Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bay Area Workers’ Organizing Committee “Minority”

Critique of Recent OCIC Practice

First Issued: March 10, 1980.
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.

March 10, 1980

Comrades of the OCIC:

You are receiving a document written by a number of comrades in the San Francisco Bay Area. The paper evaluates some of the recent practice of the OCIC. We took the time to produce and circulate this paper in order to contribute to the positive growth of the OCIC and particularly to the rectification of some serious weaknesses in the OC process. In our view, it is vitally important that all OC members play an active role in the struggle for its development. All of us must ensure that the OC becomes a positive force in our movement which will organize the ideological struggle and pursue theoretical work within and without the OCIC so as to advance the political cohesion of the tendency as a whole. In this way, a national center for ideological struggle can have real value.

We hope comrades will take seriously the views expressed in our paper. We encourage criticisms and comments. We are also eager to hear your agreements and your differences as well. More importantly, let the Steering Committee know what you think (they are receiving this paper as well).

We hope to hear from you soon.

In unity and struggle,

* * *

To the Steering Committee of the OCIC, and to all OC comrades:

We as individuals, and our organization, the Bay Area Workers’ Organizing Committee (BAWOC) are members of the OCIC. We unite with its general principles and goals as outlined in the 18 Principles of Unity and the Founding Statement of the OCIC. We firmly support the need to nationally organize the ideological struggle and theoretical work of our budding anti-revisionist, anti-“left” tendency into a single national center.

We have been active and committed participants in the OC. At the same time, we do not view participation in the OC as a principle. This would be placing our committment to an organizational form above our committment to the principles and politics it represents. Our participation in the OC must be based on viewing the OC as a leading force in the movement, and an analysis that in advancing it own tasks the OC is advancing the interests of our movement as a whole.

The OC as a process is in its formative stages of development. We have relatively recently united (February 1978) on general principles and a committment to build an ideological center in our movement. Over the last several months, the OC has held major conferences and developed major documents which give expression and content to these general goals and principles. We believe many of these recent developments”the OC September 1979 Conference, the National Minorities Conference, the OC’s First Year Document, and the Draft Plan” reflect major weaknesses in our internal process of development and consolidation, and in our stand toward the movement as a whole. We are writing this paper to raise important concerns and criticisms of these recent developments in the OC. In the pages to follow, we will critique these developments and conclude by offering some concrete suggestions in order to rectify the problems.

As participants in the OC, indeed as Marxist-Leninists, we understand it to be our responsibility to actively analyze these developments and raise our criticisms. We, and all members, must take responsibility and initiative for the development of the OC if we are to make it a viable and living process rather than a bureaucratic one. We have a committment to struggle for the continued viability, integrity and progress of the OC. This paper, which focuses on the recent practice of the OCIC, represents a concrete step toward fulfilling this committment.

The PC’s First Year Document

We believe that the OC’s First Year document set a poor example for the cadre of the OC and the movement as a whole in its method of analyzing the role of the OC. We identify in particular the poor stand taken toward self-criticism and the subjective and voluntaristic assessment of the OC’s strengths and weaknesses and its impact on the movement. In addition we object to how a document purporting to be an evaluation of the OC was used by the Steering Committee to win the acceptance of its analyses of the state of the Party Building movement by the OC membership without encouraging debate on the important questions it raised.

The OC First Year document presents us with a stream of grandiose statements about the leading role of the OC such as: “The OC has nevertheless played the leading role in consolidating the anti-“left” tendency”; “And, who but the OC is most identified with the need to forge an anti-“left” trend among anti-revisionists”; “It is for this reason that the OC has, in the minds of many communists, come to be identified, albeit incorrectly, as the anti-“left” trend,” etc. The paper is filled with exaggerated and conspicuously overblown assessments. Where is the concrete analysis that supports these statements? Can’t the actual practice of the OC stand up by itself to show the leading role of the OC? Or does the base of the OC have to be rallied to believe the leading role of the OC through self-congratulatory statements?

The purpose of such an evaluation cannot be to pat oneself on the back, or to indirectly polemicize with “adversaries”. The OC will gain prestige and adherents based on the extent to which we truly play a leading role, not through exaggerated proclamations of the OC’s leadership. The goal of a summation needs to be to deepen the understanding of the membership concerning the line and content of the work, the source of strengths and weaknesses, and the extent to which advances have been made. A real assessment of the role of the OC within the tendency would need to be based on a thorough, objective analysis of the initiatives of the OC and their success; the relationship of the OC to other forces in the tendency; advances made in the level of ideological, political, and organizational development and unity. The leading role of the OC in consolidating the anti-“left” tendency has to be confirmed based on progress actually achieved.

An important indication of the ideological (class) stand of an organization is its ability to analyze its own strengths and weaknesses to objectively assess its role in promoting the general interests of the movement of which it is a part. As Lenin said:

A political party’s attitude toward its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfills in practice its obligation towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, and thrashing out the means of rectification, that is the hallmark of a serious party. (“Left-Wing” Communism–An Infantile Disorder, Selected Works, Vol. 3. p. 321)

Here Lenin was addressing the German “Lefts”. Not surprisingly, a lack of self-criticism has “been a significant hallmark of the U.S. ultra-“lefts”. Granted, the OCIC is not a party. However, the rigorous approach to self-criticism which Lenin speaks of is important for all Marxist-Leninists to use, especially those leading a process that is attempting to break with ultra-“leftism” and forge a single center for the anti-“left” tendency.–

We believe the OC First Year summation falls far short of meeting Lenin’s rigorous criteria of self-criticism. While the document dwells long and loud about the OC’s achievements, it contains only one page about the “soft spots”. This is inadequate as an all-sided evaluation of the OC’s first year. To begin with, Marxist-Leninists do not belittle serious weaknesses by referring to them as “soft spots”. But more importantly, regardless of what we call them, there is much to write about the OC’s weaknesses: the lack of genuine, open, and movement-wide ideological debate and struggle; the neglect of attention paid to the ideological and theoretical development of the cadre; the poor communication between the Steering Committee and the base and the absence of a regular internal bulletin; and the passive role of the base all fostering bureaucratic tendencies in the OC which are at best concealing the differences that exist, and at worst promoting an atmosphere of hostility which subverts healthy struggle. These are weaknesses that need to be seriously addressed.

Another problem with the document is that it presents us with a detailed analysis of the state of the communist movement including assertions on the character of the communist movement (that there is a single anti-revisionist movement within which ultra-“leftism” retains “hegemony”), and that the circle spirit is the most stubborn manifestation of ultra-“leftism” retarding the anti-’left’ tendency. Granted, any summation must take place in the context of an overall analysis of the state of the communist movement as a whole, as is pointed out in the introductory remarks of the paper. What we object to is how the Steering Committee employs half of the document to put forward its analysis for hasty approval by the membership, without encouraging and promoting the mechanisms for in depth discussion and debate that would truly serve to advance the political unity and consolidation of the OC as a whole. Instead the Steering Committee has given priority to the shallow and apparent organizational consolidation of its view. Genuine theoretical struggle cannot be reduced to the Steering Committee putting forward its views, winning the nodding approval of the membership, and hoping that no opposition appears. Such questions as the most precise characterization of the communist movement and the main force retarding the growth of our tendency must have their theoretical underpinnings dissected and scrutinized before open, movement wide debate.

To sum up, the OC’s First Year document fails to be a genuine all-sided evaluation of the line and practice of the OC. It reads more like a document intended to rally forces who themselves are not convinced of the leading role of the organization to which they belong. And it had not served to promote the theoretical struggle in the movement. Comrades, a genuine summation of the OC’s first year has yet to be done by the OC and its steering committee. What was presented by the steering committee and formally voted on at the Labor Day Conference may serve to convince ourselves of our “auspicious start”, but it cannot stand up the rigorous approach spoken of by Lenin.

Principle 18 Resolution

One of the major activities of the OCIC since its inception has been the struggle over whether Principle 18 should be a line of demarcation with ultra-“leftism”. A protracted and intense year long struggle took place with the aim of educating and consolidating the membership on the necessity of Principle 18. The SC in the “Theses on a Line of Demarcation with “Left” Opportunism” states emphatically:

Thus, it is correct to uphold the question of the main enemy of the peoples of the world as a correct line of demarcation for the development of a Marxist-Leninist trend. To fail to do so would be to sacrifice the fundamental interests of the working class in favor of momentary unity among all those who have declared themselves to be anti-“left”. (emphasis added)

From everything that had transpired up until the Labor Day Conference, one thing was clear – the SC promoted the view and consolidated the OCIC on the need for Principle 18 to be a line of demarcation. There was absolutely no hint of flexibility on this point.

At the Labor Day Conference, however, there was a significant shift. For the first time, the SC argued that there should be flexibility on whether Principle 18 is a necessary line of demarcation. The reason put forward is that it would be objectively sectarian to exclude forces from the OC who agree with the content of Principle 18 but are not convinced that it is a necessary line of demarcation. In particular, one new OC member organization, the NSO, is in this category. It was argued that we should struggle with these comrades within the OC to win them over. The Resolution on OCIC Membership adopted at the conference reflects this new flexibility.

Comrades, this objectively negates the OC process to date around Principle 18. The reason it negates the process is because a distinct and significant change has occurred in the line of the SC without any ideological and theoretical argumentation and struggle. Clearly, the new view represents a change from the one presented in the Theses and OC Bulletin #1, as well as the view agreed to by the OC as a whole. The obvious question is: What was incorrect in the original view of the SC and where is the summation of the process, including an analysis of the errors, or what conditions have changed in the world, the movement, etc. that necessitate this new formulation?

We think the principle argumentation presented at the conference was of an organizational nature, e.g. whether the NSO should stay in or out of the OC. Either people should be struggled with ideologically and politically before they enter our organizational process, OR, if the SC is now arguing that our lower level of unity on Principle 18 is adequate, then this shift in orientation from the stand taken during the struggle over Principle 18 should be fully explained and struggled over. Otherwise, one is tampering with political principles as if they were simply tactics in order to build one’s organization and following. Such tampering is a hallmark of opportunism which we must avoid at all costs.

Draft Plan

The key task of the OCIC as mandated in the Founding Statement is the development of a Draft Plan for an Ideological Center. At the recent Labor Day Conference such a Draft Plan was presented by the SC, discussed and adopted as amended.

We have serious doubts concerning the attitude taken toward adoption and promotion of the plan. The SC has argued that since the plan was “only a draft” and will not be finally adopted until after protracted struggle, it is correct to go ahead with its circulation. While not directly stated, the attitude of the SC seems to be, “let circulate it now and unity and consolidation will emerge in the course of its circulation”.

Unity and consolidation around the views expressed in the plan will not emerge spontaneously or through osmosis. The Draft Plan contains at least implicit views or perspectives on what is the correct way to push forward the party building movement at this time. This is no small matter. Because of the significance of such a document, we think it is imperative that those circulating it understand the underlying ideological and theoretical conceptions and views contained within it. Presently, we think there is at best a superficial preparedness on the part of many OC members, including ourselves, to promote the plan, even if it is “only a draft”. Are we supposed to simply appeal to people’s frustrated desire for unity? We think more is needed. Some common level of ideological and theoretical consolidation is necessary in order to embark on such a tasks, and we question to what extent the OC base is prepared.

It’s clear to us from the plan itself and from the many questions that arose at the conference, that there is much to be clarified, discussed and struggle over within the Draft Plan. For example: (1) the process of development from a national center to a leading ideological center (2) the correct relationship between forms geared to centralizing theoretical work and those geared to organizing social practice.

The lack of ideological and theoretical clarity and unity on these and other questions if further underscored by the fact that at the conference a delegate, almost as an afterthought, called the attention of the body to the fact that Principle 11 contained the perspective that the IC would be transformed into a pre-party. The SC itself did not even catch this! We think it imperative that the OC sum up this experience, i.e. why its members have been operating under what is now deemed to be an incorrect line for almost two years. What are the ideological and theoretical roots of the error, or does the SC think simply modifying the principle without a rigorous summation is sufficient?

The party building movement cannot afford yet another rushed and sloppy process at this point in its history. What is key is genuine ideological and theoretical clarity and unity on the tasks ahead and the methods of tackling them. Perhaps the SC is crystal clear on all such matters Bu± certainly we question the level of common consolidation throughout the OC.

Another concern that is related to the above is that so much attention is devoted to polemicizing against the NNMLC. This is in contrast to the poor development of the perspective on the ideological center. The struggle with the NNMLC is a related topic and certainly we must discuss the plan in the context of the present party building movement as a whole. However, it is very important at this time to devote the major part of our energies towards the strengthening of our own process. When we have laid a solid foundation for our perspectives, we will then be in a much stronger position politically to critique the NNMLC and engage forces that presently stand outside the OC in principled debate. We strongly suggest the SC and the OC adopt this approach so that in the long term we may be successful based on a solid political foundation rather than based on the sharpness of polemics.

National Minorities Conference

We will not here attempt to assess the whole content of the conference. Rather, we will comment on the conference as related to, and taken up for discussion within the OC.

A major problem is that the relationship of the national minority conference to the OC was never fully made clear, and in fact was obscured. The conference was repeatedly billed as an independent effort of national minority Marxist-Leninists, The OC First Year document, in recounting contributions of the OC, states, “The OC has also given substantial support to an independent effort of a committee of national minority Marxist-Leninists to organize a national conference addressing the special role of minority communists in party building.” (Pg. 11, OC’s First Year) It sounds as if the conference fell from the sky into our lap. On the contrary, we are all aware that the national minority conference was initiated by the leadership of the OC. We don’t think it is correct to speak of the national minority conference as independent of the OC. While in a formal sense the Planning Committee was distinct from the OC, politically, the conference included the OC’s 18 points as its own basis of unity. Furthermore, in the later states of the conference, the goal of winning adherents and recruits to the OC came increasingly to center stage.

We recognize the importance and legitimacy of outreach projects initiated by the OC of 2 types: (1) projects mainly directed toward development and consolidation of the OC and its periphery, and (2) projects directed toward development and consolidation, and unity/ struggle/unity in the tendency as a whole. Yet, we believe the OC has stated and argued for the primary importance of tendency-wide projects.

The source of the OC’s leading role is the line if has pursued in both its political and organizational line. The OC has not adopted a narrow circle approach to its tasks, devoting its attention to consolidating its own limited following, winning new recruits and contending for hegemony with other anti-left forces. Instead it has focussed on the consolidation of the tendency as a whole, the organization of as many of its political currents as possible, and contention with the ultra-lefts. In short, the OC has consistently determined its intervention based on the general interests of the party building movement. (OC’s First Year, Pg. 8)

We heartily endorse the stand being called for here. And this causes us to question whether the proposal advanced for a tendency-wide national minority conference was seriously considered. Again, we recognize the particular role served by a national minority conference aimed mainly at consolidating the OC and its periphery on questions of the relation of national minority M-Lists to the party building movement. However, we believe that this more narrow aim needs to be clearly stated and defended in the context of the broader interests of the OC in organizing tendency-wide discussion and struggle on key questions.

We believe it was a serious error for the OC SC to propose, and the membership to go along with voting on the resolution on the National Minority Conference, given the lack of adequate political preparation. The OC membership was unaware until the start of the conference that the national minority conference was a main agenda topic, let alone that a resolution offering virtually full support of the conference would be put forward. Very few OC members had direct contact with the conference, very few had heard reports of it or read documents. Tyree’s report on the process and content of the conference was sketchy. The Planning Committee had not completed its own summation. Given these factors, and given the significance of the conference for the OC and tendency as a whole, we believe it was politically irresponsible for the OC to pass the resolution it did. We believe that the conference voted more on faith and loyalty than on a material basis, given the severe lack of information. This error, we believe was essentially one of paternalism. The paternalism acted as a blinder, preventing a clear view of the error being made in passing the resolution. We claim this is a paternalistic error because a significant project of national minority comrades was fully endorsed with a total lack of rigorous, objective, materialist analysis. A resolution should be the final act in a process of study, discussion and struggle. It should signify conscious unity and consolidation. We ask: What was the hurry? Why was it necessary to push the resolution through? Why not have a verbal report, distribute the conference documents, wait for the PC summation, and then discuss resolutions?

Finally, we believe there was an unfortunate incident of race-baiting in the discussion in response to the comrade from DMLO’s proposal that Melinda Paras and Victor Quintana be granted the special right to speak. The argument is that he was attempting to raise criticisms of the conference by playing on the backwardness and paternalism of white comrades who would listen more to criticisms when raised by minority comrades. If the comrade from DMLO, in fact has developed views and/or criticisms of the national minority conference, then he was responsible to have raised them, rather than attempting to rely on Victor or Melinda. His proposal, in this case, would be correctly criticized as racist. However, we believe it is incorrect for us to get caught up second-guessing his motives. We don’t think that is the main issue here.

The main issue was, should Victor Quintana and Melinda Paras be allowed to speak on the national minority conference. To us, it is clear that these comrades had something to contribute to that discussion because they are leading Marxist-Leninists in our tendency who had experience with and major criticisms of the national minority conference. To raise objections to their speaking based on rules, agenda, procedures, etc. we believe, in this case, reflected bureaucratism. Moreover, these “reasons” appear to be more of a smokescreen to obscure and avoid criticism, than a legitimate basis to preclude their participation. We believe that in fact, given the lack of familiarity with the conference, given the controversy within the tendency, and given that the resolution embodied strong support for the conference, the comrade from DMLO’s proposal to present “both sides” had some merit. Furthermore, the SC should have encouraged the participation of Melinda and Victor on this topic. We are, after all, trying to promote open, public, tendency-wide discussion on key questions.

On the issue of racism of OC comrades towards the national minority conference, we do believe there has been an error of objective racism of white comrades not taking enough responsibility for and interest in the national minority conference throughout its development. The discussion and evaluation of the process and content of the conference is something that all OC comrades must actively take up. In particular, white comrades must avoid remaining silent with criticisms for fear of being called racist. We do our whole movement a disservice by this, particularly as concerns the struggle against racism. Specifically, one of the authors of this paper who attended the September Conference is very self-critical for not having raised her objections and criticisms at that time.

Concluding Remarks

We have spent considerable time in the previous pages to make concrete our growing criticisms of the practice of the OCIC. We have done so with the hope that the OCIC Steering Committee will internalize these criticisms and rectify the practice of the OCIC accordingly. In closing, we would like to draw out and synthesize some of the key points in the previous pages to help focus the nature of our criticisms and give suggestions to aid rectification.

Since its inception, the OCIC has been plagued by a weak process of consolidation and struggle. The struggle for the single center has become a virtue in itself, while the struggle for the political unity which must embody such a center has been viewed as a settled question since the “formal” adoption of the 18 principles of unity. We say formal because we question the level of actual consolidation that has taken place the founding conference of February 1978.

This error of separating organization consolidation from ideological and theoretical discussion and the struggle for political unity has had serious consequences. This is evident in the self-serving and self-congratulatory tone of the OC First Year document. Instead of having an objective view – a view which would more correspond to the surveys undertaken by the OC which show ideological confusion, theoretical backwardness, and organizational amateurishness among our ranks – we are presented with a document that “toots our own horn”.

Such a view is particularly dangerous given the practice is all too reminiscent of the dogmatists who developed national centers of their own (e.g. National Continuations Committee, and the National Liaison Committee) and proceeded to create a “center of the world mentality”, which later translated into self-proclamations of vanguardism. In essence, we are making voluntarist errors, i.e. ignoring objective conditions and tending to substitute desires for an all-sided appraisal of reality. Such an all-sided view could never have led to the OC First Year document. It is a bit ironic that the SC, and its chairperson in particular, can not see that it is succumbing to the same voluntarist errors for which it criticizes other forces. This error of voluntarism is a clear manifestation of the continuing ultra-“leftism” within our own ranks. If not checked, it may lead to the building of the OCIC and its following at the expense of developing a thorough and consolidated revolutionary political line.

This voluntarism has also led to a serous sectarian approach by the SC toward forces who remain outside the OC. The refusal of the NNMLC to join the OC has triggered sectarian polemics from the SC, the effort of which is to isolate and smash the leadership of the Rectificationists. Instead of focusing on the political differences which are at the root of the organizational independence, the SC raises the organizational question to the forefront. Such a sectarian organizational assault can only lead to negative consequences – namely, a view by the OC SC that only those forces within the OC constitute the “genuine” Marxist-Leninists. Such a view will destroy us the way similar practices destroyed the anti-revisionist movement to date. The OC itself cannot become a line of demarcation whereupon all our efforts are solely directed to win others to it. We cannot ask for blind loyalty to an organization in the absence of conscious unity with the politics that embody it. Instead, we can only demand adherence to the OC when an advanced line has proven its superiority. Organizational unity presupposes political unity. Organizational forms are the political structures which reflect the degree of political unity achieved. We cannot demand organizational subordination in the absence of unity on fundamental questions such as the main form of opportunism in our movement or the necessity for a single national center. Until such unity is achieved, we must respect forces which choose to remain outside the process of the OC, while struggling over the political differences which prevent organizational unity. This is the only way to prevent the growing sectarianism.

The separation of organizational consolidation from ideological and theoretical struggle has also resulted in bureaucratic centralist to appear in the OCIC internally. The political line of the OCIC has so far been developed in a commandist fashion, with the SC simply putting forward its lines and gaining the hasty approval of the membership. The correct method would be for the SC to promote a broad discussion and ideological struggle of views within the OCIC and our movement as a whole. In this way, the OCIC can live up to its intended role to promote genuine debate and discussion so as to advance the political unity of our movement and not simply the organizational consolidation of one particular view.

Integrally connected to such a process would be a conscious and systemmatic plan for the on-going development of all OCIC cadre so that all can have the ability to critique and contribute to the work of the OC. Instead, the SC has objectively placed the cadre in a passive role, allowing the conditions to develop whereby a deep gulf will grow between the “leadership” and the “practical workers”. The cadre cannot be seen as mere foot soldiers who operate on blind faith or trust, but rather must be consciously developed. Their ideological and theoretical understanding must be developed every step of the way. Only this type of process can establish the solid unity we require, not a series of resolutions which have been voted on without solid preparation. Without such a process, democracy is a sham and premature consolidation of one particular view is all too easily arranged.

In order to rectify the present situation, the OCIC must restore the correct relationship between politics and organizational form, placing politics in command. This is true for both the internal and external work of the OCIC.

The SC must encourage and organize the production and dissemination of all viewpoints on all questions facing the OCIC. Mechanisms must be developed (e.g. theoretical journal) to discuss and debate the differing views thereby promoting the broadest possible ideological struggle. Positions should be presented for a vote only after such a struggle. We believe the process of the OC thus far has been both “too slow” and “too fast”. It has been “too slow” in that broad theoretical struggle has for the most part been neglected and the tasks of cadre development have been ignored. At the same time, the process has been ”too fast” in that resolutions are passed willy-nilly without firm ideological consolidation, theoretical struggle, and explicit political unity, i.e., the process has been shoddy. Any vote or resolution is meaningless or at best bureaucratic unless it signifies the culmination of a process of political and ideological consolidation and growth.

In accordance with the above, the OC must see as primary the tasks of cadre development in order that all OCIC members can play an active role in the ideological struggle and our future theoretical production. The SC must break with all tendencies towards bureaucratic centralism. We think the proposed 18 points study is a step in the right direction.

Finally, the SC must end all tendencies towards sectarianism. We should develop principled and comradely relations with organizations which choose to remain outside the OC for political reasons while not concealing the differences which exist. We must realize that the OC is not synonomous with the tendency as a whole. By placing the political struggle primary over the organizational struggle we will also hopefully re-establish an openness to political struggle. This can only lead to a real willingness to rectify one’s line in the political interests of advancing our movement as a whole, as opposed to organizational squabbling and sectarian maneuvering. The political struggle will assume its correct leading position, whereby the content of the struggle becomes the sole criterion of evaluation. As it stands now, neither the OC SC or the leadership of Rectification can bear to lend any “advantage” to its adversary, even if it means foregoing any self-critical practice – a key aspect of genuine Marxism-Leninism.

The OCIC has the potential to provide invaluable leadership to our movement if it can establish the principles and mechanisms which can promote genuine ideological struggle for our movement as a whole. Our movement is too young, too inexperienced and too fragile and divided to allow another party building effort to wash up on the shores of opportunism. We can only hope the SC feels the same way.

In unity and struggle,
Margo S.
Charlie K.
Richard P.
Bob S.
Paul B.