Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Movement for a Revolutionary Left

A Critique of Ultra-Leftism, Dogmatism and Sectarianism


The left in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in all the advanced capitalist countries, is in shambles. In some countries the Marxist parties are weak, e.g., the U.S.; West Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, in such countries the major danger is ultra-leftism. In other countries, e.g., Spain, France, Italy, Finland, Japan, the Marxist parties are strong, here the major danger is reformism. The 1970’s have seen a progressive deterioration of the left in both types of situations. The revisionism of the major Communist Parties in the advanced capitalist countries is becoming consolidated as they denounce the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, enthusiastically support the progress of peaceful and gradual transition to socialism, give more and more guarantees to the capitalists and act to suppress militant worker’s struggles (e.g., by supporting austerity programs, no strike pledges, etc.). The ultra-leftism of the Trotskyist groups which play a role in some European countries, e.g., France and Britain, and of the “Maoist” groups which are rather strong on what there is of the left in other countries, e.g., West Germany and Sweden, is also becoming consolidated in their increasing attacks on working class and progressive movements. The various “Maoist” grouplets have become increasingly sectarian and for the most part isolated from mass struggles, as they come to focus most of their energies on attacking each other and progressive movements. Most of the “Maoist” grouplets have come out in favor of NATO, opposed the Portuguese revolution, attack Cuba and the Angolan revolution, etc. The bankruptcy of both “revisionism” and “ultra-leftism” is rapidly becoming: apparent. There is a growing world wide movement of revolutionaries coming from different directions who are converging on a revolutionary politics that is neither reformist nor ultra-leftist. It is the purpose of this paper to help advance this trend, encouraging a coming together of (1) the forces on the left of the mainstream Communist parties in the advanced capitalist countries which are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the reformist course of their parties, (2) participants in the new “Maoist” movement, who are growing increasingly weary of sectarian battles, dogma and isolation and (3) independent leftists and leftist organizations which are independently moving to an anti-reformist-anti-dogmatic conclusion. There are a number of organizations around the world that seem to more or less exemplify the general political position presented in this paper, and which can thus serve as inspirations for the type of organization to be built, and the types of strategies to be followed, by the U.S. left. The Chilean M.I.R.; the Party of Proletarian Unity for Communism (formed from a merger of the Il Manifesto group with a section of the Socialist Party for Proletarian Unity in 1974) and the Worker’s Vanguard, both in Italy; the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (on the Island); and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) should tentatively be included among the organizations of this general perspective which have respectable mass followings.

In the United States groups like the Philadelphia Worker’s Organizing Committee, the Bay Area Communist Union (except in its attitude towards Chinese foreign policy), the groups associated with the PWOC in its call for a national center of anti-revisionist/anti-dogmatic Marxist-Leninist groups, and the newspaper The Guardian would be included within the broad trend defended in this paper.

Among the existing socialist countries, the analysis of this paper is in essential agreement with the foreign policy followed by the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea and Rumania, which should be looked to as the model of how to relate to the Soviet Union and China, and that of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Cuba, which should be looked to as the model of how to relate to revolutionary movements in other countries (e.g., the heroic Cuban support of the liberation struggle in Angola, and the great assistance given by the Vietnamese to the liberation struggles in Cambodia and Laos).

The politics presented in this paper are mostly those established by the international movement at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International in 1934 and are fundamentally out of sympathy with those of the “Third Period” of Comintern policy (1928-1934). China should be looked to as an inspiration (but not the model) of how the process of post-revolutionary socialist transformation should proceed domestically in the advanced capitalist countries. However, it must be recognized that Soviet foreign policy in the 1970’s has been more supportive of progressive struggles in the world than has that of China during the same period. The revolutionary movement in each country must establish its own analysis and strategy inspired, but not instructed by, the Soviet Union, China or any other world center. We can learn from all previous socialist revolutions, but we must not mechanically follow any.

This paper will attempt to develop a detailed critique of the danger facing the left in the United States—the interrelated problems of ultra-leftism, dogmatism and sectarianism which have paralyzed the successor groups to the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1970’s. Much of the critique will focus on those groups which have grown the most and have had the greatest success during the first half of the 1970’s and those that came to look to China for leadership.

Because this paper is a critique of “left errors” the problems of reformism, “revisionism” and “opportunism” will not be treated at any length, except in as much as is necessary to make the criticism clear. Further, neither a general analysis of the principle contradictions of monopoly capitalism, a defense of the revolutionary role of the working class, an argument for the need for a Marxist-Leninist Party, an all around program for a revolutionary party nor an exposition of the world historical importance of the Cultural Revolution and other great Chinese achievements in constructing socialism will be attempted. This paper is merely a critique of what has become the major danger on the U.S. revolutionary left. It is a call for sane revolutionary forces to come together, reverse our fratricidal direction and commence building a revolutionary movement in the US. that has a reasonable hope of winning the leadership of the working class within our lifetimes.