Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Open Letter to the National Minority Conference Planning Committee

Prepared: n.d. [1979].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In the wake of the ’national minority conference’, with all the suspicion and antagonism it has created in our party building trend and within the anti-racist movement, we a group of minority MLs from the Sunday Morning Group in L.A. deem it necessary to put our views concerning the developments surrounding the conference squarely on the table. We feel that the sectarian nature of the conference (which you have yet to address yourselves to), is best exemplified by your relationship with the SMG in general and particularly your relationship with Phil G. Further, this objectively sectarian line leads you into racist positions. Lastly, it’s our collective sense that these errors flow from your one-sided view of our party building trend.

In an attempt to clarify the issues at hand we will begin by going over a short history of our relationship to the planning committee, which points out the sectarianism of the conference.

In late 1978, the SMG began gravitating towards the party building movement in general and particularly toward the OCIC. Simultaneously, we became aware of a proposed “national minority conference”, which, as stated to us, had only a formal relationship with the OCIC process. Though members of the SMG had general agreement with the proposed conference and the need to increase minority participation in the party building movement, we still had many questions that needed to be answered before we could commit ourselves to such a process. In early Nov. 1978, Tyree Scott, a member of the CCIC steering committee and the planning traveled to L.A. and met with the SMG to inform us about the conference. Without reviewing each detail, it will suffice to state that the major discussions centered around the race/national question, the exclusion of white comrades and the impact of that, and the CCIC generally and their role in the minority conference particularly. (It’s not our purpose here to go deeply into these matters. Rather, we seek only to give people a sense of the parameters of the meeting.) Tyree told us that the minority conference didn’t have any direct connection to the CCIC process. Though we accepted this at face value, it was still hard to swallow the idea that this conference wasn’t tied directly to the OCIC, especially given that Tyree was a member of the OCIC steering committee.

Following the meeting it was agreed that we (SMG) would respond to the proposal for a conference, and also clarify our criticisms of the OCIC process as a whole. Also, we were to stay in phone contact with Tyree. Though Tyree spoke with individuals in the SMG the following month, no systematic dialogue developed. Further, no communication existed between SMG and the planning committee until June of 1979.

In the interim, SMG decided not to join the OCIC, but rather to develop relationships with both rectification and fusion forces in our tendency. Further, many SMG comrades, both white and non-white, began to gravitate toward the rectification line on party building. As stated earlier, SMG entrance into the party building movement began in 1978, but by 1979 we had been in contact with many groups in our trend nationally. It became clear to us that this ’national minority’ conference wasn’t a movement wide event as we were told the previous November. Rather, certain groups and individuals were being systematically excluded from the participation in the conference. It was also determined that people weren’t allowed to participate, not because they had disagreements with the conference or the need to struggle against racism in our movement, but because participation was being restricted to those who were either in the OCIC or close to the OCIC process. This practice to us was a clear indication of the sectarian nature in which the process was unfolding, and we sought to do something about it. We signed a national letter along with over 30 minority MLs and organizations (SMG being one of them), stating the criticisms and asking for a response to them. To this date there has been no response to that letter.

Following the failure to respond to the national letter, Phil, an SMG member, received a packet and invitation from the planning committee about the minority conference. Though we received this correspondence 9 days after the application form was to be filled out and returned to Detroit, we still felt that the opportunity was there, and began to initiate contact with the planning committee in Detroit. Phil spoke with Leslie R. who informed him that there was still ample time to send in the forms for attendance and that the working papers for the conference would be sent to Phil from comrades in the S. F. Bay Area. Approximately 3-4 days following this discussion, Phil received a call from Tyree. After a very heated exchange Tyree asked: “Do you hold the Rectification Line?” Phil’s response was “yes, I do”, to which Tyree responded, “You can’t attend the conference.”

The sectarian nature of the conference is best exemplified by this process of excluding Phil. When the SMG and Phil were considering joining the OCIC they were actively recruited to come to the conference. But when Phil and others took up the rectification line, their participation was ruled out. This is a clear reflection that the meeting was not intended as a movement-wide discussion of minority MLs.

As in any process, there are criticisms of the practice of all involved. We recognize that there are criticisms of ourselves as well as of the planning committee. We did not follow though on our stated commitment to submit both our criticisms of the conference and the OCIC process as a whole. In addition, we didn’t carry through on contacting Tyree when we said we would. However, it is also important to be clear as to which of the criticisms is primary and where the central criticism resides.

Objectively, the minority conference was a sectarian effort on the part of the OCIC and the planning committee, not to build unity in our trend and bring about greater minority participation in the party building movement. It was an effort to increase the ranks of the OCIC.

It was never put forward that the conference was tied to the OCIC process. In fact it was denied vehemently around the country. Such a conference could have moved our entire trend forward, but because of it sectarian nature, forward movement was inhibited. In fact, by sending up smoke screens about the movement wide character of the conference, by not being up front about who was responsible for organizing it, and by selecting only those minorities who were close to the OCIC, suspicion has been sown and unnecessary antagonism created within the party building movement.

In addition, this sectarianism has objectively led to a racist posture by the arbitrary practice of selecting and de-selecting comrades in our trend. By only inviting the “correct” minorities, those close to the OCIC, the vast majority of minority MLs in our trend have been objectively excluded. This is racist in nature and objectively divides those forces in our tendency who work in the ant-racist struggle. One might ask, how you comrades decide who is and isn’t a ’national minority’ in our trend.

This sectarianism and racism stems from your line that the OCIC process is synonomous with the party building process. Comrades who are not open to the OCIC do not constitute a legitimate part of our trend, by your view. This is a distorted view of reality, which places the part above the whole.

It is true that principally two lines exist in our movement. (i.e., rectification and fusions lines on party building.) The existence of these differing lines should not prevent joint work from developing, to take up the needs of the party building movement as a whole. You comrades seem to differ on this question.

Our assessment of how to rectify the situation is to hold a movement-wide summation of the conference- both its organizing and the actual content of the resolutions. We understand that there may need to be two separate processes involved. Such a summation would have to be a frank exchange involving an openness to criticism/self-criticism. This would provide the firmest foundation to objectify the whole process and move forward together in a principled fashion.

Allan C.
Phillip G.
Cyrus K.
Francoise S.