Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Proletarian Unity League

Letter to the TMLC and Other Groups

First Issued: October 2, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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October 2, 1976


At the end of June, we received a letter (enclosed) from the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Organisation, the Socialist Union of Baltimore, El Comité-MINP, and the Philadelphia Workers’ Organising Committee, Their letter discussed “the development of a trend which is both anti-revisionist and anti-dogmatist”and “the possibility of organizing a conference of Marxist-Leninists based on two points of unity: 1) that dogmatism and its cohort, sectarianism, are the main forms of opportunism within the party building movement and 2) that US imperialism is the main enemy of the peoples of the world.” We have drafted a response to the joint statement which has been sent to the above organisations and which we also enclose.

As you will see, we have some important disagreements with some of the views expressed in the joint statement. At the same time, we unite with the organisations willingness to discuss the bases of unity of their proposed tread rather than simply declaring it into existence. Further, we support any and all non-sectarian initiatives aimed at organizing principled ideological struggle among the many Marxist-Leninist forces. Were the proposed conference to he organised on a different basis, it could represent an important step towards the centralization of the ideological struggle in our movement. For these reasons, and because we think that the idea of an “anti-revisionist, anti-dogmatist” trend has arisen in response to the “left”sectarianism which plagues the communist movement, we have undertaken a response to the joint statement. This response concentrates on disagreements with those propositions which would hinder the organization of the broadest possible ideological struggle.

Our concern lies principally with the promotion of common ideological struggle and secondarily with the presentation of our own views on some questions. In particular, we see the necessity of “tackling in common… a number of joint undertakings” (Lenin, CW, 6, p. 310). We have informed El Comité-MINP, the DMLO, the SUB, and the PWOC of our plans to circulate their letter and our response. We also offered to circulate any response they might have to our paper, We are restricting the circulation of these materials, however, to groups with whom we have had correspondence or contact, and to a relatively small number of individuals on our mailing list, We have done this because it is our hope that some form of joint statement, endorsed by a number of organisations, might appear in response to the original joint statement. What value would such a “joint undertaking” have?

The communist movement’s recent experience in responding to the OL’s call for Marxist-Leninists to unite provides same important lessons on the limitations of a course other than united action. Criticisms came from a majority of the communist organisations; we know of published criticisms by ATM, IWK, MLOC, PRRWO, RWL, the New Voice, WVO, WC(M-L), RCL (M-L), LPR(M-L), BACU, PWOC, ourselves, and others, in no particular order. Since publishing our criticism, we have received other criticisms written by collectives but never published. The effect of these many published and unpublished criticisms bears out Lenin’s observations on the effect of separate, local newspapers. Each group focused on different features of the OL’s proposal, though almost all criticised the plan for a “temporary leading body,”no program for one year, and no Congress for one year. Among those forces who disagreed with the OL’s initiative yet stood for Marxist-Leninist unity and wanted to struggle with the OL comrades, no centralised debate occurred on the proper united tactics to adopt. Each group printed up their own critique, and each distributed it. The result was that the many different criticisms “competed”for the attention of communists and other revolutionary-minded workers, including that of the OL and the many comrades sympathetic to their initiative. The many different criticisms, each more or less poorly distributed, allowed the OL to ignore most, and pick and choose which ones it wanted to answer (WVO, PRRWO/RWL, the Guardian, and now the MLOC), The force which a majority of communist organisations should have exercised in the struggle was lost, What if a number of organisations had issued a joint statement representing the criticisms and tactical approach the held in common? This, we believe, would have had an infinitely greater effect on the communist movement, including the October League and the forces now sympathetic to it. Instead, it currently appears to many that we have the ultra-“Leftism” of the “Revolutionary Wing”on one side and the undeniable organizational and politic gains of the October League on the other, with dozens of isolated “critics”in between.

We are not minimizing the differences among the various criticisms which appeared, or the differences some comrades have over the need to make some compromises in order to mount a joint effort of any kind. There is an important place for the development of each organisation’s independent views, and individual publications satisfy this need. On the other hand, there is also a place for united action; and in the present situation, only united action can have much effect at the national level. It was this united action that was missing in the struggle around the OL’s call, and the movement suffered as a result.

With this experience in mind, we are proposing some form of joint response to the initiative of El Comité-MINP, the PWOC, the DMLO end the SUB. We realise that this proposal, however, has certain unilateral features. We hope that on the basis of our draft response, we can produce a pamphlet endorsed by a number of organisations and consisting of the above organisations’ letter, the joint response, their response (if any), the reservations of those endorsers who have them, and perhaps criticisms – with a response by us – from those who do not wish to endorse the statement. This proposal has some obvious organisational difficulties arising from its unilateral character and other factors. We would like to proceed in the following way:

First, what we would be willing to change in our statement. We do not see the possibility of changing the emphasis on “left” opportunism, in particular the designation of the main danger as “coming from the ’Left’”. We see the need to centralise discussion of this problem and would be happy to meet with anyone to discuss it. But inasmuch as this emphasis provides the focus both of the original proposal and our response, we believe that it must remain. In some places, we could eliminate this or that reference, and give relatively more importance to sectarianism as a phenomenon somewhat independent of both “left”and right deviations. We would be willing to place a somewhat stronger emphasis on our differences over the international situation, and not simply on our differences over how to organise discussion of it. Too much emphasis, however, would change the tactics of the proposal, and would practically mean “no unity with the anti-revisionist, anti-dogmatist trend”on the grounds of irreversible “Centrism.”

Second, we encourage one of the following contributions: endorsement; endorsement with with written reservations (to be published – hopefully not too extensive); or criticisms (possibly to be published – hopefully also not too extensive). We could sign the paper, “The Proletarian Unity League. The following organisations or collectives agree with the basic thrust of this paper;” or simply sign it jointly as the original Joint Statement did. We would also forsee something like “The following organisations agree with the basic thrust of this paper but have certain reservations, which follow.” Each organisation or collective should indicate how they would want to sign. In regard to the problem of changes in the statement aS currently written, we must reserve the right to make the appropriate decisions, weighing possible endorsements against the proposed changes. We see no other way of proceeding at this time, though we welcome suggestions and/or criticisms of this procedure.

Third, participating organisations would be responsible for distributing the proposed pamphlet and we would assume the responsibility for printing it. Given the interest this pamphlet might have, we think in terms of at least electro-stenciling and mimeographing; we would consider other formats. We would also seek to recover through sales the cost of printing.

Fourth, this process cannot be as democratic as we would like, We do not have cemented working relationships with all the organisations we are contacting, and therefore cannot reveal their identities without consulting them. Furthermore, it is not feasible for us to act as a central mailing point for this short period of time, circulating every suggestion, If, however, any organisation wishes to circulate a criticism of the project or the draft statenant, we would be happy to send it to the groups involved. And if any organisation wishes to invite another to participate in tea project, we would welcome such an initiative; all should feel free to circulate this letter and the enclosed materials.

Fifth, the time factor. We are self-critical for taking so long ourselves to respond to the original letter, and to get out this proposal. We recognise the difficulty some organisations may have in responding quickly; at the same time, it is possible that the opportunities for principled ideological struggle afforded by El Comite, PWOC, SUB and DMLO’s initiative will pass us by. Therefore, we must set a deadline: within about two weeks of this latter, we should receive a brief note expressing your intentions with regard to this proposal. Within two weeks after that, we should receive any statement intended for publication. We would than circulate a report on the progress of the project and begin publication.

We hope that this procedure, despite its problems, can bring about some form of united action. We further hope that these organisations who disagree with some or many of the points in our statement might nevertheless agree with our approach to organising the ideological struggle, and on that basis participate in this joint effort. We do not expect to carry out this joint undertaking without compromise; such compromise, made in the Party spirit, is necessary in order to promote the common ideological struggle. Finally, we commit ourselves to participation in similar initiatives, whatever their source. We hope to hear from you soon.


with communist greetings,
The Proletarian Unity League