Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line


The New Centrism


First Published: Demarcation, No. 1, March 1979.
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.

EROL Note: Demarcation was published by a small group in New York City which had formerly been part of the Red Dawn Committee (publisher of Red Dawn), which itself had split from the Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist). Demarcation would later join with the U.S. Leninist Core, formerly the Revolutionary Wing, to create, first the Committee of U.S. Bolsheviks, and later the Bolshevik League of the U.S.

* * *

The struggle against Chinese revisionism and its counterrevolutionary “theory of the three worlds” has dealt great blows to all shades of revisionism. Led by the Party of Labor of Albania, this struggle has had a great impact on the US communist movement. The pro-“three worlds” forces, including OL-“CPML”, League of “Revolutionary” Struggle (ATM and IWK), “Revolutionary Workers” Headquarters, “Proletarian” Unity League, Bay Area “Communist” Union, and others, have been consolidated around a revisionist, counter-revolutionary, social-chauvinist line, and are the representatives of the international revisionist trend led by the “Communist” Party of China. These US revisionists must also be seen as agents of Chinese social-imperialism, just as the “C”PUSA revisionists are agents of Soviet social-imperialism.

As this latest struggle against revisionism sharpened, and as a number of forces in the US came out against the “three worlds theory”, it was our hope that the struggle to uphold orthodox Leninism would not be limited just to the international situation, but would be extended to all questions, and, in particular, to Party-building. But as the dust settled, as every group or individual took its stand, and as the features of the forces in the US opposed to Chinese revisionism became clear, we were greatly disappointed. While opposing the Chinese variety of revisionism, most of the forces did not uphold a consistent Leninist line. They either ignored or opposed so many of the key Leninist teachings on the party, including on the importance of revolutionary theory, the two “historical steps” of the revolution of first winning the vanguard of the proletariat to communism and then winning the masses to the side of the vanguard, the character of the party program, the need for open polemics to draw clear lines of demarcation before we could unite, the role of propaganda as the chief form of activity during party-building, that the fundamental ideological root of all opportunism is bowing to spontaneity, and on and on. Also opposed or belittled was Stalin’s teaching that:

Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. (Foundations of Leninism, Peking ed., p.2)

Another teaching also rarely mentioned is that the demolition of the theory of spontaneity “is a preliminary condition for the creation of truly revolutionary parties in the West.” (Foundations, p.26) It had become obvious that a new variety of opportunism existed in the ranks of the anti-Chinese revisionist forces, which was in fact carried over from the now split so-called “anti-revisionist” communist movement.

This new anti-Leninist current in the US was consolidated to different degrees and took different forms among different forces. But what characterized all these errors to one degree or another is that they were a direct continuation of the economism, belittling the role of the conscious element, and social-chauvinism that have for so long plagued the US communist movement. In particular, these errors indicated that a genuine break with either Chinese revisionism or the “theory of the three worlds” had in fact not been made (or much less completed). Under the cover of opposing the right an attempt has been made to try to reconcile the line of the right and the genuine left, to “borrow” parts of the right and genuine left lines and paste them together, all, of course, under the banner of “opposing” Chinese revisionism. The most naked example of this in the US has been MLOC, now “CPUSA(M-L)”, which, as we detailed in our exposure of them in this issue, took the same anti-Leninist line on party-building as OL while pretending to fight OL.

This phenomenon of trying to reconcile the right and the genuine left lines is certainly nothing new in the history of the international communist movement. In fact, it has been a regular occurrence every time there has been a major battle against revisionism. This special type of opportunism is known as centrism. because it appears to stand between the right and left, but actually unites with the right against the left.

Stalin said:

Centrism must not be regarded as a spatial concept: the Rights, say, sitting on one side, the “Lefts” on the other, and the Centrists in between. Centrism is a political concept. Its ideology is one of adaptation, of subordination of the interests of the proletariat to the interests of the petty bourgeoisie within one common party. This ideology is alien and abhorrent to Leninism.

Centrism was a phenomenon that was natural in the Second International of the period before the war. There were Rights (the majority), Lefts (without quotation marks), and Centrists, whose whole policy consisted in embellishing the opportunism of the Rights with Left phrases and subordinating the Lefts to the Rights. (Industrialization of the Country and the Right Deviation in the CPSU(B), Works, vol. 11, p.293-29)

This is precisely the same sort of treachery we see now. There is verbal recognition of Leninism, verbal recognition of the danger of Chinese revisionism and the “theory of the three worlds”, but actual opportunism and social-chauvinism, actual opposition to the Leninist line on party-building and other key questions.

Talking about how the centrists in his day chose to recognize in words the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin said:

It is not verbal recognition that is needed, but a complete rupture in deeds with the policy of reformism, with prejudices about bourgeois freedom and bourgeois democracy, the pursuit in deeds of the policy of revolutionary class struggle.(The Tasks of the Third International, CW vol.29,p.510)

And for us, we need not verbal recognition of Leninism, but a complete rupture in deeds with the anti-Leninist line on party-building and with prejudices about “building the mass movement” while actually running behind every spontaneous struggle. We need not verbal recognition that the ideological root of all opportunism is bowing to spontaneity (which we rarely see these days, anyway), but a complete rupture with it. And we need not verbal recognition that the “theory of the three worlds” means social-chauvinism and class collaboration with the US bourgeoisie, but a complete rupture in deeds with all varieties of social-chauvinism, reformism, and class collaboration.

In talking of the attitude of the Bolsheviks to the centrists, Stalin said:

What, at that time, was the policy of the Lefts, of whom the Bolsheviks constituted the core? It was one of determinedly fighting the Centrists, of fighting for a split with the Rights (especially after the outbreak of the imperialist war) and of organising a new, revolutionary International consisting of genuinely Left, genuinely proletarian elements.

Why was it possible that there could arise at that time such an alignment of forces within the Second International and such a policy of the Bolsheviks within it? Because the Second International was at that time the party of a bloc of proletarian and petty-bourgeois interests serving the interests of the petty-bourgeois social-pacifists, social-chauvinists. Because the Bolsheviks could not at that time but concentrate their fire on the Centrists, who were trying to subordinate the proletarian elements to the interests of the petty bourgeoisie. Because the Bolsheviks were obliged at that time to advocate the idea of a split, for otherwise the proletarians could not have organised their own monolithic revolutionary Marxist party. (Industrialization, op. cit., p.294)

This must be our policy today. Genuine Marxist-Leninists cannot “but concentrate their fire on the Centrists, who were trying to subordinate the proletarian elements to the interests of the petty bourgeoisie. “We must concentrate on them, we must direct our main blow at them, because these new centrists are the most dangerous opportunists precisely because they embellish their opportunism with left phrases, precisely because of their left cover.

The centrists are more dangerous precisely because they advocate a line of compromise with the right, with the social-chauvinists, if not now organizationally, then ideologically and politically, with the line of the right. If we only concentrated on the avowed social-chauvinists, on the open supporters of NATO, the US-China alliance, and all the reactionaries in the world from the ex-Shah of Iran to Sadat to Pinochet, then we would be unable to make this complete rupture, especially ideologically, with revisionism. Thus, we must direct our main fire at the new centrism and its proponents.

At this time we have identified five major forms of centrism among those in the US who claim opposition to Chinese revisionism. We will deal with them one by one.

FIRST – The Centrism of MLOC-“CPUSA(M-L)” and “COUSML”.

These two groups are the clearest examples of centrism. Each represents a consolidated centrist line, a line that masks itself with left phrases but is thoroughly opportunist.

MLOC’s centrism has taken many forms. They oppose the “three world”-ers on China, but have the same line on virtually everything else. MLOC tried for years to merge with the main leaders of the economist, right opportunist trend, especially OL. When that failed, they adopted OL’s entire anti-Leninist line on party-building, lock, stock, and barrel. They made one last desperate attempt to organizationally merge with the right in March, 1978, with their call to 32 groups, including all the “three world”-ers. Again that failed. So MLOC did the next best thing, and remained united with them ideologically and politically, united with their line. Even on the international situation, MLOC has not really broken with the “theory of the three worlds” and social-chauvinism. Their new series of “tactical slogans” (exposed in our article on MLOC), which include such gems as “stop the Carter war machine”, but fail to raise proletarian internationalist support for the struggles of the international proletariat and oppressed peoples and nations, are but a continuation of the same old social-chauvinism of OL and company, (see “Unite”, Jan. 15, 1979, p.2) Also, they promote the same illusions about US imperialism as do the “three world”-ers. At the meeting last summer on the joint statement on China’s cutting aid to Albania, when we raised that US imperialism was seeking a new redivision of the world and was actively attempting to carry it out today (grabbing for influence in Egypt, Sudan, India, Poland, and elsewhere), MLOC disagreed. Weisberg himself said that the US did not seek a new redivision of the world, but was satisfied with the present division of the world, with only minor readjustments. This is in essence exactly what the Chinese revisionists say, that the US is just on the defensive and only seeks to preserve what it has. Clearly MLOC has only broken with the most outward features of Chinese revisionism, but in no way made a complete rupture with it. Now that they have changed their name to “CPUSA(M-L)”, they have put the final seal on their own brand of centrist opportunism.

“COUSML”’s centrism, though just as consolidated and just as anti-Leninist as “CPUSA(M-L)”’s, takes a more bizarre form. To this day “COUSML” still upholds a line of “anti-fascist proletarian revolution” in the US, in other words, two-stage revolution. This is the same as their ventriloquist Hardial Bains’s line of “independence and socialism” for Canada, which the Bainsite “CPC(M-L)” denies is imperialist. What is all this but another version of the “theory of the three worlds”? “COUSML” also is opposed to drawing clear lines of demarcation and uniting around a party program. They attacked OL for even putting forward a line on the national questions as “sectarianism” and MLOC for even putting out a program, however shabby. “COUSML” wants to unite on the basis of Marxism-Leninism— but only in the abstract, because to them Marxism-Leninism is only an abstract idea to be revered and chanted, rather than a scientific guide to our practice. These opportunists used to say “China’s chairman is our chairman.” Now they put on a show as if “Albania’s chairman is our chairman”, but in reality their line is that “Canada’s chairman is our chairman.” These centrists have merely reproduced the same feudal norms and relations that the Chinese revisionists fostered on the international communist movement.

SECOND – Centrism Towards MLOC-“CPUSA(M-L)”.

A characteristic of many circles we have had contact with has been a line of conciliation with the opportunism of MLOC. While not yet a consolidated form of centrist opportunism, it fails to clearly see that MLOC has long been a right opportunist group and is now forging a new right opportunist trend within the anti-Chinese revisionist forces. This shows that these forces have in fact not broken themselves with MLOC’s opportunist line, and still themselves unite with important features of it.

One of the clearest examples of this kind of centrism has been the line of the Marxist-Leninist Collective (MLC), a circle in the Bay Area. They succeeded in spending the entire year of 1978 (and longer) in wavering on their stand to MLOC. In June, they put out a call for a multilateral committee, claiming that sectarianism was the main danger among the Marxist-Leninist circles and that many groups have been “subjectively dismissing any possibility of unity with MLOC.” But they should have known that for many, unity with MLOC was not ruled out “subjectively”, but because of long-standing differences on line with these economists. MLC themselves had put out a pamphlet in 1976 on the split in the working class that talked of national privileges and quoted Lenin that the question of the labor aristocracy and national privileges was “the fundamental question of modern socialism.” (Imperialism and the Split In Socialism, CW vol.23, p,105) But why were they unable to see that MLOC, which opposes even the concept of national privileges for anyone else than the small upper stratum of the proletariat, the labor aristocracy, is opportunist and social-chauvinist, if MLC really believes that this is “the fundamental question”? To have said this was to admit that they didn’t take their own line on the split in the working class very seriously. If MLC really had clear differences with MLOC, then they could have easily run them down publicly. But apparently MLC’s differences with MLOC, or at least part of MLC, are not so “fundamental”. MLC’s wavering is a reflection of them not having made a complete rupture themselves with the economism and reformism of MLOC. While MLC withdrew their proposal for the “multilateral committee,” they then sent out a letter making it appear as if they agreed with everybody’s criticisms. But we said back in September, that MLC should “Advance your own views, fight for them, and rally forces round them.” Even regarding MLOC, we still see the same ideological paralysis from MLC, the same inability to take a clear stand. No, comrades, you do not agree with what we had to say back in September, for if you did, you would have fundamentally changed your passivity and tailism to the burning ideological questions. We now say: Take a stand on “CPUSA(M-L).” Either join it or denounce and expose it publicly. There is no middle road between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism. The revolution cannot wait forever until you make up your minds. If you must split, then split, and use the Leninist method of a purge of conciliators from your ranks. But don’t make wavering your profession, make revolution your profession. Otherwise, there is no point struggling for ideological unity with you if you continue to conciliate to the right.

It is not only MLC that we address with these points. We have exposed in detail the main features of MLOC’s opportunism, and know that others are doing likewise. We do so not for academic exercise, but because the attitude to “CPUSA(M-L)” has now become a line of demarcation in our movement. As we know, centrist fence-sitting is actually conciliation with the right, and an attempt to unite the right and the left. It is time to take a stand, comrades, and now.

THIRD – Centrism Towards Social-Chauvinism.

Although many circles claim opposition to the “three worlds theory”, their conciliatory attitude to its proponents show that they really either do not understand or uphold that the “theory of the three worlds” is revisionist and counter-revolutionary through and through.

Here the most obvious example is the Pacific Collective (PC), another Marxist-Leninist circle in the Bay Area. One of the key reasons they did not sign the joint statement on China’s cutting off of aid to Albania that six circles put out was because they disagreed that there is “a new international revisionist trend led by the CPC.” Since that included “CPML”, L“R”S, BA“C”U, and others, PC said (which it obviously did), they could not agree because they didn’t consider these groups revisionist. Well, we really don’t know what they’re waiting for. As we said earlier, verbal recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc., is meaningless if in deeds these groups oppose revolution. That the “theory of the three worlds” liquidates the struggle against US imperialism and its imperialist bloc, and actually seeks to unite with it, should be beyond question to all genuine Marxist-Leninists today. Teng Hsiao-ping even openly called for a united front with the US in his recent interview in the February 5 issue of Time magazine. But PC still sees this international trend of collaborators with US imperialism, and especially these US social-chauvinists, as comrades who we should convince to sit down and talk about building a party with! But what kind of party would that be? As Stalin said, centrism’s ”ideology is one of adaptation, of subordination of the interests of the proletariat to the interests of the petty bourgeoisie within one common party. This ideology is alien and abhorrent to Leninism.” At a time when at least some clarity has been gained on the question of the revisionist nature of the “theory of the three worlds”, PC cries out, Stop! Don’t split with the social-chauvinists! PC tries to drag us backwards, to undo the small gains we have made. Actually, PC’s line of trying to merge opposing trends, rather than building a Leninist trend that clearly opposes all revisionist trends, is but a rehash of the line of the “Proletarian” Unity League. While “P”UL tries to merge the “three worlds” trend with the pro-Soviet centrist trend, PC tries to merge the anti-Chinese revisionist forces with the “three world”-ers. But centrism is centrism, no matter which rightists you conciliate with. And it seems that PC owes almost its entire existence as a separate circle to their adamant centrism.

While other circles may agree with our evaluation of PC, they themselves are not at all free from centrism themselves. We have in mind the Wichita Communist Cell (WCC) and the Kansas City Revolutionary Workers Collective (KCRWC). Recently they had a debate with COReS, a pro-“three worlds” group, in Denver. The WCC-KCRWC joint presentation at this forum, after still referring to COReS as “comrades”, recounts their differences with COReS. They list COReS’s line and views on theory, propaganda, etc., and say “We must point out that we had unity in general on these characteristics and though COReS united with us on the disunity, fragmentation and decentralization, where we had fundamental disunity was on how to resolve these contradictions.” Then the paper goes on to the differences on the key link to building the party. But all this is still under the assumption that we are talking of the same movement, of making a plan to build one party. It liquidates the existence of an international revisionist trend to which all the proponents of the “three worlds theory” belong. That COReS, LPR, and others have some secondary differences with the CPC is of no matter, for all that means is that they are centrists regarding the split in the international communist movement. But WCC and KCRWC treat this centrism as if it actually means being between the right and left. Not at all. Centrism is a form of right opportunism. It must be ruthlessly exposed for what it is. Yet WCC and KCRWC themselves have illusions about the likes of COReS and LPR, whom they call “waverers”, and say have had correct views on party-building. But these groups are not waverers, they are centrists. Both these groups have been centrist through and through, not only on the international situation, but on every question, party-building included. To this day, they uphold “political line is the key link” and that the ideological break with revisionism has been completed. The illusions of WCC and KCRWC about these opportunists leads them to complain that COReS has broken relations with them. Why complain? That is what you should have done a long time ago. You should have split with these social-chauvinists, for that is what all upholders of the “theory of the three worlds” are. Genuine Marxist-Leninists must say this openly if we are to win people to our line, and not still pretend that revisionists are “comrades”. There was no point in debating with them, either. Rather, WCC and KCRWC should have given their own forum to rally forces around their own line, instead of giving the “three world”-ers another forum to spread their revisionism. If the opportunists give a forum, we can go there to expose them. But for us to give them a platform is to conciliate with them, to give them legitimacy, and thus to make a fundamental concession of principle to these social-chauvinists.


In the last year or so, numerous Marxist-Leninist circles have come out against Chinese revisionism. Communication between them, while still at a somewhat primitive level, has greatly increased. Through the debate around MLC’s proposed multilateral committee, the joint statement, and MLOC’s party-building motion, the circles recognized that the existence of a distinct group of circles is a nation-wide phenomenon. In short, we are in a new circle period.

Since there were so many differences between these circles, a method had to be found to establish ideological unity among the genuine forces and draw clear lines of demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism. Very little progress has been made on this so far. It is our belief that a kind of centrism among the circles themselves, a sinking to a lowest common denominator rather than a fight for a single Marxist-Leninist line and the purging of opportunists, has been responsible for the maintenance of this wretched state of affairs, and has in fact been an ideological justification for small circle spirit. The fact that so few clear lines of demarcation have been drawn makes it difficult to estimate just how deep-seated these errors are. But when the struggle on this sharpens, we shall see just who stands where.

Among the favorite justifications for the refusal of many of these circles to draw clear lines of demarcation are a number of theories put forward by Mao Tsetung. We have all heard his quotations of “unite, don’t split”, “unity-criticism-unity”, and the like. What they all boil down to is an anti-Leninist concept that unity of different lines and factions must be our goal. This is in sharp contrast to Lenin’s teaching that:

Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise, our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and hinder its radical elimination. (Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, CW vol.4,p.354)

To Lenin, we must draw lines of demarcation before we can unite. But to Mao and followers, we must unite first, promise never to split, and then find a basis for unity, which, of course, is never consolidated. The Leninist line promises to unite and not split only on the basis of having first drawn clear lines of demarcation, and not before that is done, because, we, unlike Mao and company, do not want a party of many lines and factions, as the CPC has always been. What we want and what we need is a Bolshevik party with monolithic unity. To say to the circles today that we must promise to unite and not split, without having first achieved a clear and principled basis for this, without having first achieved ideological unity and defeated opportunism, guarantees conciliation to opportunism and allows it to grow and get worse. To Mao, “The essential thing is to start from the desire for unity.” (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, in Four Essays on Philosophy, p.88) But to Lenin:

Unity is a great thing and a great slogan. But what the workers’ cause needs is the unity of Marxists, not unity between Marxists, and opponents and distorters of Marxism. (Unity, CW vol.20, p.232)

And to distinguish between the defenders and opponents of Marxism, clear lines of demarcation must be drawn.

Another anti-Leninist concept borrowed from Mao is that it is impermissible to have “ruthless struggle and merciless blows.” But who was it that put forward the line of “ruthless struggle and merciless blows”? It was none other than Lenin himself.

Listen to Lenin:

It is the task of the Social-Democracy of Russia in the first place and with particular emphasis to conduct a merciless and ruthless struggle against Great-Russian and tsarist-monarchist chauvinism, and against the sophisms advanced by the Russian liberals, Constitutional-Democrats, a section of the Narodniks and other bourgeois parties, for the defence of that chauvinism. (“The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War”, The Imperialist War, Collected Works, 1930 Int’l Pub. edition, vol. 18, p.63, emphasis ours)

And again:

One of the necessary conditions for preparing the proletariat for its victory is a long, stubborn and ruthless struggle against opportunism, reformism, social-chauvinism, and similar bourgeois influences and trends, which are inevitable, since the proletariat is operating in a capitalist environment. If there is no such struggle, if opportunism in the working-class movement is not utterly defeated beforehand, there can be no dictatorship of the proletariat. Bolshevism would not have defeated the bourgeoisie in 1917-1919 had it not learnt before that, in 1903-1917, to defeat the Mensheviks, i.e., the opportunists, reformists, social-chauvinists, and ruthlessly expel them from the party of the proletarian vanguard. From “The Constituent Assembly Elections and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (December 1, 1919). (CW vol.30, p.275, emphasis ours)

Now, Lenin is not talking here of unprincipled maneuvering, personal abuse, or physical intimidation of wavering forces. This is not out of “mercy” for the opportunists, but precisely because such methods serve to obscure and take attention away from the real struggle against opportunism, the ideological struggle. Here Lenin is talking of a merciless and ruthless ideological and organizational struggle to defeat opportunism and expel its proponents from our ranks. But the liberal, petty bourgeois views of Mao Tsetung only serve to justify the petty bourgeois wavering and indecision we see from so many circles.

Still another line we see is that there should be “equality” among all the circles and that no one should “seek hegemony”, which is another anti-Leninist line from Mao. In other words, all ideologies all lines, all trends, and all classes are “equal”, and none should seek to establish its authority, influence, and leadership over the movement. This would be so “undemocratic”. But we do not believe in democracy for opportunism and social-chauvinism. We do not believe in the equality of the science of Marxism-Leninism with any stinking shade of opportunism. Rather, we seek the hegemony of the correct line and the purge of opportunism and all its proponents. We seek to centralize our ideas, and that can only be done by defeating opportunism by drawing clear lines of demarcation.

Regarding the question of hegemony, it was Lenin who said:

If it is our destiny and if it is possible for us to achieve real hegemony it will be exclusively by means of a political newspaper (reinforced by a scientific journal).... (letter to Plekhanov, Jan. 30, 1901, CW vol.34, p.56,emphasis ours)

Lenin was talking of the hegemony of the leading circle, the Iskra circle, and the dominance of its line replacing the dominance of economism. But to our circles, Lenin would have been considered “sectarian”, since he didn’t seek to “unite, don’t split”.

A further deviation is on the attitude towards splits and purges. There is an unstated fear of further splits, a petty bourgeois liberal aversion to sharp ideological struggle. The apparent norm is that we should all scratch each other’s backs and not be so rude or impolite as to sharply disagree. This kind of norm may be fine for a bourgeois tea club, but it is wholly philistine for communists and advanced workers. To Stalin, “The Party becomes stronger by purging itself of opportunist elements.” (Foundations of Leninism, Peking ed., p.115) But to the circles, we cannot rock the boat, we must let each circle maintain its ideological and organizational autonomy and rule out the necessity of purging from our movement anyone who persists in upholding an opportunist line. For example, there is a common view that the revolutionary wing, and the US Leninist Core after it, were automatically sectarian just by virtue of the fact that they purged the majority of their ranks. But so what? If the majority were opportunists (which we believe they were), then out with them! True, certain mistakes were made, which were in no small part due to the fact that some of the purges were carried out by opportunists who were themselves later purged, and these mistakes must be carefully examined, their source ascertained, and thoroughly corrected. But to a priori dismiss them because of wholesale purges is to belittle the depth of opportunism and its great ideological and social bases in the US.

Instead of purging opportunists, we get calls for “two-line struggle”, and all sorts of centrist and Menshevik formulas for promoting and conciliating with opportunism. To build a party, we do not need unity of different lines and different factions. Such a party would be unable to serve the fundamental interests of the proletariat.

As Comrade Stalin said:

The theory of “defeating” opportunist elements by ideological struggle within the Party, the theory of “overcoming” these elements within the confines of a single party, is a rotten and dangerous theory, which threatens to condemn the Party to paralysis and chronic infirmity, threatens to make the Party a prey to opportunism, threatens to leave the proletariat without a revolutionary party, threatens to deprive the proletariat of its main weapon in the fight against imperialism. Our Party could not have emerged on to the broad highway, it could not have seized power and organised the dictatorship of the proletariat, it could not have emerged victorious from the civil war, if it had had within its ranks people like Martov and Dan, Potresov and Axelrod. Our Party succeeded in achieving internal unity and unexampled cohesion of its ranks primarily because it was able in good time to purge itself of the opportunist pollution, because it was able to rid its ranks of the Liquidators and Mensheviks. Proletarian parties develop and become strong by purging themselves of opportunists and reformists, social-imperialists and social-chauvinists, social-patriots and social-pacifists.
The Party becomes strong by purging itself of opportunist elements. (Foundations of Leninism, p.116)

Likewise, if we do not purge our movement of opportunist elements, if we forever conciliate with them and refuse to draw clear lines of demarcation, then we shall condemn our circles to such “paralysis and chronic infirmity” and a destiny of opportunism and class collaboration.

This syndrome of refusing to draw clear lines of demarcation, of conciliating with each other’s errors, has resulted in a series of plans over the last year that all serve to cover up the ideological confusion and differences among the circles, rather than seek their “radical elimination”, as Lenin called it. We also do not exempt ourselves from this centrist deviation. All the calls for a multilateral committee, a multilateral statement on MLOC, and a multilateral journal serve to liquidate the struggle for the hegemony of and unity around a single, developed Marxist-Leninist line. They all seek to “unite, don’t split”, that is, to unite around a lowest common denominator.

For our own part, we had initiated some investigatory discussions with a few circles on the possibility of a multilateral journal, supposedly a “forum for debate.” We received criticism from others on this, and are withdrawing this idea. While we never reached the stage of a formal proposal, we ourselves retreated from our own views that clear lines of demarcation must be drawn before we can unite, and that we must determinedly and aggressively struggle to win others to what we believe is correct. We wavered in our own belief that we must struggle for the hegemony of a correct line, and ourselves conciliated and bowed to the “unity, unity, unity” philistine atmosphere that prevails among the circles. We bowed to the spontaneity of the dominance of liberalism, circle spirit, and immersion in narrow, local, reformist activity. There is no need for a multilateral journal for debate to go on. Rather, the resources should be put into developing and writing up our views, struggling hard for them, and traveling and other practical means of carrying out ideological struggle. We erroneously said that our movement needed a “forum for debate”. But if circle spirit is overcome, if there is no longer immersion in narrow and local activities, if the waverers stop wavering, and if these circles embrace party spirit and put out clear views and fight to draw clear lines of demarcation, then there will be debate and then we can make progress.

Likewise, WCC’s proposal for a multilateral statement on MLOC fails to speak to the burning need to draw clear lines of demarcation. It is a favorite theme of WCC, MLC, and others that there is much ”duplication of effort” in our movement. But the reason there is no one statement is that there is no one line. Rather than spend months figuring out just what compromises we should make to produce a joint statement, which conceivably could be done, we should spend the time in ideological struggle. The situation here is very different than that surrounding the joint statement on China’s cutting aid to Albania. That was more a question of practical unity against a particular act of treachery. The statement that the six circles, including ours, put out was necessarily a compromise statement, and that was a necessary decision in that case. But towards MLOC and “CPUSA(M-L)”, we need to draw the sharpest lines of demarcation, because that involves all the fundamental ideological and political questions we must develop unity on. Unless we get the highest possible unity on what is Marxism-Leninism and what is opportunism, and not the lowest possible unity in a joint statement, we cannot make a complete rupture with opportunism and achieve its radical elimination. And as far as “duplication of effort” is concerned, the problem is not that, say, different polemics on MLOC have come out saying the same thing, but that MLOC has been hardly polemicized at all. WCC was correct in criticizing PC for proposing a statement aimed mainly at MLOC members. But WCC made a similar centrist error by not itself aiming to resolve in the clearest and sharpest way the ideological differences among us by advocating a statement that could only descend to the lowest level of compromise, and by not making the starting point and main feature of its activity the struggle for what it believes is a correct line. Just look what we have been talking about since MLOC declared its party – how to respond, and not what to say or what is opportunist about them. By taking the initiative in exposing “CPUSA(M-L)”, we and others hope to change this state of affairs.

To follow the Leninist teaching of proceeding from the top down today, when there is as yet no leading center or leading authoritative influence in our movement, means to emphasize the ideological struggle for a correct line, to struggle to establish that influence and earn the authority and leadership over the movement. We must be ruthless in our exposures of opportunism while wholly principled in our attempts to win and persuade genuine Marxist-Leninists of our views. Where we are wrong, we must be self-critical and correct our mistakes. But the problem among the circles has been a sort of “multilateral fever”, a centrist delusion that if we just get everyone together all would be well. Whatever conferences or other forms are agreed upon to carry out this struggle, they can be productive only if they are consciously designed to facilitate the sharpest ideological struggle on a clear set of burning questions. Otherwise, we would be wasting our time.

Still another deviation from the Leninist line on building the party from the top down is the line that we cannot “abandon” whatever honest elements there still are in the opportunist organizations, such as “CPUSA(M-L)”, “CPML”, etc. While it is true that such people exist, to orient our activity to them in any way at this time will take attention away from our most pressing responsibility to establish unity and clarity among the more advanced and relatively clear-sighted forces. The potentially revolutionary elements in the various opportunist groups are in most cases people who are newer to the movement and less strong or developed than those already clear on the nature of the opportunists, those who have already broken with them. To win these people, a much stronger Marxist-Leninist movement is needed. But we cannot let them drag us down, we cannot descend to their level or water down our views to make them acceptable to their present level of consciousness. If we did that, we would never establish that unity at the top among the most advanced forces that will allow us to proceed outward to the broad masses as a whole, including to members or supporters of opportunist groups. Without putting forward a strong and clear line and having a developed organization to win them to, we will never be able to win them over anyway.

Another obstacle is that many forces do not want to be held accountable for their views. The usual excuse is that they are only circulating drafts that contain views they may withdraw soon. This is but another excuse for restricting ideological struggle to bilateral relations, and is an excuse for ducking criticism and never putting out clear views. We have received stacks and stacks of documents from several of these circles, but are told that we cannot publicly respond to them! And some of them are two or three years old! Comrades, these views and these papers are not your private property. They belong to all communists and class-conscious workers. Why do you not put them out and engage in polemics around them? Putting out these papers but never taking a clear stand publicly serves to cripple the ideological struggle.

No doubt some of our comments and public criticisms will come as a “shock” to some people. But this is good, because the conciliatory liberalism that prevails must be directly challenged and completely smashed if we are to defeat opportunism. Our goal is an organization of professional revolutionaries, and not a club of amateur trade unionists or a pen pal association. We would like to ask the circles: Just what type of organization are you trying to build, the well-disciplined organization of professional revolutionaries that Lenin and Stalin built, or the loose petty bourgeois debating society built by the Mensheviks? To build an organization of professional revolutionaries, a party of the new type, requires open polemics, as Lenin said, conducted in full view of all communists and class-conscious workers. Just as in Lenin’s day:

we regard one of the drawbacks of the present-day movement to be the absence of open polemics between avowedly differing views, the effort to conceal differences on fundamental questions. (Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, CW vol.4, p.355)

FIFTH – Centrism Towards Mao Tsetung and “Mao Tsetung Thought”.

The struggle that has been going on for some time in the international communist movement on the role of Mao and “Mao Tsetung Thought” has just begun to filter into the US. The recent publication of Enver Hoxha’s book Imperialism and the Revolution will no doubt stir this up even further when this book becomes more widely available. While the struggle over the role of Mao will probably divide our movement even more than did the struggle around the “theory of the three worlds”, we cannot just wait for Hoxha’s book, but must instead take this question up ourselves. The consolidated centrists on this question are “RC”P. Of late, it appears that “RC”P is reviving its anarchist and adventurist tendencies, with its Weatherman-style raid and riot at the Chinese embassy. It also appears that “RW”H, the split-off from “RC”P, has fully inherited the other, economist tendency the previously united “RC”P was noted for. Both, Lenin taught, are varieties of bowing to spontaneity. But despite this, “RC’P’s view on China, that Mao was a great revolutionary and that there was a revisionist coup in China after his death in 1976, a la Khrushchev, is not only an echo of the popular view in the bourgeois press. It is also the dominant view among the various Marxist-Leninist circles.

There is a great deal of research that must be done on this question. But that should not prevent us from drawing preliminary conclusions about Mao Tsetung’s anti-Leninist line. There is an enormous amount of evidence that the alliance between China and US imperialism was not only prepared by Nixon’s trip to Mao’s China, but that Mao and company actively sought an alliance with US imperialism as far back as the 1940’s. We refer people to the writings of US government official John S. Service (Lost Chance In China) and other such documents. There also is a lot of evidence that Mao’s line on the existence of antagonistic classes all throughout the period of socialism, that the contradiction between the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie under socialism is non-antagonistic, on the bourgeoisie and two-line struggle in the party, and on other key questions, were long ago refuted in essence by Lenin and Stalin. Mao himself said that the bourgeoisie had a considerable portion of power in China. But did the cultural revolution put the working class in power, or was it an alliance of the army, the Red Guard youth, and various rival factions of the CPC that took over? Only a fool would argue today that Mao had nothing to do with the “three worlds theory”, or could ignore that all of Mao’s hand-picked “successors”, from Liu Shao-chi to Lin Piao to Hua Kuo-feng, have been revisionists. Everything seems to indicate that Mao Tsetung was not a great Marxist-Leninist leader, but instead a centrist himself.

As of this writing, we cannot put forward a thorough analysis on this question. While we must avoid tailing anyone else, we cannot wait forever to take up this urgent question. We had heard that several circles had problems with the PLA’s open letter to the CPC in July, 1978. Many still raise Mao’s view of “two-line struggle”, which liquidates the struggle for one line and monolithic unity in the party. Yet nothing has been written on this. We also see some comrades still talking of “Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Hoxha”, even after Hoxha says Mao was never a Marxist. And the WCC-KCRWC polemic with COReS, given out at the Denver forum of February 3, 1979, still talks of “the great Marxist-Leninist Mao Tsetung.” Such centrist views must be carefully re-examined and corrected if our movement is to break with the anti-Leninist teachings of Mao Tsetung.

Taking this question up requires a break with the immersion in narrow, local activity that characterizes the activity of so many circles. There is much literature available, including Volume five of Mao’s works. And, as usual, opportunists like “CPUSA(M-L)” and “COUSML” will try to use this question for their own narrow interests. But nothing must deter the genuine Marxist-Leninists from rigorously and scientifically taking up this question with the urgency and energy it demands.


These are the main forms of centrism we face today. The widespread existence of so many forms of opportunism and so many deviations that could easily become opportunism means that our movement is still embroiled in a deep crisis. In order to get out of that crisis, it must be kept firmly in mind that all these errors are products of bowing to spontaneity, which, as Lenin and Stalin taught, is the ideological root of all opportunism. To overcome these forms of opportunism and not just switch to other ones can only be done if there is a complete rupture with the theory of spontaneity.

Our attitude towards centrism in all its forms must also be to ruthlessly and mercilessly expose and defeat it. One of the conditions Lenin laid out for joining the Communist International was:

7. Parties desiring to affiliate to the Communist International must recognise the necessity of a complete and absolute rupture with reformism and the policy of the “Centre”; and they must carry on propaganda in favour of this rupture among the broadest circles of party members. Without this it is impossible to pursue a consistent Communist policy.

The Communist International imperatively, and as an ultimatum, demands that this rupture be brought about at the earliest date. The Communist International cannot permit known reformists, such as Turati, Modigliani and others, to have the right to claim membership of the Third International. Such a state of affairs would lead to the Third International becoming, to a large degree, like the wrecked Second International.(“The Conditions of Affiliation to the Communist International”, Selected Works, volume 10, p.203, 1938 Int’l Pub. edition)

For the genuine Marxist-Leninists, who use the Bolshevik Party as a model, in order to pursue a consistent communist policy today and draw clear lines of demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism, we propose these four points to all Marxist-Leninist circles and individuals:
(1) A complete and absolute rupture with the opportunists “CPUSA(M-L)” and “COUSML”, and a widespread exposure of their new centrism,
(2) A complete and absolute rupture with all the supporters of Chinese revisionism and the “theory of the three worlds”, and a widespread exposure of their social-chauvinist, class collaborationist, revisionist, and counter-revolutionary line and practice.
(3) Establishment of strict Leninist norms among the Marxist-Leninist circles. Open and principled polemics in full view of all communists and advanced workers, the struggle to draw clear lines of demarcation before we can unite and in order that we may unite, and a purging of opportunist elements. A complete and absolute rupture with all the centrist anti-Leninist views of “unite, don’t split”, “unity, criticism, unity”, equality of all circles and lines, anti-“hegemony”, etc. The struggle to build a leading center and a new Leninist trend, and build the party from the top down. The struggle to combat spontaneity, end immersion in narrow local activity, defeat small circle spirit, and promote party spirit.
(4) A concerted effort by all communists and advanced workers at studying the relevant materials on the debate on the role of Mao Tsetung and “Mao Tsetung Thought”. A rigorous and scientific Marxist-Leninist approach to be taken up immediately and urgently.

It is time to take a stand on these burning questions. The Marxist-Leninist approach is not to let problems stand and get worse, but to address them head on.

Lenin said:

When we speak of fighting opportunism, we must never forget a characteristic feature of present-day opportunism in every sphere, namely, its vagueness, amorphousness, elusiveness. An opportunist, by his very nature, will always evade taking a clear and decisive stand, he will always seek a middle course, he will always wriggle like a snake between two mutually exclusive points of view and try to •agree* with both and reduce his differences of opinion to petty amendments, doubts, innocent and pious suggestions, and so on and so forth.(“One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”, CW vol.7, p. 402)

In the struggle that will take place in our movement on these questions, we will see who gets trapped in their own vagueness and lack of principles, who cringes from open polemics, and who comes forward to make a clean break with opportunism. By persisting in the struggle, we can make great strides in developing a leading Marxist-Leninist line and center, in drawing clear lines of demarcation, and towards building a Leninist party of the new type.