Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Clay Newlin for the National Steering Committee OCIC

The Main Danger Today

Issued: August 18, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The political complexion of the anti-revisionist movement has, changed decisively in the last year. What remains of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Communist Workers’ Party (formerly Workers’ Viewpoint Organization) has continued its descent into the most extreme forms of ultra-left lunacy; both organizations, for example, hold that the 1980’s to be the decade of definitive struggle for a proletarian dictatorship in the U.S. But even more importantly, the outlook and line of the domestic “Three Worlds” theory supporter nexus (Communist Party Marxist-Leninist, League of Revolutionary Struggle and Revolutionary Workers’ Headquarters) has shifted dramatically rightward. In fact, this latter group can no longer be considered to be ultra-left in any meaningful sense.

This shift can best be seen by examining the current line of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (CPM-L), long the bellwether of “Three Worlds” supporters. The CPM-L no longer touts itself as the fully-formed vanguard of the U.S. working class–explicitly recognizing its severe isolation in the mass movements and its inability to gather in its ranks even the bulk of honest Marxist-Leninists. And having abandoned its long-standing view that “revisionism” constitutes the main danger to U.S. communists, it now argues that “the main criticism and self-criticism ... (should be directed) against ultra-’leftism’ and doctrinaire thinking which has severely hindered the progress of the revolutionary movement in the U.S.” It’s changed views on the relationship between reform and revolution can be seen in its jettisoning of its “aim the main blow against the reformist and revisionist (trade union) bureaucrats” formulation and explicit self-criticism for its sectarianism towards the Sadlowski campaign. In the area of democratic struggles, the CPM-L has put aside its traditional contempt for “reformist” leaders of the Black Liberation struggle in favor of a united front posture. It has also traded in its traditional electoral abstentionism in favor of endorsement of the building of a labor-based third party. And finally, its international line is characterized by a now-open advocacy of including U.S. imperialism in the construction of a united front against the Soviet Union. (For background see The Call, Vol. 9, #’s 1, 23 & 24.)


It would be wrong however to view this shift as a positive corrective for CPM-L ultra-leftism. On the contrary, Klonsky and Co. have merely replaced their previous infantile “leftism” with a generalized right opportunism. In the name of breaking with “doctrinaire” views on the party, they now downplay the vanguard and independent role of communists. In the name of practicing united front tactics in the trade unions, they have abandoned central focus on building the strength of rank-and-file class-struggle currents, advocating instead pushing for progressive, pro-labor legislation, seeking elective office and uniting with the “left” social democrats (DSOC, etc.). In the name of breaking with sectarianism in the Black liberation movement, they have conciliated with narrow nationalist and anti-democratic elements in the formation of the National Black United Front. And finally, in the name of building an independent alternative to the Democratic-Republican single party of monopoly capital, they soft pedal the white chauvinism which compromised the Citizen’s Party at its founding convention.

But the real core of the CPM-L’s rightism comes out around those questions most immediately bound up with its desire to construct an international anti-Soviet united front in alliance with the U.S. ruling class. In the service of this aim, they express only the most tepid opposition to the draft and the ever-expanding Defense budget. While arguing that the cause of bolstering U.S. military might is necessary and just, they still maintain that the volunteer army provides sufficient troops for current needs and that cuts in Defense department waste and reduced corporate profits from defense contracts would provide for a more efficient defense expenditure. Moreover, the CPM-L quite openly calls for U.S. government support of the Afghan counter-revolutionaries, the Olympic boycott, militarization of the Indian Ocean, and strengthening of NATO defenses. In fact, the CPM-L even went so far as to demand–and this at the very height of the wave of jingoism following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan–that “the U.S. ruling class (must not) continue its bankrupt appeasement policy which has facilitated Soviet aggression” (The Call, Vol. 9, #2). In short, the CPM-L has taken its rightism to the point of outright social-imperialism!

It is quite likely that the politics of the social-imperialist trend (of which the CPM-L is the leading force) will continue to drift rightward. The more they pursue their goal of an anti-Soviet united front with the U.S. ruling class the more they will find that progressive stands on other domestic issues will stand in the way. They will be compelled to recognize that it is the least progressive sections of the U.S. population that are most open to anti-Sovietism as an organizing principle. And they will see that anti-Sovietism is integrally bound up with anti-communism. The forces of anti-Sovietism will inevitably demand further concessions as the price for unity.

It is even possible that this rightward inclination may lead to the explicit abandonment of anti-revisionism. The seeds of this possibility are clearly present in the current views of the social-imperialists. Following the lead of their Chinese mentors, the CPM-L no longer characterizes the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its aligned parties as revisionist– and this despite the fact that all these parties still hold to such basic features of revisionism as U.S.-Soviet relations as the pivot of the world revolutionary process, the possibility of a parliamentary road to power in the advanced capitalist countries, the non-capitalist road as a viable course of development for the newly independent nations and the possibility of U.S. imperialism putting aside its tendencies towards aggression and war. In addition, they have openly attempted to reverse the verdicts on Tito’s revisionism, even to the point of praising him as a Marxist-Leninist. And they steadily grow increasingly convinced of the virtues of Eurocommunism.

Were these seeds to mature into a surrender of the fundamentals of U.S. anti-revisionism–that is, the impossibility of social equality for national minorities and women short of socialism, the unacheivability of a parliamentary transition, the necessity of a one-stage socialist revolution, the fact that U.S. imperialism is inherently aggressive and bellicose, etc.–then the social-imperialists could no longer be considered part of the party-building movement. For clearly the adoption of the standpoint of revisionism would disqualify them from participation in the struggle to build a vanguard party.


Whatever the future may hold, as Marxists, however, our policy must proceed from current facts. This means that despite their deepening consolidation around right opportunism, the “Three Worlds” supporters must continue to be considered part of a single anti-revisionist movement. So long as they do not abandon the standpoint of anti-revisionism, their views must be taken seriously as ones which however wrong are nevertheless considered legitimate by some genuine anti-revisionists. Certainly we must work to expose and defeat those views. But we cannot allow ourselves the self-satisfied illusion that those under the social-imperialist1s influence are not an important and relatively immediate part of the potential base of support for a correct anti-revisionist program and strategy or the party that will be built around it. In short, we cannot take the sectarian position of writing off these comrades.

We must uphold the basic unity of anti-revisionists even in the face of the fact that our tendency currently has more basis for unity of action in the mass movements with the CPUSA and its following than with the social-imperialists. While the social-imperialists drift rightward, the CPUSA has been tacking to the left. In response to the adoption by the U.S. ruling class of a more openly aggressive policy towards the Soviet Union, the party is taking a more radical stance. In the mass struggles, they have become more and more willing to attach themselves to class struggle currents, focusing more strongly on mass action and giving less attention to legislative initiatives. They have also been much more willing to actively support independent political movements and campaigns, greatly reducing their activity within the Democratic party. This leftward shift has even led them to recast their program. Significantly, the new draft seeks to screen their revisionism behind the most “left” posture possible.

In fact, the CPUSA presently stands to the left of the social-imperialists on moss issues immediately facing the masses. While the social-imperialists have abandoned attempts to build the rank and file movement, the CPUSA has attempted to breath new life into its leftwing rank-and-file center, Coalition for Trade Union Action and Democracy. While our social imperialists are attempting to curry favor with reformist personalities and organizations in the Black liberation movement, the CPUSA places ever more energy in building the influence of its burgeoning National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. And most dramatically, while the social-imperialists have become a veritable Trojan horse for the U.S. bourgeoisie within the peace movement, the CPUSA is presently the one non-Marxist-Leninist force most willing to stand up to U.S. imperialism.

Nevertheless our unity with the social-imperialists is still more fundamental than that with the CPUSA. To grasp this, it is necessary to reckon with the difference between unity on tactical questions and unity on questions of strategy. Our unity with the revisionists is of a strictly conditional and temporary character; it is unity in pursuit of the limited aims and objectives of the various mass movements at this particular stage of their development. On the other hand, despite our sharp tactical differences, on the fundamental questions of revolutionary strategy our with the social-imperialists remains significant. They have retained their perspective on the need for a revolutionary overthrow of U.S. imperialism, on the need to smash the state and to establish the dictatorship of our class. In fact, we could only fail to recognize this deeper unity with the social-imperial trend if in the interest of advancing the movement of the present we would forget Marx’s dictum that communist always represent the interests of the proletarian movement as a whole.


The development of the social-imperialist trend in the anti-revisionist movement confirms much of our historical analysis of ultra-leftism. In the first place it fully supports our position that international line has occupied-the key position in the politics of the (formerly) “left-wing” communists. Just as previously international line was the leading element in the consolidation of a generalized ultra-leftism in the anti-revisionist movement, so too it has been the cutting edge of the move rightward.

Beginning with the events surrounding Angola in 1976, the “Three World’s” supporters have steadily deepened their policy of pursuing a united front with U.S. imperialism against the Soviets. In its initial phases this policy was defended on the basis of infantile leftism. It was argued that the special danger of revisionism holding state power in a country as powerful as the Soviet Union necessitated short-term alliances with the U.S. These alliances, however, were not only held to be of a limited tactical nature but were also said to be subordinate to the higher interests of developing a strategic united front against both the Soviets and the U.S. But gradually this “leftist” veneer was stripped from an essentially rightist policy. United action with U.S. imperialism was advocated with both growing regularity and increasing candor. And the critique of Soviet “revisionism in state power” was dropped in favor of defending national sovereignity against Soviet “hegemonism.” The social-imperialists currently make no bones of defending their strategic international united front against hegemonism (i.e., the Soviet Union).

The evolution of the social-imperialists international line inevitably brought other changes in its wake. It became increasingly clear to these comrades that their ultra-leftism (and, of course, Marxism-Leninism as well) was only an obstacle when it came to forging domestic unity with the U.S. bourgeoisie and its agents in the working class movement. In the trade unions, for example, the main-line labor leadership, while certainly prepared to unite with the monopolists in opposition to the Soviets, vigorously object to any support of such key rank-and-file issues as militant confrontation with the employers or union democracy. No, if unity against the Soviets is desired above all else, it is much better to limit–as the CPM-L current does–one’s initiatives to supporting progressive labor legislation, electioneering and passing resolutions condemning “Soviet aggression” in Afghanistan. And so, the “Three Worlds” supporters’ international line has induced changes in their views on trade union policy and a whole range of other questions as well.

The emergence of the social imperialist trend also confirms our analysis of the role played by dogmatism, particularly in the form of flunkeyism, in the line of our erstwhile “lefts.” The motivation for their shift towards right opportunism does not stem from any real self-searching self-criticism. While they attempt to pass off their new views as being rooted in a summation of their “weaknesses and shortcomings” in general and their small following and extreme isolation in particular, they did not even attempt any self-critical examination until well after their political orientation had undergone substantial change. Instead their realization, as they put it, “that ultra-’leftism’ is not a minor problem, or an ’afterthought’ beyond the danger generally thought to be posed by rightism” came from another source. As Call editor Daniel Burstein admitted, what was key was their awakening to the fact that “the ultra-’leftism’ of the gang of four nearly crushed the Chinese revolution, and ... turned Albania around politically.” Thus the cue for the move towards right opportunism was taken directly from China’s own campaign against “leftism” and “doctrinaire” thinking.


While confirming key points in our historic analysis, the development of the social-imperialist trend also demands a new tactical line for the struggle against opportunism. With the gradual but ever more rapid disintegration of the extreme “leftist” sects like the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Communist Workers’ Party, the size and influence of the CPM-L and Co. mean that the bulk of anti-revisionist forces are now on the right and not the “left.” Instead of reinforcing the historic tendency of party-builders to gravitate towards “left-wing” communism, the social-imperialists will inevitably tend to fuel rightist and eventually revisionist conceptions. Having put aside their tendency to foster illusions about the rate of radicalization of the masses, about the mass movement being able to skip whole stages of necessary development, they will instead feed the fantasy that the masses are incapable of any revolutionary action and that vanguard activity is, in general, premature.

In addition to the new tinder provided by the social-imperialists, another enhanced source for rightism must be taken into account. Since the revisionists are not part of the party-building movement, their influence upon, the views of party-builders is not a direct one. But indirectly they will still exert more pressure than formerly. As a result of their above-mentioned shift leftward in the mass movements, anti-revisionists will inevitably tend to rub shoulders with revisionists on a more regular basis. In the trade unions, the national movements of the oppressed minorities, the women’s movement, the independent political campaigns and particularly in the struggle against militarism and war, united front relations will have their impact. These relations will nourish reformism in our ranks and serve to dull our struggle against right opportunism.

The changed policy of the CPUSA thus adds more grist to the social-imperialist mill of rightism. It means that both within the communist movement and within the mass movements, the forces encouraging rightist thinking among party-builders have grown dramatically. No longer will the long-terra rightist pull of revisionism be countered by a stronger short-term leftwards drift among the bulk of anti-revisionists. On the contrary the revisionists and the social-imperialists now share essential unity on the basis of right opportunism. As a result our tendency’s historic formulation that the principal threat to anti-revisionism comes form “left-wing” communism is obsolete. Now the main danger comes from the right.


The intensification of the danger from the right has a number of important implications of our tendency generally and the OCIC in particular. It obviously means that we must shift significant portions of our energies to combating rightism. The various reformist currents and positions that do exist within our tendency must be viewed with a new seriousness. And we must be doubly alert for the emergence of new forms and species of the disease. It is also necessary to strengthen our tendency’s general consolidation around the forms, essence and roots of right opportunism. The process of summing up ultra-leftism should be completed as soon as possible and a full demarcation with it made. Subsequently, a study program combining reading of classical materials and a concrete critique of right opportunism with focuses on both social-imperialism and revisionism should be developed. This program should form the basis for a campaign of ideological struggle designed to culminate in consolidating the tendency around a fundamental critique of rightism.

But an even more important implication is the fact that the new right danger greatly complicates our struggle with the rectificationists. Retaining their role as the headquarters of opportunism within our tendency, these comrades have continued consolidating their small following on the basis of “left” opportunism. Having confined their demarcation with “left-wing” communism solely to international line, they have carried over infantile conceptions of party-building, the relationship between reform and revolution and the democratic questions that confront the U.S. revolution. In fact, even their ability to build internationalism in this country is compromised. For while they have indeed broken with the “left” collaboration that used to characterize China’s line, they still approach the anti-imperialist movement with the same sectarianism and voluntarism that infects their attitude to other aspects of the popular agenda.

As a result of the continued influence of the rectification headquarters, there is no reason to assume that “left” opportunism will not continue to be the main danger within our tendency. Clearly, we cannot afford to lower our gaurd against those who attack us from the “left.” To do so could only mean opening our tendency to giving up its struggle to consolidate its demarcation with ultra-leftism. And, as the history of anti-revisionism has demonstrated time and time again, to abandon the demarcation with ultra-leftism is to abandon Marxism-Leninism.

In consequence of the continuing “left” danger within our tendency side by side with the new right danger among party-builders as a whole, we in the OCIC are faced with a complicated situation. For on the one hand, if we overplay the necessary shift in focus towards the right danger, then the rectificationists will be handed an open field in which to advance. But, on the other hand, if we underplay the right danger and continue the focus on “leftism” alone, then we will not only feed rightism in our own ranks in the short run. We will also inevitably undercut our struggle against the rectificationists by giving new credence to their historic charge that the OC is compromised by right opportunism.

The OCIC is thus faced with a delicate balancing act. We must indeed shift our emphasis to taking up rightism and consolidating our ranks against right opportunism. Their can be no compromise on this account. But at the same time we must not neglect the danger within our tendency stemming mainly from the rectificationists. We must fight on two opposite fronts simultaneously, striking our hardest blows at rightism while not sparing “leftism” from our attacks. Undoubtably, this will be a task which will test the resolve of the very best of our comrades.

It is a test that we cannot afford to fail. The ever rightward drift of the social-imperialist trend clearly means that they are incapable of furthering the cause of Marxism-Leninism in this country. And the growing consolidation of the rectification circle around “left-wing” communism means that they too are increasingly incapable of playing a role in the advance of scientific socialism. In fact, as time goes on a sobering fact becomes more and more clear: the immediate future for Marxism-Leninism in the United States depends largely on the success or failure of the OCIC.

18 August 1980