Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Draft Plan for a Leading Ideological Center

Adopted at the OCIC 2nd National Conference

Published: October 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It may be true that these things sound good to alot of comrades here, and I’m quite sure that this is just, a voice hollering in the wilderness. But I’ll say this... Anybody in this country that talks about peaceful roads to socialism without first dealing with the whole problem and specific measures of American capitalism and its relation to the exploitation of the working class here and its whole rotten robbery of the world today, where it’s cooperating with the rest of the imperialist forces to rob all peoples in colonial countries and other workers, I’ll say what we are really doing here is degrading and degenerating the whole question of Marxism-Leninism. A delegate, Proceedings of the 16th National Convention of the CPUSA, New York, 1957, p. 124

These few words, spoken by a class-conscious worker, summed up the significance of the 16th Convention of the CPUSA. At that gathering, held in February of 1957, the Party’s leaders did indeed degrade Marxism-Leninism by adopting a revisionist perspective as the core of the Party’s general line. In the name of the “creative development” of Marxist theory, the revisionists cut the revolutionary heart out of scientific socialism and sought to transform it into a muted doctrine of radical reform. Based on the illusion of parliamentary transition to socialism, they advanced a two-stage strategy for the U.S. revolution, completely abandoning a revolutionary road to power. In addition, they argued that such essential democratic tasks as the liquidation of racial and sexual oppression could be achieved short of the overthrow of monopoly capitalism, that U.S. imperialism could give up its tendencies to aggression and war and that proletarian internationalism necessitated support for Soviet great power chauvinism and hegemonism. Thus, in place of revolutionary struggle they promote parliamentary struggle, in place of socialist democracy – bourgeois democracy, in place of the struggle for peace – pacifist illusions, and in place of internationalism – abject flunkeyism.

The 16th National Convention of the Communist Party represented the end of an era for U.S. revolutionaries. Historically, the Party had many serious weaknesses in both policy and practice, weaknesses which on occasion stretched over entire strategic periods and which at times profoundly disoriented its members. The gravity of some of these mistakes is perhaps best demonstrated by the temporary liquidation of the Party in May of 1944. But despite these flaws, the Party nevertheless served as the rallying point for the most advanced elements of the U.S. working class. No one can deny, for example, that it played the key role in the organization of the mass-production industries in the thirties and that it was the vanguard of the Black people’s movement during much of its history. For nearly forty years the focal point of the struggle for a genuine revolutionary party lay within the ranks of the CPUSA and its followers.

But the consolidation of revisionism as the Party’s guiding line changed this situation. While revisionism had reared its head in the CPUSA previously – most notably during the latter part of Browder’s leadership, from 1938 to 1945 – it never achieved such thorough hegemony as it did in 1957. In earlier times, the revisionist line was always put through fey bureaucratic means and mainly consolidated at the top levels of the Party; even after winning the leadership, the revisionists were unable to thoroughly rout their opponents, with anti-revisionists retaining significant influence throughout the Party. At the 16th Convention, however, revisionism achieved dominance after a fairly extensive process of open ideological struggle; and advocates of Marxism-Leninism such as the worker quoted above were decisively defeated. In fact, the largest wing of the Party demanded a right opportunist program even more pronounced than the one actually adopted – a program which once again called for the liquidation of the Party itself.

More significant, however, is the fact that the betrayal of the U.S. working class unfolded in the context of a similar abandonment of the world revolution internationally. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union – at its 20th Congress, exactly a year earlier - had also placed the crown upon revisionism. With some notable exceptions (the Parties of China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Albania), most of the other Communist Parties in the world soon followed suit. This development only served to reinforce the strength of the revisionist elements in the CPUSA and has been one key reason why there has not been a single significant internal challenge to the Party’s bankrupt line since that time. Thus, the U.S. party had not only abandoned its own revolution but it had done so in connection with an international renunciation of revolutionary Marxism.

After 1957 the focal point for the development of a class vanguard shifted outside the CPUSA. In the intervening twenty-three years, there have been numerous and generally intensified efforts to rebuild a revolutionary party. Beginning with the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute a Marxist-Leninist Party (POC) and passing through the development of Progressive Labor (PL), the Communist League (CL), the Revolutionary Union (RU) and the October League (OL), each effort has, generally drawn more forces under its wing, has been initiated by an organization with broader influence on the left and more extensive connections with the working class. And yet the entire history of this party-building movement comes down to this: the communist movement has been unable to settle accounts with revisionism by re-establishing the vanguard of the U.S. revolution.


Historically, and today as well, the main impediment to progress along the road to the party has been ultra-leftism. Each successive effort to constitute a genuine revolutionary instrument of the masses has been incapable of orienting itself by solving the political and organizational problems posed by the actual class struggle in the U.S. Instead, shunning the difficult task of developing program for the U.S. revolutionary process, the organizations providing the impetus for each drive for the party borrowed heavily from the legacy of “left-wing” communism. In fact, not a single one of these organizations has been able to avoid foundering on the shoals of “left” opportunism.

The significance of this continued drift towards “leftist” thinking becomes even more evident if one recalls that each major successive initiative began by separating itself from the “leftism” of its predecessor. PL criticized the extreme sectarianism of the POC, the RU and the OL both took issue with the infantile leftism of the PL, and the OL, during the period of its most rapid growth, attacked the “left” adventurism of the RU. But after gaining a following on the basis of these criticisms, each soon renounced the struggle against the danger from the “left” and adopted its own version of the “left” line. Thus, each ensuing group initially opposed “left” opportunism only to consolidate a different expression of “left-wing” communism in its own program and strategy.

Today, “left-wing” communism is still dominant among party-builders. It has a developed system of politics addressing the key questions facing revolutionaries. What are some of the main features of the ultra-left line?

First, its conception of party-building is characterized by voluntarism. It places its own subjective desire for the Party above all of the objective conditions needed to realize a genuine vanguard. In addition, it substitutes immature political posturing for the necessary political line – revolutionaries are united behind appeals to unquestioned prejudices rather than scientific theory. And advanced fighters from the working class and oppressed nationalities are denied a genuine place in the party-building process, which is viewed as a process entirely internal to the communist movement with no organic connection to the class struggle.

Second, on the reform struggle, the ultra-leftists urge the masses to take the “high road” to socialism by shunning the reform struggle and reform movements. Rather than seeing the experience of the fight for reforms as a necessary foundation for the masses to understand the necessity of revolution and the leading role of communists, they view the reform struggle as a diversion from “real” revolutionary struggle.

Third, on the struggle for democracy, proletarian democracy is contrasted to bourgeois democracy in a one-sided manner. The struggle for democratic fights under capitalism is eliminated as a key revolutionary task. According to the ultra-leftists, the only form of democracy worth fighting for is proletarian democracy (socialism). This approach has led in a number of cases to actual opposition to important movements for democratic rights, such as busing and the ERA.

Fourth and finally, “leftism” also expresses itself on international line. Here, the “lefts” adopt a sectarian approach to the struggle against revisionism and the Soviet Union. They advocate and work to establish a worldwide united front against the U.S.S.R. – a front which includes, of all things, U.S. imperialism. As such, they come down time and again on the wrong side of revolutionary struggles against U.S. imperialism worldwide, out of concern that these struggles will advance the interests of the Soviet Union. This position of supporting the main enemy of the world’s people (the U.S.) is bad enough for any revolutionary, but is doubly so for U.S. revolutionaries who have a special obligation to oppose their “own” imperialism.

Recent developments have demonstrated a continued consolidation of this “left-wing” trend. While hardly homogenous and beset with significant internal contradictions, the “lefts” have nonetheless continued to make progress among anti-revisionists. The CP-ML, having recently received China’s official nod and being the organization with the most sophisticated ultra-left viewpoint, has established itself as the largest of the “leftist” parties. Through polemics on international line, it was able to place its main competitor, the RCP, on the defensive, exacerbating that organization’s internal differences - differences which eventually led to a split. The main wing of the RCP is already rapidly degenerating into a hopelessly isolated sect. And while the split-off, the Revolutionary Workers’ Headquarters, has developed some significant criticism of the RCP’s “left” idealism, their unity with the CP-ML’s ̶-;left” internationalism remains a powerful magnet towards fusion with the Communist Party of China’s franchised “vanguard”. Furthermore, the CP-ML has been able to draw the League for Revolutionary Struggle, a product of the fusion of the August Twenty-ninth Movement and I Wor Kuen, into a unity committee based on its ultra-left program. Thus, the consolidation of the bulk of the “lefts” into a single national “party” looms on the immediate horizon.


Were these the only significant developments in the anti-revisionist movement, then the delegate’s protest at the 16th CPUSA Convention would indeed have amounted only to “a voice hollering in the wilderness”. But an alternative to the ultra-left trend has also emerged. Following in the wake of the Angola controversy and continuing in ever-increasing numbers up to the present day, revolutionaries have recoiled at the practice of the “lefts”. Recognizing that “left-wing” notions provide no real alternative to revisionism, these anti-“lefts” have fought for the development of both a clear critique of the prevailing ultra-left line and, in addition, the beginning of a serious elaboration of scientific socialism for the revolutionary process in the U.S. Additionally, they have been striving to consolidate a genuine Marxist-Leninist trend based on this elaboration, a trend which would really hold the possibility of reestablishing a revolutionary party.

Many people who disagree now will come to see that the future of the anti-revisionist movement depends on genuine anti-“left” forces. Regardless of Intentions, by consolidating themselves around a “left-wing” program, the dominant wing of the anti-revisionist movement has objectively abandoned Marxism-Leninism, the building of a genuine Party, and, hardly the least important, the U.S. working class. Despite the fact that most of the ultra-left cadre are sincere in their desire to see our people rise to power, the “leftist” mentality perverts their study of the science of revolution, makes them incapable of clarifying the popular agenda, and profoundly disorients them in the mass movement. It is only those who are striving to strip party-builders of “leftism” who can push forward the anti-revisionist movement; it is only those who consciously struggle to elaborate revolutionary theory who can press on in the battle for the Party. At this stage of its development, the future of the communist movement is placed in the hands of opponents of both revisionism and ultra-leftism.

In contrast to the ultra-left wing of the party-building movement, however, the anti-“lefts” represent only a trend in embryo – or a tendency. Whereas the “lefts” have a systematic viewpoint on the key questions facing the U.S. working class, the anti-“left” tendency exists mainly in negative form – it knows what it is against but not what it is for. That is, the unity of its various sections and elements is based on a common rejection of “left” opportunism (and an uneven rejection at that). But this separation from the “lefts” has neither been consolidated by a thorough critique of modern “left-wing” communism nor has ultra-leftism been supplanted by an alternative politics.

As long as this situation continues, the anti-“left” tendency will be inherently unstable and subject to continued opportunist deviations on both the “left” and the right. Taking the history of the party-building movement together with the current ideological hegemony of the “lefts”, it is clear that the “left” danger is a particular threat. But the lack of a clearcut alternative orientation which not only demarcates this tendency from the “lefts” but also from the revisionists, means that there is always a clear danger that right opportunist or revisionist thinking could set in.

The absence of a system of politics for the anti-“left” tendency does not just mean that it is unstable. Even more significantly, it can not mount a viable challenge to the ultra-lefts. While no one should underestimate the power of a critique of opportunist views, the defeat of a bankrupt line has always been bound up with the development of an alternative perspective. The reason for this is straightforward. Genuine communists always investigate not just the criticisms raised by opposing forces but the theoretical foundation on which their critique is based as well as the alternative political line developed from that foundation. As a result, only the positive politics of the anti-“lefts” can create the basis for separating the genuine revolutionaries under the influence of “leftist” thinking from hardcore opportunists. Until the emerging Marxist-Leninist trend develops such a viewpoint it will be crippled in its struggle against the ultra-left line.

While the primary weakness of the anti-“lefts” is their lack of positive political unity, they suffer from other important, and related, difficiencies as well. Where the ultra-lefts have mature (relatively speaking) national organizations, developed apparatuses for propaganda and agitation, centralized leadership, national forms for schooling cadre, etc., our tendency exists mainly in local forms, finds its voice confined to a few local papers, scattered pamphlets, a column or occasional article in a national publication, or shorter statements; it lacks uniform leadership and trains its cadre in a fragmented, haphazard way. And finally, where the “lefts” develop national strategies, coordinate activities in numerous localities and within single trade unions and other mass organization, and allocate cadre, publishing and material resources on the basis of a national perspective, our tendency suffers from localized planning, disconnected activity and unnecessary duplication of effort.


All Marxist-Leninists in the anti-“left” tendency – whatever their differences on secondary questions – should concentrate their efforts at this time on evolving a common plan to overcome these shortcomings. We emphasize “common” for several reasons. First, we are firmly convinced that only the common struggle of all anti-“lefts” can succeed in breaking the hegemony of ultra-leftism. Our position in relation to the “lefts” can only be weakened if we allow secondary differences to obscure our more fundamental unity; even the maximum principled unity will not make the battle against the “leftist” impulse either simple or short.

Second, we are even more firmly convinced that the tasks associated with developing a positive doctrine are of such grave magnitude, of such thorny difficulty and of such vital importance that common work is essential. The basic theoretical questions posed by the U.S. revolution are those of the struggle for power in the world’s most advanced (technologically and politically), most sophisticated and most durable imperialist power. They are questions that have proven to be difficult stumbling blocks for the revolutionary movement in every advanced capitalist country without exception.

In addition to these two general concerns, we emphasize “common” for a particular reason as well. Historically, a narrow circle mentality has played a critical role in the paralysis of the anti-revisionist movement. Instead of each circle of revolutionaries placing the shared concerns of the whole movement at the forefront of their vision, a strong tendency has developed to subordinate the interests of the whole to those of a single part. As a result, many small circles have approached party-building from the standpoint of what would best advance the organizational hegemony of their own narrow group. In pursuit of this hegemony, they have shown themselves willing to exaggerate secondary differences in order to justify a refusal to engage in common work on more primary concerns, to advance “analyses” of the movement designed chiefly to enhance their own position and influence, and to fight for a premature polarization of communist forces into opposing trends. And unfortunately, as any concrete investigation of our tendency will clearly show, these very centrifugal tendencies have already emerged among the anti-“lefts”.

To the extent that a narrow circle mentality continues to penetrate the anti-“left” tendency it will not only pervert the struggle for genuine ideological unity. Inevitably, in the present circumstances it will also rebound in favor of ultra-leftism. This is not just because any unprincipled division in our ranks tends to strengthen the hand of the “lefts”. Even more significantly, circle forms of struggle will serve to shield “leftist” conceptions from the exposure that will necessarily result from protracted ideological struggle. Because “left” opportunism will be dying away and will continually be faced with being supplanted by Marxism-Leninism, those most subject to “leftist” thinking will have the strongest tendencies to defend their conceptions and their personal influence in the movement by attempting to draw their wagons in a circle and shoot at their enemies from inside. Since they have the most to lose from the .development of centralized ideological struggle, they will tend to be the strongest advocates of the politics of circle-warfare. They will have no alternative to the deterioration of their ideological influence other than through opposition to a party spirit -a party spirit that must assert itself if ultra-leftism is to be routed.


In our view, the most pressing task facing the anti-“lefts” – a task to which all others must be subordinate – is the generation of a process conducive to the forging of a single ideological center for the tendency. That is, we must advance the kind of conception, set in motion the kind of struggle, and articulate the kind of organizational forms that are most likely to foster the principled unification of our tendency around a single ideological leadership. We need an ideological leadership that could not only lead the struggle to transform our tendency into a mature trend but also have the potential of becoming the rallying center for our party.

Before we put forward our plan to achieve this end, it is necessary to discuss the basic role and tasks of a genuine ideological center. First, as a center, it would promote the unity, centralization, and focus of the activities of the anti-“left” forces. It would foster common focus by making sure that each force within the tendency takes up the same questions at the same time, according to a common agenda. In addition, it would centralize the activities of the tendency in a number of ways. It would bring together theoretical resources within the tendency, making possible theoretical projects that could not be achieved at the local level, and eliminating unnecessary duplication of effort. It would identify the most advanced theoretical work available on differed questions and would bring this work to the tendency as a whole for study and debate. It would spotlight and seek to draw lessons from the most advanced practice of revolutionaries. It would lend coordination to the struggle against opportunism, focusing attention on both revisionism and ultra-leftism while giving priority to the main danger at any particular moment. And it would create a body capable not only of developing a systematic overview of the state of the emerging trend as a whole but also of detailed investigation of the ultra-left, revisionist and other opportunist formations.

Second, as an ideological center it would provide a common forum to address our paramount theoretical task: the independent elaboration of Marxism-Leninism for the U.S. revolutionary process. Such an elaboration, one that is capable of identifying and solving the actual questions posed by the class struggle in this country, is an indispensible prerequisite for advancing the anti-revisionist movement. In the first place, any unification of communist forces that is not based on progress towards independent elaboration is not durable in character; in fact, the appearance of unity not based on elaboration may serve not only to obscure fundamental differences but even to hinder their resolution. In addition, independent elaboration is key to undermining the influence of various opportunist views. As we pointed out above, in order to defeat an incorrect view, it is not sufficient to just expose its weaknesses; an alternative view is also imperative. Finally, and most importantly, progress towards elaboration is a condition for progress towards a vanguard. Only the development of revolutionary science for the U.S. can yield the necessary elements of program, strategy and tactics. And it is these elements alone that can provide a stable basis for the formation of a genuine revolutionary party.

The process of independent elaboration is inseparable from a consistent struggle against opportunism generally – and revisionism and ultra-leftism in particular. To a large extent, the real significance of a correct application of scientific socialism only becomes clear in the context of protracted struggle against opportunist deviations, tendencies and trends. This struggle, if properly handled, serves to elucidate the actual character of the differences between opportunism and Marxism, the depth and real substance of the differences and why such differences prevent common work within the ranks of a single revolutionary organization. Thus, related to the center’s task of providing a forum for independent elaboration, is the task of providing a context for the shaping of the struggle against opportunism, for seeking out the weak points in the various opportunist lines, for clarifying the real essence of these deviations from Marxist doctrine and for demonstrating why and in what context we must draw sharp lines of demarcation with them.

As an ideological center, then, it would have the responsibility of facilitating both the independent elaboration and the struggle against opportunism. While clearly both responsibilities would have to be pursued simultaneously, at different points in the trend’s development the concrete balance between the two would, have to be altered with emphasis shifted towards one or the other. And while it is likely that the struggle against opportunism may come to the forefront of the trend’s agenda on different occasions, in the long run forward motion would demand that clear priority be allocated to the work of elaboration.

Third, as a leading ideological center, the center would consciously shape the development of the tendency into a clearly defined trend. It would take responsibility for shaping the process of theoretical development, the working out of political and ideological unity, and the organization of the tendency. It would identify the key problems holding back further development of the trend at each phase, lead the anti-“left” forces in the effort to solve these problems, and advance the struggle to unite communists around the solutions arrived at. It would make sure that the most pressing theoretical questions are addressed first. And it would make sure that these questions are addressed in a scientific manner – by demanding that sufficient attention be focussed on the theoretical work involved, and by encouraging the development of more sophisticated forms of communist organization and practice capable of testing and refining our theory.

Both the ideological tasks and the leadership tasks of the center would develop according to the principle of “from the shallower to the deeper”. In early stages of the center, our ideological tasks would consist more of studying and struggling around the most advanced existing revolutionary theory, rather than breaking much new ground through an independent elaboration of Marxism-Leninism. Similarly, its leadership in forging the tendency would be relatively undeveloped. However, as theoretical work proceeded forward and leaders emerged who proved capable of shaping the development of the tendency through all its twists and turns, the center would begin to take on the full character of a leading, ideological center.

It is important to recognize that an ideological center generally cannot be a directing center for practice, and this is most particularly so in its early stages of development. A centralized mechanism for guiding practical activity on a national scale assumes mature agreement on basic program and strategy oh the one hand, and the clothing of that agreement in a single national communist organization on the other. In the period prior to the actual formation of the Party, it will not be possible to overcome either the theoretical inadequacy or the consequent disunity of communists sufficiently to allow all genuine Marxist-Leninists to subordinate themselves to a single all-sided pre-party form. As long as important political differences remain – even if these differences do not require separate ideological centers – distinct centers for practical activity will continue to have validity. Given this, a national center which assumed the role of directing practice would inevitably sacrifice its ability to focus broadly on the ideological struggle for program and strategy and to foster the development of principled communist unification.

This, however, does not mean that a genuine ideological center would have a neutral, or still less a hostile, attitude toward practice among the masses in the pre-party period. On the contrary, it must procede from the point of view that the maturing of communist practice is not just incidental but essential to the advancement of the theoretical struggle. Only the most hidebound idealist would maintain that it will not be necessary to refine our theoretical conceptions by subjecting them to the test of practice – even the limited practice of the pre-party period. By fostering the development of more advanced forms of communist practice, an ideological center will prepare the way for further advancements in the theoretical struggle.

In keeping with this perspective, the task of an ideological center in relation to practice is to organize the summation of the most advanced experience. On a regular basis, the center should sponsor national conferences on its activities in key” areas of mass work (trade unions, national minorities movements, women’s movement, electoral struggles, etc.). These discussions should be designed to sum up the most advanced practice, draw out the general lessons and identify their political implications. Insofar as possible the development of a common line should be advanced, the minority should be encouraged to test the majority’s view and the coordination of practical activity fostered. But, at no time should there be any attempt to restrict any group or participant’s freedom to determine the line to be pursued in its own practice.

Two more points on an ideological center. While a genuine national center should continually strive to incorporate as much of the tendency as possible, it is highly unlikely that it will ever encompass the tendency as a whole. Lack of confidence in the center, political differences with it, or failure to appreciate its central role in party-building may keep some forces out. As a step towards minimizing the potential for sectarianism on the one hand and towards maximizing its potential for growth on the other, the ideological center should nevertheless take the initiative to draw these forces into its activities. It should pay particular attention to developing any positive contribution that they could make and even circulate views which diverge from its own. The conception that the center and its adherents have a monopoly on Marxist-Leninist wisdom must absolutely be avoided.

Second, the ideological center for the anti-“left” tendency should not ignore its important tasks in relation to the ultra-lefts. Lacking a thoroughgoing critique of “left-wing” communism and a positive doctrine, a center will not be able to penetrate the ranks of the “lefts” very deeply in its earlier stages. But as the center, develops its politics, it will become more and more capable of bringing about a separation between the consolidated “left” opportunists and the honest, but misled, anti-revisionists under their influence. To forget this important task is objectively to write off the hundreds of experienced and dedicated communists who are currently following a bankrupt line.


Having clarified our view of the kind of center needed by our movement, it is necessary to turn our attention to the question of how such a center can be forged. Obviously it is not just a simple matter of calling a meeting to present and adopt a plan to establish a national center, elect leadership, and so on. This process could well lead to a step forward in the tendency’s development but it cannot yield a genuine leading ideological center. The development of a viable center depends on the emergence of real ideological leadership for the tendency, leadership which is capable of properly identifying the key problems impeding the further development of the trend at each phase, capable of leading our forces in the effort to solve these problems and of advancing the struggle to unite communists around the solutions arrived at. It is only the maturation of such ideological leadership that will yield a center with a genuine leading character.

On this one point it is necessary to be especially frank: at present, such leadership does not exist. Despite the fact that many capable comrades have emerged, comrades of proven potential, we have yet to construct a tested core of leaders. And further, it must also be stated that the starting point for the development of such a core is the destruction of all vain and self-congratulatory illusions to the contrary. Those who are unwilling to face up to this severe weakness will certainly be incapable of helping to overcome it.

A genuine ideological core can only emerge in the process of struggle. In particular, it will be brought forth as a by-product of protracted theoretical struggle, struggle which has as its main aim the unification of the bulk of genuine communists around the program, strategy and basic principles of tactics for the U.S. revolution. These leaders will not necessarily be those who have read the most Marx or Lenin, they will not necessarily be those with the most professional or flowery style and they will not necessarily be charismatic or even exciting. They will distinguish themselves by their ability to lead the tendency forward, to guide it through the twists and turns that it inevitably must take, to carefully nuture its consolidation and growth and by their talent to address, before all others, each concrete step in the tendency’s development without losing sight of the long run aims of the revolutionary process. The real test of this ability will not, of course, come in theory but in practice – that is, claims to leadership must be measured against those who actually assume an advanced role.

It is not any process of struggle that will generate real ideological leadership. No viable ideological core can emerge in secret meetings of “leading” comrades, hidden behind closed doors and isolated from the bulk of the practical workers in the tendency. Instead of leadership distinguished by its ability to advance the communist movement along the actual path to the Party, a secret process is likely to generate “leadership” characterized by unprincipled compromise, opportunism and intrigue. Instead of encouraging the organization of a clash of the differing views which must inevitably exist in the early stages of the tendency’s development – before the tendency as a whole so that every comrade would be capable of interjecting his or her opinion into the controversy, secret meetings would be likely to foster the submerging of differences in the interests of winning the respect of other “leading” comrades or even, more likely, of strengthening the position of a circle of self-proclaimed leaders at the expense of its competitors. Instead of demanding that leadership prove its quality by really clarifying the burning issues before the tendency, secrecy is likely to nourish the kind of “leadership” which is marked most sharply by its sensitivity to the unquestioned prejudices of anti-revisionists. And instead of shaping a leadership that frankly and openly sets its views before the tendency as a whole, secrecy is likely to rear a “leadership” which argues that the tendency is too backward to entertain its advanced views and engages in political manipulation and intrigue. In short, it is likely to give birth to a leadership characterized more by political posturing than by a genuine political clarity.

It is only public, movement-wide ideological struggle that can provide the context for the emergence of a viable ideological core. Open struggle will tend to subject any given political line to the broadest and deepest possible critique by engaging the tendency as a whole. It will tend to prevent a small group of self-declared “leaders” from cramping ideological debate by consciously limiting those who can participate. In addition, it will encourage the development of unity on the basis of genuine agreement with a particular line, instead of tailing behind a circle of “leading” comrades whose views happen to be in vogue. And finally, by connecting the ideological struggle to the bulk of the practical workers in the movement, it will ensure that the elaboration of line provided by the emerging ideological core is consistently subjected to such testing in mass practice that our tendency’s level of development allows. And it will ensure subjection to the proper refinement process that only the continued integration of theory and practice can foster. Not only this, but a connection with the practical workers of the movement will give impetus for the ideological struggle to address the actual questions posed by the class struggle – questions whose answers provide the indispensable basis for program, strategy and basic principles of tactics for the U.S. revolution.

For a genuine leading center to emerge, it is also necessary to grasp the proper relationship between the ideological center process and the various existing local and regional communist organizations. Given the prominence of a few specific organizations and the large number of local groups, this is a particularly important point. These organizations function primarily as directing centers for practice: that is, they exist to guide the intervention of their members in the mass movement. As such, they are positive organizational forms and can make significant contributions to the party-building process. They can advance our theoretical work both through developing theory and testing it in practice. They can develop a body of experience as to the organizational forms most appropriate for communist work. And they can help to train, develop and steel revolutionaries. Because of this positive potential, they are forms that should be generally encouraged on a local, regional and national basis.

At the same time the directing centers have important limitations. Our movement has not yet developed a full program and strategy for the U.S. revolution; at best it has only a partial view. But only a fully elaborated program and strategy provides the basis for uniting the bulk of genuine revolutionaries within a single democratic centralist organization. Communist organizations formed on the basis of a partial program, whether local or national, can only attract a limited section of the revolutionaries. Inevitably, a good number of genuine Marxist-Leninists will stand outside them.

It is this fact that necessitates the creation of an ideological center independent of the direction centers. For there must be some form capable of bringing together all communists, whether they choose to participate in a directing center or not, and engaging them in the common theoretical work and centralized ideological struggle necessary to resolve the questions of program and strategy. But the ideological center must not only be independent of the directing centers, its agenda must take clear precedence. Otherwise, the interests of the tendency as a whole cannot assert their predominance over those of any of its parts.

This means, first and foremost, a systematic struggle to root out the narrow circle mentality that tends to grip directing centers. The circle mentality consists in the view that one’s own circle contains all the elements necessary to forge the leading core of the future party. To build the party, one’s own circle has only to do the necessary theoretical work by itself and then fight to unite the remaining communists behind its views. This mentality inevitably fosters the view that one’s own leaders have a virtual monopoly on Marxist-Leninist wisdom and that all the other competing circles have cornered the market for opportunism. Thus, it breeds organizational hegemonism and sectarianism and cuts against the grain of the necessary common work called for above.

It is not however sufficient to just root out the circle spirit. The barriers imposed by directing centers on ideological struggle must also be broken down. While these centers should be allowed to bind their minorities to advance the dominant view of their members in the mass movement, this practice cannot be allowed in the communist movement. Instead, each and every member should participate in theoretical work and ideological struggle as an individual. Thus, they should be free not only to state but to struggle for their own view, even if it contradicts the perspective of the majority in their organization. And they should also be free to accept any positions of leadership in the ideological center process without being subject to either approval or removal by their organizations. Unless this procedure, is followed, we cannot be certain that the virtue of a given line is judged, not according to how its influence would advance the cause of a particular circle, but on its merits.

One more fundamental point on the forging of an ideological center. While it is theoretically possible that such a center could emerge spontaneously, to just allow that to occur has a number of real dangers. In the first place, spontaneity would likely lead to the repetition of the prior experience of the anti-revisionist movement. Small groups of leaders would probably advance a “leading” political line – a line whose very formulation is developed in the context of small circle discussions and advanced publicly only when fully consolidated. The struggle to win other communists over to this line would become characterized by a “mountain-stronghold-mentality” with the circle trying to brand all its opponents as consolidated opportunists regardless of the significance of their divergence with its line. Polemics would be entered into, not from the standpoint pf clarifying genuine differences, estimating their real import and elucidating the context in which they become obstacles to common work, but from the narrow perspective of scoring points against one’s opponent, “ideological struggle” waged in this manner does not allow for the assertion of the interests of the communist movement as a whole and can only lead to fragmentation and circle warfare. In addition, a spontaneous process can retard the forging of a leading core by isolating potential comrades for that core in competing circles rather than encouraging them to address the movement’s problems in common.

Our present task, then, is to shape a process which will encourage the emergence of a genuine ideological center. The four principles explained above summarize some of the features that should characterize this process.


In our view, the main step that should be taken along the path to forging a leading ideological center is the establishment of a single national center for the anti-“left” tendency. The agenda of this center would not be to attempt to immediately fulfill the full role of the kind of center elaborated above. It would not attempt to assume full responsibilities for guiding the ideological development of the tendency, for coordinating the struggle against various opportunist views or for leading the elaboration of program. Nor would it assume that its leadership contained all the elements that must be assembled to forge a genuine ideological core. Instead, it would attempt to create the mechanisms that would tend to identify the most advanced forces and allow them to gradually assume leadership of the center.

Initially, the national center should concentrate its energies on two tasks. First, it should focus the attention of the entire anti-“left” tendency on the theoretical struggle. After identifying the key questions facing our movement, it should propose a process of study of the foundations of theory on these questions and of the various solutions already developed, organize a written exchange of views on how the questions can best be solved, and schedule forums, debates and conferences to deepen the discussion and sum up the degree of unity in the tendency. Where preliminary theoretical work is necessary in order to even discuss a question, the national center should initiate study projects drawing together comrades from as many parts of the country, as practicable. These projects would have both a minimum and a maximum objective – minimally, they would generate a body of knowledge that would allow for informed discussion and, maximally, they would strive for a unified perspective. In addition, the center should organize a series of conferences on various areas of mass work, conferences which would strive to synthesize the practical experience of the tendency and thus further the integration of theory and practice.

While it is impossible to provide a precise outline of the central theoretical questions facing the maturation of our trend, it is possible to identify several key questions and to give some sense of their priority. The primary theoretical question that must be taken up is that of the nature, essence and basic forms of ultra-leftism. This question must be accorded special priority because it provides the indispensable foundation for genuine advances in our trend’s theoretical work. Without grasping the main features and essence of the “leftwing” communism that has continually paralyzed anti-revisionists, we cannot be certain that our theoretical “breakthroughs” are not just the same old garbage dressed in new garb. And without breaking with the “leftist” methodology of viewing the world, we will never be successful in grappling with any of the new and complex problems raised in the United States.

Following upon the analysis of ultra-leftism, it is essential to address the question of party-building strategy – what is the essence of party-building, what are the primary and related secondary tasks, what are the pre-requisites for a party and how do we best organize the struggle for it. In addition to party-building, we must develop a concrete critique of revisionism in the U.S., analyze the basis of racism and the oppression of women, determine the main forms and mechanisms for communist intervention in the bourgeois political process, define the basic currents of international developments (including, of course, the class nature of the U.S.S.R.), sum up the history of the CPUSA and the Third International, etc. Priorities in this last series of questions should be set not on the basis of some abstract scheme of political significance, but according to how the resolution of the question would contribute to the advancement of the U.S. communist movement on its road to the party.

The second main task is to centralize the ideological struggle in our tendency. At present, the ideological struggle, like most things in our tendency, lives a small circle existence. Genuine theoretical struggle, where communists are not only free to grapple with but are also forced to reckon with the real ideological content of contending views is, for the most part, confined to the internal processes of numerous local centers of communist activity. To the extent that struggle between circles develops it has more the appearance than the reality of genuine two-line conflict. For those participating in the exchange of views, the debate is not primarily a question of trying to resolve differences or to unite with the more correct view but of defending at all costs the viewpoint of one’s own organization – a negative dynamic obviously reinforced by the common practice of strict democratic centralism. As a result, the unifying impact of the ideological struggle is lost and the common interests of the tendency as a whole are submerged in the narrow, partial and disconnected struggle occurring within each circle.

In order to combat this situation, the ideological struggle should be centralized. Instead of allowing each separate local organization to determine its ideological focus at random, a national center should ensure that the whole tendency focuses on resolving the most burning issues. Instead of capitulating to the shallow, partial contention that emerges between two lines in a local organization, a center should see to it that the main opposing lines are raised to the national level and that the strongest arguments for each side are brought forward. And instead of allowing movement-wide struggle to be cramped by the discipline of small circles, the center should create the context where every local organization would allow the interests of the national debate to assert the primary influence over their internal life.

The centralization of the ideological struggle could be achieved through a number of means. The center could publish regular bulletins, containing lengthy statements by each side of an issue, in order to spark or deepen a controversy. These bulletins could be accompanied by short study guides, and every organization, study group and individual encouraged to take them up. Subsequently, a whole series of local discussions, regional gatherings and national conferences should be developed to further the debate. Even a national series of forums geared towards a frontal clash of views is possible.

While secondary to ideological ones, a national center would also have important organizational responsibilities. It should see itself as bringing together the broad diversity of organizational forms that make up the tendency. This is not just a question of bringing organizations from various sections of the country into contact with one another nor even of developing relations between organizations in a single locality. It is also a question of developing links between organizations and the other viable forms for participation in the tendency – through collectives, study groups, and as individuals.

A special organizational responsibility of a center would be to pay particular attention to the task of creating the conditions and forms that will encourage substantial numbers of national minority Marxist-Leninists to actively participate in the center’s activities. Because of the heritage of racism in the communist movement – which is just one more reflection of the centrality of the question in all of U.S. society – many minority communists are understandably hesitant about participating in organized, predominantly white, expressions of this movement. By focusing primarily on consolidating its adherents on the centrality of the struggle against racism and secondarily on developing special forms for drawing in national minority Marxist-Leninists this problem can be overcome.

In order to facilitate this organizational work, it will be necessary to avoid a federationist approach to the Center. In particular, it is important to oppose the mentality that would restrict participation in the center’s work to those who are members of local communist organizations alone. The center should be open to the contribution of individuals at all levels. And leadership should not be chosen on the basis of selecting representatives from organizations. Where members of organizations are to assume positions of leadership in the center, they should be elected as individuals, insuring that, as far as the center is concerned, their first allegiance is to its work and not to their particular organization.

Special attention to theoretical work, coupled with the centralization of the ideological struggle – all set in the broad organizational context described above – would tend to encourage a leading core to come forward. Having been identified on the basis of their role in the advancement of the theoretical struggle, centralized ideological struggle would serve to foster their unification with other leading comrades who shared their views. As the struggle progressed and passed through the inevitable alignments and realignments of leading communists that would occur, gradually a leading ideological core would be forged.


While it is impossible to give a precise blueprint of how a national center could be developed, the outline of that process can be set forth. First it is necessary that the center be placed on a firm foundation of unity – a foundation that defines the main points of the perspective of the tendency and its plan for a leading ideological center. The basic elements of that foundation are: 1) the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism (dialectical and historical materialism, the class struggle as history’s locomotive, the dialectic of evolutionary and revolutionary change, the class nature of the state, political power as the decisive question of every revolution, and the identity of the interests of the working class and the oppressed peoples of the whole world); 2) an application of those principles to the U.S. (state-monopoly capitalism, the revolutionary class and its main allies, the necessity of a non-parliamentary road to power, the centrality of racism, the importance of sexism, the united front); 3) a drawing of lines of demarcation with opportunism generally – and revisionism and dogmatism in particular; 4) an analysis of the main danger facing the communist movement; 5) a brief analysis of the state of the communist movement and an identification of its main tasks; and 6) the call for a leading ideological center along with a plan for its development.

In our view, points 1 through 4 are basically contained in the OC’s 18 points. While these points may need development in several areas - notably on the international situation and on the centrality of racism – we do not think that a whole new set needs to be drafted. In their two years of circulation they have not only served to rally the bulk of the anti-“left” tendency but also none of the OC’s critics has shown them to be inadequate in any substantial respect. Nevertheless, we are not unalterably opposed to reopening the debate as to whether they serve as a sufficient ideological foundation for developing a national center.

Points 5 and 6 are treated in this document. We intend to circulate it as broadly as possible in order to engage as much of the tendency as practicable in the process of defining, developing and consolidating around a conception and plan for forging a single leading ideological center. We hope to solicit responses from many organizations and individuals and circulate those comments which, one way or another, make a significant contribution to the discussion. Eventually, we hope to organize a series of regional and national meetings to sum up the discussion and finalize the plan.

The Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center was created to guide such a process – and remains the appropriate form to initiate and conduct it today. Its sole purpose is to facilitate drawing as much as possible of the anti-“left” tendency into actively defining the character of a national center and elaborating a plan for its development. In order to maximize its potential to achieve this objective, participation in the OC is not limited to any distinct political current within the anti-“lefts” but is open to all who can unite with its broadly framed 18 points of unity. And it is structured so as to encourage input from organizations, collectives, study groups and individuals.

The Steering Committee of the OC presents this draft plan for your consideration. In our opinion it serves as a concrete call for all genuine Marxist-Leninists to join us in the process of forging a single ideological center for our tendency. To do so will be to take a large step down the road to a viable vanguard party.