Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter to Fran Beal and Bruce Occena from the OCIC Planning Committee for the National Minority ML Conference


Sent: June 20, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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June 20, 1979

TO: Fran Beal and Bruce Occena

Dear Comrades:

This letter is in response to your May 2, 1979 letter to the Planning Committee for the National Minority Conference. Your letter raises many issues which we would like to respond to in this communication. We will address 1) your proposal as you stated it in your letter; 2) the history of the relationship between you and the Planning Committee; and 3) unprincipled style of your letter. We should state at the outset that we welcome this opportunity to respond to a written document from you comrades. We would agree with you, that it is important to address what you term “the underlying contradictions in this whole controversy.” (Page 7).

PROPOSAL

The written proposal that you have presented in the May 2, 1979 letter is not the identical one that you informally presented to Tyree and Michael In the November 4 meeting in New York. However, while the precise point may differ (see below) the character of the proposal remains the same. As we can determine from your letter in the section “restatement of our proposal” (page 6) you propose the following: 1) that the main theme of the conference speak to why national minorities stand outside of the party building movement and suggest that white chauvinism and narrow nationalism be addressed; 2) that party building perspective not be highlighted except to give presentations on various perspective; and 3) that we open up the Planning Committee to other national minority peoples with different party building perspectives.

We would agree with your first suggestion that the identification of white chauvinism and narrow nationalism be an aspect of the content of the conference. However, we feel that this is not sufficient to speak to the range of issues regarding the involvement of national minority Marxist-Leninist in the party building movement. Indeed, to state what we feel is the obvious would be too narrow. The conference will approach Marxism-Leninism as the science of revolution and the need for national minority Marxist-Leninist to internalize it independent of any deviations they may experience in the communist movement. We will impress upon the attenders the all sided responsibilities that all Marxist-Leninist have in addressing questions facing our class.

We will also address the particular task that various elements in the Marxist-Leninist movement have as we struggle to build the party. For example, we see as the particular task of white Marxist-Leninist to win white workers to the struggle against racism. Similarly, we see the particular task of male Marxist-Leninist to address winning men to the struggle against sexism. The struggle against narrow nationalism is the particular task for national minorities Marxist-Leninist. These task are interrelated and can not be isolated from each other in our movement. Moreover, these particular task in no way limit the responsibility of all Marxist-Leninist to assume full responsibility for our movement.

However, the special task of national minorities Marxist-Leninist go beyond the struggle against narrow nationalism. Because of racial oppression national minorities are presented with particular tasks. The black Liberation Movement, Chicano movement and others which have been historically significant in the struggle for democracy and the development of revolutionary potential in this country. We, as national minority Marxist-Leninist, have a special responsibility to bring together these movements of the oppressed nationalities with the workers movement. The failure to recognize these special tasks is a left error and objectively plays into the hands of racism.

The movements of the oppressed nationalities, where most national minority Marxist-Leninist come from, have created cadre who bring particular clarity on the question of revolution. When we look at the response of the bourgeoisie to SNCC, the Crusade in Denver, Black Panthers, AIM, it is of character that is dissimilar from mass movements that are predominately white. Cadre who come from these experiences into Marxism-Leninism will less likely have illusion about this country. These Cadre tend to understand the nature of the state under capitalism, the limits of bourgeois democracy and the relationship of capitalism to racism and sexism. This should not be taken as an idealization of these experiences but an objective assessment based on reality. These cadre bring a particular experience to the party building movement that enhances the revolutionary quality of our movement.

We disagree that party building perspective should not be highlighted. One of our agenda items will be to historically situate the party building movement. We will critique the anti-revisionist anti-dogmatic tendency. Clearly we can not (and should not) exclude from the critique the most recent developments in our tendency. Nor do we plan to suggest that we do not have a perspective on the OCIC and other forms in relationship to it. We will speak to the OCIC process that calls for a leading IC for our movement and the need for an independent elaboration of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in the U.S. We will speak to the process which calls for an open centralized theoretical struggle for the correct theory and program. We will put forward that the OCIC is the form for this struggle. The various party building approaches embodied in the OC will not be put forward by the Planning Committee. However, the overall perspective of the OC will be contrasted with other party building perspective.

Regarding the Planning Committee, we feel that it was sufficiently open. As we have told you, there are seven members of the Planning Committee. Three of these members are not members of the OC. Three of the members do not belong to any organized Marxist-Leninist formation. All have basic unity with the OCIC process. We intentionally did not suggest people for the Planning Committee who have ideological differences with the process.

On this matter we find it interesting that you take a contradictory position. The theme of your letter is to attack the OCIC process. Further, you suggest that the conference is being run by the OC and that the Planning Committee is not independent of the OC. You go on to project severe political disagreements that keep you out of the OC and call for a split in our movement. But these same disagreements become minor when you discuss our unity as national minorities peoples. You even say that differences with us on party building perspective “are not the immediate problem.” (Page 2).

Comrades, this clearly shows that there is no principle guiding your perspective. You seem to be more concerned about your position in the movement than principled political discussion. On the one hand you will call for a split in the party building movement because of alledged differences with the OCIC and on the other hand suggest that we unite as national minority Marxist-Leninist and submerge these difference in the name of unity of minority people. Perhaps you do believe, contrary to your words, that there is a “minority peoples perspective on party building ” (Page 7).

You suggest that Fran have a role in the conference. Her participation was discussed at the initial planning meeting (October 1978) and rejected. This was based on our history with her and the quality of her work in the party building movement. However, members of the Planning Committee did make an error that created a false impression that she would be included in the conference. This occurred at a meeting, Bruce, Michael and Tyree had in New York. Fran came in on the meeting uninvited, unless by Bruce. We did not raise any objections because we felt it would be impolite and it appeared that Brace wanted her there. Subsequent to that meeting, Michael made a self criticism to Fran about our liberalism. Frank rejected the criticism and said that Tyree and Michael should have said something at the time. She went on to say that since we had not raised her participation in the meeting, that we had developed a bond at that meeting that could not be broken. We are amazed at this absurd formulation coming from a Marxist-Leninist.

It is ironic to us that you continually made the charge of liberalism in your letter. Yet when we made a self criticism about our liberalism it was rejected and you never mentioned this in your letter. Could it be that to accept our self criticism would expose the opportunism of you two comrades? Or are we allowed to make liberal errors if they further your cause? Again, we see another example of your unprincipled political posture whose basis is solely to advance your position in the party building movement.

In spite of our differences we continued to extend our invitation to Bruce to be an observer at the conference. Both Michael and Tyree had both informed Fran and Bruce that the original proposal was rejected. However, we are self critical for not having done this in a formal manner.

HISTORY OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS

While we have always held that there are political differences between us, we are frankly amazed at the distorted history you have presented about our relationship. Your recreations of history, raises many questions that go beyond political differences and raises question about your political integrity. We think that it is important to set the record straight on some of the issues you raise.

In your letter you imply that you had difficulty finding out about the conference and that you had been forcing the initiative regarding our discussion. But as you comrades well know, the first discussion of a national minorities conference was in the COS and with comrades in the tendency. With the formation of the OC the conference was still being discussed by members of the OC. The need for such a conference was recognized but it was felt that it should occur independent of the OC.

The reasons for being independent of the OC were not that national minority Marxist-Leninist “should...be sheltered or given an impression that the (party building) process is more developed than it actually is” (page 7 and 8). The question of being independent of the OC was a recognition of the weakness of the OC regarding the understanding of the centrality of the struggle against racism. This has been as long standing problem in our movement and is hardly unique to the OC.

We recognized that in the short run many would stand outside of the OC based on these weaknesses and the goal of the conference was to put this issue in a Marxist-Leninist context. The formal relationship of the OC to the conference was one of initiation and various forms of support.

The tone of your letter suggests that you have made a consistent proposal throughout the process and we have continually failed to respond. Actually, you have made at least two proposals and on one occasion (November meeting in New York) changed proposals during the discussion. Your posture has been now one of negotiating your political formulations rather than putting forth a clear political perspective. We, therefore, are not surprised that the proposal in your May 2 letter is not the same as the original one.

In the New York meeting you did not have a formal proposal. As you know, you first raised concern about the participation of advanced workers in the conference. In your letter (Page 6) you concede that Michael and Tyree sufficiently explained their participation to you comrades. However, your raising of the issue was to challenge the political content of the conference as being too low because of their participation. You felt that the conference should be at a Marxist-Leninist level and this, necessarily to you, negated the participation of advanced workers. However, you went on to suggest how you saw the subject of party building being discussed at the conference. In your letter (Page 8) you suggest that we down play party building perspectives’. But you left out a significant aspect of the first proposal. At first you struggled for a conference that would include the perspective of the OC, the rectification perspective now being put forward by the club network and, as an after thought, El Comite’s perspective. We disagreed with this formulation and said that ideological differences was why Bruce and El Comite were invited as observers.

At this point you comrades totally reversed your position and your politics. You said that if all party building perspective could not be given, then no perspective should be given. You went on to propose a conference that would take on common anti-racist work, discuss the national question, and deal with white chauvinism and narrow nationalism. You even decided that a commitment to party building did not have to be a pre-requisite for coming to the conference.

To sum up, it seems that you were willing to unprinciplly negotiate your politics to advance your position. On the one hand you argued that the conference was going to be theoretically low because of the participation of advanced workers. However, when it was clear that the OC perspective on party building would be put forward and not yours, you were willing to liquidate the Marxist-Leninist content of the conference and turn it into a “third world anti-racist” meeting.

The Planning Committee took up the final version of your first proposal at its next meeting and it was rejected, though Bruce was still affirmed as an observer. In your letter you assert that your original proposal was distorted. Since you had not written your original proposal down we recognize that you may have forgotten it. However, Michael had a subsequent meeting with Fran and Tyree had a meeting with Bruce. This allegation was made at both of those meetings. Both Michael and Tyree explained to you two what they had presented to the planning committee. Yet, you have never specified the alleged distortion.

We are not clear about your charge of not being able to defend the OCIC process. In November you accused us of being sectarian for wanting to put forward the OCIC in the conference and did not suggest that we had failed to defend it. In another meeting with Tyree in January, when other comrades from the KDP and the OC were present, Bruce had a long discussion about the OCIC process. Tyree’s explanation of the OCIC process and his attack on the shallowness of the rectification formula forced Bruce to call the meeting “off the record”. There have been other occasions where Bruce has made party building discussions regarding the OCIC with Planning Committee members “off the record.” We have never felt compelled to request an off the record conversation. We are clear that it is you comrades who fail to defend their party building perspective and are afraid to put it forward publically. We have never hesitated putting forward the OCIC. In fact, your major point with us throughout the experience is you concern that we will put it forward. We presume that this historical creation further serves your myth that we are being trained but have not understood our training. Well comrades, not only have we defended the OCIC, some of the Planning Committee played significant roles in creating it.

Someone not familiar with the history would not know why you mention the “famous Sylvia controversy” (Page 3) in your letter. We think the question of “the Sylvia controversy” is significant in that it exposes the kind of struggle that you engage in as you attempt to divert the two line struggle in our movement.

Sylvia, a member of the Planning Committee, made some political errors in an activity outside of the Planning Committee. Bruce has attempted to turn these errors into an issue between the clubs and the OC by suggesting that Sylvia was receiving orders from Michael and Tyree. He has also stated the members of the OC in the Bay area had intervened in creating these errors. When Michael and Tyree challenged Bruce on these allegation he backed down and even suggested that he was not sure about what he was raising. He went on to say that his information as ’third and forth hand’. Yet Bruce continues to raise it to everyone but us.

If, you are of the opinion that we do not have the complete unity on the incident (Page 3) why don’t you, who raised it in the first place, state what your perspective is on the incident and specify our errors? We feel that your failure to do this exposes your purpose. In our view your failure to lay out your perspective is an attempt to cover up your political errors and continue to use this false issue to create confusion.

UNPRINCIPLED TONE OF LETTER

Your letter taken as a whole verifies your statement that style of work can not be separated from party building line (Page 5). It is obvious to us that your tactics of developing straw men, raising criticisms and then withdrawing them, refusing to accept self criticism from others that does not advance your cause. Our refusing to make any self criticism of your own – all are a reflection of your party building line.

Your letter starts out with a reference to an OCIC Minorities Commission. This is the first time we have ever heard this term used to describe the Planning Committee. You have never been told by any member of the Planning Committee that we are anything other than an ad-hoc group to plan this conference. You were told as far back as November that the Planning Committee included people who were not even in the OCIC. As Marxist-Leninist you comrades surely know that a communist organization would not have a commission with non-members on it. We see this as a deliberate attempt to continue the confusion that you comrades have initiated about the OCIC relationship to the conference. In your letter you even state that you knew that we had to check with the OCIC before responding (Page 6) to your proposal. Yet you have always been told that the Planning Committee is independent of the OCIC and is, the sole determinant of the conference. Given your low level of understanding that third world Marxist-Leninist can operate independent of whites, we understand why you find this hard to believe. Moreover, we see this as an attempt to suggest some devious conspiracy that we are stalking horses for the OCIC. We have always been clear and up front with you about our relationship with the OCIC. Your attempt to cloud this clarity with confusion only further exposes your unprincipled behavior.

You suggest that there are common experiences that bind third world people together that are so strong that only a consolidated line could weaken this unity (Page 10). Of course political lines divides Marxist-Leninist. We have always been clear that we had political difference with you and did not think that they were “relatively minor” (Page 6). Again, we must state that we are struck at how your differences with the OC are major but your differences with us are minor. This play on narrow nationalist sentiment is consistent with your unprincipled approach to political struggle. Are we not divided from national minorities in the CPUSA, RWHQ, WVO etc? On the one hand you raise the concern that national minority Marxist-Leninist stand on their own two feet and not be relegated to “third world concerns” (Page 7) and on the other hand suggest that our common experiences as national minorities should bind us (Page 10). This, again, calls into question you concern about not developing a minority peoples perspective on party building (Page 7).

You go on to assume that if we have a line that it must be coming from everyone but us. You suggest Clay Newlin, the political committee of the PWOC, the OCIC, David but never us. This race baiting conjures up all of the racist and narrow nationalist sentiments that we have come to associate with anti-communism. We are familiar with having to explain to non-Marxist-Leninist that national minority Marxist-Leninist are not taking orders from “white folks” but you present us with the unique situation of explaining this to other Marxist-Leninist. Perhaps some day you comrades will learn to treat “us colored folks” like “white folks.”

This race baiting continues in your discussions regarding your meeting with David. We have discussed this meeting with him because none of us were there. He denied your account of the meeting and we suggest that he communicate with you directly. He did say that you comrades did not then or have not since raised any criticism or racism regarding his behavior in the meeting. As Marxist-Leninist we know that racist and sexist errors are going to be made and must be struggled over. A principled Marxist-Leninist raises them first with the particular comrade to struggle for understanding. Yet you comrades choose to race bait as a tactic and have never raised this charge of racism and arrogance to comrades involved. We are frankly disappointed in your childish comment about “blowing him right out of the water.” The fact that you would bother to write something like that does call into question your alledged “maturation” as Marxist-Leninists.

In your letter you suggest your concern for our political development (presumably because we are “third world”) and that we are being “trained under an incorrect line” (Page 10). First of all, animals are trained, Marxist-Leninist are forged out of theory and practice. If, as you say we are being trained, it is by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Fidel, Ho, Samara and the range of the experiences of the world proletariat. Also comrades, and this may be the most difficult point for you to understand, we are being forged in the movements of the oppressed nationalities and the working class. The most fundamental lesson that we are learning, and suggest that you learn, is that political line and not nationality is primary.

Comrades, we are frankly amused at your charge of anti-intellectualism. In the first place we recognize that this is a code word for your assertion that the OC is merely a “fusionist formation” Secondarily, we see it as your further race baiting because it implies that national minority Marxist-Leninist are or practice and no theory. In fact if we return to your original proposal it will expose this opportunist charge and the pateralization embodied in your party building line. Further, we find your charge of us being anti-intellectual contradictory. We should remind you that in your letter you go to great lengths to caution us about the communist movement (presumably white) ghettoizing national minorities cadre and limiting their potential to a few “race questions.” Yet the content of your proposal does just that.

It was you who proposed limiting the conference to a discussion of white chauvanism and narrow nationalism. It was you who proposed that the national question be the only theoretical question discussed. It was you who were willing to liquidate a discussion on party building if you could not put your line forward. It was you who proposed that joint anti-racist work be a goal of the conference.

We should remind you comrades that we have proposed no concrete “practical work” coming form the conference. While it may emerge in time, this is not our task. We have only projected a study program on the 18 points, the historical development of the struggles of the oppressed nationalities in the context of the development of capitalism and imperialism and various Marxist-Leninist conferences on different questions facing Marxist-Leninist.

Do you think that the 18 points of unity of the OCIC was developed only for white comrades? Do you comrades think that the study around all of these points reflect anti-intellectualism? Do you think that the proposed study will relegate national minorities cadre to “race issues”? No, it is you who have proposed a conference that is objectively anti-intellectual. In the process you have called into question that theoretical potential of national minority cadre and advanced workers. It is you who want to forge unity based on “third worldism” and relegate us to “race issues”.

The subjectivism that permeates your letter should also be summed up. You fail to make any self criticism about anything and develop a self righteous attitude of “clearing the air”. Your attack on the Planning Committee, the Conference itself, the Sylvia controversy, raising Newlin’s speech, sounds more like temper tantrums than principle political struggle. If, as you say, that we “must accept the principle responsibility for the liberal and sectarian fashion” in which this political struggle has been conducted” (Page 10) what is the secondary responsibility you comrades are accepting? You never mention it in your letter. We suggest that you not worry about the “negative effect on both the pace of your (our) political development and (our) methods of struggle” (Page 6). Instead you should attempt to develop a more principle manner of political struggle.

Finally, we are disturbed at you splitting tactics. Your creation of the impression that the Planning Committee is not an independent entity has only the purpose to divide us. At various point you suggest Michael was bad, Tyree was good, but Leslie and Gwen were better and David and Clay were the real problem, etc. Your attempt to make the Planning Committee hesitant about the OCIC failed comrades.

At this point only you can “diffuse this particular controversy over the minority conference” since you have created it. We would suggest that you should start with a self criticism about your past behavior and the content of your letter. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you about anything raised in this letter as well as the content in your letter.

As you know, we feel that political struggle should take place in fall view of party building movement. We would again remind you that we have never requested that any conversation be ’off the record’. We, therefore are circulating your letter and our response to interested parties and you should feel free to do the same.

Struggle,
Planning Committee
Gwen D.
Oscar H.
Sylvia K.
Kwazi N.
Tyree S.
Michael S.
Leslie R.