Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Clay Newlin

The Guardian Clubs and our party-building tasks

First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 3, No. 8, October 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Today, the Marxist-Leninist forces in the U.S. are characterized by a chaos of organizational forms, significantly different levels of political development and the absence of an organizational center. Localism and small circle mentality dominate. Mass work of communists is considerably circumscribed and, except on a local level in a few instances, does not proceed on the basis of a strategic plan – or even a tactical plan.

The present backward state of the movement will prevail unless an ideological and organizational breakthrough can be achieved.

A serious party-building effort today must take on two characteristics. One, it must in fairly rapid order take on a national character, linking up Marxist-Leninists throughout the country on the basis of ideological unity and common organizational form. Two, it must deepen and expand the struggle for ideological clarity and begin to develop a common political outlook based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and rich experiences our movement already possesses.

In these words, the Guardian has advanced a plan which, in its opinion, “would make a substantial contribution to party-building forces.” As initially discussed in the party-building supplement (June 1977) and elaborated upon in the September 7, 1977 issue, the Guardian proposes to organize a series of clubs “based upon a common set of ideological principles and unified organizationally by its connections with this newspaper.”

These clubs would engage in activity in three areas, described as “party-building,” “local political action” and “Guardian-building.” While the organization of study, as well as, for example, southern Africa solidarity work and strike support are considered important, building the influence of the Guardian is called the “chief form of practical activity for the Clubs.”


In essence, this plan amounts to an attempt by the Guardian to set itself up as a center for the Marxist-Leninist trend. On the one hand we are told: “We do not propose, at this time, to spell out an organizational plan for party-building.”

The implications of this statement are that the clubs merely serve to consolidate the Guardian’s political supporters in order that they can better serve the overall development of the trend. In this case the clubs would be seen as one form, among several, which would help to hammer out “an organizational plan.” In particular, their role would be that of strengthening the Guardian’s input into the efforts to develop this plan already underway.

However, the real thrust of the supplement is somewhat different. The forces in the Marxist-Leninist trend are characterized as primitive organizations in which ”localism and the small circle mentality dominate.” Their work in the mass movements is said to be “considerably circumscribed” and unenlightened by a “strategic plan.” In addition, these forces “lack an organizational center.”

Following this (generally accurate) assessment of our forces, we are informed: “A SERIOUS party-building effort must take on two characteristics (my italics–CN).” The first – and most emphasized – characteristic is that this effort “must in fairly rapid order take on a national character, linking up Marxist-Leninists on the basis of ideological unity and common organizational form.” Then, the Guardian proceeds to propose its clubs, “linked together in a network with a national political newspaper as their focus.”

The clear implication of all this is that the locally-based forces in our trend are wedded to localism in principle, and that, therefore, the Guardian has no choice but to play the leading role in the party-building process. With all the local organizations mired in a “small circle mentality,” a “serious” effort which assumes a “national character” and unites Marxist-Leninists in a “common organizational form,” must come from it alone.


The impression created here is false. As the Guardian knows full well, efforts by a broad spectrum of local organizations are underway to achieve precisely these aims. A number of local groups have called for the formation of a national ideological center to centralize the ideological struggle in our trend, and have already taken concrete steps to bring that center about.

The conception advanced by these organizations stresses the need to establish firm and principled political unity among Marxist-Leninists, and as quickly as possible, to clothe that unity in organizational form. Moreover, through materials that have been circulated and discussions and conferences that have been organized, these efforts have already begun to assume a “national character.”

Repeated attempts have been made to incorporate the Guardian into this work; they have been requested to attend meetings, participate in discussions and make concrete proposals as to what course of action should be followed. Even when the Guardian said it was not able to play a direct role in the process, it has been kept informed of all major developments and its input has been continually sought. And yet the Guardian has assumed a posture of “benign neglect.” It has chosen to stand on the periphery of these efforts, and now has counterposed its own narrow plan.

Furthermore, the Guardian’s plan does not really lend itself to developing the unity of our trend or pushing forward its party-building tasks. The most highly developed of our forces are organized into local organizations and collectives. While still primitive, these forces have gone beyond being mere study circles and have begun to take up the task of elaborating an application of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in the U. S. A few have done fairly extensive theoretical work on some questions, which is being refined in the process of repeated testing in practice.

In addition, they have taken the first tenuous steps toward the working class and the oppressed nationalities. Some have even evolved a measure of strategy and tactics to guide them in this work. Moreover, internally they have begun to apply the Leninist principles of organization, developing primitive democratic centralist structures, programs for developing communist cadre and real division of labor in their work. As a result of these developments, the knowledge and experience of these organizations is a considerable resource for our trend.

The Guardian, however, while concentrating its efforts on organizing unaffiliated individuals, makes no attempt to provide a plan to unite these forces. On the contrary, the supplement ignores this task—an act of considerable political irresponsibility.


But most importantly, the Guardian, while it has many strengths and continues to play a generally positive role in our movement, is not capable of playing the role of a center. In the first place, it lacks the theoretical and practical requirements to provide leadership to the trend. To the extent that it has done theoretical work, that work has remained on the most abstract and general level, and is not capable of serving as a guide to action. The Guardian has no direct way of testing its theoretical formulations, and thus is unable to concretize and refine them in relation to an actual working class movement.

Practically, the Guardian has no experience in organizing the implementation of a political line, little practice in cadre building, and insufficient knowledge of the techniques of communist organization. Furthermore, the Guardian has no direct relationship to the practical workers in our movement.

Moreover, the Guardian lacks the understanding to guide our party-building efforts. Since it denies that fusion is the very essence of party building, it has no objective basis to distinguish between our primary and secondary tasks. Take our theoretical tasks, for example. If we recognize the centrality of fusion, then, clearly, we must direct our theoretical work to solving those problems which pose the greatest obstacles to achieving a greater measure of fusion with the advanced workers.

But if fusion is renounced, what theoretical tasks receive priority? Those that most serve to unify the existing stock of Marxist-Leninists? In that case we will never achieve political clarity. On the contrary, we will be forced to take up whatever questions happen to be current in the party building movement – in our case the questions raised by the dogmatists – irrespective of whether they have any relation to the real world or not.


A further example of the Guardian’s lack of understanding is manifest in their approach towards the question of multi-nationality. One of the most severe weaknesses of our trend is its lack of multi-national unity; our trend as a whole is overwhelmingly white. Owing to our weak grasp of the centrality of the struggle against racism, most Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Asian and Native American Marxist-Leninists are not prepared to commit themselves to developing the trend. Furthermore, where there is multi-national participation, it mainly takes the form of separate organizations, all-Black, all-Chicano, etc. The number of organizations than can even lay claim to the beginnings of multinational development can be counted on two hands.

This fact has significant political consequences. Our insufficient multinational unity reflects a low level of fusion with the working class. It is part of the ABC’s of our political perspective that the core of the united front in the U. S. is the alliance of the multi-national working class and the oppressed nationalities. Oppressed nationality workers stand at the forefront not only of their own liberation movements, but also of the working class movement as a whole. Our movement will be absolutely powerless unless it makes real strides towards winning over these workers.

How does the Guardian address this pressing question? They accord it the significance of the following single phrase:

From the beginning they (the clubs) would strive to become multi-national organization!!


No, the Guardian cannot play the role of a center for our trend. Rather, it is the local Marxist-Leninist organizations which will have to play the leading role in creating such a center. They have done valuable theoretical work and acquired valuable theoretical experience which will help them in this effort. But they cannot succeed if they remain isolated and disunited. Success requires that they take immediate steps to come together to establish a leading ideological center as the first step towards building a national pre-party organization.

We would have hoped that the Guardian would support this development and would aid in bringing it about. But instead of helping to build and develop local organizations and working to bring them together, the Guardian is further fragmenting our movement by establishing parallel organizations, organizations which may have some semblance of national form, but will be unable to be national in content because they will be isolated from the most advanced of our forces.

That the Guardian could act in such a manner is a product of their voluntaristic party building line and their belittling of fusion. Seeing no preconditions to party formation other than ideological unity on “the inherited legacy of scientific socialism”, the Guardian is content with issuing a set of unity principles and calling for unity around them. Seeing the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the working class as essentially diversionary, the Guardian naturally underestimates the critical importance and central role that those organized forces which have taken the first steps toward this fusion must play.


Nevertheless, the clubs do not have to have a negative effect. If the Guardian were to use the clubs to spur on the development of local organizations and to aid in the construction of a real center for our trend, then the clubs would play a very useful role. This however, assumes that the clubs’ center is insightful enough to change its attitude.