Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center

Racism in the Communist Movement

National Anti-racist Task Force for the National Steering Committee of the OCIC

Racism in the OCIC

Taking Up the Struggle Against White Chauvinism

All of us have had the experience of pulling a string from a piece of cloth. Sometimes we just pull a string and the cloth remains basically intact. Other times when we pull a string the whole cloth begins to unravel. As long as we keep pulling, the cloth will continue to unravel until it is no longer a piece of cloth. This must be our approach to the struggle against white chauvinism. We can’t just pull one string, expose one manifestation of white chauvinism, and not unravel the whole thing, i.e., expose a comrade’s whole pattern of practices and set of views toward national minorities.

Comrades have demonstrated an unwillingness to break with the age-old, unwritten law that in the context of the struggle against racism, a white person must never violate the “solidarity of the race” and expose another white person’s racism. This conspiracy of white chauvinism takes on the following forms: (1) When a white comrade is being criticized for racism by a national minority comrade, other white comrades remain silent when they know a racist error was made and are in a position to further draw out the criticism by exposing other examples that show the comrades’ whole pattern of practices and set of views toward national minorities. (2) Comrades see the white chauvinism in each other but say nothing about it. They maintain an unspoken rule – “you don’t criticize me and I won’t criticize you.” Even if something is said about a racist error it’s not called for what it is. Instead, the criticism is soft-peddled. Comrades will say “you were a bit rude to that national minority comrade”, or “you shouldn’t have done that.” (3) Comrades try very hard not to expose their racist views in front of national minorities but when they get behind closed doors and among themselves, they let it all hang out knowing they won’t be criticized.

The conspiracy of white chauvinism, or refusal to expose other’s racism, has to be broken with in order to move forward the struggle in our movement. As more comrades are willing to step forward and break with the conspiracy, the conspiracy will be weakened. Comrades still unwilling to break with it will have fewer and fewer places to go and let it all hang out. It must be made absolutely clear that racist errors will be taken up whenever and whenever they appear and that comrades are serious about forging genuine multinational unity in the party building movement.

In this section, we will look at various examples of white chauvinism and how white comrades have attempted to avoid their responsibility in taking up a struggle against it. We will use examples mostly from the Detroit experience, not because Detroit is the only place where white chauvinism is manifested or the struggle against it takes place, but because there are a number of valuable lessons to show from the experience there. Comrades should not read it with the attitude “Wow! The Detroit comrades sure made a big mess,” but “What are the parallels in our locale, and how can we deepen the lessons by using our own examples?” We will not confine the examples to the Detroit Local Center, but look at struggles that took place in other tendency forms and among tendency forces. In this way, we can unravel a great deal.

Left and Right Errors in the Struggle Against White Chauvinism

Before going into the concrete examples, it’s important to understand that both left and right errors can and have been made in taking up the struggle against white chauvinism in the OC and among tendency forces. Both errors serve to liquidate the struggle against white chauvinism and place a fetter on forging multi-national unity in our movement. The most dominant error in our movement is the right error. Comrades have chosen to ignore white chauvinist ideology in our movement and refuse to take up a struggle against it.

After several years of attempting to unite the anti-revisionist anti-“left” opportunist tendency, our movement is still mostly white. Circles within the tendency that predate the OCIC are mostly white. Comrades may have engaged in anti-racist struggles in the mass movement, but as we stated earlier, their failure to wage a struggle against the ideology of white chauvinism has seriously hindered their ability to unite with national minorities and working class white comrades to join the ranks of the party-building movement.

Comrades liquidate the struggle against white chauvinism from the right by taking an empirical approach to the struggle. They think that doing anti-racist practice in the mass movement makes them non-racist. Comrades have worn their work in the anti-Bakke and Weber coalitions, or their sponsoring a forum on South Africa as their anti-racist badges. It’s empirical in that comrades have negated the role and necessity of ideological struggle in combatting their racism.

This empirical approach to the struggle has gone hand-in-hand with comrades’ bourgeois liberalism. White comrades have viewed themselves as “friends of the colored people” engaged in anti-racist struggles in order to help uplift the downtrodden and oppressed national minorities. They have not struggled against the ideology that holds white workers back from uniting with their natural allies. And they have seen white chauvinism as something outside of themselves, and a problem solely of “those backward white workers”.

In not seeing their white chauvinism, these white comrades have failed to see how their white chauvinism impacts on their anti-racist practice in the mass movement. They have liquidated the role that ideology plays in political struggles. A communist organization can support affirmative action, busing, the fight against police brutality, etc., but without a struggle against white chauvinism among themselves and a systematic approach to deepening cadres’ understanding of the centrality of the struggle against racism, their ability to win white workers to those struggles is seriously hindered. Comrades have not recognized how their own white chauvinism has prevented them from winning white workers to those struggles. How can a white comrade successfully win over white co-workers to support affirmative action when she/he has some unity with the co-workers’ white chauvinist view that blacks are not as qualified – are just trying to “get over” through affirmative action? And white co-workers can see through the hypocrisy of white comrades struggling with them about bussing when the white comrades themselves are afraid to go to a meeting about bussing in an all-black community at night. If white comrades don’t recognize white chauvinism among themselves they won’t be able to recognize and struggle against it among white workers. Furthermore white comrades have not seen how their racist paternalism towards advanced national minorities in these struggles has prevented those advanced forces from joining the communist movement.

Other white comrades have liquidated the struggle against racism from the right by not even engaging in anti-racist struggles in the mass movement in any kind of systematic way. They’ve paid lip-service to its importance, but have not made it an integral part of their day-to-day work. And other white comrades have liquidated the struggle against white chauvinism with the empirical view of “since there aren’t any national minorities in our organization, we can’t be making racist errors”. They liquidate looking at why there are not any national minorities in their organization, and what white chauvinism they manifest in the mass movement.

Comrades’ rightist tendencies toward bourgeois liberalism have led them to obstruct and liquidate the struggle against racism when a criticism of white chauvinism is raised. They make the right error using an empirical approach to the struggle against racism and only look at the result or impact of racism without examining the ideology of white chauvinism. They use a number of defenses (that will be discussed in the next part of this section) in order to get away from the criticism. Rather than face the criticism squarely and honestly they hide out, lie, deflect, or even resign. Their bourgeois liberalism and moral approach to the struggle against white chauvinism leads them to defend their errors because they don’t view themselves as holding onto white chauvinism. They think their Marxism-Leninism has provided them with a protective shield against bourgeois ideology. They think that facing and acknowledging the criticism honestly means they are “bad” people. These comrades are making a choice between white chauvinism and Marxism-Leninism. They are saying to us that it’s more important to them to protect their self image (albeit false) than to forge multi-national unity and build a genuine communist party.

Left errors in the struggle against white chauvinism also serve to liquidate the struggle altogether. The root of the left errors is white chauvinism on the part of white comrades and nationalism on the part of national minority comrades. Both use the bourgeois method of idealism in making left errors. Comrades take up the struggle against the ideology of white chauvinism as something separate and distinct from its manifestation in practice. Harry Haywood in his book Black Bolshevik discusses his views on how left errors were made in the Party. He talks about how the “moral crusade” developed at a time when the party was in a rightward swing in its practice in the anti-racist struggle in the mass movement, and how the “moral crusade” helped escalate white chauvinism and narrow nationalism in the Party. Comrades could be put on trial for using words like “blackmail” or “blackball”, or for doing anything that could be interpreted as rude to a national minority comrade. Rather than struggling with a comrade to overcome his/her weaknesses, the slightest manifestation of white chauvinism became grounds for expulsion. By pointing to manifestations of white chauvinism without showing their impact on the class struggle and the multi-nationality of the Party, these comrades were able to liquidate the struggle against racism. So white chauvinism in fact escalated rather than diminished. Comrades were not approaching the struggle from a Marxist-Leninist standpoint. And within that context any narrow nationalism that existed amongst the national minority comrades escalated as well. The narrow nationalist view that white people are incapable of breaking with white chauvinism was given credence by white comrades’ liquidation of the struggle. It was the white comrades’ racist paternalism that prevented them from challenging the narrow nationalist approach of the national minority comrades. And they thereby fed the national minority comrades’ narrow nationalism by not struggling with them, leaving national minorities to rectify the errors of national minorities.

It’s very instructive to read the excerpt from Haywood’s book (enclosed in this bulletin) because in his opinion, the Party’s liquidation of the struggle against white chauvinism through left errors went hand-in-hand with its liquidation of the struggle against racism in the mass movement. Similarly, the excerpt on the Yokenin Trial (also enclosed) shows how vital the Party’s educational campaign on white chauvinism was to its playing a leading role in the struggle against racism in the mass movement.

Left errors have been manifested in white comrades who disassociate themselves from other white comrades whose white chauvinism has been exposed – particularly those who are the most backward in the struggle. Rather than waging a consistent and vigilant struggle with them, some white comrades write them off as hopeless and refuse to talk to them. The comrades who do this are not only liquidating the struggle by writing comrades off, they are protecting themselves from criticism. If they continue to struggle with those whose white chauvinism has been exposed, theirs too may eventually be uncovered. So they are not just liquidating the struggle with other comrades, they are liquidating it with themselves. They are providing a cover for themselves. Other comrades have made left errors by presenting themselves as the “leading” anti-racist fighters. They point the finger at everyone else’s while keeping their own white chauvinism hidden.

The serious dangers of both right and left errors is exemplified in the Detroit experience. Both created an obstacle to building multi-national unity there. All the Black comrades resigned from both circles in Detroit because of the circles’ right errors in the struggle against racism. The national minority comrades who stood outside of the circles never joined either of them for the same reasons. DMLO always paid lip service to taking up the struggle against racism in its mass work, but never did. Any work that was taken up was initiated by the Black comrades in the organization and the white comrades wouldn’t even participate. In addition, their racist paternalism toward the Black comrades in the organization was never taken up. DSC was taking up the struggle against racism in the mass movement but their failure to grasp the role of white chauvinism ideology led to their making right errors in the struggle. And their racist paternalism toward the Black comrade in DSC led to their inability to take his leadership in the struggle for a Marxist-Leninist approach to the struggle. These are the conditions under which both circles were left all-white.

As a reaction to the racism of DSC and DMLO comrades, some of the Black comrades allowed nationalism to emerge among them. They lost confidence in the white comrades’ ability to move forward and viewed them as hopelessly mired in white chauvinism. During a week of informal discussions, the Black comrades approached the struggle against white chauvinism in an idealist fashion and looked at the ideas white comrades held about national minorities separate from their actual practice. The Black comrades’ left errors, whose ideological base was narrow nationalism, only served to liquidate the struggle against white chauvinism. The white comrades’ response was to continue the left errors and liquidation of the struggle by “confessing” to their horrible thoughts about national minorities. They didn’t struggle with the Black comrades for the correct approach to the struggle. They didn’t look at white chauvinism in its relationship to the real world, and see concretely how to change. They didn’t look at the interrelationship between their views and their practice. They promoted an unprincipled unity between narrow nationalism – “You white people won’t change” –and white chauvinism – “You’re right, we’re all hopeless.” All they had to do was “confess” to their bad ideas and go back home, go back to the same old patterns.

Comrades must avoid making either right or left errors in taking up the struggle against white chauvinism. Right errors in the struggle against racism have been the most dominant in our movement and particular attention must be paid to combatting those errors. Both right and left errors serve to keep our movement mostly white and petty-bourgeois. Both maintain the obstacle to multinational unity. Both reinforce the conspiracy of white chauvinism. Once a few comrades break with the conspiracy, step forward and make genuine self-criticisms and expose others who are still participating in the conspiracy, it’s much easier for the process to move forward. Comrades must approach the struggle from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism. They must look at their practice and examine what the impact of their white chauvinism has been on national minority comrades and how it has served to maintain the “whites only” policy of comrades in the OC. They must look at how their refusal to take it up and their petit-bourgeois chauvinism have served to assist the bourgeoisie in keeping the class divided. And they must be resolute about waging a vigilant and consistent struggle against it from now on.

How White Comrades Defend Their White Chauvinism

In taking up the struggle against white chauvinism, white comrades often have a defense or a number of defenses they use in order to keep from addressing the criticism. They view the criticisms as unjust attacks rather than political criticisms meant to move comrades and the entire process forward. These comrades are making a choice between white chauvinism and Marxism-Leninism. It is their white chauvinism and refusal to struggle against it that leads them to use these defenses. They are saying to us that the struggle for multi-national unity in our movement and in the working class will have to be abandoned if it means their breaking the conspiracy of white chauvinism. They are saying that they think it’s correct to maintain the present composition of our movement. They are saying that they view themselves as having a stake in white chauvinism.

Deflecting the criticism of white chauvinism is very common in our movement. This is expressed in several ways. Comrades raise mitigating circumstances that led to their making the error – “I was tired,” “I had my mind on something else,” “I was confused,” “I didn’t understand,” “I didn’t know about that,” etc. Comrades raise other factors that liquidate the error of white chauvinism – it was primarily an error of idealism, ultra-leftism, a right error, sexism, bad vibes, etc. Comrades raise the method of struggle rather than speak to the criticism – “You comrades are being mean and hard,” or “This method of struggle is incorrect.” Rather than speaking to the criticisms, comrades say we have to deal with the “more important” items on the agenda and take up the white chauvinism some other time (Like the 12th of Mayvember). Comrades talk about all the errors that “could be made” in taking up the struggle against white chauvinism (or “Let’s not take this thing too far.”). While the comrade receiving the criticism may use deflection, other comrades may use it in order to shield or protect the comrade from what he/ she considers an unnecessarily harsh criticism. But the shielding and protecting is not just for the comrade receiving the criticism. It is also protecting those who participate in deflecting, it is protecting those who participate in the conspiracy of white chauvinism.

Comrades across the country have used “unprincipled methods of struggle” and “incorrect process” as a means to deflect the criticism. When these criticisms are raised they should be carefully examined for (1) any truth in the criticism and (2) whether it is a cover for a comrade’s white chauvinism. What we have seen with the comrades who raise it is that they are using it as a way to protect themselves from the criticism. When a comrade says the method of criticism is unprincipled, what does that mean? It means that a principle of Marxism-Leninism has been violated, that the approach is opportunist. However, the comrades who raise the criticisms don’t show how in fact the approach is opportunist and therefore liquidates the struggle against racism. They don’t address the criticism made of them honestly and forthrightly and then go on to show how the opportunist method is placing an obstacle to the struggle against racism. Instead of addressing the criticism and trying to move the process forward by struggling against the opportunist liquidation of the struggle against racism, they raise a counter-criticism as a means to hold up the process and avoid addressing the criticism. We must ask then, who is really being opportunist? Who is really violating Marxist-Leninist principles?

Those who say the process is incorrect or they don’t trust the process are engaging in the same opportunism. In Baltimore/D.C. and other locales, comrades have said the process is undemocratic. Again, we should ask ourselves what is a Marxist-Leninist critique of the process? We would place this struggle in its historical context and talk about how this is the first time the ideological struggle against racism has ever been taken in our movement. And comrades raising the criticism of incorrect process would make a self-criticism for participating in the conspiracy of white chauvinism for so long. We’d also examine what the concrete errors are in the process, and how they serve to maintain white chauvinism in our ranks and obstruct the building of multi-national unity. And we’d present a rectification. Here again, comrades raising this criticism have not critiqued the process from a Marxist-Leninist perspective. Instead, they have used this criticism as a cover for their own white chauvinism. They have not looked concretely at what has held back the struggle, and placed those errors in the context of how they maintain the conspiracy of white chauvinism. They have not presented a better process that will help us overcome white chauvinism. Instead, they have said the incorrect process is what led to their not addressing the criticism or their resigning from the local center. We must ask ourselves who’s being undemocratic. Isn’t it those who refuse to break with the conspiracy, speak to the criticisms, and show how to move the process forward? Those comrades use the criticism of unprincipled method and incorrect process to deflect criticisms of their white chauvinism.

Comrades also use sexism to deflect criticisms of white chauvinism. In Detroit, people raised sexism as a way to liquidate the criticism of white chauvinism. They said that women’s capitulation of sexism was the reason they remained silent during the first few local center meeting – not small circle mentality and white chauvinism. In Boston, close to the beginning of a discussion of white chauvinism, someone made a sexist error and the rest of the meeting was taken up discussing sexism. In Baltimore, a comrade proposed an amendment to the resolution on OCIC centers that in essence equates sexism with racism as an impediment to building the tendency. Elevating the struggle against sexism over the struggle against racism either in words or deeds liquidates the struggle against both in the final analysis. (The PWOC paper goes into how the struggle against sexism is liquidated when comrades equate racism and sexism. We’ll discuss here how the struggle against racism and petit-bourgeois chauvinism are liquidated.)

We can take an empirical approach to the question and simply look at how many women vs. men and how many national minorities vs. whites are in organized tendency forms. What we’ll see is that there is a relatively even distribution of men and women and a grossly uneven distribution of national minority and white comrades. But a Marxist-Leninist analysis demands that we go further. We have to look at the historical development of racism and sexism as systems of oppression and the ideologies supporting those systems of oppression. We have to look at the role of each in the development of U.S. imperialism and the role of each as a tool for the ruling class to reap superprofits and keep the working class divided. We have to look at the distribution of national minorities and women in the ruling class and the working class. We have to look at the interrelationship between those two forms of oppression. And we have to look at the movements of the oppressed groups and determine which have been most consistently revolutionary in character, have served to advance the entire class, and have provided the biggest threat to capital. Having done such an analysis, Marxist-Leninists will be clear that anyone who equates or elevates the struggle against sexism over the struggle against racism in effect liquidates the struggle against racism and sexism. They view it as a struggle against two equally unjust social ills, ignoring their material relationship to capital and its defeat. And for the party-building movement, we can go back to the head count and see that our movement is mostly white and petty-bourgeois in make-up. We can look at the mostly petty-bourgeois white women who are so quick to be champions of the struggle against sexism and ask them, where are your working class and national minority sisters? What’s been your role in keeping them out of our movement? And what holds you and our entire movement back from uniting with them? Is sexism the main reason national minority and working class women are not in our movement?

There is a clear example for the Midwest Regional Conference on Local Centers that draws out sharply the interrelationship between racism, petty-bourgeois chauvinism, and sexism. A working class Black woman – Claudia – from Detroit had attended the Point 18 and National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conferences, was part of the core group, and had been participating as an observer at Local Center meetings. She did not view herself as a Marxist-Leninist, yet when she participated in meetings, she was very sharp, clear and often put the discussion in its proper perspective at a point when other comrades were going off on tangential and pointless arguments. At the Midwest Regional Conference, Claudia did not attend as a delegate. She did not attend as a observer. But she was there. In what capacity: She catered the lunch!! This is a situation where many white comrades who are particularly fond of using sexism to deflect criticisms of white chauvinism would have seized upon the opportunity to do so had Claudia been white. One such comrade – a white woman – broke with her opportunism and made a self-criticism that significantly sharpened everyone’s understanding of the centrality of racism. She spoke to how she had a tendency to elevate the struggle against sexism over other struggles, and at least equate racism and sexism. Yet it didn’t occur to her until then that Claudia’s role at the conference had been reduced to essentially a maid or waitress, despite Claudia’s history in the tendency. She further stated that if it was a petty-bourgeois Black woman, she probably would have seen it as a problem of sexism, though still not grasping the essence of the error which in that instance would have been white chauvinism. These are the kinds of situations where comrades raise sexism as a way to deflect criticisms of white chauvinism. These are the kinds of situations where comrades make a choice between white chauvinism and Marxism-Leninism.

Another way comrades deflect criticisms of white chauvinism is to raise criticisms of left errors. A white comrade – Bill – raised such criticisms in the Detroit Local Center. After the steering committee made the criticisms about comrades’ silence during the first few meetings, their demands that the SC appoint members to the committees, and how it represented their small circle mentality and white chauvinism, Bill said that the criticisms were organizational questions and should not be taken up at the meeting. And besides he thought we came here to discuss federationism and racism! In fact, he had prepared for such a discussion by reviewing the materials in the packet sent out by the SC and in addition he read up on Harry Haywood’s discussion of the phoney war against white chauvinism! He wanted to talk about the left errors that “could be” made in the struggle against racism. This comrade was deflecting the criticism of white chauvinism. First he reduced the criticism to an “organizational question” and advocated its being taken up through written exchanges rather than discussion in the local center. Then, knowing concrete criticisms of white chauvinism would be raised, he came prepared to warn everybody about potential left error. He did not address the criticisms and draw out his own white chauvinist ideology as other comrades started to do during the meeting. He wanted the discussion of the comrades to end and take it to the abstract – that way he wouldn’t have to address his own racism. He didn’t talk about how in Detroit all the Black comrades who were members of the two circles had resigned due to the circles’ racism and failure to address it and several other independent Black comrades have never joined for the same reason. He didn’t talk about the right error comrades had historically made in the struggle against racism. He wanted to talk about left errors. Bill’s attempt to deflect the criticism was spelled out even more clearly when he wrote a criticism of the SC. He used the parts of Black Bolshevik on the Yokenin Trial and the “phoney war” out of context to say that the SC was making left errors in the struggle against racism. What’s clear from his paper is that he opposes the ideological struggle against racism. He doesn’t want his own exposed. He used the criticisms of left errors not to show they serve to liquidate the struggle against racism, but to say the ideological struggle against racism must come to a halt.

Comrade Inessa deflected criticisms of white chauvinism by saying that her racist errors were not based on white chauvinist ideology. Struggle had been taking place with Inessa for nearly two years around her multitude of racist errors and vast repertoire of defenses for those errors. The most she could do would be to say she agreed that a particular error was “objectively racist,” but she could never come to grips with the ideological underpinnings of her racist practice. She argued that while her errors may have been “objectively racist” they were rooted in other ideological deviations like individualism and idealism. And when it comes to the struggle against white chauvinism, comrades who have held opposing views on any number of questions and have been adversaries for years, will unite in a minute. When the criticisms of Bill were raised, Inessa protested. She said it was “objectively racist” for him to deflect criticisms of racism in the local center but it would be an incorrect process to identify the ideology underlying his errors. Inessa and Bill had taken opposite positions on a variety of questions for years and it would be an understatement to say that they did not like each other personally as well. But when it come to talking about Bill’s white chauvinism behind his racist errors she came to his defense. She was maintaining the conspiracy of white chauvinism, refusing to expose Bill by deflecting criticism of each of them.

Moralizing and Breast Beating. Comrades feel just awful about thinking and doing such horrible things. “I’m so sorry.” “I’m a bad person.” They spill their guts about the “bad” things they’ve said and done. And they feel terrible about it. The ones who feel especially guilty want to run right to the national minority who they made the error with and apologize and make up for it. Or they wallow in self-pity, become demoralized and depressed, and begin doubting their place in the communist movement. This is an appeal for liberalism. The comrade who gets depressed and demoralized is asking other white comrades to join him/her in the conspiracy of white chauvinism and stop criticizing him/her. Moralizing and breast beating is based on comrades’ bourgeois liberalism. They see racism and white chauvinism as unjust and oppressive malevolences rather than a material force of the ruling class designed to reap superprofits and keep the class divided. They feel so badly about the criticisms because they think they have failed in their moral obligation to uplift the downtrodden and oppressed.

Inessa’s problem was that she had a moralistic approach to the struggle against racism. That’s why she could only go so far as agreeing that an error was “objectively racist.” For her to acknowledge her white chauvinist ideology would mean to her that she isn’t a Marxist-Leninist. In the course of the struggles with her she made this clear. She said that if people were saying that she had a certain set of white chauvinist attitudes toward national minorities, then they were writing her off as a consolidated racist. This attitude shows the depth of her moralizing. Rather than looking at her concrete errors and how she has been influenced by the bourgeois ideology of white chauvinism, rather than taking a Marxist-Leninist approach to the struggle, Inessa chose to defend her white chauvinism by taking a moralistic approach to the struggle.

Lying is a defense white comrades use to get out of a criticism of white chauvinism. Comrades tell half-truths and/or lies in order to get out of the criticism. They relate the circumstances surrounding the error in a version no one else remembers to have been the case – “I didn’t say that! I said...” Comrades say things they don’t really mean, agree to things they don’t really agree with, or say they understand the criticism when they really don’t – anything to take the focus off of themselves. Sometimes comrades actually consciously lie, and sometimes they lie to themselves as well as the rest of us – as a result of selective amnesia, of course – in order to not expose their own white chauvinism and move the whole process forward. They couldn’t possibly have made these errors, so they have to reconstruct the events surrounding the errors in a new version, a .new error-free version.

Richard is a comrade who consciously lied in order to get out of a criticism of a racist error he made. He was in a mostly Black rank-and-file Caucus at his plant. He and two Black men in the Caucus decided to run as candidates for the UAW Convention. One of the Black men was a former member of IS, had political weaknesses, and was socially offensive to people in the plant. Richard had already been criticized by members of the Detroit auto fraction for his racist paternalism –he didn’t struggle with the Black comrade because he didn’t expect anything from him. There was a Black woman in the caucus who was obviously a much better candidate for the UAW Convention. Richard told the members of the Detroit auto fraction that he had struggled with the two Black men around it because he had seen the error, too, and felt that the Black woman should run. Several weeks later when he met again with the auto fraction and was being further criticized for his white chauvinism, he admitted that he had lied to them before. He didn’t struggle with the two Black men about the fact that the Black woman should be run on the slate because he didn’t see anything wrong with it himself, what this comrade did was to present himself as anti-racist and made the Black men look like they were too hopelessly sexist to break with the error – in order to get out of the criticism of his own white chauvinism. Richard lied, defended his error. He made a choice between the struggle for multi-national unity and white chauvinism.

Another example of lying is a situation with comrade Ann. Ann was being criticized for her white chauvinism. Her whole pattern of racism had been unraveled. But she didn’t view it as political criticisms. She viewed herself as being under attack. So she said things she thought people wanted to hear – lied – rather than address the criticisms honestly and draw out how her white chauvinism served to maintain a racist, paternalistic relationship between herself and the national minority comrades in Detroit. She said she agreed with criticisms but went on to make the very same errors. She never really understood the criticisms, but said she agreed so that the focus would no longer be on her. This comrade had previously presented herself as the leading anti-racist fighter in Detroit and it held her back from being able to learn from other white comrades. Now, when her white chauvinism was thoroughly exposed, she had the opportunity to fully come to grips with it and really help others move forward. But instead she lied and acted as though she understood criticism when she really didn’t. She made a choice between Marxism-Leninism and white chauvinism.

Hiding Out. Comrades stay quiet; during the discussion, hoping no one will ever notice they’re even there. Rather than coming forward and exposing their white chauvinism, comrades remain silent. Often in the face of criticisms of themselves, comrades just go limp. They seem as though they can’t think of anything to say to deepen the criticism. This conspiracy of silence is likely to take place among a number of comrades during any given discussion. There’ll be a few who. just keep quiet, maybe even look confused in order not to be called upon to speak–a plea, for liberalism. “As long as the comrade next to me is silent, there’s no reason why I should have to speak” or “As long as I look confused, people will go easy on me.” Very often, these comrades see how those who are speaking are not really dealing with the criticism because they have firsthand knowledge of the situation or know the comrades well and their past practice. But instead of stepping forward to help the comrades deepen their self-criticisms and expose the tactics used to liquidate the struggle, these comrades hide out and remain silent. They hide out because they know they will have to make a self-criticism and/or be criticized for their unity with the white chauvinism of these who stepped forward.

Hiding out can take the form of comrades’ avoiding those white and national minority comrades who have been particularly sharp in the struggle. They may have had dinner together quite frequently, visited one another, etc. But once comrades begin to play a leading role in the struggle against racism, or be sharp in criticisms, those comrades who hide-out stop extending invitations to dinner, stop visiting, and avoid them like the plague. Hiding out also takes the form of comrades not raising political differences with national minorities or holding back from presenting their point of view in the struggle against white chauvinism for fear of their own white chauvinism being revealed. They’d rather insure that their own white chauvinism is not exposed, than to struggle for what they consider to be the correct perspective.

Another form of hiding out is to fail to raise with other comrades a criticism that was made in another context. For instance, a comrade travels to another city where comrades take up a struggle against his/her white chauvinism. When he/she returns to his/her city, he/she does not share with comrades there what happened. Or a comrade is criticized for white chauvinism in the context of a mass struggle but never tells the comrades in his/her circle about what happened. These comrades do this so that the struggle with them doesn’t get taken up in a consistent and systematic fashion. Again, they have made a choice. This form of hiding out is similar to lying. The comrade doesn’t distort what happened or lie about it, but instead doesn’t talk about it at all, and hopes the truth will never get out. A similar form to this one is to only use examples that every one knows about without deepening the self-criticisms by drawing out many other examples that would expose a comrade’s whole pattern.

An example of hiding out came up in Detroit at Detroit Local Center interview committee meeting. Dave talked about the racism and anti-working class bias that was holding people back from sharing the 18 Principles of Unity with national minorities. A white comrade – Mike – asked whether advanced workers should be invited to the 18 Point Study. Dave drew out how Mike himself had maintained a long-term “friendship” with an advanced Black member at work but had never raised communism with him because his racist paternalism led him to believe that the Black worker was only interested in talking about racism.

The Black worker had since joined a study group led by the Spartacist League. Mike’s overt racism came to the fore when he told Dave not to preach at him. Two other white comrades were at the meeting but remained silent during the discussion. They hid out. They didn’t take up Mike’s overt racism and draw out examples from their own experiences of how their racist paternalism led them to not share the 18 Principles with advanced national minorities they knew. It was more important to them to protect their own white chauvinism than to help Mike and the whole committee’s work move forward. They ghettoized the task to Dave by leaving the struggle against white chauvinism to him and abdicated their special responsibility as white comrades to take up the struggle with other white comrades. Their hiding out expressed the choice they made.

An example of the other form of hiding out spoken to earlier is in a situation with two comrades from Milwaukee, and a white comrade on the NSC. The comrade on the NSC was criticized for his racist paternalism toward two Black comrades on the NSC, and particularly his paternalistic relationship with Maddie on the national Anti-Racism Task Force. The comrade postured during the meeting and made a self-criticism, but when he went home to Boston he didn’t tell any of the comrades there about the criticisms and how he failed to move forward in the discussion. The two comrades from Milwaukee had been criticized by comrades on regional and national bodies about their paternalistic relationship with a Black child who lives in their neighborhood. They were defensive and also didn’t step forward. They, too, did not tell their comrades in Milwaukee about the criticisms. In the instance of the comrade on the NSC and the ones from Milwaukee, they made a choice between white chauvinism and Marxism-Leninism. They did not talk to their comrades locally because they knew that their circle comrades would be able to draw out clearly and sharply their whole pattern of racist practices and white chauvinism since they had a more daily knowledge of the comrade’s interactions with national minorities. They hid out when they went home because they wanted to protect their white chauvinism.

Posturing is one of the most common among the defenses of white chauvinism. Comrades appear to be serious about taking up the struggle against white chauvinism. They come forward and criticize very sharply other comrades who’ve made white chauvinist errors. Some comrades choose this particular method as their way of building up an image of being the anti-racist fighter among his/her comrades. The comrade tries to make him/herself look good in front of national minorities by presenting him/herself as the leader in the struggle against racism among white communists. He/she is very sharp and clear, and in fact is always consistent in speaking up about someone else’s white chauvinism. But what’s missing here is a genuine self-criticism. They don’t speak to the unity in the own views with those of the comrade being criticised. This form of posturing says “take him/her, but don’t take me because I’m struggling.” It says let’s focus on this one comrade and maybe it won’t get around to the rest of us. Left errors are likely to be made by comrades who use posturing as their main defense in protecting their own white chauvinism. They want to have the image as the leading anti-racist fighter and attack the most backward in the struggle and then disassociate themselves from those white comrades whose errors have been exposed.

Another way of posturing comes in the form of “self-criticism.” Comrades develop a repertoire of pat answers to criticisms. They know the right slogans to say to make them appear serious about taking up the struggle. They say that “I didn’t recognize this national minority comrade’s strengths.” But when asked to speak concretely to the strengths of the national minority comrade they didn’t see before but now see, they are either speechless or the shallowness of what they have to say exposes the extent of their posturing. Comrades make shallow, abstract self-criticisms and treat each incident as though it’s isolated from another. “Three months ago I talked to a national minority worker who said he/ she was interested in communism, but I never followed up.” Then at another meeting, “three days ago I called a white comrade to ask about something a national minority comrade has better knowledge of.” But what about your view of national minorities, comrade? And how did that lead to your liquidation of your task to struggle with workers for communism one time and failure to both acknowledge and seek out the leadership of the other comrade? what’s the unity in your view of each of them? What’s your pattern of rendering national minorities invisible?

Ann, a white comrade on the NSC, did a lot of posturing. Her bourgeois liberalism had her deeply engrossed in the “friend of the colored people” approach to the struggle against racism. She has always maintained close social and political relationships with Black people and used them as her anti-racist credentials. She used her “friendships” with Black people to show how anti-racist she was. Once struggles against racism and white chauvinism began to take place, Ann became the leading anti-racist fighter in Detroit. There was no way for her not to develop that image. The racism of her organization and that of the other organization in the city was being exposed. If she was to remain a “friend” she had to take up the struggle against racism in such a way that would create an image for herself as the leader in the anti-racist struggle. She had to go after all those “backward white folks” to prove her commitment to those poor, downtrodden and oppressed national minorities. So she got herself in a position of teaching other white comrades about white chauvinism in front of her “friends.” Her posturing is shown clearly in a struggle that was taken up with Comrade Inessa. Comrades were struggling with Inessa around her white chauvinism and Ann participated in that struggle. But in the context of Inessa’s proliferation of racist errors, she did say something that was correct. Before anyone could say anything to unite with what Inessa had said, Ann jumped right out there to criticize Inessa for her statement. Ann’s thinking was that Inessa had been identified as the most backward of the white comrades in the struggle against racism. Therefore, Ann had to prove her anti-racism by criticizing anything and everything Inessa said. Ann, through her posturing, was making a left error with Inessa. She was not helping Inessa move forward. She was more concerned with her own image than taking up a genuine struggle against white chauvinism.

Ann took up many white comrades’ racism and for a long time was the only white comrade in the city who was doing it. The problem is that she never used her own self-criticisms to help move these comrades. And she never talked about how her views were the same as those she criticized and how she learned from the struggle with them. Her posturing was again brought out in sharp relief in relation to a Black woman who came by to visit. Ann told the woman about how she and her Black comrades were engaged in sharp struggle with all the racist white communists in the local center. She never talked about how the errors they made were the same as hers, and how she maintains the same white chauvinist ideology that they do. She was trying to show how she was a “friend of the colored people” and was struggling against the racism of other white people. In the process of Ann’s posturing, it’s not surprising that she made a number of racist errors with the Black woman. Her racist paternalism led her to be overly familiar with the Black woman. She had made certain racist assumptions about her and through her “friend of the colored people” approach, proceeded to act like she thought black women act. And she asked the woman a barrage of personal questions that she surely would not have asked a white woman she’d just met. But her assumption was that she as a white person had every right to ask a Black woman whatever she wanted to. So the effect of Ann’s posturing about “those racist white folks” was underscored by her own doing. Ann’s posturing was a defense, a cover for her own white chauvinism. She was making a choice between stepping forward and protecting her white chauvinism.

White flight. Comrades just out and out refuse to address the criticism. This is the most overt manifestation of white chauvinism when the struggle is being taken up. The comrades feel they have been dealt with unjustly, the criticisms are unfounded, and besides, “I don’t have a racist thought in my head.” Concrete criticisms of their white chauvinism are raised, and they arrogantly refuse to even address them. These comrades not only refuse to address the criticism, but resign from the OCIC, their local circle, their fraction, and any other tendency form. They usually raise things like “unprincipled forms of struggle” or “incorrect process” as their reasons for leaving. But they don’t address the criticism made of them and then go on to show how the ”unprincipled methods” are serving to maintain white chauvinism. They use it as a defense for their own white chauvinism and an excuse to leave. They say they have unity with the 18 Points, the need for a single center, unity with their local circle, and unity with their fraction. But their white flight tells us that their real unity is with white chauvinism.

Comrade Inessa, like many others, is one who fled. She was recently expelled from DSC due to her unwillingness to step forward in the struggle against her white chauvinism after 17 months of comrades’ trying to help her move forward. She also recently resigned from the OC because, she said (based on her moralism), people view her as a consolidated racist and therefore don’t see her as a comrade to struggle with. But she still has “unity” with the OC. She went on to posture about how despite all of this, comrades could rest assured that they would see her in the context of the mass movement. In other words, “even though you all think I’m a consolidated racist, I’ll show you – and when it really counts – in the mass movement. I’m still committed to socialist revolution.” After this comrade shows severe weaknesses in understanding the centrality of the struggle against racism and the role of white chauvinist ideology, she resigns from any context for her to struggle for a correct perspective on the centrality of the struggle against racism. She resigns from any context for her to develop as a communist, and then tells us that we can rest assured that she’ll be fighting as vigorously as ever for socialist revolution. What absurdity! But this is what white flight means in the real world, for all those who have left. It means that comrades have abandoned Marxism-Leninism and the struggle for socialist revolution in defense white chauvinism.

Other Errors Made Thus Far in the Struggle Against Racism

Aside from the several defenses comrades have developed to shield themselves from criticisms of white chauvinism, several other errors have been made in the tendency.

(1) The most significant of the errors is that comrades are not held accountable for their errors, changing their practice. Having identified their set of white chauvinist views and practice in relation to national minorities, comrades are not held accountable for how they’ve changed the quality of their relationships with national minorities. In cadre organizations where comrades are accountable for their mass work, they don’t struggle with each other to carry the concrete lessons learned in the ideological struggle to their mass work. Comrades must not be allowed to wear their good self-criticisms as a badge for their anti-racist stance. Practice, not self-criticisms, is the criterion for truth.

In addition to this error, several others have been made:

(2) Comrades reduce any and all errors to manifestations of white chauvinism. This is the flip side of the defense spoken to earlier where comrades say it’s anything but white chauvinism. For example in taking up the struggle against federationism comrades may say the only ideological root is racism, negating the role of small circle spirit and empiricism. This reductionist tendency on the part of comrades liquidates any struggle around other deviations from Marxism-Leninism and makes a sham of the struggle against white chauvinism.

(3) One or a few comrades are identified as THE racist(s) and are scapegoated. The comrade(s) is treated like a leper and no one wants to talk to him/her. White comrades abdicate their responsibility to continuously struggle with the comrade to move forward and become complacent in criticizing others because the real racist has been identified and exposed. Comrades liquidate the struggle against white chauvinism and protect themselves by maintaining the conspiracy of white chauvinism among everyone except THE racist(s). This is a collective form of posturing, protecting oneself from criticism by scapegoating another comrade.

(4) Comrades develop THE break mentality. They think that once they’ve made a break with their racism, come to understand one or some manifestations or pattern of their white chauvinism and changed their practice that they have broken with white chauvinism altogether and no longer need to be conscious of how they are continuously influenced by it and must consistently struggle against it. This mechanical approach to the struggle leads comrades to become demoralized when they inevitably do make more white chauvinist errors. They think that the new errors place them back at the beginning, that the break they’d previously made was not genuine. And “the break” mentality causes other white comrades to liquidate the forward movement of fellow white comrades. For when they see someone whom they thought had made “the break” make a racist error, they conclude the person hasn’t made genuine steps forward in the struggle against white chauvinism.

(5) Comrades use organizational methods to resolve a political problem. That is they expel people or remove them from leadership even though they have demonstrated a willingness to struggle and have made some forward motion.

Comrades take on an all-or-nothing attitude rather than struggling with someone to move forward. This liquidates the struggle against white chauvinism, because a comrade is expelled or removed from leadership in the place of taking up struggle with him/her to move forward. (It’s important to understand, however, that when a comrade is obstructing the forward motion of the collective, removal from leadership is appropriate and if a comrade is refusing to struggle, expulsion is appropriate.)

(6) All white comrades are lumped together and the leadership of those stepping forward is not recognized. This attitude – “we’re all in the same spot” – breeds pessimism about the possibility of making advances in the struggle against white chauvinism. It protects the white petty-bourgeois strata in our movement, protects them from taking a proletarian class stand on the struggle against racism. It also undermines those who are stepping forward in the struggle. It’s a drive to pull those comrades back into the sewer along with the ones who insist on protecting the interests of the bourgeoisie.

(7) Those comrades who have stepped forward are often criticized with a vengeance when they make errors. The comrade who has broken with the conspiracy of white chauvinism and exposes others’ racism in resented by those still participating in the conspiracy. So when the comrade who has moved forward gets criticized, the ones who were previously exposed by him/her are happy to see the comrade get criticized and take up the struggle to get back at him/her rather than to move the comrade forward. Like the comrades in the above (#5), they are trying to tear someone down, drag him/her into the mire along with themselves in order to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie and avoid having to take a proletarian class stand themselves.

(8) White comrades make the error of abstract equality in relation to national minority comrades. They place a national minority comrade in leadership regardless of his/her ability to take on the task, because a white comrade in leadership has made white chauvinist errors. This is done regardless of the quality of the white comrades’ all-sided leadership skills and the impact of his/her white chauvinism or his/her all-sided tasks. Comrades liquidate the struggle against white chauvinism by using organizational methods to resolve a political problem and compound this with the error of abstract equality flowing from their racist paternalism.

(9) A comrade becomes the “great white prosecutor” and takes on the role of ”uncovering” everybody’s racism. The “great white prosecutor” becomes the sole agent in the struggle against white chauvinism and is allowed to run around pointing the finger at everybody rather than take up a genuine struggle with comrades. This lets everyone else off the hook. They don’t have to struggle with people – that’s the “prosecutor’s” job. And comrades don’t take up genuine struggle with the “prosecutor” in order to move him/her forward.

(10) Comrades talk about the ugliest, grossest thoughts they have about national minorities rather than capturing the essence of their white chauvinist ideology.

This breast-beating approach to the struggle keeps comrades from having to identify their overall views and pattern of practice in relation to national minorities. Thus they won’t have to rectify their errors. In addition to straying from the Marxist-Leninist path to the struggle against white chauvinism, it provides others with an excuse not to participate in the struggle.

Outside observers will look at this approach to the struggle and say “if that’s what it’s all about, I’m not going to be a part of it.” While any honest comrade interested in a Marxist-Leninist approach to the struggle would come in and strive for the correct approach, this error and others provide those who protect the white and petty-bourgeois nature of our movement with a cover.

(11) Comrades become so consumed and preoccupied with the struggle against racism that they liquidate the other tasks of the OC like taking up the Draft Plan. Comrades are so busy bracing themselves for criticisms of racism, or so consumed with hiding-out, they don’t prepare for the other agenda items for the local center meetings. This tendency has served to hold back the overall work of the OC. While the struggle against white chauvinism is central to our ability to move forward in our other tasks, we certainly cannot afford to allow the struggle to obstruct our overall progress because comrades’ white chauvinism keeps them from placing the struggle in its proper perspective.

All of these errors have white chauvinism at their root and serve to maintain it in our movement. We can expect to make errors in the struggle against white chauvinism as in any struggle. If these errors are correctly summed up, the struggle will be advanced. We should avoid repeating those errors which have already been summed up, and be able to recognize and rectify new ones we make in the future.