Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Unity Organization

Is International Line a Correct Line of Demarcation within the Anti-“left” Tendency?

First Issued: January 2, 1978. Published in the Proletarian Unity League’s pamphlet, Party Building and the Main Danger, September 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In this paper we hope to express our opposition to the view that a group’s position on international developments should, at this time, he taken as a genuine line of demarcation that separates the real Marxist-Leninists from all other revolutionary tendencies. The view that international line is the cutting edge appears to be based on three assumptions:
1) that the Chinese are dogmatic and that they are the leaders of the current worldwide dogmatist trend, which they have helped to create;
2) that disagreements over international line are an obstacle to our practical work; and,
3) that such a line accurately separates those who support dogmatism and these who oppose it in the Marxist-Leninist movement.

I. Are the Chinese the leaders of an international dogmatist trend?

We agree with those groups and individuals in the still fragile and developing anti-“left” tendency that “leftism” in the communist movement is the chief obstacle to the completion of our tasks. Moreover, we share the view that “leftism” is an international phenomenon, as is modern revisionism. It is also generally true that “left” groups usually identify themselves with the Chinese views or, international questions.

We do not, however, agree with the conclusions that many people leap to. The fact that the “leftists” use the Chinese views for their own reasons does not mean that we can hold the CPC responsible for them any more than Lenin’s line was responsible for the “leftism” of the British, German and Italian “lefts” in 1919-20. “...the ’Left’ Communists have a great deal to say in praise of us Bolsheviks. One sometimes feels like telling them to praise us less and try to get a better knowledge of the Bolsheviks tactics...” (Left-Wing Communism, Ch. vii, p.59, LCW, V.3l). We think that this assumption is in contradiction with the standpoint of materialism and the dialectical method. In order to explain “leftism” in the USA it is necessary to make a concrete analysis of our conditions. Such an analysis has to deal much more with the material conditions in the USA. For example, we must deepen our understanding of the role of imperialist superprofits, the consequent right opportunism of a large stratum of the working class, and the “left” over-reaction to that opportunism. “Anarchism was not infrequently a kind of penalty for the opportunist sins of the working-class movement. The two monstrosities complemented each other.” (L-W C, Ch. ii, p.32, LCW, V.31).

Further, we should more closely examine what role the social composition of our movement plays in determining its ideological weaknesses. In describing the sources of contradictions within the party Stalin says,

I think that the proletariat as a class can be divided into three strata... the second stratum consists of newcomers from non-proletarian classes – from the peasantry, the petty-bourgeoisie or the intelligentsia... This stratum constitutes the most favorable soil for all sorts of anarchist, semi-anarchist, and ’ultra-left’ groups. (The VII Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI, “once More on the Social Democratic Deviation in Our Party” in On the Opposition, p.522).

From our point of view, the correct method is to look to the internal contradictions within our movement to explain the causes of “leftism” while we understand the ether method of explaining the phenomenon by external causes.

Further, we find it difficult to accept a characterization of Chinese foreign policy as dogmatic without a scientific refutation of the analysis on which it is based. It is their analysis of the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union that leads them to conclude that the Soviet Union is the main danger to war. That analysis is generally known, so it is not necessary to sum it up in this paper. However, we have found that a number of misconceptions about the Chinese views are current, and that it might be helpful to clarify what we think those views are. It is necessary to add that our understanding of these views is limited and we make no presumption to fully represent them. We recognize that many misconceptions stem from misrepresentations by their supporters like the RCP and OL(ML) as well as by those who oppose them, such as the Guardian. Two of the documents that have been helpful to us have been the notes of a discussion with a Chinese official distributed by people on the Midwest Activists trip of the USCPFA; and the recent editorial, “Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism”, published in Peking Review.

The first misconception is that the main danger and the main enemy are the same thing. Let’s take Chile as an example. It is pretty clear that the main enemy of the Chilean people is U.S. imperialism. It is the military and economic prop that upholds the fascist dictatorship and that supported the opposition to the Unidad Popular. But what explains the errors of the left that contributed to its severe defeat? It was the strategy of peaceful transition to socialism promoted by the Chilean CP and supported by Allende. While the history of the Chilean party shows that this has been a long standing deviation, the role of the CPSU has not been to criticize the Chileans but to support them. Concretely, the Chilean CP fully adopted the program of the 20th Congress of the CPSU and openly takes direction from the CPSU. The consequences for the Chilean people of this policy can be seen in the events leading to the coup. The CP Chile voted to permit the army to enter factories and disarm the workers and at the time of the coup withheld its Moscow-supplied arms. In this sense, revisionism as the ideology of Soviet social imperialism was the main danger to the Chilean people’s struggle against their main enemy. The revisionist policy disarmed the Chilean people against this enemy.

Now, let us look at Western Europe. Economically, American imperialism is clearly dominant, and its domination must be overthrown before those countries can be independent. So right now American imperialism is clearly the main enemy. But is it the main danger to war? Given the enormous military build up of Soviet forces in Eastern Europe paralleled by the decrease in American forces, is it not important to distinguish the current dominant forces, the main enemy, from the rising threat or main danger?

The second misconception that we find is the assumption that main danger means sole danger. The Chinese do not agree with Hinton’s view about uniting all who can be united against the main danger, which means a tactical united front with US imperialism. This does not mean renouncing temporary, tactical unity with the U.S. Such a view would, indeed be ultra-left. The Chinese frequently refer to the “tiger at the gate and the wolf at the back door.” The goal is not to turn one of the imperialist dangers into an ally, but to distinguish between them, and thus fight imperialism all the better.

The final misconception, and one that the “leftists” here are particularly guilty of, is assuming that the main danger on the international level is therefore the danger on the national level. It is this line of thinking that leads to a slogan like, “no united action with revisionists”. While as communists we cannot rule out the possibility Of uniting tactically with our own bourgeoisie to defeat a greater danger, as in World War II, we are not yet in that situation. It is important to emphasise that those who hold that Soviet social imperialism is the main danger to war and national liberation are not automatically committed to the view that the main role of US Marxist-Leninists is to expose SSI. The Chinese are quick to point out that the USA “has not changed its nature” (Midwestern notes, p.23) and that it remains the “primary economic exploiter” of the Third World (Peking Review, #45, p.21). Even though they regard the USSR as the main danger to war, they make it clear that it is far from the only danger and that “undoubtably the people of each particular region can decide which superpower or imperialist country poses the more immediate threat to them according to their specific conditions”(Peking Review, p.22) This then raises the question if international line is really an obstacle to our practical work.

II. Is international line an obstacle to our practical work?

In the past few years, many groups have needlessly fragmented the protests against US imperialism by drawing lines according to positions on Soviet Social imperialism. Instead of encouraging this fragmentation we should be able to agree that for the young communist movement, the principal focus of our agitation on international struggles should be opposition to US imperialism. Communist groups should he able to unite with many progressive organizations in united fronts to oppose US Imperialist intervention in Southern Africa, Puerto Rico, Latin America, etc. Within these fronts, will be groups with differing positions on the dangers presented by the Soviet Union. We should do our utmost to encourage investigation, debate, and study among these groups as each struggles to develop and present their line. It is only in this unity and struggle that we will be able to arrive at a clearer understanding of both US and Soviet imperialism as these tasks present themselves in our work.

We are not currently in a position, however, where our political line is guiding the anti-imperialist struggles of the masses. To judge whether international line is an obstacle to our practical work we must look clearly at what exactly our immediate tasks are in this period. We see them as working to: build a communist core of intellectuals and advanced workers; explain and popularize the communist world view; and, apply scientific socialism to our concrete conditions. Those who believe that international line is a legitimate line of demarcation would argue that it is precisely in relation to these tasks that a correct international line is so important. They would say that if we neglect to support important national liberation struggles where our own bourgeoisie is attacking another nation, then we are not teaching the principles of proletarian internationalism and anyone who is not a proletarian internationalist can not achieve the immediate task of task of training advanced workers and building a core of Marxist-Leninists.

If a line on Soviet social imperialism did manifest a failure to be proletarian internationalists; if it meant that we were great nation chauvinists in light of the struggles of Angola and that we were writing off the hard won revolution of our neighbor Cuba, then without doubt this would affect the way that we train advanced workers and “welded a main core” (Lenin). However, this has not been proven scientifically to be the case, by either a concrete analysis of the actual conditions in the Soviet Union, or a concrete analysis of Cuba based on clear Marxist-Leninist principles. We simply can not allow our fraternal feelings for these struggles to replace a concrete scientific analysis.

If we do, what the advanced workers will learn is not proletarian internationalism but that political line (strategy and tactics) can be developed without a thorough investigation. They will learn that it is enough to evoke a general principle (proletarian internationalism) to develop a line on a complex reality. And, if this is so, aren’t they learning more dogmatism than they are learning proletarian internationalism?

The second thing that the workers will learn is that when they think they are “correct”, organizations can write people off without struggle. That the way to struggle is to set down points of unity and make distinctions about with whom you will and will not work based on narrowly drawn principles of unity. And then, if this is so, aren’t we teaching the workers more sectarianism than proletarian internationalism? Even if the line ultimately turns out to be correct, haven’t we ended up teaching them that it’s all right to practice “correct line-ism” as long as your line is correct? Won’t they learn more about splitting and posturing than about building and unifying?

Finally, if one of our tasks in this period is to use political line struggles to teach the basics of the Marxist-Leninist method of analysis and method of struggle to communists and advanced workers alike, then a serious question arises as to why chose international line as the key to teach proletarian internationalism? Why measure proletarian internationalism by foreign struggles about which there is conflicting information and missing information (making a concrete analysis of concrete conditions difficult)? Why not measure proletarian internationalism by discussion of the national minorities in our own proletariat through discussion of a concrete program to show what consistent democracy/proletarian internationalism would mean for the struggles of Blacks, Latins, Native Americans, etc.? Here people share a common practice and the struggle would be more fruitful.

III. Does international line separate the dogmatists from the anti-“lefts”?

We do not raise these arguments to quibble needlessly, nor do we have any intentions of factionalizing or splitting the fragile anti-“left” tendency. Rather, we are obligated to respond to what appears to us as a serious error that many communist groups are making by posing international line as a necessary point of unity for participation in the anti-“left” tendency. An error which is based on the mistaken belief that such a point of unity accurately separates the “lefts” from those who oppose them. An error, which, if continued and consolidated, might lead to an unnecessary and premature splitting of the tendency.

We have several problems with this “litmus test” for dogmatism when we try to apply it. For instance, we would all agree that the Progressive Labor Party is a “left” group, yet the emergence of their “left” opportunism is identified with their break with the Chinese. Also, the Communist Labor Party, another group which we would all agree is “left”, holds that the Soviet Union is a socialist country, that the Chinese Communist Party is dogmatist and splittist, and that the USA is the main danger to the world’s peoples. Their positions on international struggles are almost-identical to many of those held by groups in the anti-“left” tendency. How then, has international line served to separate out these “left” groups?

We have great unity with the position taken by the Proletarian Unity League in their letter of 9/1/76 to the PWOC:

We do not fault the comrade organizations for not having an analysis of the USSR. Such an analysis is a long and arduous undertaking, one requiring a complex division of labor. We do not have one ourselves, and we realize that we will not have an adequate one, ’independently elaborated’ (Lenin) without the combined efforts of many Marxist-Leninist organizations and individuals, without the benefit of prolonged, democratic and centralized debate... We ask that the comrade organizations not bar the path to the necessary discussion by excluding those, who, like themselves, lack a detailed analysis, yet on the basis of similarly incomplete knowledge, have reached different conclusions. We ask that the comrade organizations not organize a party-building trend on the basis of opposition to the line of the CPC without first debating that line and debating the place of international line in party-formation. (emphasis in original)

It is clear to us that if agreement on international line is maintained as a point of unity then many groups such as ourselves, PUL, and the Bay Area Communist Union, will be pushed out of struggle and debate with other groups in the anti-“left” tendency. Yet these excluded groups are firm in their opposition to “leftism” and are struggling day to day to build an anti-sectarian practice and to develop a concrete analysis based on the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism. If this point of unity is maintained then we will not be able to unify a real anti-“left” tendency. Instead of unifying the opposition to “leftism”, such a point splits it, weakens it, and lowers the level of ideological struggle within it. If this point of unity is maintained, without first having struggled over whether international line actually is a line of demarcation, our party building work will be pushed backwards not forwards.

In short, the most important aspect of this present struggle over whether international line should be a line of demarcation is not whose position will ultimately prove to be correct, but how we struggle over this question. The absence of a correct arena for struggle and correct methods of struggle will retard communists and advanced workers much more than any initial errors on Soviet social imperialism. Therefore, we urge groups to open up ideological struggle on the question of the importance of international line to party-building without imposing barriers between groups that already have a great deal to agree on. The fact that there is unity among groups that: We are in a pre-party period; that we must deepen our roots in the working class; that democratic comradely ideological struggle is necessary to unite Marxist-Leninists; and that the main danger is some form of “leftism”, makes it possible to struggle with one another over how best to oppose the “left” main danger. With the already existing unity we should be able to develop an appropriate organizational form within which this struggle can take place.