Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

J. Reed

Dogmatism and the International Question

First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 3, No. 4, June 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.

The police rarely look favorably on demonstrations. But a few years ago, in Atlanta, they did adopt a strangely supportive attitude to a supposed anti-imperialist rally. The officers tried to accommodate the demonstrators in every way possible. Some even expressed support for the slogans raised by the handful of activists present. The police apparently thought that the rally was called by the neo-fascist John Birch Society. Actually, however, it was a cleverly concealed demonstration against Soviet “imperialism” organized by the October League.

How could it happen that the police could confuse two organizations which are on such opposite ends of the political spectrum, that on the basis of the slogans they could mistake a supposedly revolutionary organization with a neo-fascist one? Modern dogmatism has produced stranger phenomenon. It would be difficult however, to find another question on which unity with the John Birchers is so damaging to the long run interests of the U.S. proletariat as the question of proletarian internationalism.

This is not just because proletarian internationalism and collaboration with one’s imperialist ruling class are diametrically opposed policies. Even more importantly, U.S. imperialism is the leading and foremost imperialism in the world. It is the main impediment to the worldwide struggle of the working class and oppressed peoples for national liberation, democracy, peace and socialism. And as the world’s peoples’ main enemy, it must be the target of our main blow.


To collaborate with the main enemy of the world’s peoples, to fail to direct one’s main blow against it, particularly inside its citadel where its soft underbelly is exposed, is to become its agent–unconscious, perhaps, but its agent nevertheless.

And yet this is exactly what the dogmatist trend in the party-building movement has done. Consider the following:

Both the OL and the RCP aligned themselves with U.S. imperialism in Portugal by calling for the overthrow of the Goncalves government and supporting the attacks mobilized by the fascist underground against the PCP.

Both the OL and RCP aligned themselves with U.S. imperialism’s main objective in Angola: achieving a tri-partite government which would be two thirds neo-colonialist (FNLA and UNITA) and one-third anti-imperialist (MPLA).

Both the OL and the RCP are presently aligning themselves with U. S. imperialism in Zaire by supporting Mobutu’s attempt to suppress the popular uprising in Shaba.

Both the OL and the RCP have made explicit attacks on one socialist country, Cuba, calling it an agent of the Soviet Union and, by implication, attacks on Vietnam, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Laos.

Both have branded legitimate national liberation movements as ’fifth columns’ or tools of the Soviet Union. For example, consider the MPLA, the Congolese National Liberation Front, and again by implication SWAPO and the Patriotic Front.

Needless to say, such “proletarian internationalism” could only warm the cockles of a Bircher’s heart.


The dogmatists argue that while they may seem to have unity with U. S. imperialism, this is only a superficial view. They argue that we must look below the surface reality and “probe the depths of the real forces at work in the world”. They argue that while the facts seem to indicate that the U.S. is the main enemy of the world’s peoples, in actuality there are two main enemies – the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The essence of the dogmatist argument runs as follows: The Communist Party of the Soviet Union exercises state power in the Soviet Union. It is a revisionist party and Lenin said revisionism represents the interests of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, it is quite simple: the bourgeoisie holds state power in the Soviet Union.

The bourgeoisie in power means that the dictatorship of the proletariat has been smashed (never mind that this happened without armed struggle) and capitalism has been restored.

Now in a country as centralized economically and politically as the Soviet Union, capitalism restored can only mean imperialism plus a “fascist state of the Hitler type”. Since as Lenin said imperialist countries have imperialist foreign policies, Soviet foreign policy must be described as “social-imperialist”.

Since the Soviet Union is qualitatively more powerful than the capitalist countries of Western Europe, and relatively speaking, roughly equivalent to the U.S. – and is an imperialist country– it must be seen along with the U. S. as one of the two main enemies of the world’s peoples.

Here the RCP and some other dogmatists stop. The OL, however, is not content to rest its considerable reasoning powers. It goes on to point out: Since U. S. imperialism is in decline and that Soviet “social imperialism” is a “newcomer to the imperialist feast”, the Soviet Union has the greatest hunger and boldest appetite, and therefore the main blow internationally must be struck at it.

Stripped of its backhanded appeals to flunkeyism towards China and of Cold War hysteria, this is all there is to the dogmatist argument.

But a Marxist arrives at truth not from such superficial argumentation combined with appeals to petty-bourgeois sentiment, but from facts. And when the dogmatists strive vainly to buttress their hollow arguments with the facts, they have always come up short. They have had to resort to the most contriving reasoning and outright fabrication in order to confirm their wishful thinking.

Angola provided a recent example. Faced with overwhelming evidence of the popular support for the MPLA, the dogmatists fabricated MPLA “massacres and terrorism” in order to explain away that support. Faced with overwhelming evidence of U.S.-South Africa-FNLA-UNITA collusion to provoke a civil war once the Portuguese had left, they invented “massive Soviet intervention to foment civil war”. And faced with clear evidence that Cuban troops did not enter Angola until several months after the South African invasion, the dates on Cuban and South African involvement were merely reversed. This is how the dogmatists “go beneath surface reality”.


The bottom line of the dogmatist position is, of course, their contention that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet Union. But here also the real facts demolish RCP-OL and cohorts.

While there are occasionally people out of work in the Soviet Union, unemployment is demonstrably not a structural feature of the Soviet economy. While there is definitely a privileged elite in the Soviet Union, it is demonstrably not the case that this elite has property rights to the social surplus produced by the Soviet working class.

While the Soviet managers have been allotted a certain portion of the profits of their enterprises for direct reinvestment (about 13%) the overwhelming portion of social capital is allocated according to a central plan in which profit is not the key determinant. While there is stagnation in the Soviet economy it is not the case that this stagnation results from a business cycle. And a business cycle is, of course, a structural feature of a capitalist economy.

And finally, while there is definitely export of money from the Soviet Union it is demonstrably not the case that this export of money results from a situation in which capital is overripe. It is therefore, properly speaking, not the export of capital, which must become predominant in the imperialist stage. And of course, only the export of capital provides the necessary foundation for an imperialist foreign policy.


To the extent that it gains influence, the effects of the dogmatist perspective are significant. In the first place, it leads to a split between those workers who embrace dogmatism and some of those socialist countries which are suffering constant harassment at the hands of U.S. imperialism.

For example, consider the case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The DPRK, which is striving to bring about the peaceful re-unification of its country, is faced with a corrupt military dictatorship that maintains a barbarous rule over nearly half the Korean people. The main prop for this government is a U. S. military force of some 50,000 troops. Only last year these troops sought to provoke an armed conflict with the North Koreans.

The Korean Workers’ Party of North Korea is of the opinion, naturally enough, that US imperialism is not only its main enemy, but also the main enemy of the peoples of the world. The Workers’ Party also accepts aid from the Soviet Union which, they argue, is still a socialist country. Given that the RCP-OL argue that the Soviet Union is an imperialist country, that US imperialism is not the main enemy of the world’s peoples, and finally that they have been willing in the past to attack socialist Cuba, our Korean comrades cannot feel too confident that in the case of armed conflict with US imperialism, they would find support among the Dogmatists.

Dogmatism also drives a wedge between its adherents and the national liberation movements. In the February 21 issue of the Call, the October League wrote: “Those who cover up for Soviet social-imperialism by painting it as an ’ally’ of the world’s peoples – whether this is done from within the ruling class or from within the people’s movement – are only serving the interests of imperialism.”

In a recent interview published in the Guardian, Sam Nujoma, leader of SWAPO which is presently locked in an intense struggle with the South Africans, had this to say: “Certainly, the USSR and the Republic of Cuba are both countries that have been and continue to be in the forefront of support for the liberation movement. . . the USSR and Cuba are our allies in the struggle against imperialism.” Apparently Sam Nujoma is not aware that by making such statements he is “serving the interests of imperialism.”


A third feature of dogmatism in the US is that it necessarily leads to class collaborationism. The fact that US imperialism is the main enemy of the world’s peoples, means that the US government will necessarily be at the forefront of reaction’s attempt to block every advance towards democracy, national liberation, peace and socialism. This means that wherever the world’s working class and oppressed peoples are attempting to advance the cause of human kind, US imperialism will be the main force barring the way.

This fact places special responsibilities on revolutionaries here in the US. Since it is the obligation of any Marxist-Leninist in an imperialist country to pursue a most well-defined policy of opposition in deeds to its imperialist ruling class, and since US imperialism is the world’s foremost imperialism, Marxist-Leninists in this country must be the world’s foremost anti-imperialists.

A policy which targets two main enemies in the world necessarily makes such an aim unrealizable. For at least part of the time, it must come in to alliance with US imperialism. And in fact, as far as the RCP and the OL is concerned, it is a lot more than part of the time.

This is not to argue that there are not differences between the RCP and the OL. Since the OL has argued that the Soviet Union is the main danger in the world they have taken their class collaborationism to unusual lengths. They have even begun to criticize the imperialists for being soft on the Soviets!

In the same Call article mentioned above, the OL wrote: “Certain powerful forces in the (US) ruling class are clearly trying to cover up this growth (of Soviet military strength) and appease Soviet social-imperialism.” Who these appeasers are, the OL explains further on in the article: “it is the Pentagon itself which has done much of the covering up for the Soviet Union.” Class collaborationism is not a strong enough word to characterize such treachery; this is social-imperialism in the classical sense of the word.

The RCP has not gone quite this far in their collaborationism. They have understood that they have some responsibility to struggle against their own ruling class and occasionally do. Their willingness to support demonstrations by the Iranian students against arms for the Shah is a case in point.

But Angola, Portugal, their attacks on Socialist Cuba and their most recent article on the situation in Zaire demonstrate the dominant side of their policy. They characterize the popular uprisings led by the Congolese National Liberation Front as an “invasion by an imperialist backed mercenary army” and as “Soviet backed aggression.” They express support for the aid that China has provided to the Mobutu dictatorship and call for the rebellion’s suppression. Such propaganda dovetails neatly with the lies of the US imperialists.


But the worst feature of the Dogmatist international line is that it is advanced in the name of the struggle against revisionism. But instead of offering real principled opposition to Soviet great power chauvinism, hegominism and meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, instead of exposing the unstable character of Soviet struggle against imperialism, the RCP-OL only provide the revisionists with cover to advance their aims.

Because of the incorrect policies of the Dogmatists, the revisionists have been able to argue: “Look at the real deeds of these ’anti-revisionists.’ Their ’anti-revisionism’ sounds very revolutionary but look what it leads to in practice. In practice it leads to attacking socialist countries like Cuba, to attacking legitimate national liberation forces like the MPLA and by implication SWAPO, and to criticizing the Pentagon for being soft on militarism! This is the essence of ’anti-revisionism.’

Of course, the revisionists will continue to argue that way even in the face of the growing strength of the anti-revisionist and anti-dogmatist trend. They will continue to strive to lump all anti-revisionists with the Dogmatists and thus escape the exposure of their bankrupt political line.

This underlines the urgency of all genuine Marxist-Leninists to draw clear lines of demarcation with both dogmatism and revisionism. Only if we do this can we advance the cause of proletarian internationalism and move toward the foundation of a vanguard party that will carry out its internationalist duty.