Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Steering Committee Presentation on the History and Conception of OCIC Centers

Published: Conference Transcripts and Resolutions, Second National OCIC Conference, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The task of building local and regional OCIC Centers over the past period has been a very significant development within the OCIC. It has, in practice, brougght to our attention major aspects of a non-sectarian party building approach. What was not so clear in February of 1978 at the founding conference of the OCIC is no*?abundantly clear - the building and development of OCIC Centers .at the local and regional level is an integral strategic part of our overall party building approach. In large measure, the extent to which we are successful in building these centers correctly, we will also be implementing correctly a party building approach which has never before been seen in the U.S. anti-revisionist movement.

History of the Conception of OCIC Centers

In February of 1978 at the founding conference of the OCIC, we voted on a proposal outlining primary and secondary tasks for the next period. The only mention of carrying out tasks at the local level was a proposal by amendment in response to concerns of El-Comite that national work would be carried out at the expense of our local work. We, therefore, mandated to the Steering Committee that they decide on a mechanism in order that “the national center could facilitate local development and figure out what we can take up nationally in terms of theoretical and practical work.” in other words, the development of work at the local level was seen as a tactical way to prevent isolation of national tasks from the base and to do joint practical work.

Based on this perspective, then, the Steering Committee issued a call for all OC members to build Local Centers, We saw the basic purpose at that time as “bringing together members of the OCIC for joint discussions, study of questions taken up at the national level and to serve as information centers and contact points for the OC at the local level.” The initial call of the SC received a limited response.

However, comrades in Southern California did take up the call in a very energetic way. It was through their practice that the SC began to develop more clearly the correct approach to building local centers. The Steering Committee’s weakness in perspective initially were in two areas:

we did not have a fully formed conception of an overall, non-sectarian party building approach, and we underestimated the role of federationism, localism and racism in our ranks – how these errors were presenting themselves as obstacles to the ideological struggle.

These two weaknesses revealed themselves most sharply over the last year through the practice of building local centers. In particular, the experience in Southern California. What has unfolded is a very dynamic process in which the concrete practice posed questions which, in turn, refined and developed into what the Steering Committee now understands to be a correct approach to Local Centers.

What I would like to do now is to briefly sum up the key aspects of the Steering Committee’s conception of OCIC Centers. We have already discussed in some detail the key party building features of the proposed approach to the ideological struggle in our discussion of the Draft Plan for an IC earlier today. However, it is important to emphasize how much of this is interrelated with our approach to what a local or regional center is. Let me summarize them in concise form:

1. Our key party building task in this period is theoretical. This means the struggle for program, strategy, and tactics for the US revolution is on the immediate agenda for our tendency. Local and regional centers will become important arenas for conducting the ideological struggle. They will become the local am of the national center in taking up our theoretical work.

2. The ideological center cannot direct practice. The direction and guidance of practical work requires the development and centralization of political line. It requires the organizational discipline and accountability of cadre. If our party building movement were at this stage, we wouldn’t need an ideological center. However, it is important to emphasize that a component part of our theoretical work is the organized summation of advanced practice. Local and regional centers will become an important vehicle for summing up our practice as well as facilitating areas of joint work. Our (SC) initial understanding of this was weak. We had not yet identified the inherent errors in demanding political unity around practical work before the necessary ideological struggle took place. This leads us to our third point.

3. The struggle for the political line of our tendency must be movement-wide. It must fully mobilize the base under the direction of its leadership nationally. The struggle must be open, above-board, and subject to rigorous ideological struggle. It cannot be stressed enough that we must strive to unite as many of the tendency’s comrades on a principled basis, as possible. Our ability to carry out this task will depend in large part on the success of the Local Center and Regional Center to organize and encourage the fullest participation in the ideological struggle by all in our movement. Our political unity are the 18 Principles of Unity and the need to build a single, national center. The purpose of the Center, therefore, is not to just unite the forces which already exist in the OCIC, but to unite with forces who are yet outside. This is not simply a matter of tactical concern, but is of strategic importance.

This understanding is very different from the Network “rectification” line. They see recruitment to an already formed political line and an already formed political leadership as the key strategic party building approach for us now. On the contrary, the OCIC is saying that our task now is to unite with the broad forces of the anti-left tendency around a common plan for taking up political line and through this process the emergence of the ideological leadership of our movement. By the end of this presentation, I think we will see, not only how opportunist the “rectification” line is on how political line is formed, but also how racist and chauvinist it is as well.

In summation, then, the primary tasks for the ideological center is the same as that for the local or regional arm: to elaborate a program, strategy and tactics for the US revolution; and to unite the tendency on a principled, non-sectarian basis around the necessity of a national center.

The Struggle Against Federationism

Federationism with the tasks of the ideological center, and, therefore, of the local and regional centers because:

1. if the ideological struggle remains within the confines of our small circles, our theoretical tasks will not advance. The national center will be merely a trading post for political line.

2. it will interfere with our ability to unite the anti-left tendency. In other words, if the ideological struggle does not advance beyond our small circles, the Local Center will degenerate into a recruiting ground for the various circles within it.

We can overcome this form of opportunism by building a mechanism in which all anti-ultra lefts are in a position to intervene as individuals in the ideological struggle and be in a position to emerge as ideological leadership before the movement as a whole. The Local or Regional Center will be precisely the mechanism needed and will a most important arena for combatting this federationism in practice.

There have been raised many questions about this struggle against federationism in regards to the concrete workings of an OCIC center, especially in regards to what the role of organizations are within the OCIC. The SC’s view is that:

1. we encourage the development and growth of communist organization and practice. This is in no way antagonistic to the advancement of the party building movement nationally.

2. since the summation of advanced practice will be very important in advancing our political line, organizations which sum up their practical activity in way which verifies or doesn’t verify theory will be undoubtedly important in the pre-party period. (However, cadre organizations may not necessarily be the only form for advancing this kind of theoretical work.)

At this stage in our movement, however, the dominant errors within our ranks have been on the side of overplaying the role of organizations. It is more important that organizations in the OCIC have a firm grasp on the state of the party building movement and the state of the anti-ultra left tendency, and that local organizations carry out their tasks accordingly.

I would like to illustrate this by way of relating to you our experience in Detroit over the last six weeks. I and others in Detroit have been involved in leading discussions around the conception of the ideological center and the local center in two different groups of comrades in Detroit. One group were people in my own organization, DMLO which is an all-white cadre organization, and the other group were of independent Marxist-Leninists, most of whom are independent of a cadre organization because of a history of racism particular to both cadre organizations in Detroit. Most of the comrades in the second group have long been involved in the Black national movement of the 60s and 70s. In these discussions, there were two distinct reactions to the conception of the IC and Local Centers. In DMLO much of the discussion centered around dispelling fears that the SC was calling for the dissolution of the organization. Questions were raised like this: why have we spent so much energy in developing our theoretical work is we seemingly are throwing it all out the window now? why have a democratic-centralist organization if we are not subject to discipline outside of it in a Local Center? the Local Center should be subordinate to cadre organizations.

In the other group of predominantly national minority Marxist-Leninists, the story was much different. There was an immediately positive response and an immediate understanding of the significance of this party building approach. What accounted for the different reactions? For both groups of people, the history of the ultra-lefts bore heavily on their present day situations. But for those in DMLO, in an organization, there was already a way in which to participate and be involved in the struggle for the political line of our future Party. For the other group of individuals, there had been no way to intervene in this process. For the comrades in DMLO, therefore, we can see how the negative reaction was coming from a narrow and racist view of the party building movement, and the tasks before us. Can you see how clearly related to federationism is the question of racism in our movement today, given the predominantly white character of the organizations in the OCIC?

More on the Struggle Against Racism

One of the more glaring conclusions made in summing up the National Minorities Marxist-Leninist Conference held in June was that most organizations in the OCIC have effectively cut themselves off from the most advanced comrades in our movement. Many of the participants at this national minority conference had politically distant relationships with OCIC organizations, even in the same city. Most participants at the conference still would have known little about the OCIC had not this conference taken place. We only bring this out here to underscore the importance of building local centers in relationship to the task of building the multi-nationality of the OCIC and in taking up the struggle against racism in our movement.

To conclude this section of the presentation, then, we can see how local and regional OCIC centers, if undertaken correctly, will go along way in dismantling the federationism in our tendency and the racism which has historically been a central contradiction, not just in the working class movement, but in the communist movement as well. If we do not grasp the importance of this, we will not be able to move forward on building local centers.

Organizational Tasks of the OCIC Center

We have outlined so far the overall political tasks of the OCIC Center. Now to the organizational tasks - the how to do it part. On the one hand, the local or regional center must internally consolidate current forces in the OCIC around its party building perspective and the importance of the 18 Principles of Unity, and at the same time do outreach to the broad tendency’s forces. In each period of development of the center, one or the other will be primary, though the secondary task must be followed through with as well. Let me illustrate once again by using Detroit as an example.

I think in many ways our situation in Detroit is most like other areas of the country. There are two OCIC organizations in the city. There are a good number of Marxist-Leninists which are not part of the OCIC at present. Many of these comrades, as I stated earlier, are independent Marxist-Leninists who have been activists in the black national movement for some time. Proceeding from this situation, then, our task is to move to unite politically with the most advanced comrades in Detroit around the need for a single national center. The goal is to build a core group that will be the leading body in a local center in Detroit. (A few months ago, we approached the building of a local center in a different way which proved to be wholly incorrect. That is, we saw as the leadership body comrades from both organizations, DMLO and DSC. This approach had more the effect of recruiting rather than uniting with the advanced forces in the area, so that they themselves would form the leading core of a center.)

Once the leadership is established, and once this leadership body has consolidated its unity around the OCIC’s perspective on a single national center, a membership structure can be built and outreach to the broad tendency’s forces undertaken in the area. Once this membership structure is established, all members of the two organizations in the city will belong to the center as individuals. The local center will become each organization’s primary place for ideological struggle. Each individual will be judged by their contributions to the party building movement, not by membership in a cadre organization. Members of organizations will carry no more weight than independent comrades. Eventually, what should happen is that delegates to conferences at the regional or national level will be chosen on the basis of the political line struggle within the Local Center and not from the organizations within it.

Up-Date Report on Local and Regional Centers – In Brief

Southern California has played a leading role in moving forward the conception of OCIC Centers, especially in the area of the relationship of organizations to the process. We will be hearing a fuller report from the leadership of the Center in just a moment.

Local Centers are beginning to take shape in a number of areas, but still without a structured form. These areas are in Detroit, Seattle, Eugene, Washington, D.C. Regional Centers are beginning to emerge in the Boston-New England area and in the south.

It is clear that the Steering Committee’s inability to clearly conceive of its party building approach when it first issued a call to build local centers has held back this work. It should be clear to all of us now that the building of these centers is an important strategic implementation of a non-sectarian approach to party building. In the future, the Steering Committee will be taking up more rigorously summations of practice of all local and regional centers around the country, and will see that these summations are shared.

The Steering Committee wishes to commend the comrades in Southern California for playing an exemplary role in advancing this important work. Also, the comrades in Washington, D.C., through an important struggle (which they will talk about in our discussion period) helped to clarify the SC’s conception of the role of federationism and racism in building OCIC centers.

We have come some considerable distance since February of 1978. In this next year we should see the fuller development of local centers in a number of areas of the country.