Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

National Steering Committee Response to Letters About Labor Day Conference

First Issued: June 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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To OCIC Membership,

Since the Labor Day Conference there has been an active exchange of letters between OC members. Ideological struggle has been waged over many of the themes of the conference. The bulk of these exchanges, although not all, have been included in this Packet. The NSC has written its summation of the conference which contains its viewpoint on each agenda topic. At the same time we feel that it is necessary for the NSC to clarify where it stands in relationship to many of these issues raised.

In most cases the NSC has expressed its views. For example, the NSC has written Conciliation of Ultra-Leftism and OC Membership in response to those who have argued that people who don’t see point 18 as a necessary line of demarcation, but who uphold the content of point 18, should not be OC members. In response to the TMLC-RBSG letter on the National Conference, the NSC has written a reply. And more recently, the NSC has responded in the SC Bulletin to the Minority Platform of the TMLC.

We should add that we unite with the basic thrust of the MSU, and Ben Gold in relationship to the points, they have raised in regarding the TMLC-RBSG forces. In addition, we agree with the points raised by Frank Carey in response to the COG comrades. And an NSC member Pat F. expresses the unity of the NSC in response to Phil C. regarding his intervention in the discussion of the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference Resolution at the Labor Day Conference.

In addition, we feel that it is necessary to further response to two main themes of the conference: these include the question of democracy and errors of the NSC in this regards, and secondly, to deepen the viewpoint of the NSC in relationship to the various issues raised by the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference Resolution.

I. NSC Errors in Preparation for Labor Day and Democracy in the OCIC

Almost, all of the summations and letters we have received point out the real weakness in the preparation for the National Labor Day Conference. The NSC summation unites with these criticisms. In some cases documents were not circulated early enough for adequate preparation. The NSC failed to circulate the resolutions on the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference, or the point 18 membership resolution prior to the conference. At the conference, various errors were made in having restrictive time limits, and not giving enough time to certain agenda points.

The NSC realizes that these are more important errors than simple organization oversights. They are errors which can impede the ideological struggle, and that is what the OCIC is all about. Therefore, the root is not simply organizational sloppiness, but a failure on the part of the NSC to fully grasp what process is necessary for full ideological struggle. The impact of these errors is to compromise full ideological struggle, and consolidation around the various issues which we seek to organize the ideological struggle for. Because people are not fully prepared to discuss questions, struggle is not as full and all sided as it could be. The objective effect is to weaken democratic debate within the OCIC.

OCIC comrades have proposed various improvements and suggestions regarding organizational practice. These are important, including insuring prior circulation of documents and resolutions, extending time limits etc. The NSC will be improving in this area. In addition, and more importantly, to the rectification of these errors has been the development of various forms of ideological struggle in the OCIC. For example, the one year workplan proposes centralized, organized debate on the major questions of the OCIC, including on the regional level. In addition, the development of both the NSC Bulletin, and the OCIC Bulletin will insure a form for the broadest debate of OC issues. And the creation of an education coordinator will contribute to having study materials for every OC member to prepare on the topics. The NSC feels confident that if we continue to implement these rectifications, that we will make a qualitative advance in our ability to “organize the ideological struggle within the OCIC.

While accenting the basic criticisms around preparation and working for their rectification, the NSC rejects certain incorrect criticisms raised about the Labor Day Conference. These criticisms are part of the TMLC-RBSG letter which argues that weaknesses are part of a anti-democratic, and bureaucratic centralist practice of the National Steering Committee. More recently, a document published March 10th, by a minority in BAWOC (to the Steering Committee of the OCIC and to all OC comrades) uses various examples from the Labor Day Conference to argue essentially the same point:

The separation of organization consolidation from ideological and theoretical struggle has also resulted in bureaucratic centralism to appear in the OCIC internally, the political line of the OCIC so far has been developed in a commandist fashion, with the SC simply putting forward its lines and gaining hasty approval of the membership. (page 9)

The NSC rejects the criticism that some of the weaknesses of the Labor Day Conference preparation are part of a larger “bureaucratic centralist” deviation operating within the NSC. For this reason we want to address specifically, the opportunism behind this criticism.

The first point, is that both the TMLC-RBSG, and the BAWOC minority imply that is not the responsibility of the NSC to put forward a leading line to begin discussion in the OCIC. It is implied that the NSC is commandist for developing its position on the summation of the OCIC, the Rectification forces, the future agenda of the OC, etc.. This is an ultra-democratic view of leadership, which argues that leadership should not try to assert its leading position and win others to it. We have addressed this point in our response to the minority platform. We doubt that these forces would openly argue that the NSC does not have the right to assert its position, although they clearly imply this.

Their second thrust is to argue that the NSC is “simply putting forward its lines and gaining hasty approval of the member slip.” The key work for the BAWOC is ’hasty’. The letter goes on to argue that the NSC proposed the OC Point 18 membership policy without any ideological and theoretical argumentation and struggle. Similarly the BAWOC minority criticizes the SC for the “attitude taken toward the adoption and promotion of the Draft Plan.” And develops a similar thrust in the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference resolution. In contrast to the commandist characterization of the NSC, the BAWOC minority proposes that the SC “use the correct method and promote a broad discussion and ideological struggle within the OCIC and our movement as a whole,” and further state, “the SC must encourage and organize the production and dissemination of all viewpoint on all questions facing the OCIC.” (page 10)

The thrust of these criticisms are wrong on two counts. First, they pose the difficulties in developing good democratic and broad ideological struggle solely in terms of errors which the NSC made. In their extremely subjective and one sided analysis of the conference, they fail to bring out the numbers of errors and obstacles. For example, they do not mention the significant impact which SOC and TMLC refusals to raise their positions had on democratic struggle. The fact that TMLC abandoned the conference after the first day, or that SOC refused to put forward its views on local centers is conveniently left out. We would have to agree with MSU that far more serious errors in violating correct norms of ideological struggle were made by the various Minority positions, than by the NSC.

Secondly, while the TMLC-RBSG and BAWOC Minority have identified real weaknesses in preparation of certain parts of the conference, they have not shown that that these weaknesses are somehow part of a larger NSC failure to organize debate within the OCIC around its points of view. Both past and present practice of the NSC would refute this point.

One could hardly characterize the 2 year struggle over point 18, which the NSC organized and lead, as simply, “gaining hasty approval of the membership.” Nor could one explain the Local Centers Packet which contained a number of documents from both the Minority and Majority positions in Southern California, in addition to the NSC’s position, and a bibliography.

A brief study of the work of the NSC since the Labor Day Conference also established the approach taken toward organizing broad ideological struggle within the OCIC. The One Year Workplan outlines the need for open contention around both primary and secondary issues within the OCIC. The NSC discussion Bulletin and the OC discussion Bulletin are vehicles for this debate. Regional conferences are planned 3 times a year. In regards to the Draft Plan, the OC-SC has elaborate and extensive process of study, discussion and debate on this document which includes local, regional discussion within the OCIC and circulation with the broader tendency. And ironically we would have to point out to our critics, that it was the NSC who finally circulated the Minority Platform of the TMLC because they had decided to circulate it initially to only those who they felt might agree with them. Thus, we would want to know from those who exaggerate the NSC’s errors, to explain concretely how the workplan, bulletins, and proposed conferences all short of your own demand that, the SC, “promised broad discussion and ideological struggle of views within the OCIC and the movement as a whole.” (page 9)

The assessment made that the NSC is bureaucratic centralist is extremely one-sided. It is based on taking certain real errors made by the NSC at the conference, and exaggerating them. It is founded upon failing to look all sidedly at the various obstacles at the conference in good ideological struggle, and failing to take a self-critical attitude. And finally, it is based on looking at errors outside of the context of the overall past and present practice of the NSC. For these reasons and criticisms are rejected by the NSC as opportunist, and anti-leadership attitudes based on subjectivism and ultra-democracy believe that such criticisms are raised because TMLC and BAWOC Minority have had a difficult time defending their political views on the most important issues of the OC and conference. It is very common tactic for a minority with difficulty defending its views to raise the specter of incorrect methods of struggle to divert discussion from issues of content.

II. NSC Response to Criticisms About the National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conference Resolution

A second major area of controversy has been over the passing of the resolution in support of the National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conference. There can be no doubt that the most serious error in the NSC’s preparation for the Labor Day Conference was its failure to provide advanced preparation for this discussion. The NSC failed to circulate the resolution prior to the conference, did not include the topic on the original agenda, and did not circulate the speeches and resolutions from the conference. The failure to provide leadership, and advanced preparation around this topic deepened the NSC’s error or racism in regards to the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference. For during the previous year the NSC failed to keep the OC membership adequately informed and up on the Conference developments.

The root error is racism, and its effect is to undercut the ability of the NSC to unite people around the theoretical contributions of the conference in relationship to the particular tasks of Minority Marxist Leninists. Perhaps more important for the OCIC, the lack of preparation lead to the weakening of the struggle against white chauvinist errors that were made by OC forces in relationship to the conference. Had NSC leadership and preparation been better, more consolidation around the struggle against these errors could have occurred.

At the conference the resolution received near unanimous support. But since that time there has been a re-questioning of the vote on the part of many comrades in the OCIC. This re-questioning has occurred on two levels. Many people, while supporting the basic thrust of the resolution, have begun to argue that since the process was so poor that the resolution shouldn’t have been voted on. Still others, a smaller grouping, are calling into question the basic content of the resolution. The NSC supports both the content of the resolution, and the decision to vote on it at the Labor Day Conference.

No one has openly opposed the content of the resolution in the letters that we received. But the letter from TMLC-RBSG, and more recently the letter from BAWOC Minority certainly do question the basic content of the resolution in a more veiled manor. The BAWOC Minority’s letter is the clearest example. In their section on the National Minority’s conference, they argue that the NSC “obscured” the relationship between the conference and the OCIC. They implied that the NSC fooled people into thinking that it was independent of the OC. They then go on to argue that they can understand why the OCIC would want to have outreach projects for its members and periphery, but that this must be “defended”! in relationship to the OC’s principle of movement wide struggle.

The NSC did not obscure the relationship between the OCIC and the National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conference. There were certainly weaknesses in the NSC’s information to the base of the OCIC, and some confusion about the conference among some OC members. But the NSC’s speech at the National Labor Day Conference clearly explained why the Planning Committee was established independent of the OCIC and the NSC. Comrade Scott explained,

...So we were talking about having it in the context of the OCIC. And then, we realized that, in our opinion anyway, if we had it in the context of the OCIC, many, groups in the OCIC were not very good on the question of the struggle against racism. That many folks viewed it just as, well, if we get together these National Minorities, we get them to join our organization. So we thought, folks were not very clear on the question of racism, and to try to have it under the leadership of the OCIC would, in fact, impair the process, the deeper process, or in fact, folks who often times distribute various racist kinds of approaches to the question of National Minorities, in fact being in charge of their process, we decided that the conference shouldn’t be held under the auspices of the OCIC, but those of us on the Committee who supported the idea, in fact the Committee united around it, and agreed to give support to that kind of process. At that point I took part in the Planning Committee and one other individual who is in the OCIC started looking around for other independent National Minority Marxist-Leninist who agreed with the 18 points of unity and who agreed around the whole idea of the single Ideological Center. Those folks that we found and united with, then became the Planning Committee to plan the conference of National Minority Marxist-Leninists. (page 4-7 of Transcript)

The underlying reason that the conference was independent of the OCIC was because of racism in the OCIC. There were a number of racist errors in the conjecture of the BAWOC minority that it wasn’t or shouldn’t have been independent. First it implied that the Planning Committee was really lead by the NSC, instead-of the truth which developed, lead and executed the process of the conference. This really is a slap in the face to those minorities who, while not being in the OCIC, provided the leadership of the process without secret guidance from the NSC. This accusation makes minority comrades out to be stupid, or incapable of taking up important theoretical work for our tendency. Secondly, the BAWOC minority’s refusal to understand why it was independent, is a failure to grasp that racism in the OCIC made an independent conference necessary. By stating that really was not independent, but an outreach project of the OCIC, it avoids the central point: racism in the OCIC. In fact, the numerous errors made by the OCIC regarding the National Minority Marxist-Leninist conference, both during and since the conference, has only confirmed the original decision by comrades on the need to establish an independent Planning Committee. The Planning Committee has certainly been much more effective in organizing the conference than the OCIC would have been. Finally, we can’t help but point out the BAWOC minority was present at the Labor Day Conference, and for them to listen to comrade Scott’s speech, which in depth explained the origins of the conference, the reasons for its independence, etc., and then to argue that the NSC “obscured” the relationship is in itself racist.

The second disagreement with the resolution raised by the BAWOC minority is that the conference did not include the whole tendency. Without being said explicitly, the BAWOC calls into question holding a conference on the basis of unity with the 18 points and the single Center. They challenge the NSC on this point by saying, “However, we feel that this more narrow aim, needs to be clearly stated, and defended in the context of the broader interests of the OC in organizing the tendency wide discussion and struggle on key questions.” (page 7, BAWOC minority paper)

The NSC certainly did defend why the conference had a specific basis of unity around the ideological center and the 18 points and why it wasn’t simply thrown open to all minorities in our tendency. Again, we must point out that the error of white chauvinism inherent in the BAWOC minority’s assertion that the NSC has not stated its view on this topic. Comrade Scott’s speech addressed this point very explicitly at the Labor Day Conference:

A lot of people in the OCIC were critical of us because we never made a call for a National Minority Marxist Leninist conference. We organized a conference of folks who were able to pull together on the basis of their history, on the basis of their current work, and on the basis of our Planning Committee’s knowledge of that. We pulled those folks together and had a conference, but we never put out a call for a National Minority Marxist-Leninists to unite and let’s have a conference. We didn’t do that. We didn’t do that because we didn’t think that our unity was based on our skin color. We thought our unity was, like folks in this room, based on our politics. So that we go severely criticized and called sectarian for that posture that we took. That folks said El Comite played the same role in that conference that we should play in it, but we say that we have a particular perspective on a single center and the 18 Principles of Unity. So we united around those points and El Comite did not unite on those points. Nobody called Clay Newlin sectarian, or nobody called Toni or Pat sectarian, when the OCIC did not invite the El Comite as a participant in the point 18 conference. But we were called sectarian for not inviting Victor and the rest of the folks from El Comite to a National Minorities conference, even though the points of unity were the same. But our unity was supposed to have been based on our skin color. (page 48 Transcript)

The NSC has clearly defended the basis unity of the conference. As comrade Scott’s speech points out there is a racist view that because it was a conference of minorities therefore it need not have a defined basis of unity as any OCIC conference has. Many white comrades have incorrectly assumed that the conference was held on racism, instead of on party building.

The bulk of questioning for the resolution has not come from people who oppose the basic content of the resolution, but from those who argue that the process of the passing of the resolution was so poor that it shouldn’t have been attempted. In particular, it has been argued that, without the speeches and summation from the speeches, no basic support for the conference should be given. It has been argued that the racist error of paternalism was made because white comrades voted for the resolution without sufficient information. The most extreme analysis of this kind was made by COG, who argues in their letter, “It is all too easy in our movement to create an atmosphere of guilt baiting in which each tries to outdo the other in finding examples of racism in themselves and others. This opens the door to several serious problems. For example, the overwhelming support for the National Minority conference, about which most delegates knew nothing at all, can only be understood by assuming that many white delegates were afraid to raise objections for fear of being branded as racist.

It is very possible that some white comrades were literal in not raising objections, and perhaps feared that their own racist thinking might be pointed out in a discussion of the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference. So, too, it is very possible that some comrades failed to raise questions about the conference and voted for the resolution without really probing their questions. This points to the various weaknesses of white comrades around the struggle against racism in the OCIC, that we must strive to overcome. But this avoids the real question, which is was there a basis for the resolution to be supported?

The NSC’s view is that the resolution should have been supported because it was a correct resolution. It is simply not true that delegates had no knowledge of the conference. A lengthy speech was given on the conference, members of the Planning Committee of the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference spoke at length to various aspects of the conference, pointing out its positive character and answering peoples questions. Time for discussion and questions was allotted, for anyone to raise questions.

In addition, it is not true that the resolution called for an endorsement of the theoretical propositions of the conference. This was explained in the speech, it was explained during the discussion that the resolution was not asking for an endorsement of the theoretical work done in the speeches which many comrades in the OCIC had not read. The resolution called for supporting the conference as a positive step forward, that its basis of unity was correct, and that the OCIC should make a criticism for its various racist errors, and push forward in taking up a study of the results of the conference. The OC base did have sufficient information to discuss and vote on these points.

Those who have argued that it was incorrect to vote on the resolution without the speeches, are putting the weaknesses in the process over the importance of the political content of the resolution. In the NSC’s view the various errors do not warrant abandoning the correct political content of the resolution. In fact, the failure to uphold the correctness of the resolution is a capitulation to various forms of racist thinking on a number of points. A failure to uphold the resolution, conciliates with those who do not think that it was correct for the PC to be independent of the NSC due to the racism of the OCIC. A failure to uphold the resolution conciliates with the Rectification forces and those in the OCIC who think that the conference should have been organized on skin color rather than on political unity, and who falsely charge that the PC was sectarian. A failure to uphold the resolution conciliates with the racist argument that we shouldn’t have voted on the resolution because of the paternalism or white guilt of some white comrades.

Perhaps most importantly, a failure to defend the passing of the resolution is a retraction of the important self-criticisms of racism that the OCIC made in the third section of the resolution. None of the criticisms of the resolution had addressed this fact. The resolution was an important statement of self-criticism on the part of the OCIC. It was a statement which committed the OCIC to analyze its errors and root out the various manifestations of white chauvinism in regards to the conference. No criticism of the conference resolution, that we have received so far, has spoken to the self-criticism, nor argued that they should be maintained. This is a very serious capitulation to white chauvinist practice in the OCIC. And finally, it is a retraction of the OC’s commitment to follow up on the gains of the National Minority Marxist Leninist Conference by studying its documents.

In the NSC’s view, the National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conference Resolution should be supported because the conference did represent a step forward for our movement, because the basis of unity for the conference was correct, because the OC does have to make self-criticism for its racist errors, and because the whole OC will benefit from its theoretical work.

OC Steering Committee
June 1980