Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Clay Newlin, for the OCIC Steering Committee

OCIC Steering Committee Overview

First Issued: February 8, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Much of the OC’s plan of work was outline in the main discussion document for its 2nd National Conference, “The OC’s First Year.” That document identified the main tasks for the next period and provided a brief perspective on how they could be taken up. Since the resolution concentrating the main points of this document received near unanimous endorsement at the conference, the Steering Committee (SC) was provided with a clear mandate for its work.

Nevertheless, along with the more detailed proposals of how to pursue the tasks sketched out in “The OC’s First Year,” we are presenting this overview. In it we hope to advance a clearer and more precise definition of our main tasks, to provide some sense of the importance of each and to indicate the interrelationships between them. Hopefully, this overview will serve to further clarify our plan of work.

The Steering Committee has identified five main objectives for 1980:
1) Consolidate and raise the level of the OC ideologically,
2) Expand the OC’s leading role in the anti-“left” tendency,
3) Deepen the demarcation with ultra-leftism,
4) Expose the “rectification” circle as the headquarters of opportunism within the anti-“left” tendency, and
5) Strengthen the SC.

We will comment on each one briefly.

l) Consolidate and raise the level of the OC ideologically.

The OC, like the rest of the tendency, is in dire need of ideological development. Severe weaknesses were clearly exposed at our national conference. Relatively few comrades felt competent to speak on such important controversies as the question of whether a single anti-revisionist movement still exists, the relation between the political and organizational opportunism of the “rectification” circle, to what degree rejection of the “Three Worlds” theory calls into question Mao Zedong Thought, and the question of whether the CFUSA continued to be the proper place to center party-building efforts up until 1957. Many conference participants were slow to grasp the full political significance of either the struggles against racism at the conference or the protracted debate over whether it is undemocratic to require a minority to present its views. And finally, the immature response to sharp struggle exhibited by several Chicago comrades and those grouped around Theoretical Review is also indicative of the crying need for ideological work. For clearly, each of us must recognize that bourgeois ideas cannot be effectively rooted out if one accepts the “gentlemanly” limits of professorial debate.

Strides towards deepening the ideological level of the OC are key to our initiatives in every area. The OC cannot continue to play the leading role in the tendency unless its members lead the struggle for a proletarian class viewpoint; such a viewpoint is inconceivable without systematic ideological work. Ultra-leftism is itself an expression of ideological immaturity and thus further demarcation with it demands advances of a generalized ideological nature. We have seen repeatedly how the “rectification” circle speculates on various expressions of the ruling class point of view, and a rising ideological level will hasten their isolation. And finally a deeper ideological foundation will clearly strengthen the SC both by advancing the understanding of its members and providing them with a more engaged and activated base.

Our ideological work in the upcoming period should be focused in four main areas: The first is consolidation around the 18 points of unity. Our foremost objective here should be to ensure that the OC is being constructed on a firm foundation of Marxism-Leninism. We should strive for basic consolidation around a revolutionary view of classes and class struggle, the nature and essence of imperialism, the class nature of the state, the necessity for a revolutionary transition to socialism, party-building as the organizing principled of communist activity in the present period, the centrality of racism, sexism as a primary class division, the need for systematic struggle against opportunism generally and revisionism and “left” opportunism in particular and the importance of proletarian internationalism. Beyond this, we should seek to draw out the implications of the points for our work and to introduce OC members to the most important outstanding controversies in our tendency.

Our second area if focus should be on the centrality of racism. As our experience in building the OC–mirroring the general experience of the working class in the U.S.–has so clearly shown, ideological consolidation on the roots, forms and main manifestations of racism is’ key. While attempting to secure a generalized understanding of both the history of racism in U.S. society and of its modern forms, particular attention must be payed to combatting white chauvinism within the communist movement. We must emphasize that the struggle against racism is the key to developing multinationality in the party-building movement and that no previous party-building effort has payed sufficient attention to this task. And we must demand that every white comrade focus considerable energy towards developing the capacity to identify and combat each and every manifestation of chauvinism in our ranks.

The third area of focus should be ideological consolidation on the OC’s plan for party-building. In this area we should target consolidation around the essence and main forms of revisionism, the historic capitulation of the anti-revisionist movement to ultra-leftism, the importance of the initial demarcation on point 18, the need for a common plan and a single center, the necessity of combatting the circle spirit, our strategic objective of a leading ideological center and our perspective on how such a center could be forged. By taking up these key points the OC can build a stable foundation for its efforts to rally the bulk of the tendency to the Draft Plan.

The fourth and final focus for our ideological work is the danger of federationism. While not encouraging liquidationist attitudes towards local communist organizations, we must absolute ensure that every OC organization clearly grasps the limitations of these forms. Each OC comrade must grasp the distinction between the ideological center and the various directing centers for practice, the proper relationship between the two, the limitations on democratic centralism in the pre-party period, the key role of centralized ideological struggle and the relationship between federationism and white chauvinism. Without consolidation on these points, the OC cannot succeed.

Genuine advances in our ideological work clearly demand more systematic Steering Committee attention to education. We must thoroughly review each target area for consolidation, identifying the key points and planning how they should be taken up. The necessary supplemental and explanatory materials should be developed along with discussion guides and study questions. In addition, more attention should be devoted to various SC statements, polemics, and letters to ensure that they are straightforward, clear and popularly written.

One additional comment about our ideological work. In all of this work we must clearly confront bourgeois ideas. Every OC member, no matter how well developed, is still strongly influenced by bourgeois ideology. This ideology will not spontaneously give way to a proletarian viewpoint. It will put up a continuous and tenacious struggle, confronting the proletarian views at every favorable opportunity. To make matters worse, the confrontation will clearly not be an open one. Instead, bourgeois ideology will cloak itself in Marxism-Leninism and seek Survival by playing on every softspot in the understanding of OC members. Thus bourgeois ideas, constantly butressed by force of habit, ruling class media and culture, and concealed in revolutionary phrases, will stubbornly oppose our ideological work.

For this reason, the idea of ideological work without propaganda and polemic, is a dangerous illusion. Our efforts to consolidate the OC’s point of view cannot simply be a matter of educating our members about our views. Certainly education is necessary, but it is hardly sufficient. We must propagandize–that is, systematically spread our ideas in a manner clearly designed to promote our own point of view. We must ensure that our educational materials are clearly and incisively formulated and that every opportunity is utilized to drive home our ideas. And _we must polemicize–that is, draw out the proletarian content of our views while sharply contrasting them with the bourgeois essence of the opposing view. In particular, we must be prepared to strip the mask of Marxism-Leninism away from and ruthlessly expose ruling class ideas whenever they appear in our ranks.

As mentioned above, our 2nd National Conference showed a real resistance to the introduction of polemics into the ideological struggle. A significant number of comrades’ clearly resented having their views characterized by the opposition, having the implications of these views drawn out and their real essence exposed. Instead they expected that their statements should be accepted at face value, seeing any attempt to attach any meaning to them other than the one they themselves intended as unprincipled. In fact, for some comrades, their resistance to polemics led them to charge the SC with “bureaucratic retaliation” – as if there were anything remotely close to a bureaucracy in the OC and as if the SC could “retaliate” with anything more than words!!

A capitulation to this, objectively, anti-struggle attitude can only have the most serious consequences. It will give our ideological work a flaccid character, hogtying us is the struggle against bourgeois ideology. Given the heritage of anti-theoretical attitudes among revolutionaries in the U.S., and given the difficulty of our struggle for a revolutionary program and strategy, the OC can ill-afford any concessions to liberalism.

2) Expand the OC’s leading role in the anti-“left” tendency.

The expansion of the OC’s leading role depends primarily on our ability to continue the process that led to the formation of the OC in the first place. We must continue to generate the kind of initiatives designed to rally the bulk of the tendency around a common plan for party-building. We must deepen the struggle against opportunism, targetting particularly the concrete form which presents the main impediment to further progress at each particular stage of the party-building process. We must take great care in our handling of political differences, not allowing secondary differences to become splitting questions but at the same time not covering over divergent points of view. We must proceed from the shallower to the deeper levels of political unity, fighting for unity with all those who can pursue common work in the direction of the party at this stage whatever the prospects for future unity with those comrades might be. And we must focus on raising the level of the whole tendency step by step.

The key to accomplishing this is the continued presentation of a positive program of activities. By grasping the most pressing problems in the tendency and providing a series of activities designed to yield solutions, by explaining the reasoning behind them, contrasting them to other initiatives and calling for widespread discussion and debate on them, and by ensuring that OC activities are as open an possible and broadly accessible even to those who differ with us, we can continue to rally ever larger sections of the tendency to our banner.

It is particularly important that we avoid getting involved in endless circle wangling with the “rectifiers.” Given their “eetablish-our-claim-to-seats-on-the-party’s-future-central-committee mentality, these comrades have nothing to lose by attempting to engage the OC in an endless aeries of debates over any differences between us whatever their relevance to our tasks. Their only objective is to score points and establish the widest possible gulf between themselves and the OC, helping thereby to retain their narrow following. We on the other hand have a great deal to lose. Our future depends on generating a tendency wide process where the common interests of the tendency predominate over circle interests. This dearly demands primary emphasis on overcoming the tendency’s most significant weaknesses and only secondary attention to exposing the organizational opportunist of the “rectification” circle.

Efforts to win the bulk of the tendency to the Draft Plan provide a fitting centerpiece for our initiatives in the next period. By presenting an explicit, precise and relative comprehensive plan for party-building, it provides a unique opportunity to galvanise the bulk of our tendency into action. For the first time, it allows for the Marxist-Leninists to engage themselves in party building consciously. They will be able not to just grasp a single piece of the party-building process but have a clear conception of all the pieces and what part each plays in the whole. And they will not just passively accept a plan elaborated in secret and at best only partially presented but have an opportunity to actively involve themselves in deepening aid refining that plan.

But in order to realize the full potential of the Draft Plan, we must aggressively organize around it. We should circulate it broadly and develop systematic and, so far as possible, individual follow up with each group, collective or individual to whom it is given. We should encourage them to write up and circulate their responses and then establish a series of local forums where the Draft Plan is presented* Following upon this initial discussion phase, should be a deeper and more substantial debate based on a bulletin containing a selection of detailed written responses to the Draft Plan along with a reply by the SC and a series of regional conferences similar to those developed around point 18. These conferences should draw together forces both within and outside the OC and discussion should be structured to bring about a clear confrontation between contending views. Finally, the whole process should be capped by a national delegated conference where the Draft Plan is discussed, amended and adopted.

Coupled with efforts around the Draft Plan should be further work towards establishing local and regional centers. These centers provide an excellent example ot the OC’s party-building strategy in action. Their necessary focus on centralizing the theoretical struggle, their emphasis on the broad movement-wide nature of the party-building process, and their institutionalized non-sectarian character–each demonstrates an essential and differentiating feature of the OC’s conception. By expanding our initiatives around these centers, we can prove the viability of the Draft Plan with concrete forms broadly accessible to tendency forces in each locality.

Our effort to consolidate our own ranks around the centrality of the struggle against racism also offers a unique opportunity. To our knowledge, in its 60-year history the communist movement has only openly confronted its own racism on two occasions - once at the Yokinen trial of 1931 and again in the white chauvinism campaign of 1949-51. Not once has any of the major party-building initiatives addressed this serious problem. In fact, looking at their press, statements and speeches, one would be forced to conclude that apart from one’s position on the national question white chauvinism does not really exist among communists!

A carefully conceived and broadly waged campaign against racism in the communist movement can thus set the 0C apart. It can demonstrate a serious, systematic and concrete approach to confronting the most serious obstacle to building multinational unity, providing all comrades with a clear indication of the high standards of anti-racism required of a genuine party. It will provide a living example of communist principles of criticism–an open exposure of errors and sharp struggle to overcome them. And most generally, it will show that we take seriously our own proclamations about rooting out bourgeois ideology in our ranks. For is not white chauvinism a central manifestation of the ruling class’s point of view?

It follows from this that we should see our white chauvinism campaign as primarily, but not exclusively, as an effort to consolidate our own ranks. As a result, the campaign will call for utilization of much the same kind of initiatives as those described under the Draft Plan discussion above.

A third important area of OC initiative is our effort to deepen the demarcation with ultra-leftism. This task will be further elaborated in the subsequent section of this overview and thus is only briefly mentioned here. But clearly our work around “left-wing” communism must be seen as both central to the advancement of the tendency and necessarily as close to tendency-wide as possible.

3) Deepen the demarcation with ultra-leftism.

The importance of this task should really need no elaboration. As we have said on a number of occasions, the survival of our tendency as genuinely anti-“left” and its development into a legitimately Marxist-Leninist trend depends on a deepening of this demarcation. To underscore this point, we might add that the connection between the “rectification” circle’s hegemonism and its ultra-leftism clearly shows that even a tendency wide process, itself, is called into question unless we progress in the rectification of ultra-leftism.

Our effort to deepen this demarcation must begin from the standpoint that as yet no adequate critique of ultra-leftism exists. Neither of the two significant studies of the subject, the PUL’s and that of the PWOC, goes far enough. While each certainly has its strong points–points that should be built upon–neither incorporates the lessons of the process of demarcation around point l8 nor adequately treats the “leftist” conceptions in Mao Zedong Thought.

As a result, our approach must stress the creative theoretical, as opposed to the ideological consolidation, aspect of the deepening process. This means that we should engage the most ideological advanced forces in a common theoretical effort. Their activity needs to be guided from a single center, coordinated on a national scale and, in so far as ideological unity allows, based on some significant division of labor.

While the actual theoretical work, itself, will be conducted largely by these most advanced forces, it does not have to be done in isolation from the rest of the tendency as has been the practice of the two functioning “rectification” study projects. Regular detailed reports summarizing discussion, various working papers and educational materials can be circulated and report-back conferences organized in order to keep the tendency informed and to allow for generalized discussion and input. This is not just possible but necessary if the tendency as a whole is to actively intervene in this work.

After real advances, the emphasis on deepening the demarcation with ultra-leftism will shift from the creative aspect to that of contention between differing views and ideological consolidation generally. Our point 18 conferences provide us with a good base of experience from which to approach this part of the work. With the exception of more thorough advance preparation, the struggle between divergent views can be handled in much the same manner as those around point 18.

4) Expose the “rectification” circle as the headquarters of opportunism within the anti-“left” tendency.

While hardly our primary task, the struggle against the “rectification” circle is nonetheless an important one. This circle continues to attempt to split the anti-“left” tendency into a pro-“rectification” and an anti-“rectificatinn” bloc in order to secure the largest possible foothold for its unrectified ultra-leftism. It is desperately attempting to prevent the consolidation of the tendency behind the Draft Plan because it fears that Marxism-Leninism and not “left” opportunism is on the rise. And so it continues to present the greatest “threat to the development of common work towards advancing the anti-“left” tendency.

The objective of our struggle against the “rectifiers” should be to expose their leadership as the headquarters of opportunism with the tendency and thus isolating then first from the center forces in the tendency and eventually from their own rank and file. In order to accomplish this we must on the one hand sharply expose their opportunism, rejecting and laying bare their various efforts to cover over their narrow sectarian mentality with pious proposals for “joint work.” We must struggle sharply for a principled demarcation with their circle hegemonism. On the other hand, we must be prepared to unite with them in any initiative, whether it stems form them or ourselves, which objectively advances the tendency. And we must use these latter initiatives to demonstrate how common work proceeding from a single center is not only possible but essential at this stage in the development of our movement.

Our exposure of the “rectification” opportunism must proceed on two fronts.

The first and principal front is the smoking out of their organizational opportunism.

In this regard we should draw out their circle warfare approach to setting our theoretical agenda, their generalized unwillingness to subject any of their initiatives to centralized, movement-wide ideological struggle, their view that “every distinct line must forge a separate center, and their whole approach to establishing themselves as the “leading center.” We should demonstrate the retrograde character of these “rectification” perspectives and show their clear connections to the nearly identical practices of the RU, OL, etc.

Second to organizational opportunism, we should reveal the most obvious forms of ultra-leftism underlying the circle hegemonism of the “rectifiers.” We should unmask their failure to grasp the “left” opportunist content of RU and OL’s party-building line, their own one-sided and quasi-Trotskyist conception of the party, their view that “thought” is the essence of party-building and their thesis that correct line is “tested” by its ability to “win friends and influence people” in the communist movement. In addition, we should critique their opposition to united front tactics in the anti-racist struggle and their objective raising of the slogan “no unity of action with revisionism” in anti-imperialist work. And finally, we should take up their attempt to revise the materialist theory of knowledge in accordance with their idealist party-building strategy. By drawing out these points we can clearly establish their objective interest in circle warfare.

This critique should be set forth in a number of ways. The SC should draft a lengthy polemic developing the points above fully, showing their interconnections and laying bare their implications. Along with this document, shorter responses to various “rectification” polemics and articles putting forward the OC’s point of view should be written.

Real attention should be payed to consolidating the OC around the SC’s critique of the “rectifiers.” Background reading lists, supplemental and explanatory materials, discussion questions and a time schedule for consolidation should be sent out with the SC’a polemic. Sufficient time for discussion and internal struggle should be allocated in order to be certain that each OC comrade is well prepared to combat the supporters of “rectification.”

After the consolidation process, a series of forums should be organised, particularly targetting localities where the “rectification” circle has a significant presence. Such forums can force the “rectifiers” to openly defend their perspectives and thus deepen their exposure. Beyond this, the various regional and local OC bodies should take the appropriate steps to push forward the exposure of “rectification” opportunism.

In this way we can not only reveal both the organizational opportunism of the “rectification” circle and its source but also help deepen the tendency’s demarcation with “left-wing” communism–at least that of the “rectification” variety.

5) Strengthen the Steering Committee.

One of the critical tasks of the SC in the next period is that of strengthen its ability to discharge its own work. It needs to deepen its grasp on the party building process as a whole and how the OC’s activities fit into it. It needs to expand its abilities to speak to the various tasks that confront the OC, ensuring a more consistent and developed leadership. And finally it needs to pay real attention to the ideological development of each of its members but particularly its national minority and women comrades.

A number of things need to be done in order to realise these goals. First, there needs to be better and more systematic preparation of SC meetings. Documents and other materials for discussion must be sent out sufficiently in advance of meetings so as to allow thorough preparation. Where those document break new ground or raise new theoretical questions, they should be accompanied by a short list of background readings and a brief discussion guide, la addition, each SC member must be sure to prepare well in advance.

Along with better advance preparation, more attention needs to be allocated to ideological consolidation of the SC. Primarily this means more effort to ensure real consolidation la the meetings themselves* The SO should avoid the tendency to rush through its agendas just because it has many tasks that must be spoken to at each meeting. Instead a better balance should be struck between agenda points so as to give the more difficult sad important questions priority attention. Less significant points should be deferred to the various task forces or Individual SC members. And while the main focal point of ideological consolidation lies in the meetings themselves, supplemental study programs should be developed for each SC member.

In addition, the SC should organize its work better. A series of task forces should be created in different specialized work areas. Composed of several members to secure collective leadership and accountability, each task force should have a chairperson with overall responsibility for its work. The task forces should meet as often as is necessary to discharge their tasks. Suggested task forces are: local centers, anti-racism, and ultra-leftism.

To maintain the centralization of the OC’s work between SC meetings and to obtain more regular attention and leadership, a SC Executive should be established. This Executive should handle preparation of SC meetings, correspondence, applications of already developed line and necessary intrim decision making. It should be composed of Tyree Scott, Toni Vlasits and Clay Newlin.

8 February 1980
Steering Committee/Clay Newlin