Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

New England Regional Steering Committee OCIC

Carry Through the Campaign against White Chauvinism

Issued: August 8, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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At the first local center meetings in New England the N.E. RSC launched a campaign against white chauvinism in the OC. The white chauvinism of the white OC members was targetted as the main block to building multi-national unity in the tendency. A sharp struggle has been taken up against every manifestation of racism (and secondarily anti-working class bias) in the OC.

In the course of the struggle, a number of OC forces have come out opposed to the campaign. They are defending their own white chauvinism and the white chauvinism of the OC. These comrades want to maintain the OC the way it is: a predominantly white petit bourgeois organization mired in racism and anti-working class bias.

This racist opposition can and will be defeated. The success of the communist movement demands it. Through this campaign the OC will be transformed. National minority and working class comrades will come forward and take leadership. The participation and leadership of these comrades is crucial to the movement’s ability to develop the revolutionary theory needed to advance the party-building and working class movements.

Those who oppose the campaign oppose the development of multi-nationality and the leadership of national minority comrades. They take a stand with white-chauvinism – and along with white chauvinism, they will be defeated. The communist movement will move forward and it will leave these comrades behind.

The opposition to the campaign against white chauvinism takes a number of different forms.

(1) Some “support” a campaign against white chauvinism, but claim the present one is characterised by unprincipled methods of struggle. Various charges are made including that the campaign is “too harsh,” is “hammering” at comrades, is “moralistic,” “psychological,” is an “attack,” and that there are (unspecified) “other ways” to conduct the struggle. These comrades claim that the OC is calling on them and others to “purge themselves;” that the OC wants an exorcism!

The reality is that the OC is identifying the white chauvinism in our movement and waging a sharp struggle against it. These comrades, while they supposedly “agree” white chauvinism is a problem, oppose the method of sharp struggle to root it out.

Now whenever a sharp struggle is waged against opportunism, the defenders of opportunism always raise the charge of unprincipled methods of struggle. The struggle against white chauvinism is no exception.

In this case, these comrades who oppose the methods of struggle particularly oppose uncovering the white chauvinist attitudes that white communists have towards national minority people (that they are stupid, lazy, etc,). But these attitudes are the particular form of bourgeois ideology infecting the OC and are at the root of racist errors made. So to oppose identifying and struggling against these attitudes is to oppose the struggle to root out bourgeois ideology.

And it is precisely because of the depth of white chauvinism and anti-working class bias in the OC that the ideological struggle must be sharp. White chauvinism is the most vicious and deeply held form of bourgeois ideology among white communists. In the struggle against it, white comrades will (and have) become defensive, subjective, emotional, outraged, etc. But that only points to the depth of the problem and the absolute necessity of sharp struggle to root it out.

Those who oppose the “methods of struggle” are opposing principled criticism/self-criticism and the ideological struggle that the OC is all about. In reality, they are objecting because they don’t want to face their own white chauvinism.

This is clearly revealed by the fact that these comrades never deal with the content of the criticisms raised to them of their racism. If they wore principled, they would criticize the methods of struggle and deal with the criticism. But they don’t. Instead they make absurd charges of “moralism” and avoid the actual criticism.

It’s no accident that comrades Elliot B. and Leah, who claim the method of struggle is “too harsh,” have historically resisted the struggle against racism among OC forces in that area. They, and other comrades, oppose the campaign through the “methods of struggle” objection because they want to hide their racist practice.

Comrade McC., who charges the campaign is “psychologistic”, is another example. McC. works daily with a national minority advanced worker who is actively open to communism and in fact has applied for the trade union tour to Cuba this year. Yet McC. has never shown this comrade anything about the OCIC; she has never raised the 18 points with him. In fact, she has never discussed communism with this worker.

In another case, McC. has openly stated that saying national minority and working class women bring their experiences as class fighters to the struggle for women’s equality is just glorifying the working class and oppressed nationalities. McC. has said that she thinks plenty of white petit bourgeois women have lots to contribute and plenty of working class and national minority women do not. This is sufficient theoretical justification for her racist and anti-working class position. No wonder comrade McC. thinks that the ideological straggle in the OCIC is “pyschologistic!” Certainly she wants to hide and defend these views.

(2) Another form that the opposition to the campaign against white chauvinism and anti-working class bias takes is the charge that it’s idealist and ultra-left. In essence, these forces charge that the campaign is unconnected to practice (that is, practice in the mass movement). And that the campaign should be conducted in the context of developing political line on the struggle against racism (the national question, strategy and tactics for the struggle against racism in the mass movement).

What these comrades choose to ignore, however, is that the OC has a definite political line and practice. The OC has a political line on how to unite the tendency around a common plan to build a party. Its practice is to attempt to unite the tendency and to conduct ideological struggle in that context. Building multi-national unity is clearly an important component of that practice.

So the OC most definitely has a practice on uniting the tendency. And it’s clear that white chauvinism (and anti-working class bias) stand as ideological obstacles to cur tasks. They lead to a failure to DO outreach to national minority and working class comrades; they block principled relations of ideological struggle (witness racist practice at local center meetings), they hinder the development of leadership for our movement (keep some of the most advanced down and out of leadership through a racist and anti-working class refusal to recognise and follow their leadership); they block the development of correct theory (racist and anti-working class ideology cannot lead to anti-racist political line); etc. So the struggle to root out these ideological deviations is crucial to the success of the communist movement.

Those comrades who claim the campaign against white chauvinism should he connected to developing political line on the national question and the struggle against racism in the mass movement fail to see the crucial contributions national minority and working class comrades have to make to that theoretical work. They would have us believe that the OC at present is capable of this work. But we’re not. The present predominantly white petit bourgeois OC forces are toe narrow and lack the ideological consolidation and development (particularly on racism, but also other questions) to develop correct theory on these and other questions.

That’s why the struggle against white chauvinism and to build the multinational unity of the tendency is so important. The defeat of white chauvinism and the contribution and leadership of national minority comrades are crucial to the development of the strategy, tactics and program of the U.S. revolution and therefore crucial to the success of the party-building movement.

These comrades also often claim that the development of political line on the struggle against racism is particularly important to building multi-national unity. This is a ghettoisation of national minority comrades. It’s saying that they are only interested in racism and not all the political questions facing the party-building movement.

In conclusion, those comrades who oppose the campaign because it’s not connected to “practice” and “political line” take a very abstract approach to these questions. And they do so for a reason. They don’t want to address the OC’s actual practice and concrete political line. And that’s because they don’t want to face the white chauvinism of OC members (especially their own) in the concrete, as it confronts us in our OC work. So, in essence, these comrades oppose the campaign against white chauvinism and anti-working class bias in the OC and defend their own and other’s white chauvinism and class bias.

(3) A third form of opposition to the campaign is the attempt to raise the struggle against sexism above the struggle against racism in the OC. No one will openly defend the position that the struggle against sexism is primary over the struggle against racism in the OC. But comrades John B. and Alix in the Springfield/Conn, local center have openly questioned whether the struggle is primary. A number of other comrades (McC., St. and Jo. in Boston and others) pay lip service to the primacy of the struggle against racism.

But, in practice, all of these comrades raise the struggle against sexism above the struggle against racism. These comrades couterpose the struggle against racism and the struggle against sexism. They fear that taking up the struggle against white chauvinism as central means liquidating the struggle against sexism.

As the Boston local steering committee said (in “How The Struggle Against Racism was Diverted at the 1st BLC Meeting”):

Comrades must grasp the racism of this approach. Racism within the communist movement is the key obstacle holding back the development of our tendency. The struggle against this has barely begun, and experience has shown time a time again that there is tremendous resistance on the part of white communists in really confronting this question. In this context, what does it mean when a white comrade approaches this question not from the standpoint of pushing the SAR forward over its many obstacles but from the perspective of “protecting” the SAS from being liquidated? Is this the main historical danger of our tendency? Has the SAR ever really been made central, much less liquidated the SAS? No, it has hardly been addressed. Given the actual state of our movement, comrades who are trying to “protect” the SAS in relation to the SAR are fighting to preserve the “centrality of the SAS.”

In practice, this line led to the diversion of the struggle against white chauvinism at the first Boston local center meeting to the struggle against one comrade’s sexism. In the Springfield/Conn. local center it led to a racist “jumping to the defense” of the struggle against sexism when a white woman was criticized for her racist response to supposed sexism towards her.

In the Baltimore/Washington local center, a struggle has broken out over whether a clause that says sexism is a reason that many M-L women are outside existing organizations should be added to the resolution on OC local centers which now only targets racism and federationism as obstacles to uniting the tendency. The attempt to attach a qualitatively similar significance to the effect of racism on the participation of national minority comrades and sexism on the participation of women comrades and to the degree to which each of these errors holds back the movement clearly shows a racist approach.

Another form this line takes is the view that the main obstacle to white women taking up the struggle against racism is the sexism of men or their own internalized oppression. In reality, it is clearly their own white chauvinism which is the main problem. Sexism is used as a cover to avoid taking responsibility for racist errors and facing the underlying white chauvinism. This approach raises sexism as primary and undercuts the struggle against white chauvinism among women and men.

The roots of raising the struggle against sexism above the struggle against racism lie in feminism. The Boston local steering committee states:

For Marxists, feminism is an ideology which separates the struggle of women for equality from the struggle of the working class for socialism and elevates it above that struggle. Feminist ideology also fails to see that due to the central role racism has played in dividing the working class and because of the key role played by the Black liberation movement[1] (both because of its militant struggle and its overwhelmingly proletarian composition), the SAR in the working class and the building of an alliance between the working class movement and the Black liberation movement[2] is the key task in building the class unity necessary to overthrow imperialism.

Their racist and anti-working class bias leads feminists to incorrectly identify the sources of oppression of the great majority of women. They believe that the primary source of oppression of working class and national minority women is their oppression as women. To this primary oppression, some feminists add on class and race as additional factors. In reality, these “added” factors are primary in determining the oppression faced by working class and national minority women. It is no accident that feminists fail to see this, because feminism is the world-view of the white petit-bourgeoisie for whom class and race are distant and secondary factors. The women’s movement historically – and still today – has been dominated by this bourgeois ideology (world-view), and this is reflected in its overwhelmingly white, middle-class composition.

By failing to target the real source of most women’s oppression, by elevating the struggle for women’s equality above the struggle for class unity and socialism, feminists not only weaken the struggle of the working class and the oppressed nationalities, but also weaken the struggle for equality for women. Women’s equality can only be achieved under socialism and even immediate gains for women depend on the strength and unity of all three movements. Therefore, any failures to build strong alliances and to recognise the correct relationship between these three movements can only harm all three.

In reality those who hold a feminist line in the OC see sexism as the primary obstacle to uniting the tendency. So they oppose the campaign against white chauvinism and anti-working class bias. The forward motion of the OC, therefore, requires the defeat of the feminist line.

(4) A fourth form of opposition to the campaign against white chauvinism is the view that the predominantly white composition of the OC isn’t due to racism in the OC, it’s due to the segregation of white and national minority people in society. There are 2 forms of this position: the more extreme and the more subtle.

The extreme form (held by comrade Fr. in Boston and others) is the position that white chauvinism doesn’t come from bourgeois ideology; it comes from segregation. White people don’t have contact with national minority people – so they are racist. This is a thoroughly white chauvinist line. It implies that if white and national minority people just worked together, there’d be no problem. So there’s no need to struggle against white chauvinism.

This view also implies that there is Black chauvinism (towards whites), Puerto Rican chauvinism, etc. This is clearly a racist view. The conception here denies that racism is an ideology of white supremacy that is systematically driven into the minds of white people by the bourgeoisie.

The more subtle form of this “segregation” line (held by comrade St. in Boston and others) “recognises” the existence of white chauvinism. But these comrades claim that the predominantly white petit bourgeois composition of the OC is not due to racism. It’s due to the fact that white OC members don’t know any national minority people to unite with around party-building.

This view is simply untrue. White OC members are involved in struggles in their workplaces, in the community, in anti-imperialist work and in the broader left and communist movement which bring them together with national minority comrades. Where these OC opposition comrades are really coming from is a racist view of the national minority people they do know. These comrades don’t think that their national minority comrades can handle party-building.

In fact, some of these national minority comrades are ready to join the OC immediately. Yet the white members of the OC refuse to take up the OC with them. Other national minority comrades may not be at the point of immediately joining the OC. But the reason for that is the failure of white comrades to raise party-building and communism with them and engage in political struggle. The task before our white comrades, then, is to begin this struggle.

But these “segregationist” comrades don’t see things this way. What they fail to recognize is the crucial role national minority comrades have to play in our theoretical work and party-building. It is the white chauvinism of these comrades that makes them think they “don’t know anyone to talk about the OC with.”

The racism of these comrades’ view was exposed at the 2nd Boston local center meeting. At that meeting comrade St. stated that she knew no national minority comrades to talk about the OC with. It was then pointed out to her that, in fact, she knew very well the one recently-joined national minority member of the local center-and had failed to ever raise the OC with him!

When the struggle against comrade St.’s white chauvinism was taken up, she became very defensive. She was unwilling to agree that her relationship with this comrade is based on white chauvinism. Later, she wrote a self-criticism which continued the white chauvinism. In the self-criticism she says the reason she rendered the comrade invisible at the meeting was because he didn’t fit into the political argument she was making (that she didn’t know any national minority M-Lists) rather than because of her white chauvinism. And she concludes her self-criticism with the statement that “white chauvinism” is only one of a number of “reasons” for her errors towards this comrade.

Clearly comrade St, in practice, refuses to deal with her white chauvinism. Here the unity between the more subtle and more extreme form of the “segregationist” line becomes clear: they both deny the existence of white chauvinism. This “segregationist” line is, in fact, a cover to divert the struggle away from white chauvinism.

(5) Some comrades from the New Bedford/providence local center have denied the responsibility of white working class comrades to take up the struggle against racism. In the first local center meeting, the struggle became abstract. The reason for this was that white comrades wanted to hide their concrete errors and therefore the white chauvinism at the root of them from collective scrutiny.

Some working class comrades (with support of others) argue that it was not the responsibility of white working class comrades to rectify that error. They argue that the error of abstraction is made by the white petit bourgeois and is racist and anti-working class. So it’s the responsibility primarily of the white petit bourgeois comrades to change that.

This is clearly an attempt to escape responsibility for the struggle against racism and a cover to hide cut in the discussion. In fact, it’s the responsibility of white working class comrades to advance the struggle, not sit back and participate in a racist diversion of the struggle. The view that abstraction is anti-working class and racist is in reality racist and anti-working class itself. Behind that position can only lie the view that working class and national minority people can’t deal with abstract ideas. That our theory has to be “lowered” down to the “level” of the workers and national minority people. In reality, the error of abstraction is an error that will lead to worthless political line that has no relationship to reality. It is not particularly racist or anti-working class.

The white working class comrades who hold this view are pleading for paternalism to cover their white chauvinism. They refuse to deal with their own white chauvinism and so oppose the OC’s campaign.

(6) A number of comrades have raised organizational questions in an attempt to divert the struggle against white chauvinism. They claim the way we’re conducting the struggle is not correct: the agendas don’t go out in advance enough of local center meetings, we lack good leadership, we should be studying about racism to help us overcome our white chauvinism, we should be discussing an actual outreach plan, etc.

All of these views raise organisational considerations above the ideological struggle. These comrades are saying “it’s not our white chauvinism and our racist defensiveness that’s the problem. If you (the leadership) would only organise the struggle correctly, we can overcome our racism. Just give us agendas on time etc.” These comrades are making a racist appeal to other white OC members that must be rejected. Forward progress in the struggle against racism will come through sharp struggle and a willingness on the part of white comrades to honestly confront their racism. It won’t come through diverting the struggle to organisational considerations.

Similarly, the proposal that we discuss an outreach plan is an attempt to divert the struggle against racism and postpone it to the indefinite future. The N.E. RSC did have an outreach plan last November and again last February. But it was not based on any developing straggle against white chauvinism in the regional center. And how far did that get us? Nowhere! No outreach was done, (see “Federationism and Racism in the N.E.R.C.”)

The local centers are now starting to take up outreach on the basis of a plan (see Outreach Proposal 7/80 by the RSC), But the depth of white chauvinism in our movement point to the need for local center meetings to consistently focus on waging sharp ideological struggle. That struggle has only just begun. Most local centers have barely touched on the white chauvinist and anti-working class attitudes that underlie the practice of CC members. In this context, diverting the struggle onto a “safer” (from the point of view of covering up white chauvinism) discussion of a plan can only serve to undercut the struggle against racism.

Finally, the comrades who advocate the OC study racism also liquidates the primacy of sharp struggle. They’re saying “if we think about racism enough and if we learn enough about it, we can change.” But that’s ridiculous! White chauvinism is deeply held bourgeois ideology in white comrades. It will take sharp and protracted ideological struggle to root it out. The whole experience of the OC has proven this. To advocate study instead is to defend white chauvinism.

In sum, all of these “questions of organisation” serve to divert the struggle against white chauvinism and postpone it to the indefinite future.

(7) A number of OC members have advocated that the local meetings that focus on the struggle against white chauvinism and anti-working class bias take place in small groups – not in a meeting of the whole. They claim that small groups will allow for more members to participate. And that it will be easier for new members and women especially to speak in small groups.

This view, however, is in reality a cover for opposing sharp struggle against racism. The fact is that the sharpest struggle and the greatest advances will be made in meetings of the whole local center. Unfortunately, the number of advanced forces who will sharply take up the struggle are few and relatively weak themselves. It is crucial to bring these forces together to make breakthroughs.

For example, at the first Boston local center meeting, only 3 or 4 comrades took any real or consistent leadership in the struggle against racism. The same was true at the other local center meetings. Only a very first step was taken. What would have happened if there had been small group discussions? These comrades would have been split up, isolated and rendered ineffective in taking up the struggle in the face of strong white chauvinist resistance. The result would have been to sabotage any chance for the advances that were made.

The objective result, then of small groups is to undercut the struggle against white chauvinism. But it is also, in reality, the motivation of the small group advocates. They want to lessen the “intimidation” they claim OC members[3] are experiencing in the struggle. They claim people aren’t speaking up because they’re intimidated.

In fact, however, white comrades aren’t speaking up because they’re trying to hide their racism. The comrades fear making a racist error and getting struggle with. So they remain quiet. In small group discussions they would not be struggle with so sharply. So they could feel more “comfortable” and hold onto their racism.

(8) This brings us to the final and in some ways most serious form of opposition to the campaign against white chauvinism and anti-working class bias the conspiracy of white chauvinism in the local centers. While most white OC members support the campaign in words, in practice they do not take up the struggle against racism.

This conspiracy takes many different forms. Many comrades remain quiet. So they are forming an open conspiracy to maintain racism: “you don’t criticize me and I won’t criticize you.” Other comrades raise soft and weak criticisms and let the member off the hook. On the other hand, white comrades will often posture – pretending to have it all together and making comments that sound good, but add nothing to the struggle. Or they’ll scapegoat the most backward forces. That is, everyone can get down on the most openly racist forces, but they don’t take an honest look at their racism.

Finally, when criticized, many white comrades refuse to deal with the criticism and break with their white chauvinism. Some will openly refuse to agree with anything. Others will agree with everything and so, in reality, accept nothing. Still others, basically honest comrades, will lie in trying to cover up their white chauvinism and avoid criticism.

The conspiracy of white chauvinism is strong in N.E. It exists in both the leadership and membership. It’s not always a completely conscious thing where white comrades are actually thinking “I’ll not say this particular thing because it will expose my racism.” Often it is that conscious. But the conspiracy is based on the depth of white chauvinism among white OC forces, the white blindspot that exists and the automatic defensiveness that white comrades have towards the question of racism. It’s operating often even if comrades think they are “trying.”

The conspiracy of white chauvinism is based oh the refusal on the part of white comrades to face their white chauvinism openly and break with it. With large numbers of the white members hiding out, trying to cover up their racism, getting defensive, etc., the OC cannot make progress in its campaign. The comrades who are part of this conspiracy, which includes most white comrades at this point, oppose the campaign of sharp struggle against white chauvinism and anti-working class bias. In practice, they side with the forces (both within and without the OC) who outrightly oppose the campaign and want to see it fail.

This conspiracy must be broken if the OC is to move forward. It is the responsibility of all white OC members to target their own white chauvinism and sharply take up the struggle against others.

The forms of open opposition to the campaign against white chauvinism (#1-7) are not random and isolated, views. They all represent a political viewpoint: a defense of the OC’s racist practice and the white chauvinism of white OC members and an opposition to the advances the OC is making towards building multi-national unity. As a result, often comrades hold several of these different forms of opposition.

Comrade McC. in Boston, for example, criticises the methods of struggle (they’re “moralistic and psychologistic”), defends the feminist line, advocates small group discussions and raises some of the “questions of organisation.” Comrade John B. from Springfield opposes the methods of struggle, says the campaign is not related to practice, advocates a feminist line, calls for study on racism and advocates small group discussions.

Up until now N.E. OC forces have focussed their struggle on these forms of opposition to the campaign. It’s time to resolve these issues and for the campaign to move on to examine the practice of OC members in their OC work (relations with national minority comrades, etc.).

White OC members now face a choice. Either they will defend and hold onto their white chauvinism. Or they will begin to take up the struggle against it.

– N.E. RSC 8/8/80


[1] This should be the movements of the oppressed nationalities. The Boston LSC formulation reflects a racist error of denying the significance of these other national minority movements. – RSC.

[2] This should be the movements of the oppressed nationalities. The Boston LSC formulation reflects a racist error of denying the significance of these other national minority movements. – RSC.

[3] Some comrades argue that small groups are necessary particularly for white women comrades. They see small group discussions as a tool in the struggle against sexism. So to advocate them in the context of the struggle against racism is the feminist line examined above that raises the struggle against sexism above the struggle against racism.