Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs

Rectification vs. Fusion

The Struggle Over Party Building Line


The purpose of this pamphlet is two-fold.

First, it is to make a forthright presentation before U.S. Marxist-Leninists of the decision by the National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs (The Club Network) not to affiliate with the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC).

When, after a lengthy discussion at our founding conference, we arrived at a unanimous decision on this matter, we immediately determined to make the reasons for this decision known. The result is the first article in this pamphlet, written by Club National Chairperson Irwin Silber.

But our conference was barely over and work on this pamphlet had not even begun when a new element entered into the situation. This was a public speech in Oakland, California, April 4, 1979, by Clay Newlin, chairperson of the steering committee of the OCIC. This talk was a sectarian attack on the Club Network and its party building line, although at the time neither Newlin nor anyone else had seen any of the documents to come out of our founding conference.

In our opinion, Newlin’s speech is an attempt to prevent the full unfolding of a genuine and necessary ideological struggle in our movement over the decisive question of party building line by casting doubt on the political motivations of those forces who have led in the development of the line on “rectification and reestablishment,” many of whom played an active role in the founding of the Club Network.

This situation has lent an additional urgency and a new dimension to the function originally assigned to this pamphlet. So we have decided to expand on it.

First, we have decided to print in full the text of Newlin’s Oakland speech. In some respects, the text of the speech itself will more effectively demonstrate the sectarianism of the approach behind it than any commentary on our part could possibly do. We urge comrades to read this speech carefully.

In our view, the speech does not take up the actual political and ideological issues involved in the struggle over party building line in any concrete fashion. In fact, if we were to sum up the principal theme of this speech, it would have to be that since the Club Network has decided not to affiliate itself with the OCIC, no further proof of its “sectarianism” is required.

Now such an assertion may satisfy a certain small mindedness which has sought to fetishize the particular organizational form of the OCIC as the one legitimate vehicle for party building in our movement. Some, perhaps, may feel that the question of OC affiliation is sufficient as a criterion for determining who is practicing Marxism-Leninism and who is not. But to hold to such fetishes and criteria and simultaneously to accuse others of sectarianism and “circle warfare” is an exercise not merely in obfuscation, but hypocrisy.

In our view, Newlin’s speech is the living demonstration of where the “fusion” line on party building ultimately leads. Newlin attempts to trivialize the issues involved in our trend’s four-year struggle over party building line because the “fusion” line tends to trivialize the central significance of political line in general. Thus the rudimentary organizational ties between some two dozen local Marxist-Leninist groupings are mystified and given a political significance that outweighs the realities of the actual struggle over party building line with which everyone in our trend has become familiar.

Frankly, we believe that Newlin’s speech is a somewhat desperate and frantic rear-guard action designed to shore up a line on party building which has not been able to demonstrate its ability to solve the outstanding political problems before our movement. It has not been able to solve its self-assigned task of recruiting numbers of “advanced workers” into the ranks of the party building movement nor has it demonstrated any capacity whatsoever for creating “a communist current” in the working class movement as a means of establishing the most favorable conditions for party building.

What is, perhaps, worse–since we never suffered from the illusion that the “fusion” line could possibly accomplish these tasks–is the fact that we are seeing the sorry consequences of what happens when a section of our movement is trained under a backward line. They do not develop theoretically. Their political advances are minimal. They remain locked into relatively primitive forms of organization. The ideology of scientific socialism should emancipate the subjective factor, particularly of communists, enabling them to set about the difficult and complex task of overhauling the communist movement in the U.S. in order to prepare the way for the reestablishment of a vanguard revolutionary party. But the “fusion” line has had the opposite effect, holding back the growth of communists and keeping comrades in a state of underdevelopment.

Our other reason for printing Newlin’s speech, of course, is to enable us to deepen our critique of the “fusion” line by responding to the numerous prejudices and contradictions to which it inevitably gives rise–a process which will be much clearer to all in our movement if they have a text of the speech before them.

This pamphlet now contains such a response. The response was drafted by Silber in conjunction with three Club comrades who attended Newlin’s speech in Oakland–Melinda Paras, Bruce Occena and Marcia Altman.

But in order to set the clearest context for studying these 3 articles, it will be best if we locate the question of our relations with the OCIC and our critique of Newlin’s speech in the broader political outlook of the Club Network.

At its founding conference (March 30-April 1, 1979), the National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs took up three main questions: a conception of how the central task before U.S. Marxist-Leninists today–party building–can be advanced correctly and accomplished; the particular nature of the Club Network; and a strategic conception of its tasks and relations between the Club Network and the rest of the Marxist-Leninist movement.

The first question was resolved in the formulation that “the principal task before U.S. Marxist-Leninists today is the rectification of the general line of the U.S. Communist movement and the reestablishment of its party.” The content of this formulation is elaborated at length in a separate document, “Developing the Subjective Factor: The Party Building Line of the National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs.” (To fully understand the points made later, comrades should familiarize themselves with this document.)

The second question was resolved with the understanding that the Club Network would be primarily a “rectification” organization; that is, its activities would be primarily aimed at promoting and popularizing the concept of rectification of the general line as the particular task that the movement as a whole should take up. The Club Network sees the question of party building line as itself one of the major aspects of rectification work–and, at the present time, the key aspect–since it seeks to rectify the very concept of a communist party which was distorted by the triumph of modern revisionism and which was never corrected by the dominant left opportunist forces of the new communist movement. But the Club Network quite consciously does not see itself as the only form of organization suitable to the rectification period. In fact, one of the cornerstones of the line on rectification is that a multiplicity of organizational forms are appropriate and necessary for communists to develop at the present time. The fuller elaboration of this concept is contained in a separate document which is also available: “The Particular Tasks of the Club Network Within the Rectification Movement.”

The third question is the subject of yet another paper, likewise available, where we have put forward our views on the appropriate political and organizational relations between Marxist-Leninist forces in the U.S. at the present time. Since the subject of this pamphlet flows from that concept, let us here briefly repeat some key points:

To begin with, it is necessary for us to draw lines of demarcation between ourselves–meaning the broad spectrum of anti-revisionist, anti-left opportunist forces who constitute the developing trend of Marxism-Leninism in the U.S.–and those who remain trapped in one of these deviations from Marxism-Leninism. In drawing such lines of demarcation, we by no means negate the fact that there are many cadres in the principal left opportunist organizations and even in the revisionist party that have the potential to make major contributions to the revolutionary movement in the U.S. But at present, these cadre are being trained under and thus corrupted by opportunist lines. These cadres will not be won to and retrained under a correct Marxist-Leninist perspective until they are presented with a genuine communist alternative. And so, it is incumbent upon us to proceed with our party building efforts without them and, indeed, we cannot hope to include them until and unless they too make the necessary break with revisionism and left opportunism.

Within the anti-revisionist, anti-left opportunist trend, the Club Network is committed to developing principled and direct political relations with all forces: local party building organizations, national centers, Marxist-Leninist publications, and other Marxist-Leninists whose work may at this moment be primarily in the mass movements of the national minorities, the trade unions and other working class organizations, the women’s movement and the anti-imperialist movement. We are open to and interested in joint discussions, common theoretical and practical work, unified political actions, communist caucuses within the mass movements and the full exchange of documents and publications.

Our theme for this period is interaction. It flows directly from our strategic line on party building, namely that it is the relations among communists themselves rather than the relations between the present communist movement and the existing spontaneous mass movement that are decisive in the present stage of party building. These relations are guided by the principle of unity-struggle-unity: unity in drawing lines of demarcation with revisionism and left opportunism; struggle over party building line and other outstanding theoretical questions involved in line rectification; unity at a higher level leading to the development of a leading ideological center which can deepen the rectification movement’s work and take up the tasks of reestablishment.

More particularly, the Club Network took up its relations with the Guardian newspaper and the OCIC. Our own history which is inextricably bound up with that of the Guardian makes it necessary for us to place before the movement an all-sided summation of the intense struggle that broke out between the former Guardian Clubs and the Guardian staff majority. This has become especially important since, with the general discrediting of the Guardian staff position on party building before our movement. A view is currently being promulgated designed to discredit all of the views advanced by the Guardian on party building over the past several years. In fact, as Clay Newlin’s Oakland speech demonstrates, an active effort to obscure and minimize the significance of the struggle between the Guardian staff and the Clubs is now under way as a means of dismissing out of hand the proposals on party building which the Club Network is now bringing before the movement.

Newlin has taken the self-serving course of trying to use the Guardian-Clubs break to “prove” that the four-year struggle around party building line has been nothing but a pretext for the promotion of a “circle spirit” in our movement.

Such an “explanation” may well satisfy some in our movement who are themselves held captive by a sectarian spirit that can only view ideological struggle in its narrowest organizational terms. But we believe that Newlin and the other comrades in the political commission of the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC) and the steering committee of the OCIC, all of whom we hold jointly responsible for the political irresponsibility expressed in Newlin’s speech, are making a serious error which, in the long run, will only serve to discredit them. They may well gain some momentary advantage, some temporary following, from such a course. But as our movement becomes familiar both with the party building line of the Club Network and its actual practice of advancing the working of the entire movement, we are confident the smallness of spirit in Newlin’s views will become more and more apparent to all.

In any event, our own summation of the significance of the struggle within the Guardian staff and between the Guardian and the Clubs is a principal subject of the political report delivered to our founding conference. This document, too, is available separately. In addition, the NNMLC has made available a packet of materials containing the major representative documents of the struggle with and within the Guardian.

Finally, our national conference spent a considerable amount of time discussing our relations with the OCIC. There was common agreement that we saw all the forces in the OCIC as part of a single Marxist-Leninist trend; that the Guardian staff was indeed guilty of shameless opportunism in postulating itself as a competing “left” trend to the “right trend” of the OCIC as a pretext for its own attempt to develop a self-serving formation with no real concern for uniting Marxist-Leninists in a single vanguard party. Our conference agreed that it was in the interests of our tendency as a whole for the Club Network to enter into joint work on many levels with groups in the OCIC and the OCIC itself.

But it also became clear to us in the course of our conference as we discussed and deepened our line on party building that there were substantial differences between the Club Network and the line on party building which dominates the OCIC and of which the OCIC is itself a direct expression.

Ultimately, our conclusion was that it would be incorrect for the Club Network to affiliate with the OCIC. We were fully aware of the likelihood that the hue and cry of “sectarianism” would be raised against us and that this charge would probably, for some period of time, take some people in. But to have joined the OCIC simply in order to avoid the unjust accusation of sectarianism would have been completely unprincipled on our part.

Obviously, we have a responsibility to the party building movement to explain our reasons for this decision and to put forward our views on all the questions related to it. It would, perhaps, have been more appropriate for Newlin to have exercised some political self-restraint on this matter and awaited the presentation of our views before attempting to make affiliation with the OCIC a line of demarcation in our movement. His haste in the matter suggests a fear that perhaps these views might carry some weight in our movement and that it would be best to discredit them in advance by saying, in effect, “No matter what these folks say, it’s all a pretext. You don’t have to take any of it seriously.”

No matter. We trust that comrades will still be able to judge this question for themselves.

–National Leadership Committee, NNMLC
Tom Angotti
Max Elbaum
Bruce Embrey
Melinda Paras
Tim Patterson
Irwin Silber
Mike Withey

May 29, 1979