Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

C.E., The Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

New book downplays struggle against U.S. superpower

A one-sided view of united front

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 26, June 30, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Sooner or Later–Questions and Answers on War. Peace and the United Front. New Outlook Press, P.O. Box 731. Cambridge. Mass. 02139 ($3.50).

What role should the revolutionary movement in this country play in affecting the international situation? How should the working class in the U.S. respond to aggression on the part of the Soviet Union while continuing to fight here at home for their own emancipation?

These and other questions are taken up in Sooner or letter–Questions and Answers on War. Peace and the United Front. The book is written by the Communist Unity Organization (CUO), which is a collective founded in 1975 by people with backgrounds in the civil rights, anti-war and anti-imperialist movements.

The basic thesis of the CUO is that the Soviet Union due to its role as the super-power “on the strategic offensive” and being “more dangerous than the United States in its efforts to achieve global domination”–is the main source of war in the world today.

Therefore, the authors maintain a strategy of a united front against hegemonism (defined by the CUO as simply the Soviet drive for world domination) is needed to bring together the third world, second world and the U.S. itself to defeat this drive.

Because the CUO zeroes in on the role of Soviet aggression and on the grave danger to world peace it presents, they shake up most of the U.S. left. And it is to their credit that they do so in the face of long-held illusions within the movement about the “progressive” and “socialist” character of the Soviet Union.

“The new period.” maintains the CUO, “is a pre-war period. It is not a period of ’detente’ or Cold War II, rather it is a period in which a world war might occur sooner rather than later in the absence of a conscious international effort to halt the Soviet Union and to postpone war.” This idea, which previously was dismissed by many, is being taken very seriously since eight divisions of Soviet troops entered Afghanistan last December.

The book is also useful in its effort to systematize some of the little-known facts about the growth of Soviet military capability It is also interesting because of its attempt t0 present its view in a popular, question-answer style.

But the major weakness of the CUO analysis lies in its mechanical application of pre-World War II communist tactics to the situation today, and in copying what they perceive to be the international position 0f China, i.e., the theory of the three worlds.

This is a theory which has shown itself practice to be sound and useful in forging a united front of those facing superpower domination and especially that from Soviet aggression. But every theory has its own application to the national conditions within each country. By making China’s international line its starting point and, in fact, totality of its work, the CUO departs from Marxism-Leninism.

While trying to uphold the theory of three worlds, the authors show their ahistorical approach to the question by describing the Soviet Union in the 1930s as “a third-world country” (pg. 38). They do so in an attempt to show that the third world at that time was even the “main force” in the struggle against fascism.

But the development of the conditions that led to a world divided into three was a phenomenon characteristic of post-war conditions, following the break-up of the socialist camp and the turn taken by the Soviet Union towards becoming a social-imperialist super-power.

CUO’s approach also fails to chart any real program of struggle for the U.S. working class against capitalism, except on the question of opposing the war danger. While it may be said that the workers and ruling class find some points of common interest in opposing Soviet expansionism, the war danger is not the only threat to the masses of Americans. The authors, however, merge all of the independent demands of the workers and minorities into this one demand.

The concrete results of such an approach would be to isolate the communists from the masses rather than to help lead them in the struggle for liberation. Such a position does a disservice to those who are actually carrying out the essential dual tasks of developing the class and national struggles within the U.S. while also building those struggles as a part of the worldwide front against war and aggression.

Furthermore, in its call for a “democratic foreign policy” by U.S. imperialism, CUO spreads dangerous illusions, particularly at a time when no such democratic trend yet exists within any major faction of U.S. ruling circles. In its support for the anti-appeasement wing of the ruling class, the writers make little distinction between the views of the communists and those like Brzezinski.

Sooner or Later pretty much gives a blank slate to the ruling class in formulating its own anti-Soviet agenda. In fact, in many ways it merges the interests of the U.S. workers and minorities with those of the top Pentagon brass. It one-sidedly praises the steps taken by the Carter administration in stepping up its battle for survival with the Kremlin even to the point of saluting its Middle East and Iran policies.

However, no mention is made of U.S. imperialism’s offensive aspect–the armed threats against Iran or Washington’s consistent support in the UN and elsewhere for Israel and the Begin government. There is mild criticism of the White House for its “unilateral” actions, such as in opposing a Palestinian state. But “unilateral” simply doesn’t do justice to the reactionary role of U.S. imperialism on this question.

The CUO also goes much farther than present conditions call for in proposing support for American military preparations, generally supporting U.S. military expansion and the draft. The authors go so far as to oppose the struggles of the Puerto Rican and Philippines independence movements on the grounds that they threaten the ability of the U.S. military to “protect” these countries from the Soviets.

The CUO is correct in the sense that the U.S. does have a role to play in resisting Soviet aggression. To draw the U.S. into some kind of a front, to create obstacles to the Soviet drive and to promote any positive developments such as the U.S. votes in the UN on Afghanistan and Kampuchea–all are useful. Furthermore, Marxist-Leninists in the U.S. should use their mass ties and organizing skills to influence public opinion so as to promote such policies.

But this can only be carried out with the utmost care and on the basis of the development of the class struggle. The CUO goes overboard in calling the U.S. “an extremely positive and major force” (p. 47).

Recognizing a general truth about growing Soviet power must not be a substitute for concrete analysis of concrete conditions. The Soviet Union is the main source of a world war, and in most respects is even more dangerous internationally than the U.S. But it cannot be said that the Soviet Union is the main exploiter and oppressor of the American people. Furthermore, it is clear that in places like the Philippines and Puerto Rico–as much as they are coveted by the Soviets–the U.S. is still the direct and immediate oppressor of millions of people.

Any strategy which doesn’t take this reality as its starting point, but rather takes off from definitions and theories, is bound to fail.