Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist League

In the CUML: Party Building What is the Road?

First Published: Mass Resistance, Vol. 11, No. 4, July 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Marxist-Leninist League recognizes the building of a genuine multi-national communist Party as the central task of all U.S. Marxist-Leninists. To fulfill this task we see the need to strive for principled unity based on a consistent revolutionary practice guided by a correct ideological and political line. The struggle for unity has to be carried out in a principled and above-board manner, not reduced to high level secret negotiations and dark room compromises. It is in this light that we are putting forward our views on the announced tri-lateral meetings between the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (CP-ML), the League for Revolutionary Struggle M-L (LRS-ML) and the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters (RWH).

In January of this year, the CP-ML, the LRS and the RWH announced their decision to “hold a series of meetings to seek greater unity.” Those meetings were in their words: ’a step forward in the process forging a single, unified communist party’ and represented ’one front in the over-all effort to unite all U.S’. Marxist-Leninists’. (See the January issues of the Call, Unity, and Revolutionary Worker.)

Simultaneous with this joint statement, Unity printed an interview with William Gallegos, ’a spokeperson for the Central Committee of the LRS’, which stated that:
1) the Committee to Unite Marxist-Leninists (CUML) which had been projected as the party building effort by the CP-ML, the IWK, ATM and others “had never existed.”
2) “That there (were) no specific plans form it at this time”.
3) that the trilateral meetings were “not seen as a mechanism for the actual formation of a party”.
4) that the LRS believed that “the key thing in party building is the development a correct ideological and political line”.

The Gallegos interview brought to the open the discussion about the purposes and developments of the CUML that until it day were kept as top secret information m the rest of the communist movement. Most of the individuals and organizations in the US movement were led to believe that the CUML was a real committee composed of the three mentioned organizations. For example, weeks before the LRS-RCL merger, RCL proposed to LPR that they should investigate the CUML and they offered to provide a proposal for the development of CUML which was being discussed within that committee. The WC was similarly led to believe CUML was a functioning organism.

Those who have the responsibility for explaining to the movement whether the (ML ever existed are obviously those who were members. The central question for the movement as a whole is however how three organizations in our movement decided to abandon the CUML and substitute the trilateral meetings for it. On this, the Gallegos interview says nothing and in fact none of the three organizations involved have publicly said anything along these lines. This we consider to be a serious error and incorrect practice in our movement as we will explain below.

The CUML was presented to our movement as a plan for the whole movement. In that sense it was, at the least, an offer to the whole movement to join in an effort to unite Marxist-Leninists. Among its main limitations was the lack of a real assessment of the communist movements its history and its needs.

The questions which have been left for the rest of the movement to wonder about are:
1) What was wrong with the CUML ideal, approach and methods, if anything?
2) What should the communist movement learn from this experience?
3) Did two lines emerge that led to the liquidation of the CUML and if so what are the respective organizations’ views on those lines?

In the absence of answers to these questions from those who are most liable for this information, we will just briefly state our view based on what we have gotten from speaking with several organizations.

From our understanding, the CUML in practice suffered from the sectarianism that has been so common in our movement. Despite the public words, the concrete practice was that no other organizations were ever allowed to join the CUML. The CUML likewise suffered from the incorrect practice of confining polemics and struggle to the meeting rooms of the CUML as opposed to also making it available to the rest of the movement for its participation. This fear of open struggle is a subjective reaction to past errors and practices in our movement when polemics were nearly only done openly for the purpose of exposures of opportunists.

And it seems that the CP-ML position on the CUML was to call for immediate organizational unity. Apparently, the LRS position was to not see this as an immediate possibility. The RWH has confirmed these points as being the positions of the organizations and that eventually at some point the LRS abandoned the CUML.

That these errors or practices continue today can be seen first of all from the fact that the trilateral meetings are supposed to be a step forward for the communist movement. In our view they are not since the trilateral arrangement not only fails to correct the errors of the CUML but even carries them to an extreme. The CUML at least was supposedly an open committee with some set of criteria for membership. The trilateral meetings, on the other hand, do not admit of that possibility. In this sense this is a step backward that is even more sectarian than the previous party building attempt.

That the same attitude pervades the trilateral meetings concerning the question of open and above board struggle can be seen from the fact that today, a full six months after the Gallegos interview, the CP-ML and the RWH who consider that interview to be factually inaccurate and politically incorrect have failed to respond in any open way to present their views. And it can be seen from the fact that since the January announcement of the trilateral meetings, there has been not one single article in the press of the three organizations about further developments of those meetings. The only real/information we have is that the Call is now the “Voice of Socialism in the U.S.” rather than the organ of the CP-ML and that the RWH ceased publication of their paper and will instead be sending their subscribers issues of the Call. If this has anything to do with the trilateral, we can only guess at the moment.

We can also surmise that there were at least two lines on the CUML and party building based on the Gallegos interview and the CP-ML position that immediate organizational unity was possible. The Gallegos interview in putting forward that the key thing was development of a correct ideological and political line stands in contradiction to the idea that “the immediate task confronting us is the organizational unification of the existing organizations (the big 3)”. Given the fact that this line struggle has never been taken from the meeting rooms of the CUML and that consequently it is not resolved, there is every reason to suspect that the same differences will be carried into the trilateral and could also produce the same results.

The creation of the trilateral arrangements brings out even clearer another point that apparently existed as some type of unity among these three big organizations. It is a further step backward since they have essentially reduced party building in the U.S. to secret negotiations between the three of them while the rest of the communist movement has the task of waiting and seeing what if anything comes out of these meetings. In that sense, the trilateral meetings are established as an arithmetical arrangement whereby the uniting of the “Big Three” become the key link to party building since it might put together into one single organization the majority of the U.S. communists. In that sense, political and ideological unity is not the criteria but rather size becomes all-important.

This can be further seen in how the trilateral arrangement defined its basis of unity: “The three organizations take M-L-MTTT as their theoretical foundation, uphold the Theory of the 3 Worlds and defend the socialist countries in the world, especially the Peoples’ Republic of China. The 3 organizations also see the U.S. revolution as a socialist revolution led by the working class, having the goal of overthrowing the monopoly capitalist class and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.” The fact is that other Marxist-Leninist organizations also uphold these same views and thus could not have been eliminated from the trilateral on this basis.

It cannot be argued that other organizations were excluded since they have a lot of differences in the interpretation of these questions with the “Big 3” since in the same Gallegos interview he states that big differences exist among the three like on “how to struggle against our bourgeoisie”, how to go about party building, the national question, etc. These are our reasons for concluding that the basis for exclusion is in fact size. Only if one is considered their equal in size, composition, resources, etc. can one be a part of their party building efforts. The rest of us thus are left with the alternatives of merging with one of the “Big 3” waiting until they break with their sectarianism or being possibly labeled new “anti-party forces”.

As it now stands, the trilateral meetings are not a step forward but will be simply another stumbling block on the road to a new party. Clearly, we are not saying that it is wrong for 3 organizations to meet to discuss party building or whatever. Nor is it incorrect for 3 organizations to work out mergers under the correct set of conditions and line. These could obviously prove real positive for the whole movement. We, among others have consistently put forward the need for multi-lateral meetings at many levels and around many questions. We have yet to receive a positive response especially from the “Big 3”.

What we criticize is the projection of the trilateral meetings among the “Big 3” as the principal step in party building while at the same time excluding the rest of the movement. Likewise insofar as it is projected as the movement’s answer to our problems, we criticize the lack of any scientific summation of the CUML attempts, the spontaneity of changing from one plan to another without any repudiation or self-criticism, the sectarianism, and the lack of open and above board struggle in the process.

Given that any day now we expect to hear that the trilateral meetings never existed and that there are no plans to reform them, we want to make it clear that so long as the past practices are continued, we see the responsibility of continuing to criticize such efforts. So long as such errors are not corrected, our mutual party building responsibilities to each other and to the working class will not be met. Without such criticism the practice of putting size before the correctness of the line will not be ended. We will likewise continue to struggle for the formation of correct attempts to unite Marxist-Leninists in this country and welcome our readers’ responses on this question.