Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ron Whitehorne

CP-ML and PWOC on International Line


First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 5, No. 9, September 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Breaking a long silence, the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), CP-ML, has turned its polemical guns at the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center and the PWOC with a center spread piece by Carl Davidson in the July 2nd issue of The Call. The article is an implicit admission on the part of the CP-ML that the hegemony of “left” internationalism faces a serious challenge. The focus of the polemic is the debate over principle 18 (the OCIC’s principle of unity which identifies US imperialism as the main danger to the world’s peoples) which occurred within the OCIC and resulted in the consolidation of an overwhelming majority of its forces on the correctness of this principle as a line of demarcation with “left” opportunism.

According to Davidson what was really at stake in this debate was not whether we carry out our responsibility to fight US imperialism but rather what is our attitude toward revisionism and “Soviet Social Imperialism”. Echoing the OCIC minority, Davidson holds that a general statement about the responsibility for US revolutionaries to overthrow US imperialism adequately guards against the danger of class collaborationism and social chauvinism. Principle 18, he argues, is really a cover for capitulation to revisionism and an attack on “Mao Zedong Thought”.


For Davidson there simply are no phenomena of class collaborationism in the anti-revisionist movement. He appears to think that it is self-evident that the CP-ML discharges its revolutionary, internationalist duties. ̶The CP-ML”, he writes, “and other Marxist-Leninists are known for waging class struggle against the US bourgeoisie on all fronts – from the auto factories in Detroit, to the anti-Klan fight in the South, to building solidarity with the Azanian freedom fighters and the anti-Somoza upsurge in Nicaragua.” We regret to have to inform Davidson that this flattering image of his party is not broadly shared outside the ranks of the CP-ML and its circle of supporters. Even among many who subscribe to the theory of the three worlds, the CP-ML is seen as something of an embarassment for its defense of the Shah of Iran, its urging of the Pentagon to stand up against the “appeasers” and other manifestations of over-zealousness in the fight against “ hegemonism”.

Among broader left and anti-imperialist forces the CP-ML is viewed with contempt for scabbing on the struggles of the peoples of Angola, Chile, Vietnam and elsewhere. The CP-ML’s following of every twist and turn of the line of the Communist Party of China, even when it means calling Deng a capitalist roader one week and a great Marxist-Leninist the next, has earned it a reputation for flunkeyism rivaled only by the CPUSA. As for being “known . . .for waging class struggle in the auto factories of Detroit”, this knowledge has escaped our recognition. But we do remember how the CP-ML “waged class struggle” in the steel mills by opposing rank and file union candidate Ed Sadlowski, in some part because he favored “detente”, and thus did their small bit to elect a Meany style, cold-warrior class collaborationist as president of the United Steelworkers.

By citing these contributions to the class struggle, be they real or imagined, Davidson thinks that this effectively demonstrates that all this talk of class collaborationism is just a bogey. What Davidson neatly dodges is that the international line of the CPC and the CP-ML calls for directing the main blow against the Soviet Union and an alliance with US imperialism in the struggle against “hegemonism”. Upholding this international line is clearly incompatible with consistently discharging our internationalist duties to those forces who are fighting US imperialism around the world. For reasons we can readily understand, Davidson neatly sidesteps this debate, just as the OCIC minority did.

A more rewarding line of argument in the view of both Davidson and the PUL-inspired OCIC minority is to appeal to anti-revisionist prejudice by attempting to tar the PWOC and the OCIC with the brush of revisionism.

Davidson is not above the worst sort of demagogy in advancing this argument. He says: “Naturally differences over the nature of revisionism and Soviet social imperialism also have an effect on whether one fights the US bourgeoisie correctly or incorrectly. If you think Soviet-backed invasions are acceptable tactics in the third world, what does this say about your view of the US when it does the same?”

We aren’t aware of which “invasions” Davidson believes we support, but we should point out that the PWOC has opposed the Soviet supported invasions of Eritrea and Kampuchea. We cannot imagine any circumstances under which we would be likely to support a US invasion and in every single circumstance where such an invasion has emerged as even a remote possibility, we have been quick to sound the alarm.

Thirdly, we think Davidson would be a little more cautious in raising this topic. The CP-ML very definitely views Chinese invasions of other third world countries as an “acceptable tactic”, as in the case of Vietnam. When The Call applauds China for urging the US imperialists to teach Cuba a lesson, we may rightly ask what their attitude toward US invasions of third world countries would be.


Our failure to grasp what CP-ML regards as the reality of the international situation is “the result of upholding a dogma that the US must always be the sole main enemy, no matter what the conditions are and in spite of the great changes in the world since the 1950’s.”

At the OCIC conference on Principle 18 the representatives of the majority put forward an analysis of the relative military, political and economic power of the US and the USSR in the world today. It was on the basis of this analysis, and not any imagined dogma, that we argued that US imperialism is the main danger. We did not, as Davidson, alleges, claim that “it doesn’t matter” whether the USSR is socialist or capitalist. What we did argue was that even if one held that the Soviet Union was capitalist, its overall weakness vis-a-vis US imperialism, was such that it did not qualify as an equal enemy.

Davidson goes on to say that we regard Mao Zedong Thought as “baggage to be overthrown”. Obviously we think that significant aspects of what has been characterized as Mao’s thought need to be critically re-examined. It is impossible to challenge the assumptions on which “left” internationalism rests without calling this “thought” into question. For the PWOC this is nothing new, as we have always opposed the theory of capitalist restoration and the theory of the three worlds.

At the same time, unlike those who only yesterday placed Mao on a pedestal and now regard him as a lowlife and a bourgeois nationalist, we continue to regard Mao as a great revolutionary who made numerous positive contributions to the development of Marxism, notwithstanding the errors cited above. We certainly do not regard, for example, the CPC’s seminal critique of revisionism as “baggage to be overthrown”. This distortion of our attitude serves Davidson’s aim of portraying the PWOC as agents of revisionism.

In the same vein Davidson accuses the PWOC of “anti-communism” for suggesting that the CPC will press for unity among those Marxist-Leninists who support its international perspective. The CPC, Davidson indignantly tells us, never “waves the baton” in relations between parties, citing this as a key “point of difference between China and Albania”. We find the latter point particularly ironic in that China withdrew its technicians from Albania and cancelled its aid projects following Albanian attacks on the CPC international line. The leaders of the CPC did the same and more in relation to Vietnam, seeking to compel the Vietnamese Party to adopt its anti-Soviet stand. If this isn’t “waving the baton”, we don’t know what is.

Davidson characterizes the view of the PWOC that the line of capitalist restoration is a “dogma” as “pinning labels on any tenet of Marxism you disagree with or don’t understand”. Again we hear the echo of PUL which has argued that the PWOC’s identification of the principle errors of the anti-revisionist movement as being rooted in dogmatism is arbitrary.

It seems obvious that the theory of capitalist restoration derives much of its credibility from its identification with Mao and the Chinese Communist Party. To the extent that this theory is embraced without reservations on these grounds, it is clearly an expression of dogmatism – a key aspect of which is the uncritical parroting of the views of another party or a great revolutionary leader.

But, more importantly, the theory of capitalist restoration, this “tenet of Marxism” employs a most un-Marxist, idealist method. It proceeds, not on the basis of an examination, of the political economy and relations of production that prevail in the USSR, but rather through an examination of the superstructure. It locates the restoration of capitalism in the ideological sphere – in the line of the leading party. The CP-ML’s repudiation of the work of Martin Nicolaus, who at least sought to demonstrate the prevalence of capitalist relations in the Soviet economy as “economist” is an example of this kind of thinking.

This idealism, in refusing to make an all-sided analysis of concrete conditions, strikes a responsive chord in the anti-revisionist movement. The thesis of capitalist restoration both reinforces and expresses the prevalence of dogmatism.

Davidson concludes with a warning that the PWOC in a deceptive and convoluted fashion is leading the OCIC to embrace revisionism and social imperialism. It is this, he argues, and not some imagined class collaborationism that constitutes the nub of the differences between CP-ML and PWOC on international line. Davidson adds, somewhat cryptically: “As to other matters, the CP-ML places importance on solving problems of both right and “left” errors, on the matter of ’fusion’ and so on.” This will certainly reassure those who have viewed the CP-ML as dominated by ultra-leftism.

Davidson takes comfort in the view that “the centrist camp is in disarray” and that “the growing aggressiveness of Soviet Social Imperialism” is exposing its political essence. But in fact it is the “left” opportunist camp, headquartered in the CP-ML that is increasingly in disarray. The recent CP-ML Central Committee report indicated, even if in muted fashion, that its “left” political line has produced growing isolation and stagnation. The growing class collaborationism of the People’s Republic of China is the “objective factor that conditions its confusion”. We would ask the followers of the CP-ML to look beyond the phrases to where the CP-ML is actually leading them: to an alliance (however “tactical”) with the most reactionary sector of the US imperialist ruling class.