Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

May Day Speech by Carl Davidson of the CPML

’A time to unite real friends to defeat real enemies’

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 19, May 15, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following speech was delivered by Carl Davidson, a member of the Communist Party (M-L), at the New York May Day meeting April 30, 1978.

* * *

May Day is not simply a time of celebration for our Party and our class. Events like the killing last week of 51 West Virginia workers all serve to remind us that this is also a solemn occasion, a time when we bow our heads in respect for those who have fallen.

On May Day, we remember that the workers’ flag is not red simply by accident or for artistic reasons. As the traditional labor song goes, “Our life’s blood has dyed its every fold.”

We are revolutionary optimists. Our class has won many victories, and it has a great future. In fact, it is only the proletariat that is capable of wiping out all the misery and suffering in this world brought about by centuries of class society. But, while we understand why our future is bright, we are also sober, thorough-going materialists. We know that the road ahead is tortuous, full of twists and turns.

May Day is a time for casting away illusions and preparing for struggle. It is a time for the working class to heighten its vigilance against its enemies, especially those who have wormed their way into its ranks. It is a time to unite real friends to defeat real enemies.

Not all those who wave the red flag or claim to speak for the working class actually do so. Even at the time of the origins of May Day and the eight-hour movement, there were two lines in the labor movement.

On the one hand, there were those like Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons, who died on the gallows for the cause of labor. These revolutionaries insisted that the demand for the eight-hour day was only the opening shot in a long war, a war that would only end with the complete emancipation of the working class and the total defeat of the capitalist class.

On the other hand, there were those like Samuel Gompers, who also claimed to support May Day. The AFL bureaucrats argued that the eight-hour day, an improvement in wages, and trade union organization would solve all the workers’ problems. Rather than overthrowing the capitalists, they argued that labor should try to win friends among the capitalist politicians and support one faction against another.

Who was right and who was wrong? The revolutionaries like Parsons and Eugene Debs? Or the reformist traitors like Gompers?

We can answer these questions by looking at our conditions today. Nearly one hundred years have passed and we are still fighting to defend – and attain the eight-hour day. On one hand, we have millions of workers who are being driven to the point of exhaustion with forced overtime, moonlighting or speedup. On the other hand, we have millions more who have a zero-hour day, workers thrown out into the streets without jobs, workers who make up the vast army of the unemployed.

Of course, the workers have made some gains in this century of struggle. There have been times in this country’s history when the capitalists and their agents were on the run. There were the CIO drives and unemployment marches of the 1930s. There was the Black revolt against segregation and violent repression in the 1960s.

During these times, faced with the alternative of massive rebellion, the capitalists made a considerable number of concessions to the workers and the oppressed peoples. But what are these gains, really?

To a certain extent, the gains won in struggle served to strengthen the unity and fighting capacity of the workers. But when you consider the wealth that the working people in this country have produced, when you consider the power and potential for abundance of the productive forces that the workers themselves have created, then these reforms are shown up for what they really are. They are nothing but crumbs, scraps left over on the table after the capitalists have had their feast.

Back during the struggles of the 1960s, there used to be a lot of talk about “non-negotiable demands,” about demands which couldn’t be turned into crumbs. There is really only one “non-negotiable demand.” And that is: “power to the working class.”

But today, the working class in its millions has not yet taken up this demand. We are not yet in a revolutionary situation. In fact today, it is the capitalists who are on the offensive and the working class that is in the position of the strategic defensive.

The working class has resisted these attacks, and the outstanding example this year was the miners’ strike. The miners were originally offered- a contract that would have set them back more than ten years in terms of their working conditions. It would have turned the miners into serfs and established the “peace of the grave” in the mines–all in the name of “stability” and “productivity.”

What are the factors behind the bourgeoisie’s current offensive against the American people? Actually, what is happening is that the capitalists are preparing the path for their usual solution to their economic crises.

The present crisis is part of the world crisis of the capitalist system. This is the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution. The imperialists are compelled to operate under the law of “expand or die” in order to defend their profits.

Each imperialist power, however, is not alone in the world. Each runs up against other imperialist powers that also operate by the law of “expand or die.”

What is more, imperialism is characterized by its uneven development. After a time in the sun, some powers become overextended and beset with internal difficulties and enter a period of decline. Other powers, leaner and hungrier, accelerate their expansionism and aggression.

These features are what makes for the inevitability of imperialist war. Imperialism means war. As Lenin put it, imperialists can only divide the world “In proportion to strength.”

Nor is it simply a matter of what Lenin or Stalin had to say about the matter. Look at history and remember that facts are stubborn things.

There was a severe crisis of capitalism prior to 1914, followed by World War I. There was a severe crisis in the 1930s, followed by World War II.

How can anyone talk seriously about fighting the economic crisis today without also fighting what it is leading up to–the danger of a new world war? Chairman Mao pointed out some time ago that before the U.S. imperialists could launch a war, they first had to “attack the American people.” That is the significance of the attacks oh the working class and minority nationalities today.

The revisionists and centrists today will come up with every imaginable argument to convince you that imperialist war is “unthinkable,” “impossible,” “unnecessary,” “unlikely,” ”doubtful,” “not in the cards.” This is pure poison. It is despicable treachery. It is a line which leaves the people unprepared. It leaves the enemy unexposed. Worse, it sets the people up for slaughter.

The revisionists and centrists are trying to convince you of the same view as that held by the imperialists. They try to argue that “detente” is possible, and anyone who prepares the people for war is slandered as a “warmonger.”

What do their arguments boil down to, really? First, that U.S. imperialism will rule the imperialist roost eternally, and, secondly, that the Soviet Union is not imperialist, but “socialist.” The Soviet Union is thus not driven to war, but is a force for “peace” in the world.

This is really the most despicable argument of all. Do you really believe that workers in power would unleash a fascist repression against their own people? Do you really believe that workers in power would deprive minority nationalities of their languages? Do you really believe workers in power would lock the people protesting these things up in torture chambers called mental hospitals?

Do you really believe workers in power would invade and occupy other countries like Czechoslovakia? Do you really believe that workers in power would bombard and napalm the liberation fighters in Eritrea, would provoke civil war in Angola, would instigate coups in Somalia?

As Lenin pointed out: “A proletariat that tolerates the slightest coercion of other nations by its ’own’ nation cannot be a socialist proletariat.”

The centrists are just as shameless, although in a different way. They will say it’s not quite right to say the workers hold power in the Soviet Union, but it’s not a capitalist country, either. They’re “not sure,” they’re “still studying,” they don’t want to be “dogmatic.”

Centrism is simply a special variety of revisionism. It is revisionism that strikes an “anti-revisionist” pose. As such, centrism has nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism and is not a part of our movement.

In making an assessment of the world today, our movement has been greatly assisted by the guidance given by Mao Tsetung’s brilliant theory of the three worlds. This strategic concept sums up all the lessons from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on the international situation and applies them concretely to the actual conditions existing in the world today. As such, it has come under fire from revisionists, Trotskyites, and opportunists of all stripes, but especially from the Soviet social-imperialists, for obvious reasons.

The theory of three worlds begins by posing the question of first importance for revolutionaries–namely, who are our friends and who are our enemies?

The main enemy of all the world’s peoples today is the first world, the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR.

The main force opposed to the two superpowers are the countries and peoples of the third world, which includes socialist China. The third world includes the vast majority of the world’s peoples and it is the storm center of struggle against imperialism.

Standing in between the first and third worlds is the second world, the lesser imperialist countries of Europe, Japan and Canada. Their situation is complex. While they exploit the third world, they are also subjected to the bullying and hegemonism of the superpowers.

Briefly, this is what is meant by the term “three worlds.” Its strategic and tactical orientation for the proletariat of all countries is to form a broad international united front against the two superpowers and their war preparations, to unite with the third world as the main allies and main force, to win over all that can be won over in the second world, and to isolate and defeat the two imperialist superpowers of the first world.

In its particulars, this theory gives much more concrete guidance and enables us to make good use of contradictions in the enemy camp while relying on the masses.

What is the relationship between the two superpowers? They are locked in contention and bound to go to war. What is more, the U.S. is in relative decline, on the defensive. The Soviets are relatively on the rise, on the offensive. Both superpowers are the source of war, since of all the imperialist countries, it is only they that are actually capable of launching a war for the redivision of the globe.

But, between the two, which is more dangerous? Which is the main source of war? We hold that it is the Soviet Union, the newcomer to the imperialist feast.

While the U.S. is stronger economically and reaps greater profits, it is the USSR that is outstripping the U.S. in its war machine and aggressiveness, precisely because it is in the weaker economic position. This is being borne out by facts in Africa and northern Europe today.

There are some people who oppose this assessment. They claim the two superpowers are equal to the “same degree and same extent” and are, moreover, equal enemies with an entire so-called international bourgeoisie.

We would like to ask these people, how can this be? No two things in the universe are equal to the same degrees and same extent. How can it be with two such complex entities as two superpowers? And what is this international bourgeoisie? If there are no contradictions among imperialists, why do they go to war? Do you really believe that Swedish or Danish imperialism is just as dangerous as the superpowers? Haven’t you abandoned both dialectics and materialism and the law of uneven development to boot?

You cannot hide behind generalities. The truth is concrete. If you are to call yourselves communists, then you must make an assessment based on actual conditions.

It does no good and great harm to tell the world’s peoples that they must fight all their enemies at once, rather than to crush them one by one.

These people even go so far as to deny the existence of the third world. The world is divided into “two camps,” capitalist and socialist, they claim. Again, this is metaphysical nonsense that has little to do with the actual stands taken by various countries on the key issues in the international arena today.

In the actual stands that it takes, does Tanzania reflect the same interests as the superpowers and line up in the capitalist camp because it is not a socialist country? This line only liquidates the distinction between oppressor and oppressed nations and deprives the working class of its allies.

These people would also deny the countries and peoples of the second world the right to defend themselves against superpower invasion and occupation. Have you forgotten the lessons of World War II? When the Nazis invaded Norway and the Norwegian capitalists, in their vast majority, capitulated overnight, what should the communists have done? Should they fight a national revolutionary people’s war to throw out the invader? Or should they do like the Trotskyites and aim their fire everywhere but at the main target at the time?

Then there are some people in this country who claim that the CPML, by targetting the USSR as the main danger in the international arena, are thereby “collaborating” with U.S. imperialism.

First of all, we would like to point out that our Party wages more class struggle against the U.S. capitalists in a single day than these forces do in an entire year, if they ever do.

Second, our task in this country is to overthrow U.S. imperialism, our principal enemy. But we refuse to be chauvinists and separate the tasks of our revolution from the tasks of the class struggle on a world scale.

Our line is clear. We are opposed to imperialist war, but we are not afraid of it. We will expose the class nature of the war and sharpen our struggle against the monopoly capitalists, especially opposing their war preparations.

What is more, we will expose the main source of the war, just as our comrades opposed Hitler fascism more than 40 years ago. We will also attack the line of appeasement which hastens the outbreak of the war. We will do everything to delay the outbreak of war, but when it does break out, we will rally the people against the imperialist war and work to turn it into a revolutionary war against capitalism.

The theory of the three worlds has become a rallying cry for the unity of the international communist movement. In country after country, Marxist-Leninists have taken this position as a line of demarcation between Marxism and opportunism of various types.

This unity trend is the main trend, not only internationally, but within various countries as well. In the latest issue of The Call, the joint declaration of the CPML and several Dominican organizations points out that Dominican communists will form the party in their country this year. In France, the two main Marxist-Leninist groups are also quickly moving toward unification into a single party. Similar efforts are going on in other countries as well.

Here in the U.S., the CPML has taken a clear stand in favor of the unification of Marxist-Leninists into a single party. When our party was formed last year, we pointed out then that party-building had not come to an end but remained our central task. We believe there are still hundreds of Marxist-Leninists and thousands of advanced workers who are desirous of unity and can be won to a correct line and a single party.

A few months ago, we published an editorial calling for unity efforts to accomplish these aims. We would like to report today that this idea has met with a favorable response from 12 organizations. One of these, the Communist League of Hawaii, has already made a public statement of its stand toward unity. Others will do so in the near future.

In developing such a committee, we would like to contrast our approach with the efforts of various opportunists in recent years. These were the so-called National Liaison Committee set up by the former Revolutionary Union, the Continuations Committee of the Communist League, and the so-called “Revolutionary Wing.”

Each of these sham party-building efforts ended in a dismal failure, wrecked by splits and opportunist maneuvers. The reason is that they were nothing but opportunist anti-party blocs.

They were never united around any definite principles and, thus, were wide open to various intrigues and conspiracies.

We are completely opposed to this approach. We have placed a lot of weight on summing up the experiences of the successful efforts of the Organizing Committee (OC), through which the former October League and ten other groups were able to unite in founding the CPML. We believe that the principles of unity put forward in the “Call to Unite” of the OC generally represent a sound basis, in up-dated form, for new unity efforts.

What are these principles?

First, the dictatorship of the proletariat as our strategic objective. Today we would-also state that we must not only uphold this as our aim, but that we must also defend the dictatorship of the proletariat against its enemies where it actually exists in this world. Concretely, we must resolutely support the Communist Party of China, led by Hua Kuo-feng, and its great victory over the counter-revolutionary “gang of four.”

Second, on the international situation. Today this means we must unite firmly around the theory of the three worlds.

Third, in the labor movement, we must implement the policy of building class struggle unions. We must target the revisionist and reformist bureaucrats as the main agents of the capitalists in the workers’ movement.

Fourth, on the national question, we must uphold proletarian internationalism against both white chauvinism and narrow nationalism. White chauvinism is the main danger.

As long as white supremacy is able to ideologically tie white workers to the bosses, as long as the trade union bureaucrats are able to perpetrate chauvinism with their white-only policies while minority workers are attacked, the workers movement cannot move forward. We must uphold the right of self-determination for the Afro-American nation in the Deep South, independence for Puerto Rico and democratic rights and regional autonomy for all national minorities.

Fifth, on the woman question, we must fight firmly for women’s equality with the view that the woman question is a class question, and women’s emancipation is bound up with the proletarian revolution. We oppose both male chauvinism and bourgeois feminism.

Sixth, we must build and expand the united front against imperialism. We uphold this as the policy for defeating the U.S. bourgeoisie, uniting all who can be united with the workers and the oppressed nationalities as the fundamental alliance. We thoroughly oppose the sham anti-monopoly coalition of the revisionists.

Seventh, on the question of the party. Here we would add today that the CPML has been formed and that this was a correct step forward. Our view is that the unity committee will not establish a new party, as did the OC. Instead, its task is to further unite the Marxist-Leninists into a single party.

Comrades and friends, we believe there is a great trend for unity in our movement today. We believe it is the main trend and should be supported and built by all genuine communists.

In closing, I would like to refer to the words of the “Internationale,” the working class anthem that we will all sing here today.

“Arise, ye prisoners of starvation.” May Day is the day of the working class, the class that has borne untold sufferings and has nothing, nothing to lose but its chains.

“Arise, ye wretched of the earth.” May Day is the day of the oppressed nations and peoples, here and around the globe. You have been despised and spat upon by capital, but now the road to your liberation is clear.

“For justice thunders condemnation, a better world’s in birth.” The very stones of this country cry out from the crimes of capital, crimes that will be burned out with the cleansing fire of revolution.

“No more tradition’s chains shall bind us, arise ye slaves, no more in thrall.” Labor in the white skin can never be free as long as in the black it’s branded. May Day is the day of solidarity, where the dead hand of the past is brushed aside by the living.

“The earth shall rise on new foundations, we have been naught, we shall be all.” On May Day, we pledge to break the power of capital and declare war against these bloodsuckers. Their time is over, their days are numbered.

“Tis the final conflict, let each stand in his place. The Internationale shall be the human race.” LOOK around you today, look at all the nationalities in this hall and see that it is possible to build internationalism, our strongest weapon against a new world war.

To paraphrase the words of Eugene Victor Debs:

“I am a proletarian revolutionary. I am not a capitalist soldier. I oppose all wars but one, the revolutionary class war to rid this earth of the evils of capitalism. In that war, you will find that I will not have to be called or forced into the army. Instead you will find me in the front ranks, a volunteer ready to fight with all my heart and soul.”

Down with imperialism and social-imperialism!
Workers of all countries and oppressed nations of the world, unite!
Long live Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought!
Communists unite, build the Party!