Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Proletarian Unity League

On the Small Consequences of Sectarianism


First Issued: November 10, 1977. Published in The Ultra-Left Danger and How To Fight It, January 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A number of comrades with whom we agree on these general issues have also found themselves unable to answer this question. They have repeated to us, whom, aside from yourselves, do you have in mind? In this article, we will try to reply. But first, we would like to reply to a different question, namely, why can’t the comrades defending the Committee of Five proposal answer their own question? The answer to this second question goes to the very heart of the Committee of Five proposal itself.


For Fifteen months, we have argued that the Committee of Five’s trend-building activities unnecessarily exclude certain forces. For example, the Committee of Five has insisted that their proposed conference be open only to those groups and individuals who believe that the United States, and only the United States, constitutes the main enemy of the peoples of the world. While regarding the Soviet Union and the United States as the main enemies of the peoples of the world, we have struggled for a conference which left this question open to struggle. To pretend to settle this matter in advance of an open debate would unnecessarily weaken the struggle against “left” opportunism. It would also weaken our commitment to the struggle against imperialism.

To some extent, those responses which have been made to our views have addressed themselves to the issues of principle. To some extent, those responses have addressed themselves to matters of expediency. Aside from the Proletarian Unity League, whom, after all, will be excluded? some of the comrades defending the Committee of Five proposal ask.

The Committee of Five has defined dogmatism as the main danger to the communist movement. In fifteen months, however, they have failed to define either the ideological source of dogmatism or its ideological content. They have not because to a large degree they cannot. As we wrote in the article, “More on Dogmatism and the Main Danger,”

Simply put, the view that dogmatism constitutes the main danger cannot stand on its own, because by itself it is only a symptom, not a disease.
The real content of this position lies in those other positions which the anti-dogmatists find “dogmatic.” ...“Anti-dogmatism” thus frequently serves as a stalking horse for particular positions on other questions, most commonly, questions of political line. (November 1, 1976)

So in the past year the Committee of Five have sought to bolster the position on the main danger both by qualifying it (dogmatism is now described as the “theoretical foundation of a political and organizational practice of ultra-leftism and sectarianism”) and by adding to the list of examples of “dogmatism” in political line. Most of these opportunism, and their efforts have had some positive effects in the “Left-Wing” generally. Groups who formerly held “Left” views have a particular role to play in building a real anti-“Left”, anti-revisionist trend. Having once cured themselves of the “Leftist” disease, they will be that much more immune to it a second time around. Those who have yet to catch it, and think themselves immune, have more reason to worry. They could use the former “Lefts” help.

The disorganization of the Marxist-Leninist movement conditions the uneven development of the anti-“left” position. Groups and individuals throughout the country try to follow the debate within the anti-revisionist camp. Because the movement has been dominated by ultra-leftism, the terms of the ideological struggle have been defined bv the ultra-“lefts.” The viewpoints of many small groups are therefore to some extent influenced by the ultra-“lefts,” just as many groups who now identify with the critique of ultra-leftism once shared “Left” assumptions. Even the struggle that has gone on has been plagued by disorganization on a massive scale: haphazard distribution of materials, chance exposure to other perspectives, inability to communicate easily with this or that group, impossibility of undertaking joint work, etc. To reach these many small groups requires patient, protracted efforts. And we can’t reach them by beginning with their exclusion from the “Marxist-Leninist wing,” or complacently wondering if anybody else exists out there.

It is with these groups and individuals in mind, as well as others, that we have struggled with the Committee of Five to make the debate over dogmatism and related issues a public one. Naturally enough, those who can’t see any other Marxist-Leninist forces don’t feel any urgency about having a public struggle.


The disorganization and uneven development of the communist movement are aggravated when we consider the relationships between the predominantly oppressed nationality groups and the predominantly oppressor nationality groups. So far those groups identifying with the “anti-dogmatist trend” are with few exceptions overwhelmingly white. To call that the “Marxist-Leninist wing” betrays not only an overworked imagination but also a narrow, white-oriented conception of the history and tasks of the revolutionary movement in this country. The anti-revisionist forces have yet to manage to elaborate a concrete analysis of the factors giving rise to groups representing predominantly one nationality (including the oppressor nationality). Nor has the movement solved in theory or in practice how these initially disparate forces can best contribute to forging a true multinational Party. To look over an overwhelmingly white assemblage of Marxist-Leninists and ask, whom, after all, have we excluded?, strains credibility. Unless, of course, one thinks that the predominantly white groups come blessed with a Marxist-Leninist insight denied to the oppressed nationality comrades.

None of this changes our view of what should constitute the points of unity for the proposed conference. We do need to draw a line of demarcation with ultra-leftism – on that basis, we can begin to develop the tactical plan necessary to reach the many honest Marxist-Leninists not yet sympathetic to our perspective. But the above considerations do underline the need for rejecting any trace of a sectarian approach to the task of constructing an authentic multinational, Marxist-Leninist trend. We therefore cannot agree that the Committee of Five initiative “must be seen as a step forward for all of us in our tendency.” (emphasis in original) If criticized and rectified, it has that potential. Until then, it leaves part of the anti-“left” tendency out in the cold. If defended, clung to, and consolidated around in all its features, it will mark a step backward for a significant part of the anti-“left” forces.


There is a final aspect of this whole question which should nag at a communist. To oppose our view, to expose its erroneous bases and draw out its harmful practical implications is a principled obligation of all those who disagree with us. But to oppose our perspective and add that, anyway, who besides the PUL is excluded is not a principled way to approach disagreements. An argument which makes references to this kind of pragmatic calculation tacitly admits its own shakiness. Yes, the PUL is a very small group and you can safely ignore us. But the issue isn’t us. Principles are less easily ignored, and the history of the anti-revisionist movement contains quite a few examples of big groups who felt they could ignore the questions posed by some little group only to find that they had landed themselves in a bad predicament.

A just cause is bound to win support. Groups and individuals throughout the country who formerly identified with the “Left-Wing” are seeking the causes behind the weaknesses of the present-day Marxist-Leninist movement. We have met with a few of these comrades and found them open to an anti-“Left” critique, with much to contribute to our collective understanding of revolutionary tasks in this period. Our interest should lie with the broadest possible struggle against ultra-leftism. Small group mentality will not build it.