Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist League

Carry Out Open and Above Board Struggle

First Published: Mass Resistance, Vol. 11, No. 4, July 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In doing our merger, we have defined open and above board struggle as struggle done in a principled way and conducted openly in front of the whole communist movement. We have specified that this means struggle around programmatic questions should take place openly in the form of polemics, reportings and sum-ups printed in the communist press. We have criticized not only the groups which have completely failed to do such open work but also those which have only seen fit to give the movement the results of their struggle. By this we mean the unity statements which do not even report on who upheld incorrect positions and why and what were the roots of such errors, etc.

Comrades in the movement have criticized us or openly disagreed with our views. “Open and above board struggle” has been defined by some as meaning only that in relations between organizations struggle must be principled but must not necessarily be reported to the whole movement. In that vein, the type of unity statements dominant in the movement is seen is being correct. The League for Revolutionary Struggle (M-L) is one such organization and we feel it is appropriate at his time to further clarify our views not only for the LRS but for the movement is a whole.

What we will do here is to take one example (the Chicano National Question) and show the results from not engaging in the form of open and above board struggle which we advocate. Indeed, it is not difficult to see that the present fragmentation of the movement is at least partially attributable to an incorrect form of “open and above board struggle” that was practiced.

Today, across the U.S. the Chicano people are again in motion against the capitalist system. Yet it is a motion that lacks cohesion, a program for revolution or overall leadership. The communist movement is not yet in any position to provide leadership to that movement in any strategic way given its present political disunity. Wherever the communists step forward to try to provide such leadership, they are forced to put forward the following face to the Chicano movement:

LRS will put forward that there exists a Chicano nation and will raise the demands of political and economic power for Chicanos in the Southwest.

LPR will be unable to put forward either that the Chicanos do or do not constitute a nation, although they will definitely defend the special rights of Chicanos.

The CP-ML will raise demands centering on the Chicanos being a national minority and oppose the slogans of nationhood.

The WC and the RWH will most likely say that they know as of yet neither position to be correct.

We recognize that no matter that the movement is divided on whether there is or is not a Chicano nation, the fact remains that it is possible to attempt to conduct joint work at some level among communist organizations. Thus, we may all be able to unite on the need, say, to defend and expand Chicano college programs. We can certainly unite on the need to defend the Chicano people against any form of discrimination. Yet, this is insufficient to be able to provide strategic leadership to the Chicano movement to win it over as an important ally of the U.S. multi-national working class. We are oftentimes faced with the contradiction in our mass work of having to struggle against another organization’s position. Thus, while affirming the unity which is possible among communists, we cannot go as far as to call this a common program for leading the Chicano movement to liberation.

We have to say that the communist movement belittles the Chicano masses and their spontaneous struggles so long as it is unable to provide leadership based on one fundamental line. This is the present situation. The spontaneous struggles will remain just that until the movement is able to move them along one clear path that is not open to many interpretations. The Chicanos are or were or were never allowed to become a nation and one and only one of those things can be true.The answer to that question is one important part of the fundamental questions in the struggle for socialism in the U.S. And that same answer will help to greatly move along the Chicano struggles to that one clear path.

So where has the type of open and above board struggle advocated by many (including the LRS) gotten us to in this movement in relation to the Chicano question? What is the history of this question, how has it been handled and what have been the objective results? Let’s look at this particularly in regards to the LRS who has had a lot of presence in the struggle over this line:

1) 1976 – ATM M-L publishes “Fan the Flames: A Revolutionary Position on the Chicano National Question” and present their case for the existence of a Chicano nation. They choose not to polemicize with the OL’s position that the Chicanos are a national minority.
2) 1977 – The OL (M-L) publishes “Nationalist Reformism Disguised as Marxism” in their journal “Class Struggle”. They criticize the ATM position as being a nationalist deviation. The ATM never responds openly.
3) Sept. 1977 – ATM publishes an article in “Revolutionary Cause” describing some of their cadre as the “4 Splitters”. ATM criticizes them for their narrow nationalism among other things. They report that “we are seriously examining the influence of the line of the splitters and its effect on our general line and practice. We will be closely studying FAN THE FLAMES because we feel there are the seeds of their opportunist position in that document. We will lay out the results of the study and investigation to the workers and Communist movements.”
4) Oct. 1977 – In an editorial in the next issue of “Revolutionary Cause”, ATM reports that: “Some comrades believe that in fact there is no difference in principle between ourselves and the factionalists on the Chicano National Question. As we sum-up this struggle, we will share the conclusions with our readers.” These questions raised in the Sept. and Oct. issues of their newspaper were never reported on to the movement as they had said they would.
5) Sept. 1978 – ATM and IWK merge to form the League for Revolutionary Struggle (LRS). There is no mention of the Chicano nation idea in any founding documents or statements.
6) Aug. 1979 – LRS publishes “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation” in their journal ”Forward”. While this document is nearly the same as the position of ATM there is no mention of any repudiation of anything in “Fan the Flames”. In fact it is referred to as if it were some historically proven document. Nor is there any mention of the “4 Splitters”, no polemic with the CP-ML position, etc.
7) Early 1980 – LRS states in an interview that one of the differences being struggled out in the trilateral meetings with the CP-ML and the RWH is the Chicano question. We are told nothing else.
8) 1979-1980 – LRS is raising the slogan of “political and economic power in the Southwest” as part of their work in the 10th commemoration of the August 29th moratorium. They continue to put forward the Chicano nation idea as if it had never been criticized, as if the position had ever been well defended in the movement, as if there was nothing possibly wrong with the position and it was correct to use that position to try to provide leadership to the Chicano people.

This brief history exhibits nothing on the part of LRS (nor before as ATM) that we would call open and above board. This approach has obviously not led the communist movement to unity on the Chicano question. It in fact has left open a whole series of serious questions that might have been answered had the struggle been conducted as we have advocated. Among the questions which have gone unanswered:

Why did ATM (or LRS later) fail to ever report about the possible seeds of narrow nationalism in “Fan the Flames”?

Why was the Chicano question not important enough to have been a part of the founding documents of the ATM-IWK merger? How was this set aside?

Why did neither ATM nor LRS never respond to the CP-ML polemic?

Why was there no self-criticism by the LRS of a whole series of changes that were made on the Chicano National Question position from the time of “Fan the Flames” to the present position?

Why does the trilateral grouping of LRS, CP-ML and RWH see that it is better for the rest of the movement to not know the content of their struggles on the Chicano question?


When we raise the need to struggle in an open and above board way to settle the differences among the movement, we are doing so in order to help to develop that one line which will and could provide the material basis not only for the forming of a party but also to develop the consistent practice to lead not only the Chicanos but all peoples in the U.S. to socialism. We do so also knowing full well what the type of open and above board struggle advocated by others in the movement has led to.

We cannot separate the present fragmentation of the movement over political line from the type of past and present methods of struggle utilized to arrive at that unity.

As long as open and above-board is taken in the narrow sense of group-to-group meetings, as long as it is confined to the backrooms of bilateral or trilateral relations, as long as all the rest of the movement ever hears is general statements about what a lot of good straggle is going on in those back rooms, then for just as long we will not have a single movement united on one line that can fuse with the workers, we will not even have us a party. No one we believe is ready to put forward any new form of American exceptionalism and defend a line that the U.S. is the only place in the world to date where the movement can be built without struggle, without that struggle being conducted in an open and above board way.