Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Unity Organization

More debate on ’Sooner or Later’

How serious is the Soviet Threat?

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 31, September 8-21, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Call Note: Following is a reply by the Communist Unity Organization, authors of Sooner or Later, to a review of their book which appeared in our June 30, 1980, issue.

* * *

The stated intention of Sooner or Later was to stimulate a long overdue debate on the tasks of American Marxist-Leninists in the present dangerous international situation. By reviewing our book and printing these comments and others The Call has helped set the stage for an open debate among comrades. Such a debate requires that opposing views be presented clearly and accurately and confronted squarely and honestly. Unfortunately, C.E. did not do that in his review (6/30/80) nor in his comments of 8/4/80. Our movement cannot afford a return to the old habits of caricaturing opposing positions and responding with recipes and rhetoric instead of reasoned rebuttal.

C.E. does not directly tackle the two major questions our book raises: (1) Does the present international situation and the Soviet global offensive necessitate a worldwide united front which includes the United States? (2) What does such a united front involve for American Marxist-Leninists?

C.E. alleges that we have made “China’s international line [our] starting point.” But this is not true. Our starting point was an in-depth factual examination of the current world situation. (Another reviewer called Sooner or Later “a virtual handbook on the disposition of international forces” (New Voice 7/21/80). We do, however, agree with and support the Chinese Communist Party’s international line and the view that:

“Under the present international situation, every nation is facing the common problem of upsetting the Soviet global strategy and safeguarding world peace and stability. Therefore, every country should have a clearcut strategic viewpoint, namely, to consider and settle its own problems from the point of view of global strategy, and not from that of one country or region...” (Beijing Review 6/30/80, p. 9)

C.E., however, considers that we “dwell... on the subordination of the national struggle to the needs of the international struggle.” We “dwell” on it because many people do not yet understand what this means. C.E., for instance, considers it obvious that the ”immediate and direct enemy of the U.S. working class” is the “U.S. monopoly capitalist class,” while the Soviet Union remains the main danger “generally and on a worldwide scale.” This may sound soothing and sage to Marxist-Leninists who have not thought about the issue lately or would prefer not to, but on closer examination they will see that it is C.E. who is substituting for a concrete analysis what Marx and Lenin used to call “abstract formulae and recipes.” And it is a recipe for disaster.

According to C.E.’s formula, the U.S. monopoly-capitalist class, “everyday exploiting and oppressing the majority of the American people” is thereby our immediate and direct enemy. Since the exploitation and oppression of the majority will not and cannot end under capitalism, it should follow that the U.S. monopoly bourgeoisie as long as it exists is always the people’s primary enemy. But, as our book asks (p. 71), was this the case in the ’30s and early ’40s “when Nazi Germany was swallowing up Europe and Japan was dismembering China?”

Only the formation of the Anglo-Soviet-American alliance made the defeat of fascism possible. Would C.E. have opposed support for the U.S. in WWII on the grounds that it was the main exploiter and oppressor of the American people? If not, then he too would have subordinated the national struggle to the international–subordinated, not liquidated (unless, along with a portion of the CPUSA, he fell into Browderism).

The Soviet offensive today presents us with just as serious a threat as the fascists did in the 1930s, and it warrants another international front to oppose it. If C.E. doesn’t think this is true, then what does he think? We would desperately like to see an analysis presented, but instead we get rhetoric–and the left has had far too much of that inflated currency already.

In every third world country, Trotskyite sects and “Marxist” intellectuals perpetually refuse to ally with their own national bourgeoisies even against imperialism because they are certain their own bourgeoisies are their immediate and direct enemy “everyday exploiting and oppressing the majority of the people.” The anti-imperialist struggle, they say, would “submerge the interests of the workers and peasants” and require them to “accept” their subjugation. This has been proven a fine recipe for liquidating the anti-imperialist struggle. The formula of “immediate and direct enemy” works quite as well for liquidating the anti-hegemonist struggle here and now.

C.E. regards it as the “height of demagogy and dogma to view the principle contradiction in the world today and in the U.S. as between national independence and democracy on the one hand and “social” fascism and hegemonism on the other. This is “to ask the workers and minorities to accept the rule of the U.S. millionaires.” (8/4/80)

In the next breath he praises us for opposing the ultra-left line which sees ”immediate revolutionary prospects in this country.” But the absence of immediate revolutionary prospects means precisely that capitalist rule in the U.S. is not now being challenged by the workers and minorities–i.e., that it is (grudgingly, unknowingly) accepted. It is not we who are responsible or “asking” for acceptance of this situation–it just exists, independently of our will. To suggest that we are responsible for it or recommend it is the height of demagogy and absurdity.

Let us give two examples of what we mean by analysis vs. rhetoric. C.E. charges that Sooner or Later “opposes the struggles of the Philippines and Puerto Rican independence movements.” He demands that U.S. troops immediately withdraw from the Philippines and ridicules us for asserting that these forces are vital to countering the Soviet build-up in the Western Pacific.

This sounds appropriately “revolutionary,” but what exactly is C.E.’s analysis? Does he think that all U.S. troops should withdraw from the Pacific? This might have been appropriate in 1968 when the U.S. had 500,000 troops in Vietnam alone, but is it now when total U.S. regional troops strength is 100,000 and it is the Vietnamese who are occupying Kampuchea and Laos with 250,000 troops?

Thousands of Soviet technicians and advisers are assisting the Vietnamese in building six airbases in Kampuchea and two in Laos. They are converting Kampuchea’s Kompong Som into a massive naval base to add to their system of huge, modern bases in Cam Ranh Bay, Da Nang, Tan Son Nhut and Bien Hoa. These bases have allowed the Soviet Pacific Fleet to advance more than 2,000 miles south and directly threaten the Straits of Malacca, through which 90% of Japan’s oil must pass.

Last year there were 12 to 18 Soviet warships operating in the South China Sea; today there are more than 30, including a brand new aircraft carrier. The military forces of the Southeast Asian countries are dwarfed by the military might of Vietnam alone.

If the U.S. were to withdraw its forces, the Soviets would dominate the entire region. In that event, the balance of power would have changed not only in Asia, but in the world. Is this what C.E. is advocating?

The Guardian, PWOC and the CPUSA all believe that such a U.S. withdrawal would liberate Asia. They hold that the Soviet build-up is only in response to the U.S. and that once the U.S. pulls back, the Soviets would of course withdraw. Is this what C.E. believes? If so he has a responsibility to outline his entire view. From what he has said so far, we can only conclude that far from aiding the cause of Philippine national liberation, the policies C.E. advocates would deliver that country and others to the Soviets.

C.E. considers our opposition to unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Puerto Rico, “[A]t direct odds with the most progressive revolutionary and independence forces.” He could understand our position “if several great powers had carved up [Puerto Rico] as they did say in China in the ’30s...[But today] who else should withdraw?”

We would have thought the answer to be obvious. The Soviet Union has thousands of troops and advisers in Cuba, accompanied by T-62 tanks, AN-26 troops transport planes, several squadrons of MiGs, missile carrying patrol boats, submarines, naval bases, airfields, etc. Cuba has troops and armaments on Grenada.

Today it is not individual countries that are being carved up as it was in the *30s, but whole areas (like the Caribbean, South Asia, Africa). The U.S. is not the only superpower in the Caribbean and those who cannot see this are not “the most progressive revolutionary and independence forces.”

We support the Puerto Rican people’s right to self-determination. An independent Puerto Rico can freely negotiate the lease of military bases to the U.S. and participate as a member of the united front against hegemonism.

Because of the massive and growing Soviet presence in the Caribbean, an effective anti-Soviet military presence is vital to the independence of the whole zone. Our long term goal is the withdrawal of all foreign military forces from the Caribbean. But in the meantime, unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Puerto Rico will not accomplish that end, but result in the island’s domination by the other superpower, the one on the rise. Regardless of what slogan we use, the Puerto Rican people will choose the time for independence and decide to whom if anyone to lease bases.

No country or regional grouping can stop the Soviet Union. It requires a global front that unites countries with vastly different systems and subordinates national struggles to the international cause.

Some Call writers, including C.E., are having trouble with this view. They’d like to be regarded as supporters of the united front against hegemonism and China’s position, but then they’d also like to be considered the most “consistent” enemies of U.S. imperialism and leaders of the so-called “mass anti-draft movement” (C.E.). Quite distressingly. The Call even printed an excerpt from a Beijing Review article which supported a tougher U.S. stance against the Soviets, but cut out the sections supporting increased U.S. arms spending and the draft! (Beijing Review, #10, 3/10/80, p. 28)

The international situation is grim. War clouds continue to gather. If C. E. and others continue to oppose such steps as the modernization of U.S. forces and the draft (steps unpopular among some “progressive” circles), then they have a duty to present a factual analysis of why they consider unnecessary what many consider absolutely essential. No amount of revolutionary sloganeering can resolve this. As the Chinese say, eventually you have to choose and “to choose earlier is better than to choose later.” (Beijing Review #26, p. 9)

Considerations of length prevent us from adequately addressing the tactical problems for the U.S. working class and oppressed nationalities which C.E. raises. We are very grateful to The Call for opening its paper to us, and we look forward to further discussions on these vital issues.