Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Stage Set for New Advances

NUWO Defeats Wreckers

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 6, March 1978.
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.

The formation of the National United Workers Organization (NUWO) last September in Chicago marked an important advance for workers in this country as a class, forging a nationwide organization to take up and fight the key battles of the class and of the masses of people against capitalist oppression. The RCP has been actively involved in building the NUWO, and, overall, significant advances have been made. But just as the NUWO developed out of many important struggles of the working class across the country, so the work of the Party in helping build and give leadership to it has taken place amid sharp internal class struggle.

It is only natural that the recent struggle to expose and defeat a small but arrogant bourgeois headquarters within the Party would have repercussions in the Party’s mass work. It is also not at all surprising that people who call themselves “communists” but take an anti-communist, anti-working class stand in a struggle within the Party would take the same rotten stand consistently and everywhere, including in mass organizations. This has clearly been the case within the NUWO.

The struggle in the NUWO has been particularly important in the recent period because of the fierce battle raging in the coalfields. At its Founding Convention the NUWO adopted a resolution calling for a major, nationwide campaign around the miners’ contract fight, which was then nearly four months away. The impending strike was correctly seen by most of the convention delegates as a front-line battle whose outcome would be of critical importance to the entire working class. But from the time of the convention, until just recently, this important campaign was sabotaged by the wrecking activity of a handful of opportunists who held responsible positions on the Executive Committee of the NUWO.

Mensheviks Opposed NUWO Formation

The foreman of this wrecking crew was also one of the leading Mensheviks, formerly within the RCP, whose factionalism and splitting tactics have resulted in humiliating defeat for them, and an important victory for the Party and the whole working class. This hack had opposed the formation of the NUWO from the very beginning, on the grounds that it was “premature” at that time, denying the fact that the class struggle had advanced to the point where many workers could be won to see the need for and help build such an organization. While this line failed to recognize the objective need for such an organization and the fact that the time was ripe for its formation, it also clearly reflected the Mensheviks’ long-held view of intermediate workers organizations as economist federations of trade union caucuses, and not as “one important organizational form in which communists can unite with advanced workers to build the united front against imperialism under proletarian leadership and develop into communists the advanced workers who continually come forward in struggle.” (RCP Programme, p. 109)

When it became clear to the Mensheviks that the NUWO would be built in spite of their opposition, they changed tactics mid-stream and worked hard to “get in on the ground floor” so as to build their own careers and use their positions in the NUWO as weapons in their factional attempt to seize control of the Party.

With this type of an outlook, it is no surprise that these hacks would do nothing to build the NUWO into the kind of organization it can and must develop into–an organized center uniting active fighters among the workers who see the need to take up the battle against the capitalists on all the major questions in society. Quite the contrary, their line led away from building the NUWO in such a way and would have led to a shell organization with the purpose of turning out workers on occasion for whatever political gimmick the Mensheviks were into at the time, while, at the same time, the in-plant organizations would be trade union caucuses.

This wrong line came out at the founding convention, which despite being an important advance, was seriously marred by the tendency promoted and led by this handful to substitute “hype” for substance. They not only did not further, but actually obstructed, serious discussion of key issues by the convention. This line and the whole way these people tried to lead the convention resulted in the incident described in the October, ’77 Revolution when one worker who raised a wrong viewpoint on the question of illegal immigrants was booed for doing so and little effort was made to politically answer him.

In fact, during the whole campaign leading up to the convention the Mensheviks acted as though they were building a demonstration and not an organization. When real difficulties did emerge they claimed it was because there were not enough “good organizers”(in fact, according to one of them–who later declared himself “President” of the NUWO–there were only five such “good organizers” in the whole country, an elite few which included himself and his cronies.) Such an approach leads directly away from the NUWO involving increasingly large numbers of active fighters and developing a politically vigorous life of its own. This is the kind of life that the NUWO must have, where workers battle out what are the key questions facing the working class throughout society as well as on the job and how to mobilize masses of workers in struggle against the capitalists on ail these fronts.

Sabotaging Miners Struggle

While conditions were such that they could not defeat (or even openly oppose) the miners resolution at the Founding Convention, they were able to capture two of the four positions on the Executive Committee (EC) and a handful of seats on the much larger National Steering Committee. Shortly after the convention one of their EC members declared himself “President” of the NUWO (a position which never did, and still does not, exist) and began actively to sabotage the NUWO’s efforts to build a campaign in support of the miners.

At the first National Steering Committee meeting, last November, this illicit “President” actively sabotaged taking up the campaign. Failing to understand the class-wide implications of the miners’ struggle (and acting in the disgusting manner of a hot-shot “power broker”), he arrogantly demanded a “guarantee” from representatives of the Miners Right To Strike Committee (MRTSC-affiliated with the NUWO) that the miners would strike, and that it would be a long, militant battle! He warned against the “idealistic” view that the impending strike would “automatically” be a major battle of the working class. A certain amount of confusion and demoralization developed throughout the NUWO as a result of all this, and for the next two months almost no miners’ support work was built, although there were a few notable exceptions where local chapters took the initiative.

At the same time, this hack “President” and his rotten line met with growing opposition from rank and file NUWO members and the majority of its leadership. When two of the four EC members finally initiated a Steering Committee vote to determine the fate of the “President,” the result was a 44 to 17 vote to remove him from the EC. This vote was a clear response to the bureaucratic, hack mentality of the “President” which had been reflected in his arrogant, “top down” method of “leadership” from the start. It also reflected the NUWO’s righteous outrage over the criminal sabotage of the miners campaign by the “President.” The vote represented the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of the NUWO membership.

Clearly this Menshevik hack had seen the handwriting on the wall well before the vote was taken. As it turns out, he had stolen the organization’s membership list from the safe in the National Office less than a month after the November NSC meeting, and as soon as he was informed of his removal from the EC, he and his fellow opportunist on the EC moved to set up a rival National Office and a rival EC in his home-town “private kingdom.”

Chicago Meeting

While the vast majority of chapters stood firm in the face of this challenge, refusing to recognize his bogus “National Office,” there were a few areas in which his faction had some influence. One of these was Chicago, and the tarnished “President” soon made an all-out effort to seize the Chicago Area chapter. The attempt failed when he and his opportunist cohorts were dealt a severe blow at a February 19 meeting of the Chicago chapter. Obviously hoping to stack the meeting, he brought with him a small band of followers, but his efforts were to no avail.

In a 29 to 19 vote the meeting affirmed the NSC decision to remove the “President.” Debate was intense, with the honest forces having time and again to sort through the jumble of irrelevancies, petty whining and vicious red-baiting tossed around by the opportunists in an effort to confuse the real issues at hand. It was finally brought out that, along with his attempt to split the NUWO and constitute his “own” National Office, the “President” and his cohorts had tried to do the same thing with the Miners Right To Strike Committee! In a blatant attempt to undermine the MRTSC at the height of the miners’ strike, he had sent letters to many NUWO members calling for money and food for the miners to be sent to a phony address where two of his friends could collect it and do with it as they pleased! This prompted a unanimous vote of support at the Chicago NUWO meeting for the legitimate MRTSC in Beckley, West Virginia. (The opportunists formally abstained in order not be totally isolated.)

In a last-ditch effort to legitimize their bogus National Office, the hucksters asked the Chicago meeting to endorse and participate in a factional demonstration, ostensibly in support of the miners, scheduled by the “President” to take place in Gary only two days later. Included in a leaflet for the Gary demonstration that they passed around the meeting was the following quote: “We in the NUWO think it is of the utmost importance that all workers get together with the miners in this fight. It is not just a question of helping the brothers who need our help. We all have a big stake in this strike. We have seen that when one section of the working class wins a good contract or a particular fight around safety or work rules, we are all better able to win these demands when our turn to fight comes up... We want the miners to go back to work. But only after the owners grant enough of their demands that the miners’ vote to go back with a victory in their hands.” This “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” line reduces the miners’ struggle to a “routine” contract fight rather than the front-line battle of the working class against the capitalists that the NUWO correctly saw it as. It totally negates the significance of the long history of militant struggle of the miners, and reduces the class struggle to the fight for better terms of sale for the workers’ labor. This whole approach would lead the NUWO away from seizing upon the miners strike as a “single spark” of struggle for the whole working class.

Besides suiting these hucksters’ opportunist factional purposes, their rush to “support the miners” and the line guiding it was perfectly consistent politically with their earlier open sabotage of building support. At both points their view failed to be based on the political significance of the miners’ struggle as an advanced battle in the overall struggle of the working class against the capitalists. Their narrowness was rejected at the Chicago NUWO meeting.

The NUWO had scheduled a regional car caravan to Indianapolis in support of the strike for February 25. The meeting voted unanimously in favor of the caravan and defeated the Gary proposal 30 to 19. The splitters left the meeting defeated and exposed, and the situation became much more favorable for clearing up the confusion they had spread.

Since that meeting, the EC has correctly determined that “continued membership in the NUWO will be based on (1) recognizing the official Executive Committee in Chicago... and (2) recognizing the MRTSC with its mailing address in Beckley, W. Va....” (from a letter to all NUWO chapters.) NUWO chapters across the country are uniting in opposition to the bankruptcy of the careerist has-been “President,” and the situation is excellent for making a big advance off of this struggle.

From the very beginning, the Menshevik clique has shown that its line leads away from developing the struggle, class consciousness, and revolutionary unity of the working class and its leadership of the fight against all forms of capitalist oppression. And it exposes their view of mass organizations, not as vehicles for moving the masses forward toward the revolutionary goal, but as private kingdoms for the development of their own careers.

In their unsuccessful bid to split the RCP the Mensheviks have tried to use their positions in mass organizations, and in the Party’s youth organization, as weapons in their puny arsenal. In each case this tactic has backfired on them and served to expose them all the more thoroughly. Their recent effort to destroy the NUWO by turning it into a do-nothing, paper organization for the promotion of their own careers is only the culmination of their consistent drive to relegate the working class to the reformist role of “pressure group.” This dead-end road has been repudiated by the NUWO, and in doing so it will enable the organization to better recognize and root out errors that were promoted by some of its erstwhile “leaders.”