developing Marxist-Leninist forces is presented by modern revisionism as manifested in the CPUSA, in the present period, within the forces struggling to build a new revolutionary party, the main opportunist danger is presented by modern dogmatism. Modern dogmatism in the U.S., which is “left” in form, right in essence, must be seen as the wages for the sins of revisionism; it is an over-reaction to the revisionist capitulation to the bourgeoisie. Modern dogmatism fails to apply dialectics to the U.S. reality; it seeks to transform living science into a set of lifeless dogmas. It has failed to understand both the generalities and the particularities of the class struggle; and it has failed to see any creative tasks for Marxist-Leninists.

Here point 15 repeats the error of the earlier formulation of June, 1976, and that of resolutions and articles by the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee and other comrades. As we have said before, the term “dogmatism” does not by itself specify an “opportunist danger.” It is a philosophical error, and it accompanies different kinds of opportunist dangers. In other words, it represents a general danger in philosophy, but strictly speaking, it does not arise as the “wages for the sins of revisionism.” It is an error of a different kind.

The new formulation qualifies this danger with the term “modern.” By this, the conference organizers imply that a specific type of “dogmatism” has grown up in the present period, just as the forms of revisionism in this period differ from those of the Second International in some respects. But though other statements have indicated that this “modern dogmatism” has an “international” character, none of the groups organizing the conference or associated with this general train of thought have provided any definition for this “modern dogmatism.” We suspect that it somehow refers to the Chinese and Albanian lines on a series of questions.

In response to our criticism that dogmatism does not represent a specific form of opportunism, a leading spokesperson for the PWOC has advised us to “rush off a telegram to Peking,” because this spokesperson believes that the Chinese comrades adhere to this formulation (Boston speech, June 1977). At first, we found this an odd piece of advice. On the one hand, the PWOC criticizes those who side with the Chinese on a number of fundamental questions as “dogmatists.” On the other hand, the PWOC appeals to the undeniable prestige of the Chinese Party when their own formulations are questioned. But in fact, the positions have a great deal in common. For in each case, the PWOC has not put before the communist movement a concrete, substantive analysis of the point at issue. It criticizes those who agree with the basic lines of Chinese, Albanian, and other Marxist-Leninists’ international analysis as “dogmatists,” yet does not provide any alternative analysis of the Soviet Union or the balance of forces in the world today. It wards off criticism of its “dogmatism” formulations by appealing to the prestige of the CPC, yet does not provide any theoretical definition of exactly what it means by dogmatism. This failure to provide an alternative analysis, coupled with charges of “class-collaborationism,” “dogmatism,” and “flunkyism,” raises questions about the consistency of the comrades’ struggle against dogmatism and sectarianism. That the conference Organizers have called for the exclusion of those who disagree with them on these points only reinforces these doubts.

To the foregoing analysis of dogmatism, point 15 adds a new element, though one always implicit in past versions: “It is this dogmatism which provides the theoretical foundation for a political and organizational practice of ultra-leftism and sectarianism.” We have discussed this formulation elsewhere,[1] so here we will restrict ourselves to a few summary points:

If dogmatism does not define a distinct kind of opportunism and instead accompanies both Right and “Left” deviations, then calling “dogmatism” either the main danger or its theoretical foundation will not clearly identify the real obstacles to our work. On the contrary, it may sidetrack the struggle against ultra-leftism. The Revolutionary Union/ RCP has long opposed “dogma” and has the journal and newspaper articles to prove it. Its opposition to “dogma” in no way lessens its past and present commitment to “left” opportunist, policies. Today organizations like the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee and the Sojourner Truth Organization denounce all sorts of alleged “dogmas” like multinational organizations, the leading role of the proletariat, or the need to work within existing reactionary trade unions. Groups like these will readily enlist in any war against dogmatism. But they won’t prove good soldiers in the fight against “left” opportunism.


“Left” opportunism has its source in anarchist ideology, while Right opportunism has its source in reformist ideology, in liberalism. But dogmatism has no specific ideological source or any specific ideological content. Therefore it can’t sum up for us the source and content of the errors made by the communist movement. The real content of anti-dogmatism has consisted in those other lines which some comrades find dogmatic. Political line is most often cited, and most particularly, political line on the international situation. And here the vagueness of the anti-dogmatism formulation shows up very clearly.

If we take stands on certain political lines as the key link in determining who is and who is not dogmatic, we get a very mixed bag of forces. Both PFOC and STO have some bad things to say about the “dogmas” of the two superpower analysis, and both would agree with the “anti-dogmatic” view that the U.S. alone constitutes the main enemy of the peoples of the world. Presumably considerations of this kind have led the conference organizers to say that STO and PFOC might belong to the “anti-dogmatist trend.” We certainly wouldn’t take opposition to the two superpowers analysis as proof of admission to the “Marxist-Leninist wing,” but for the moment that’s beside the point. The point is, the comrades have talked of including the PFOC and STO, with their anarchist dogma about the effects of isolated bombings or their anarcho-syndicalist dogma about the impermissibility of signing trade union contracts, in the anti-dogmatist, Marxist-Leninist “wing” (even if they do not include them in the “ideological center” of that wing). And with that, we might as well throw the idea of organizing any trend opposed to “left” opportunism – to semi-anarchism and petty-bourgeois revolutionism out the window.

Another example brings out the inadequacy of the anti-dogmatist formulation even more clearly.

The PWOC believes that the line of the RU/RCP on the relationship between reforms and revolution, as exemplified in their stand on questions like busing and the ERA, is wrong. So do we. The PWOC also believes that the RU/RCP’s errors are part of the main danger, and so do we. But the PWOC describes the main danger as dogmatism, which it also considers the theoretical foundation of ultra-leftism, and defines dogmatism as “bookworship” or “tearing quotations out of context.” Does “dogmatism” specify the RU/RCP’s errors on the relationship of reforms and revolution very well? Apparently not, since the PWOC (like the Guardian) identifies the RU/RCP’s errors on busing and the ERA as “rightist in both form and content,” (July and September Organizer; see also the Guardian’s June supplement) along with their errors on theory and propaganda. We think their stand on these central issues reveal not rightism but ultra-leftism.

The RU’s line on busing and the ERA does indeed conciliate and effectively converge with the reactionary opposition to these reforms. But it stems not from “semi-liberalism” (one of Lenin’s terms for reformism or Right opportunism) but rather from “semi-anarchism.” Specifically, their position derives from an ultra-left conception of the relationship between reforms and revolution, between the fight for consistent democracy and the fight for socialism. This ultra-left conception joins their equally “left” view of the working class as a spontaneously united and revolutionary “parched prairie” which only awaits the RU’s “single spark method” to set it off on a surging rampage for state power. In this context, democratic demands which will provide better conditions for the struggle to unify and prepare the working class for further revolutionary battles represent a dangerous trap. Since the working class is already more or less prepared, democratic demands also represent an unnecessary diversion.

Ultra-leftism and anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism hold this romantic view of the working class in common, because ultra-leftism itself is a type of “semi-anarchism.” Similarly ultra-leftism gets its opposition to reforms, particularly political and democratic reforms, from the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist tradition. To describe this specific form of “opposition to struggle for re-reforms and democracy as ’contradictory’ to socialist revolution” and of “the same Economist refusal to see and pose political questions,” Lenin coined the term “imperialist economism,” an economism of the ultra-left type.

So to call the RU/RCP’s errors “dogmatist” only muddies the waters. The PWOC thinks that the RU gets its dogmas around busing and the ERA from the Right. It therefore sees the Marxist-Leninist position as somewhere to the left of the RU position. A number of “Left-Wing” groups have made just this analysis of the RU’s stand on busing and the ERA. But there is no way you can start with the facts on the RU’s stand on the busing struggle in Boston, for example, or on the ERA, and make any convincing case that their errors have a reformist and liberal character. We on the other hand think that the RU gets its dogmas around the relationship of reforms and revolution from the “Left,” from petit-bourgeois revolutionism. We therefore see the Marxist-Leninist position as somewhere to the right of the RU position on this question. The implications of this difference for the struggle for democracy and reforms are potentially very great.

As we have argued in TTM, anarchist, not reformist conceptions of the respective roles of agitation and propaganda and the place of the theoretical struggle lie at the root of the RU/RCP’s deprecation of theory in general and their downplaying of propaganda in the training of communist workers. No quotations, in or out of context, or any Marxist-Leninist book, worshipped or not, can justify the RU/RCP’s position and practice in these matters, and in the main, the RU/RCP doesn’t try to cite them.

To conclude: the theoretical foundation for contemporary ultra-leftism lies in certain anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist principles “imported” into Marxism-Leninism, not “modern dogmatism.” These principles include opposition to reforms and democracy in the name of the pure proletarian struggle for power; opposition to any alliance with reformist forces; opposition to any kind of tactical retreat, etc. We see these principles at work in the practice of ultra-left groups all the time. They represent the manifestation of bourgeois (not petit-bourgeois) ideology in the communist movement.[2]

Despite these theoretical differences – differences we believe have a real significance for the struggle against “left” opportunism and the construction of an anti-revisionist trend dedicated to that struggle – we do not regard the question of the nature of the danger from the “Left” as a line of organizational demarcation for this conference. We could certainly participate even under the Organizers’ formulation.


Why then have we tried to struggle with the conference organizers for more than a year over just this point?

We have done so for two reasons: first, because we believe that a comprehensive understanding of the main errors that have beset the U.S. Marxist-Leninist movement for almost twenty years is a necessary precondition to rectifying those errors, establishing a real communist presence in the working class and national movements and unifying Marxist-Leninists in an authentic Communist Party; and second, because we think that the approach of the PWOC and other Conference organizers threatens to thwart rather than advance the process of gaining that understanding.

In our book, Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type?, we argued that while various Marxist-Leninist organizations had arisen which criticized modern revisionism on the one hand and sectarianism, dogmatism, and ultra-leftism on the other, most had themselves fallen victim to “left” opportunist influence. While the causes behind this pattern are social, historical, and ideological, weaknesses in PL’s, RU/RCP’s, OL/CP(M-L)’s, etc., theoretical understanding of “left” opportunism played an important part in their later failures. In TTM, we pointed to the historical parallel with the early history of the Chinese Communist Party, which carried out major struggles against three successive “left” lines, each time overcoming one only to fall under the influence of another, updated version of ultra-leftism. In reviewing this history , the Chinese Party later stressed their failure to “liquidate and rectify the ideological essence” (“Resolution on Some Questions in the History of Our Party”) of the first “Left” lines, thus allowing them to crop up again. Unless U.S. Marxist-Leninists succeed in correctly identifying the ”ideological essence” of the errors which plague our movement, we will neither liquidate nor rectify them.[3]

Not only do we think that the conference organizers’ formulation is one-sided as a characterization of the main danger to the communist forces, but we think that in the context of their “trend building” activities, it has a sectarian effect.

The conference organizers recognize that the effect of a point of unity for a conference is to limit discussion in certain ways, to keep it within certain predetermined bounds, to avoid subjecting the conference, in their words, “to the kind of opportunist influences that would impede its efforts.” ((From the January 31, 1977, cover letter to the “Draft Unity Principles.”)

Yet at the same time, the PWOC itself calls for and takes up debate on the nature of the ultra-left danger. In the July issue of the Organizer, they recognize that “while there is general agreement as to the symptoms of this ultra-left disease, there are differences on how to correctly characterize it.” In opposition to those who might consider a discussion of this question “not worthy of debate,” the PWOC quite rightly asserts that “a correct resolution of this discussion is essential to the future of the Marxist-Leninist movement.” Thus, the comrades of the PWOC recognize that, within the “trend,” real differences on the nature of the ultra-left danger exist, and further that we must struggle for a correct resolution of these differences.

But then how do the comrades propose to achieve this “correct resolution” if not by opening up the question for debate? Does this debate belong in their newspaper, but not at a conference of Marxist-Leninists opposed to ultra-leftism? Is closing off debate by instituting a relatively narrow point of unity really the best way to “resolve” this discussion? Why does the PWOC think that a discussion which is “essential to the future of the Marxist-Leninist movement” should not occur at this conference?

The value of our alternative point of unity (as suggested in our September 1, 1976 Response), that “The main danger... comes today from the ’left,’” lies precisely in its relative inclusiveness, allowing different tendencies or interpretations to contend, in order to deepen our collective grasp of the nature of ultra-leftism. If the theoretical nature of dogmatism, the role it plays in relation to sectarianism and ultra-leftism, the role it plays in defining the “trend,” are all open to discussion within the “trend,” then the point of unity should be drawn to reflect that fact and made more inclusive than it has been until now. This debate should be thrown open to all those who oppose ultra-leftism.


The Unity Principles also clarify somewhat the conference organisers’ views on international line and its place in party-building. Other statements have further fleshed out this perspective.

Most strikingly, the Unity Principles make no mention of the role of the Soviet Union in the world today or of the character of the CPSU. The June 1976 statement consisted of a few brief conclusions, but here we have what the organizers describe as a full set of principles for the conference, and yet not a word appears about the Soviet Union. Two factors might account for this omission.

Perhaps the comrades could not agree on a view of the Soviet Union. If this is the case, then the conference itself should include the various sides of the struggle around the nature of the Soviet Union. In keeping with this policy, the comrades should drop the formulation of point 18, since it obviously hinges on a characterization of the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, perhaps the conference organizers have agreed on a characterization of the Soviet Union, and the absence of any mention of the USSR reflects their view of its role. If so, they should spell out their views. In any case, regardless of the unity of the conference organizers, it is quite clear that real differences do exist on these questions within the “trend,” even among those who subscribe to the formulation of point 18. In fact, among those holding that the “main enemy is U.S. imperialism,” there are such divergent views that a common understanding of the concept “main enemy” is called into question. For example, the PWOC recently stated at a forum that U.S. imperialist is the main enemy of the peoples of Eastern Europe (as well as India). The Guardian, of course, and many others who hold the “U.S. is the main enemy” position would not go along with this. Point 18 states that “the working class...must take up every struggle against imperialism anywhere in the world and champion it as its own struggle.” Obviously, any-Marxist-Leninist will agree to this in principle. But isn’t it just as obvious that the PWOC and other anti-“left” forces mean two very different things by this statement as it applies in the real world? The practical consequences are clear, and flow directly from differences on the meaning of the term “main enemy” and on the nature of the Soviet Union: where others would support the Czechoslovakian people’s just struggle against Soviet social-imperialist occupation, the PWOC would counsel the Czechoslovakian masses to direct their chief fire at their so-called “main enemy,” the U.S. imperialist aggressors.

The point is that these differences exist, they are real and will not go away, and even the apparent unity of those who subscribe to the letter of point 18 is somewhat superficial. It is therefore imperative that we debate these differences and organize the struggle around them, a struggle which can occur in a disorganized or an organized fashion, but will occur nonetheless. This can only mean leaving the question open, which again means dropping point 18.

Since we first criticized the comrades organizing the conference for rejecting “the results of the application of the CPC’s line but remaining silent on its theoretical basis – namely, the analysis of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR,” some of the comrades have begun to put forward their perspectives publicly. The PWOC, for example, has made clear that it does not regard the USSR as dominated by capitalist relations of production. According to them, the world’s peoples need not fear the military might of the Soviet Union nor its expansionist designs, since socialist countries have no objective need to wage wars or to reproduce capitalist relations of production on an expanded scale. Dutch imperialism, say, would therefore present a much greater threat to the world’s peoples than the Soviet Union.

We cannot go into our full differences with this perspective here. In summary, we believe that it rests on a profoundly erroneous theory of socialism, a theory shared by organizations like the Communist Labor Party and the CPUSA – namely, that socialism is a stable mode of production, stable in that it has its own specifically socialist relations of production and reproduction of those relations of production, moreover, the PWOC obviously shares the belief with the CLP and the CPUSA that to this stable mode of production corresponds a specifically socialist state. (Of course, we are not comparing the PWOC to these organizations.) They fail to grasp the unstable and transitional character of the dictatorship of the proletariat, both at the economic and the political levels. Therefore they conceive of the restoration of capitalism as something on the order of the seizure of power by the proletariat: the socialist state must be “smashed” through the armed seizure of power by the bourgeoisie, which only then can set about the reconstruction of capitalist relations of production.

In its recent Boston speech, the PWOC held to this last position and dismissed questions about its theory of capitalist restoration with accusations that those who suggest the bourgeoisie under socialism can regain state power without a violent overthrow’ of the proletarian dictatorship must therefore believe in peaceful transition to socialism. But the PWOC can prove nothing of the kind. Its attempts to do so will only land it deeper in a dogmatism of its own making.

In point 6 of their “Draft Unity Principles,” the comrades describe correctly the transitional aim of the proletariat’s political struggle: “The entire history of the revolutionary struggle of the working class has demonstrated that this state [the bourgeois state] can neither be taken over nor trans formed. It must be smashed and replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat.” But has this same history demonstrated that the state apparatus under the dictatorship of the proletariat “can neither be taken over nor transformed?” By no means in fact, the whole history of the revolutionary struggle of the working class and the peasantry in China, the USSR, and the People’s Democracies after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat has demonstrated just the opposite. The PWOC’s failure to grasp this lesson is due precisely to its failure to make a concrete, substantive analysis of this history, and instead relying on theses transplanted from the proletariat’s political struggle under capitalism to a new and quite different situation – the class struggle under socialism. The comrades describe the result very well:

A dogmatist mechanically applies formulas which were derived from definite conditions in a specific time and place, to other and vastly different circumstances. The rich and varied, ever-changing reality is forced into a straight jacket of ready made axioms New revolutionary phenomena are made to conform to outmoded ideas. (July, 1977, Organizer)

The PWOC apparently believes that – short of armed struggle – regardless of what occurs at the political level, the “socialist” base will remain essentially intact. Whether the Party is dominated by a bourgeois line (by which Marxists mean a line representing the interests of a definite class-either the proletariat or the bourgeoisie), whether revisionists or Marxist-Leninists lead the Party and state, the society as a whole will not be dislodged from its “socialist” track, because Marxism tells us that economics plays the determinant role.[4]

Besides these theoretical points, two other developments of the recent period deserve attention. The first concerns the methods of struggle employed by groups like the PWOC in the fight for their position. We refer interested comrades to the PWOC article, “Dogmatism and the International Situation,” in the June issue of the Organizer, an article which contains a series of associations of the so-called “dogmatist” position with Nazis, the John Birch Society, “Cold War hysteria,” the police and other forces, and puts us on notice that “modern dogmatism has produced ever stranger phenomena.”

The second concerns the continued calls for “independent stands” in analyzing international and national developments, and “friendly” criticism of the Communist Party of China.

We certainly agree that Marxist-Leninist organizations must develop theoretical and political self-reliance. But the calls for “independent stands” have come to have, effectively speaking, a somewhat different meaning. We can illustrate this difference by looking at a recent exchange over criticism of the Cuban Party.

Some organizations have criticized the Cuban Party. We consider some of these criticisms pertinent and worth thinking about. No serious analysis of documents from the Cuban Party and the Cuban government or of their activities, could fail to see the very particular role currently played by the Cuban Party in the international workers’ movement vis-a-vis the global strategy of the Soviet Union. (This does not make Cuba a colony of Soviet Social-Imperialism, however.)

Now some other organizations have protested at these criticisms of the Cuban Party, calling them both “untimely” and “incorrect.” And we think some of the criticisms were incorrect, although not necessarily for all the same reasons. But we find it strange that some organizations should protest criticisms of the Cuban Party for their “untimeliness” when those very same organizations have either not protested or in fact have contributed to a veritable campaign against the Communist Party of China within the U.S. and international workers’ movement at a time when the Chinese Party’s highest leadership body has been decimated by deaths, the most outstanding Marxist of the contemporary period had passed from the scene, an earthquake without modern precedent has devastated one of its most important industrial centers, a serious drought has affected its agricultural production, a grave internal struggle for Party and state power has threatened the Chinese Revolution, U.S. imperialism continues to occupy the whole province of Taiwan, and what some U.S. comrades like to call the Soviet Union’s “socialist aid” in the form of a million modernly-equipped troops threatens China from the north. Really, comrades, is this the meaning of “independent stands,” “fraternal criticisms” and “anti-dogmatist proletarian internationalism?” How much more of this “proletarian internationalism” can solidarity with the People’s Republic of China stand?


All this shows that the so-called “Marxist-Leninist wing of the party-building movement” has not only not consolidated its internal unity into a definite trend or wing, but it has not consolidated its differences with the ultra-Left trend in our movement either.

In our paper, “More on Dogmatism and the Main Danger,” we wrote, “...an examination of the original joint statement by the conference organizers, the TMLC position, the party-building resolution of the PWOC and other documents of the ’anti-dogmatist trend’ shows that the opposition to dogmatism can amount to a different version of taking political line as the key link.” Since that time (November 1, 1976), several forces have advanced explicit formulations along this line. A recent column in the Guardian was headlined, “Political Line is Primary,” and their party-building supplement warned, “We must guard against the tendency to ascribe the errors of the OL and RCP to some undue concern on their part for Marxist-Leninist theory or political line. The problem with these organizations was not that they emphasized political line but the political line that they emphasized.” The PWOC spokesperson at their recent Boston speech argued that political line is key, claiming that the OL and the RCP had a fundamentally correct grasp of the relation of international line to party-building and simply advocated an incorrect international political line. In other words, some anti-dogmatists believe that central elements of the party-building line of the RU, OL, “Revolutionary Wing,” etc., were essentially correct. In their view, the errors made by these organizations stem basically from their political line, not from their party-building line. And following the logic of this anti-dogmatism, these comrades insist on making agreement with their political line on the Soviet Union, the “main enemy,” etc., a precondition for discussions on how to build an anti-“left” opportunist, anti-revisionist trend.

But the ultra-leftism of the RU, OL, “Revolutionary Wing,” etc., has manifested itself not only at the level of political line, but at every other level of their policy and practice, and particularly in their approach to party-building: in the line they followed in forging communist unity and in winning the “best elements” of the working class to communism. Yes, the political lines of the RU, OL, and others erred on many questions. But just as surely, their understanding of political line and its place in the party-building process was also incorrect. To the degree that the PWOC and other groups continue to insist that struggle over political line plays the key role at this time in forging ideological unity, they have yet to break cleanly with the party-building line of our “Left-Wing” Communists.

And this explains, we think, some of the methods of struggle employed by the PWOC.[5]

Part of the reason the comrades make these errors lies with their analysis of dogmatism as the “theoretical foundation” of ultra-leftism. Until the conference organizers grasp the theoretical source of “left” opportunism – anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism – they cannot get to the real ideological roots of the ultra-left line. Until that time, they cannot complete their break with the ultra-Left line at every level of practice and policy.


[1] See “More on Dogmatism and the Main Danger,” and Two, Three, Many Parties of a New Type? Against the Ultra-Left Line, pp. 190-96.

[2] Since Marx and Engels, the leaders of the revolutionary proletarian movement have pointed to anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism as the ideological source for “left” revisionism and “left” opportunism. See Marx, Engels, and Lenin on Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism.

[3] These same points and the same parallel show up in an article in the September issue of the Organizer. Our differences with PWOC’s use of them will have to await another discussion. But since the PWOC has obviously read TTM, we find it strange that they have so far failed even to acknowledge it, yet they see fit to talk about the Guardian’s “running from debate.” (See August 1977 Organizer.) We too think that the Guardian should have published the PWOC’s second reply to Comrade Irwin Silber. In the same spirit, though, we think that the PWOC ought to reply or at least acknowledge replies to or criticisms of their own views, and open up the pages of the Organizer to perspectives that differ from their own. The Guardian’s record on this last matter, while certainly nothing to brag about, still is better than the Organizer’s.

[4] The Unity Principles themselves do not set out this theory of the Soviet Union, but they do contain one ”principle” which supports it: “Trotskyism shares with both modern revisionism and modern dogmatism a petty bourgeois essence.” This proposition may represent a merger of the concepts of class base with class ideology on the part of the conference Organizers. That is, Trotskyism attracts a petit-bourgeois class base, but this does not mean that it represents “in essence” a petit-bourgeois ideology. Strictly speaking, the petit-bourgeoisie has no coherent class ideology of its own. Rather it spontaneously adapts bourgeois ideology to its own particular circumstances. Trotskyism and modern revisionism, like other historically defined deviations from Marxism-Leninism, represent the manifestation of bourgeois ideological influence, as Lenin’s writings ceaselessly argue. (See TTM, pp. 153-56, for more on this point.) That the PWOC believes modern revisionism has a “petty bourgeois [and not a bourgeois] essence” may help account for their difficulties with the theory of the reproduction of capitalist relations of production under the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the forms of capitalist restoration. It may also help explain their inability to come to terms with Mao’s thesis (which they consider, naturally, “dogmatic”) that the “rise to power of revisionism is the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.”

[5] Indeed, the conception of political line underlying the Unity Principles shares at least one of the basic assumptions of the ultra-Lefts. The “Lefts” continually confuse applications of Marxist-Leninist principle with Marxist-Leninist principles themselves. Therefore they raise certain tactics to the level of “absolutes,” and baptize them “Iskra principles,” (the WC(M-L)) or “anti-revisionist premises,” (Workers Viewpoint). “No unity of action” with revisionists, trade union officials, or bourgeois nationalists become a “principle of Marxism-Leninism.” The conference organizers make the same mistake when they call their unity statement “Unity Principles.” Some of the 18 points reflect real Marxist-Leninist principles. But some represent what we consider correct applications of Marxist-Leninist principle, and some incorrect applications of Marxist-Leninist principle.