Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Committee of Five

Draft Resolution for a Leading Ideological Center

First Issued: November 16, 1977.
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.

November 16, 1977


As you will see in the accompanying material, a meeting was held in August of this year in order to initiate discussions as to how to further the development of unity in the anti-revisionist-anti-dogmatist trend. At that meeting a set of unity principles was adopted (I have enclosed the original draft which was accepted with a few changes; the amended version will be available soon), and a preliminary discussion was hold on a draft proposal presented by four organizations (Draft Resolution for a Leading Ideological Center–also enclosed) as well as a counter-proposal presented at the end of “Party Building and its Relationship to the Masses” by El Comité-MINP (also enclosed). Following upon this discussion five organizations (El Comité, DMLO, PSO, SUB and PWOC) were assigned the task of organizing another meeting in order to pursue the dialogue initiated in August (these plans are also included). We were also assigned the task of seeking out other organizations to be included in future meetings.

We were unable to take up this last task until recently owing to difficulties in arranging a meeting of the five organizations. However, at this time we would like to invite you to participate in our activities. To one degree or another, most of you are already familiar with our efforts, and many of you could have participated earlier. The fact that you were not invited to has nothing whatsoever to do with any differences, implied or otherwise, that we might have with your organisation. On the contrary it stems from 1) our lack of knowledge and contact with your organization, and 2) the difficulty of pursuing this work with strictly limited resources. We hope that you will decide to join us now.

We realize that the lateness of our invitation means that you will not be able to meet the deadlines for responses to the five questions mailed out to others in September. In order to compensate for this difficulty we will be happy to make a special effort to circulate your responses, as soon as we receive them.

If you have any question concerning this invitation or any of the materials, please do not hesitate to contact us. And please let US know whether you desire to participate. Address all correspondence to: W. Foster, PWOC, Box 11768, Phila., PA 19101.

We will look forward to hearing from you.

Clay Newlin
For the Committee of Five

* * *

Draft Resolution for a Leading Ideological Center

The working class lacks training, organization and leaders. While it continues to engage in narrow and localized skirmishes with individual employers, the real training in classwide battles against the bourgeoisie as a whole is yet to come. While the working class, particularly its industrial sector, has achieved a greater measure of organization, this organization on the higher and more important levels lags behind. And while the proletariat has brought forward many individuals who are capable of developing rapidly, these workers have received neither sufficient schooling in the science of revolution nor adequate tempering in the class struggle to become fully independent leaders of their class.

The proletariat’s meagre training, its insufficient organization and its scarcity of leaders all point to one most salient fact: the working class has no vanguard party. Without such a party the workers cannot receive the necessary training in classwide struggle; they can develop neither sufficient organization nor a staff of leaders. Without a vanguard party the working class will remain cemented in its present narrow, fragmented and rudderless state.

The US working class has not always been without a vanguard. The Communist Party USA fulfilled this role for nearly forty years. However, in 1957, this organization abandoned the interests of the proletariat by consolidating a thoroughly revisionist perspective as the core of its general line. In the name of the “creative development” of Marxism, the revisionists have cut the revolutionary heart out of scientific socialism and sought to transform it into a muted doctrine of radical reform. In the place of revolution they have put reform and in the place of socialism, bourgeois democracy. They have argued that a peaceful parliamentary transition to socialism is possible, that US Imperialism can give up its tendencies to aggression and war and that acts of Soviet great power chauvinism and hegemonism are justified. Such a line can only lead the working class to renounce its revolutionary aims.

The development of a viable, revolutionary vanguard party is, consequently, the most pressing task facing ail honest Marxist-Leninists. It is to this task that we must allocate our most precious resources, apply our most fertile minds and bend our best efforts. It is this task which provides both the focal point of and the parameters for our work in this period. It is, therefore, also our central task.

Such a party, however, will never Just spring to life. It cannot be wished into existence, nor can it be decreed. Only prolonged, conscious, planned activity can build it. A concrete plan must be developed, a plan which is based on an objective assessment of the maturity of the party-builders and their relationship to the class struggle of the proletariat. Weaknesses must be identified, analyzed, and a method for their elimination projected. The party-builders must be assembled, their ranks organized and united around this plan. They must be schooled in the science of revolution and trained in the techniques of party formation. Their activities must be synchronized so that each individual party-builder is consciously subordinated to the collective goal. Moreover, their efforts must be subjected to rigorous criticism to ensure that errors are recognized, discussed, and subsequently, rectified.

On the whole, our movement has proven inadequate to this task. In the first place, a reasonable plan has not emerged. While various plans have been advanced, they have proven co be inadequate; they have not openly confronted our weaknesses, but rather sought to paper them over with rhetoric and false projections. Secondly, no force has been able to correctly unite the party-builders. For the most part, these activists have pursued their efforts in an unconscious and disorganized manner. Each little group addresses its tasks without the necessary harmony for the difficult work of party construction. Finally, our movement has not been able to subject itself to critical self-examination. The most significant errors are either denied or swept under the rug with a few easy phrases. Rigorous criticism is reserved for the movements’ enemies and only light-hearted criticism applied to itself. Therefore, the corrective function of criticism is lost.

In fact, our movement is divided into two wings. The first wing, the dogmatist trend, has proven unable to grasp the essence, the dialectical kernel, of the science of revolution-Marxism- Leninism. Instead, the dogmatists, separate theory from practice, seeing theory as existing apart from the living reality of the class struggle as if it had a life of its own. They regard theory as a schema, as a set of immutable propositions whose veracity is determined not by the sole criterion of social practice, but by their own internal logic. Consequently, the dogmatists try to force all new phenomena into a mold of ready-made axioms, put aside the study of concrete conditions in favor of quotation and pedantry and negate any creative tasks for Marxist-Leninists.

As the wages of the sins of revisionism, the dogmatist trend has consolidated around an ultra-left line. As manifested in the Revolutionary Communist Party and the newly hatched Communist Party (M-L), this trend negates the struggle for reforms in the name of revolution and the struggle for democracy in the name of socialism. It pursues a sectarian approach to the working class, overestimating the rate of radicalization of the masses and underestimating the strength of reformist currents in the proletariat. This trend consistently substitutes the interests of its small sects for the interests of the workers.

The other wing, the Marxist-Leninist trend, has avoided these pitfalls. It recognizes that scientific socialism is, in essence, revolutionary; as a theory of development it is necessarily a constantly developing doctrine. It sees theory and practice as interrelated, interpenetrating and mutually interdependent. On the one hand, theory serves to guide practice, and, on the other, practice raises the questions that theory must solve. Therefore, this wing approaches modern reality from the standpoint of applying proven principles to concrete conditions, creatively expanding and enriching the science of revolution.

It is on this latter wing that the future of our party depends. Only it has demonstrated the necessary grasp on both the importance of steadfast devotion to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, and, in addition, the centrality of making an independent elaboration of those principles for the specific conditions in the US. Only it has demonstrated the potential to elaborate a plan for party-building which correctly assesses the objective weaknesses which impede the development of our movement. Only it has demonstrated the potential to unify party-builders around work which really moves our movement forward. Finally, only it has demonstrated the potential for rigorous self-examination, a forthright confrontation of errors and the unswerving pursuit of their rectification.

It must be recognized, however, that the Marxist-Leninist trend exists in embryonic form. As compared to both the revisionists and the dogmatists who have consolidated views, large organizations, national presses and relatively unified leaderships, the Marxist-Leninist trend exists mainly in the form of small, local organizations. It lacks a coherent viewpoint and contains a rather broad range of diverse and contradictory opinions. It has few newspapers; most of its publishing is confined to pamphlets and leaflets. And its leadership is disunited.

Concretely, the state of the embryonic Marxist-Leninist trend can be characterized as one of theoretical underdevelopment, amateur methods of organization and work, and fragmentation. Theoretically our trend is impoverished. In many organizations and study groups the grasp of Marxism is rudimentary at best, understanding of the principles of scientific socialism has, for the most part, remained purely on the ideological level and has not taken the necessary step forward into the development of political line. In many cases, what passes for ’theory’ is merely recapitulated and undigested bourgeois ideology dressed in Marxist clothing. It has not been subjected to criticism or tested nationally and thus contains un-dialectical formulations and reflections of local peculiarities In other cases what is called ’theory’ is merely empty abstraction. Divorced from the concrete political, organizational, and tactical problems facing the working class movement, it is hopeless as a guide for action.

This results in a plethora of missed opportunities. Practice is pursued without revolutionary theory as a guide, and, consequently lacks focus, consciousness and real planning. The advanced workers, subjected to the vagaries of opportunism, are left to battle the capitalists without the necessary weaponry that only revolutionary theory can provide. Finally, mass actions remain on a terrain favorable to the bourgeoisie.

Backward methods of organization and work are also all too prevalent. Primitiveness in organization supposedly justified by the small size of many groups, is reflected in a process where every member is involved in the discussion of the intricacies of every question down to the most minute detail so that the really significant political questions are discussed superficially if at all. There is an aversion to any forms of leadership, with all assumed to be equal in the face of clear inequalities. Division of labor is practiced infrequently and rigorous methods of checking up on assigned tasks are rarely implemented.

Fragmentation is also a severe problem. It is not uncommon to find a number of organizations in a single city which share a common perspective and yet are incapable of pursuing common work. In many cases there are even cadre of several like minded groups pursuing ’communist’ work separately in the same mass organizations. Most political activity is also divided according to nationalities, particularly on the Marxist-Leninist level. Organizations of advanced workers and organizations of revolutionary Intellectuals exist apart. And, of course, all these weaknesses are compounded on the national level.

To a certain extent such weaknesses are a necessary accompaniment of a movement in its infancy. Theoretical competency, professionalism and unity are, themselves, the products of conscious struggle which has reached a certain level of maturity. Our trend has reached the threshold of that maturity. Although theoretically underdeveloped as a whole there are many forces who have actively participated in the theoretical struggle for a number of years. As a consequence, they have learned valuable lessons which can help us avoid errors that have been made previously. While they may not have full answers to all the most pressing questions facing our movement, by having learned how to pose these questions correctly, they will provide our movement with a significant asset. Moreover, our trend has accumulated considerable experience in the civil rights and anti-war movements, and more recently, in the movements of the working class and oppressed nationalities. This experience has produced both valuable lessons and capable organizers. In summation, our trend, with all its weaknesses, is sufficiently developed to take a significant step forward.

The most important step we could take towards solving the most pressing problems would be the building of a leading ideological center. Such a center would serve several purposes. First, as a center, it would be conducive to the growth of unity, co-ordination and focus in our activity. It would minimize unnecessary duplication of effort by providing a central point of access for all the local organizations in our trend. It would be a vehicle for the communication of the most advanced theoretical work in the trend and would coordinate our attack on opportunism, focusing attention on revisionism and dogmatism. It would be capable of spotlighting the most advanced practice and informing its adherents about it. And finally it would afford a network for the widespread distribution of materials communicating the politics of our trend.

Second, as an ideological center, it would provide a form to address our paramount theoretical task: the independent elaboration of Marxism-Leninism for the specific conditions in the US. Such an elaboration–an elaboration which is really capable of solving the concrete political, organizational, strategic and tactical problems facing the working class–is the indispensable condition for any real step towards unity in our movement. Without clarity, any unity developed will be fictitious; it will be unity on paper only, unity that is incapable of leading to coherent practice. In fact our nominal unity would serve to conceal real differences and impede their elimination.

Finally, as a leading ideological center, the center would see its task as shaping the process of unification, organization and theoretical development of the trend; it would be an instrument for the conscious forging of a clearly defined tendency. Its tasks would not be merely to coordinate, unify and focus what already exists, though doubtless even this minimal role would represent a step forward. It would not just serve as a form to register the theoretical discussion and the practical work at its present level, nor merely to provide a forum for political exchanges. Even more importantly, it must give leadership to the trend, by developing a plan to ensure that the most pressing theoretical questions and the most pressing practical tasks are addressed first and in accordance with the principles of scientific socialism.

Obviously, for the center to play a leading role, it must have a higher basis of unity than the lowest-common-denominator of the trend as a whole. Although this would lead to the initial exclusion of certain groups which while they are groping in an anti-dogmatist direction have not yet sufficiently consolidated around Marxism-Leninism, it is absolutely necessary in the center if it is to be capable of providing any meaningful leadership. Nevertheless, the center would not have to cut itself off from these organizations. On the contrary, it would be its responsibility to see that concrete steps are taken to draw them forward. Such steps could Include inviting these organizations to submit articles for publication in the center’s organ, and asking them to participate, where appropriate, in the center’s activities.

Clearly, a real leading ideological center can no more be imposed on our trend than a vanguard party can be imposed on the proletariat. Any attempt by a small group of organisations to declare themselves a ’center’ by secret agreement, and to, then, using organisational means, promote the hegemony of a line that has not been subjected to a really widespread and thoroughgoing critique is doomed to failure. A real center will win hegemony based on the quality of its work. Only by being able to provide consistent leadership to the answering of the difficult theoretical questions facing our movement, only by being able to shape the development of professional methods of work, and only by being able to encourage the development of principled unity could a center really become an authoritative institution.

The main objective of the center would be to lay the foundation for a national pre-party organisation. Such an organisation is an absolutely essential transitional step towards the development of a real vanguard party. Only a national organisation could really lay the foundation for a party, because only a national organisation could really allocate the proper resources to our immense theoretical tasks. Only a national organisation could provide the form for an embryonic testing of our theory through a nationally coordinated work plan. Only a national organisation could begin to shape activity which would approximate real communist practice. Finally, only a national organisation could really give the necessary impetus for the development of real unity in our trend.

But the creation of such an organisation is impossible without the development first of an Ideological center. There is not presently sufficient political unity in our trend to make a national organisation really viable. Without political unity any national organisation would serve to obscure real differences and retard the development of revolutionary theory. Without real ideological unity on the basis of the principles of Marxism-Leninism any national organisation would only be national in form but not in content.

What is needed most, at present, is a form to organise, centralise and give leadership to the independent elaboration of Marxism-Leninism for the specific conditions in the US. For as we said above, without such an elaboration our trend cannot leave its embryonic stage. Unity on the fundamental principles of scientific socialism is only a starting point. For there can be no meaningful vanguard of the US proletariat that has not elaborated a concrete application of those principles. Moreover, there can be no meaningful alternative to either revisionism or dogmatism which is not based on a correct application of Marxism-Leninism to the national forms of the class struggle.

Of course, the process of the development of such an elaboration is Inseparable from a consistent struggle against opportunism. To a large extent, the real significance of a correct application of Marxism-Leninism only becomes clear in the process of consistent struggle against opportunist views. This struggle, if properly handled, serves to clarify the actual character of the differences, the depth and real substance of those differences and why such differences prevent common work within the ranks of a single Marxist-Leninist organization. Thus, a related task of such an ideological center would be shaping the struggle against opportunism. It would seek out the weak points in the revisionist and dogmatist lines, clarify the real essence of their deviations from Marxist doctrine, and demonstrate why and in what context we must draw sharp lines of demarcation with them.

In summation the two main tasks of an ideological center would be 1) the development of a concrete application of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete problems facing the US working class, and 2) leading the struggle against opportunism, particularly revisionism and dogmatism. Clearly these tasks are interrelated and would have to be pursued simultaneously. At different points, the concrete balance between the two would have to be altered with more emphasis applied to one or the other. But over the long haul clear priority must be allocated to the former.

It is important to discuss how differences among the adherents of the center would be treated. These differences clearly exist at present and are inevitable in the early stages of the center’s development. The center, therefore, could hardly avoid them and would only serve to retard the development of the trend’s unity if it attempted to sweep them under the rug. Thus, an essential aspect of the center’s main tasks would be to organize the discussion of these differences to strive to see that their real character and essence is clarified and to ensure that the clash between opposing views is conducted in a principled manner. All too often we have seen polemics degenerate into matters of personal or organization pique, with the main point being to score against one’s opponent. These type of polemics, however, only serve to confound the picture; essential distinctions between differences of ideological perspective, political line and tactics become lost in a barrage of heated invective.

Having discussed the character and tasks of such a center, it is necessary to sketch the concrete mechanisms through which these tasks can be realized. The center’s main focus would be the publication of a regular organ for the trend. This publication would provide for a common focal point for the theoretical discussion and polemics of the trend’s adherents. It would serve as a concrete mechanism to maintain the necessary contact between the essential local activities of its adherents. It would strive to provide political leadership to that work by raising the most advanced theoretical development to the national level and organizing its testing on a national basis. In short such a publication could serve as an indispensible tool to further the overall unity and consolidation of the trend, both theoretically and practically.

But while the publication of a common organ would be the primary activity of the center, it need not limit itself to publishing alone. It should also organize panel discussions, speaking tours and study teams on the burning questions of the day. Such forms would ensure a constant and active participation of the center’s rank and file adherents in its theoretical discussions. In addition the center should sponsor conferences on different practical questions facing the working class movement in its party-building efforts.

A series of national conferences to discuss party-building, trade union work, the struggle against racism, work among women, etc. would contribute greatly to the advancement of the overall unity and fighting capacity of our trend. In fact only a national center could make such discussions really representative – an essential condition for any real steps towards unification.

Finally, the center should also develop plans for nationally coordinated activities. For example, its activists in the UAW could develop a common plan of work for contract negotiations or national leadership elections. In addition the center could project a common line for work in such mass organizations as the Puerto Rico Solidarity Committee or call for the formations of a national anti-imperialist organization in solidarity with African liberation. It would also be possible to coordinate national demonstrations around common slogans so as to ensure that they really express a classwide movement.

In summation, the center, while it would see as its main priority the clarification of theoretical questions, would also be an activist center. Its efforts would be geared towards giving national leadership to a divided and disorganized trend, step by step providing both the context and the impetus for the radical elimination of our weaknesses.

Would not a center serve to divert the focus of local organizations from pursuing their pressing tasks? By emphasizing the importance of developing an ideological center, we do not mean to belittle the significance of local work. Local work forms the basis of communist activity; any center which was not connected to on going work in numerous localities would be a hollow one indeed. However, we do not think that there is any danger of local work passing out of existence; on the contrary, in recent years it has struck deep roots. Moreover, in so far as the center did divert attention from local work, it would do so to the benefit of that work. Local work, by itself, cannot lead to real communist activity; it cannot attain real political significance. By injecting a national political perspective, by spurring on the development of revolutionary theory, by encouraging the development of professionalism, and by pursuing national unity on a principled basis, the center would only serve to put that work on a firmer foundation.

Furthermore, even the smallest collective would benefit from its attachment to the center. Historically, one of the most significant problems in our movement has been the uncritical adoption of the line of larger organizations by various local collectives. Because of their limited resources, these collectives are unable to engage in sufficient theoretical work to develop a really critical attitude to important theoretical questions, and thus fall prey to what sounds good rather than what truly conforms to the actual process of social development. The center could serve to correct this problem in two ways. First by organizing a broad political discussion conducted in full view of its adherents, the center would tend to collectively develop its adherents critical capacities. Second, each local organization could apply the line developed at the center in their own practice, sum up their experiences, and send their summation to the center for publication. In this way each collective could contribute to the center, and, in turn, develop along with it.

It remains for us to briefly describe how an ideological center could be organized. The first step in developing a center is the assembling of an organizing committee on the basis of a clearly defined foundation of political unity. Clearly the basis of unity would have to begin with a statement of the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism. In addition, clear lines of demarcation would have to be drawn with opportunism–the main focus being on revisionism and dogmatism. Furthermore the level of unity drawn would have to be sufficiently broad so as to encompass the most important elements in the tread, but, at the same time, not so broad so as to make leadership impossible.

The organizing committee, based on those principles of unity, would have to be assembled so that it was representative nationally and, in addition, as representative as possible of the different perspectives in the trend. Otherwise it could not establish itself with a sufficient national following so as to give leadership to the development of a really recognized national center. The organizing committee would take up the task of laying the foundation for the center. It would do so by organizing a conference of the trends adherents, express purposes of establishing a leading ideological center, organizing its activities and electing its leadership.

Since the conference would demand considerable unity of purpose of those in attendance if it were to successfully constitute such a center, the organizing committee would have to take on significant practical responsibilities prior to the conference. It would have to develop the means to ensure that those attending the conference had a sufficient basis of unity for concerted action, that they had fully grasped both the precise nature of the center and its tasks, and that they were fully consolidated on the importance of the development of a center for the future of a vanguard party in the United States. Secondly, it would have to take up the more mundane questions of the actual preparations of the conference: choosing the appropriate site, invitations, etc.

In conclusion, the formation of a leading ideological center must be our immediate practical objective. We must move in as rapid and as orderly a way possible to bring about its development. We must begin immediately to make preparations for its construction and lose no opportunity to realize its constitution. For the development of this center is the largest step forward our movement can take, at the present time, towards the maturation of a viable revolutionary party and a socialist revolution.

Detroit Marxist-Leninist Organization
Potomac Socialist Organization
Socialist Union of Baltimore
Philadelphia Workers’ Organizing Committee

12 July 1977