Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs

Rectification vs. Fusion

The Struggle Over Party Building Line

Irwin Silber

Why Has the NNMLC Decided not to Join the OCIC?

The National Network of Marxist-Leninist Clubs has decided that it will not affiliate itself with the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center.

Our reason for this should be readily understood by all. The party building line of the Club Network–the line of rectification and reestablishment–stands in direct contradiction to the line on party building which leads the OCIC and on which the very conception of the OCIC is based.

It has been said for some time now that party building is the central task before Marxist-Leninists in this period. But sometimes this is said as though no one within our tendency has acted on the proposition before the founding of the OCIC. Hence, the view is now put forward that, in effect, the OCIC does not itself have a party building line. Much is made of the fact that nowhere in its 18 principles of unity does the OCIC specify adherence to a particular line on party building as a basis for membership. As a result, it is charged that any groups who decide not to join the OCIC because of disagreements over party building line are obviously sectarian since the formal principles of unity do not make this a condition for affiliation.

We suggest that those who are influenced by such argumentation take a more rigorous approach to the real politics of the matter. Marxists do not make a political evaluation of any grouping or tendency, even within their own ranks, solely on the basis of what they may say–or not say–about themselves. In looking at any formation, they ask questions like: which line dominates? who is the leading force? and what line does it hold?

Frankly, we are not impressed with the argument of the PWOC that the “fusion” line on party building was deliberately and consciously omitted from the 18 principles of unity in order to “create no barriers” to membership. Considering that the OCIC has come into existence for only one reason, to push forward with party building, and that the leading forces in the OCIC already have a developed line on party building, it would have been more appropriate to create an organization explicitly based on that line.

In point of fact, we believe they have done precisely that. The OCIC, with its plan for an ideological center built in a particular way and playing a particular role is itself the organizational expression of the “fusion” line on party building even though acceptance of this line is not a condition for affiliation.

Clay Newlin acknowledged publicly (April 4 during the question and answer period following his Oakland speech) that the OCIC’s particular “ideological center concept stems in a fundamental sense from the fusion line.”

We believe that the Los Angeles Work Group, a member organization of the OCIC, is correct when it said during the period of the formation of the OC:

Fusion is the trend’s* political line on party building. It is the key link in all our party building work in this period. Fusing socialism with the working class movement defines the essence of what we think the party is and how it will be built. Thus the ideological center must focus on the practical work of fusion....It is only with the center’s focus on fusion that we can begin to give our local work a national character. (*In its initial stages the OCIC groups referred to themselves as “the trend.”)

Another OCIC group, the Buffalo Workers Movement (BWM), noted after the founding conference: “There was far too little discussion of fusion in either the papers before the conference or at the conference itself. Agreement on fusion as a key task of this period and as the linchpin of our party building strategy was assumed, not discussed.” (Emphasis added–I.S.).

But why belabor the point? Surely one would have to be a modern day Rip Van Winkle, just aroused from a 20-year slumber, not to be aware of the fact that the leading forces and overwhelming majority of groups in the OCIC hold to the “fusion” line on party building.

This line was first advanced, in fairly developed form, by the PWOC more than four years ago. In the very first issue of The Organizer (Jan.-Feb. 1975), PWOC stated:

By merging ’workers’ communism’ with the advanced workers we can lay the foundation for a real revolutionary party. We will have a tried and tested theory [workers’ communism] which has proven itself directly in the class struggle. The advanced workers will have been won over to socialism and thus socialism will have roots in the working class movement. And finally, our years of struggle to bring about the union of communism with the workers’ movement will have provided us with experienced and hardened revolutionaries to make up the party.

How can we know when we have reached the stage of development of our movement when it will become correct to call for the formation of the party? In the first place, our theory will not be hanging in thin air. It will have clearly demonstrated its ability to meet the needs of the working class movement. In the hands of the advanced workers, it will have proven to be an effective instrument of the class struggle by pointing out the path to victory. The workers will have used it to win some battles.

Secondly, significant numbers of advanced workers will have been won over to communism. They will have joined the Marxist-Leninist movement. They will still be leading their fellow workers in the struggle against capitalism. However, their leadership will be different than it is today; they will be open communists and accepted as communists. The advanced workers will everywhere and always be determining the character of the rank and file movement as socialists. Thus the working class movement will have acquired profound political significance.

This general perspective, with but slight alteration from time to time, has been and continues to be today the party building line of the PWOC.

A year later, the PWOC reaffirmed its view that “The party will be shaped by the struggle to fuse the communist movement to the class struggle of the proletariat.” “Party building,” they repeated, “consists in winning over the advanced workers to revolutionary theory through direct participation in their practical struggles.”

Later that same year (October 1976), the PWOC amplified further: “The essence of the party building process is the struggle to join communism with the most advanced fighters from the movements of the working class and the oppressed nationalities.” But, they go on in what we must welcome as a useful clarification, “the question of fusion cannot be reduced to the mere winning of a handful of workers to Marxism-Leninism. In order for the fusion of Marxism-Leninism with the advanced workers to represent a real step forward (my emphasis–I.S.)...the fusion of communism with the advanced workers assumes the development of a communist current in the working-class movement.”

A year later, in 1977, the PWOC once again defended its formulation that “the essence of the party building process is the attempt to fuse Marxism-Leninism with the working class movement. It is only in conjunction with the effort to win over the advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism and build a communist current in the working class that the full range of our tasks...theoretically, politically and organizationally...become clear.”

And in 1978, in a debate with this author in Los Angeles, Newlin argued that party building required that we “subordinate all the tasks of communists to the attempt to establish a vanguard role of the party in the class struggle.”

Isn’t it a fact that it was precisely on the basis of the PWOC advancing this “fusion” line on party building that many other local groups organized themselves in a similar fashion and accepted the leading role of the PWOC in the establishment of the OCIC? Haven’t many of these groups publicly acknowledged this to be the case?

We are not revealing some secret in pointing this out. We are merely repeating well-known facts.

To advance the fiction, therefore, that the OCIC is merely a “neutral” organization formed to develop “a common plan for party building, a plan forged through open struggle in full view of the entire tendency” as though that plan does not already exist is really an insult to our intelligence. Worse, to rest this case on the legalism that the OCIC’s principles of unity do not include the “fusion” line on party building is to substitute formalities for political essence.

At the same time, hasn’t the struggle over the “fusion” line on party building been under way for at least three years ever since the first forum sponsored by the Committee of Five at which this author (then representing the Guardian) offered a critique of the views then being advanced by representatives of the PWOC and others?

Is there a single comrade in the party building movement who is not aware of the fact that there has been an “open struggle in full view of the entire tendency” over party building line for more than three years? Is there anyone who wants to argue that the differences have not been sharp or that they were imaginary rather than real? Does anyone want to suggest that the issues at stake–party building line is some “secondary” question the struggle over which is best left for some other period?

The question all comrades in our trend must ask themselves is the following: Is there a significant difference on the question of party building line between the Club Network and the OCIC or isn’t there? We believe that as compared to the “fusion” line on party building, the line on “rectification and reestablishment” stems from and leads to a thoroughly different orientation on the nature and role of the party; and that, more immediately, it advances a completely different program and plan of work for our movement in the period ahead.

But comrades should decide this question for themselves. The main features of the “fusion” line have been advanced over the last few years by the PWOC and other groups. We urge all who have not already done so to get a copy of the pamphlet, “Party Building,” published by the PWOC ($1.35 from PWOC, PO Box 11768, Philadelphia, PA 19101) and familiarize themselves with the PWOC line on the party building question. We also urge comrades to obtain a copy of the pamphlet, “More Than Patches,” published within the past year by the Potomac Socialist Organization (PO Box 696, West Hyattsville, MD 20782) which likewise advances developed views on “fusion” as a party building strategy.

For the moment, we will cite the following from the PSO pamphlet: “The primary task of communists in the U.S. in this period is the fusion of the communist and workers’ movements. Fusion has four aspects: 1] recruiting advanced workers to communism; 2] building a communist current in the working class; 3] developing workers’ communism [revolutionary theory]; 4] proletarianization of cadre. In order to further this process of fusion we need to make the unions into schools of communism where workers learn about communism and communists learn about working class life and the class struggle; where we can build the communist current and develop our revolutionary theory.”

We are, of course, indebted to the PSO for essentializing the “fusion” position so succinctly and graphically. We also appreciate this elucidation of “the primary task of communists in the U.S. in this period” which nowhere poses the task of party building. For the PSO, this is clearly a “deferred” question.

To demonstrate that this is no mere oversight (we are not interested in winning debaters’ points but in confronting the essence of ideas), let us cite another passage by the PSO. “The tasks of party building can be accomplished here {meaning in Washington, D.C.], that is, winning the advanced to Marxist-Leninist ideas, building a communist current, developing revolutionary theory and proletarianization, then building a communist organization in the Washington area should occur.”

I have taken the liberty of underscoring the word “then,” since it is sometimes argued by the “fusionists” that they are not setting fusion as a precondition for party building but that rather it is “a dialectical process which proceeds simultaneously.” But comrades who may think that the differences over party building line are either trivial or imaginary should think about the PSO position carefully–and practically. The PSO seems to believe that it will be possible to build a communist current in the working class and develop the revolutionary theory needed to make up what is called “workers’ communism”– elsewhere defined as the independent elaboration of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of the U.S., before a communist organization can be built. (In fact, their use of the word “occur” is itself strongly suggestive of the completely passive view they take of the role of communists.) Not only that–these are the preconditions for building only a local communist organization.

What is wrong with the “fusion” strategy for party building?

1. It says that the key to party building is to be found in the interaction between the present communist movement and the existing spontaneous working class movement. We disagree. We believe that the key to party building is to be found in the interaction among communists in the struggle to rectify the general line of the communist movement.

2. The “fusion” line argues that the process of “fusion” will set the principal theoretical tasks which line rectification must address. We disagree. We believe that those theoretical tasks cannot be properly determined by the inevitable narrowness of scope arising out of the problem of trying to overcome the present low level of consciousness dominating the working class movement. Such an approach markedly tends to reduce the nature of our theoretical tasks to a decidedly pragmatic attempt to gain influence in the working class movement as it presently stands. In our view, the task of rectifying the general line of our movement must be self-consciously delineated by Marxist-Leninists in view of the principal questions before the international communist movement, the consolidation of revisionism in the CPUSA, the hegemony of left opportunism over the majority of anti-revisionist forces and the whole range of fundamental questions bound up with the principal features of the political economy of U.S. monopoly capitalism today. Only by taking up these questions can the communists develop a general line to serve as the basis for a party capable of guiding the working class toward the seizure of state power in the U.S.

3. The “fusion” line relies on the development of the spontaneous movement of the workers for setting the most favorable conditions for party building. We disagree. We believe that it is the movement of Marxist-Leninists–specifically, a broad movement to rectify the general line of the U.S. communist movement in all its aspects– which will set the most favorable conditions for developing a leading center capable of taking responsibility for the tasks of correcting the ideological orientation of the U.S. communist movement, rectifying its general line and reestablishing its party.

4. The “fusion” line places a great deal of emphasis on gaining influence (forging “a communist current”) in the working movement as a condition for forming the party. We disagree. We believe that such an approach lays the foundation for right opportunism and economism since–in the absence of a general line and a vanguard party–the criteria for determining the quality of that influence will inevitably be substantially lower than that which a firm set of revolutionary principles collectively implemented will impose. In fact, in arguing that communist theory in this preparty period “will have proven to be an effective instrument of the class struggle” and that “the workers will have used it to win some battles,” the PWOC has merely restated the classical thesis of the Economists of Lenin’s day who saw as the key to gaining influence among the workers the achievement of some “palpable results.”

5. The “fusion” line says that in order to verify the general line of the party, it must be tested through the process of “fusion” in the preparty period. We disagree. We believe that the general line is developed through both the indirect and direct experience of communists (with principal emphasis on the former) and that the line cannot be tested in a rigorous communist fashion unless it is implemented in an all-sided way by a party capable of putting it into practice on a broad front and with significant resources. To attempt to verify the general line through “fusion” in the absence of such a firm organization with a sound ideological orientation means reducing that line to those portions which are of immediate application, thus tending towards the glorification of reformism.

6. The “fusion” line unduly emphasizes the class origin of the Marxist-Leninists in the preparty period, attempting to “proletarianize” the movement by making the recruitment of a significant number of “advanced workers” to Marxism-Leninism as a precondition for forming the party. Some try to “proletarianize” the present cadre not so much by revolutionizing their class stand and ideological orientation but by taking jobs in the industrial work force. We disagree with these assumptions. Lenin says: “We must have a committee of professional revolutionaries and it does not matter whether a student or a worker is capable of becoming a professional revolutionary.” In the long run, the proletarianization of the party indeed means bringing into its ranks the best and most militant fighters of the working class who will join the party on being won–not to the party’s record of achieving reforms–but to Marxism-Leninism. To set as a precondition for party building that “significant numbers of advanced workers will have been won over to communism” is to delay indefinitely the actual formation of the party; for experience shows that significant numbers of workers will not be won to communism in the absence of a strong party, based on firm revolutionary principles and a leading general line that offers an all-sided strategy and program for the overthrow of the capitalist system.

7. The “fusion” line establishes expectations of the preparty period which are unrealistic. To argue that we must–not even to consider whether we can–“make the unions into schools of communism” in the preparty period as a precondition for fusion suggests an incredible political naivete whose enthusiasm can not cover over its abysmal amateurishness.

But let us stop here. It is not our purpose at this moment to lay out in all of its ramifications our critique of the “fusion” line on party building. No, we are merely reminding the comrades in our movement that there is such a critique, that it is serious, that it addresses fundamental questions and that it is dishonest to pretend that is doesn’t exist or that it is a mere pretext to conceal the so-called “circle spirit.” The explanation that this is all some ideological charade in order to promote a “circle spirit” actually explains nothing, since even the alleged “circle spirit” must itself have some purpose.

One of the difficulties in this process has been the fact that the PWOC has not been able to defend its “fusion” line effectively. While dismissing the critique of the line as being nothing but a sectarian pretext, the PWOC has systematically tried to “answer” this critique by introducing certain modifications designed to plug the holes in it. Thus we have seen the PWOC assert over the past four years that it now believes in the primacy of theoretical tasks–as though this had always been its view; or that we must “focus our tendency’s attention on the theoretical struggle in general” (emphasis added–I.S.)–as though this had always been its view; or that “the identification of individuals through their ability to solve these real pressing theoretical problems” provides the basis for forging a “leading ideological core”–as though this had always been the PWOC view.

Now we are not averse to the PWOC being won over to views, many of which have been first advanced by others on party building questions: the need for a leading ideological core; the identification of individual Marxist-Leninists leaders in the course of rectification work; the need to subordinate each local circle to the higher, more advanced needs of a national center; the primacy of theoretical tasks in the preparty period; the organization of study teams on key theoretical questions; and many more. We do not even insist that PWOC acknowledge that leading comrades in the Club Network were the first to advance many of these ideas before the movement or that, in conjunction with others, they have already initiated many activities along these lines.

But we would point out most sharply that a characteristic feature of opportunism is the tendency to merge two opposing lines by borrowing elements from one in order to make the other look better. Newlin’s remarks in Oakland freely “borrow” such ideas–and he is more than welcome to them–but we are left with a gnawing question which went unanswered in that public address, despite numerous queries from the audience: what happened to fusion?

And now we come to the most interesting modification of all – the birth of the embryo. This was introduced for the first time in 1977 (and has been repeated endlessly since) in response to our point that winning over “significant numbers of advanced workers” to Marxism-Leninism and creating a “communist current” in the working class movement were tasks which could only be accomplished by a party organized on the basis of an advanced line. At that point, Newlin said: “Returning to the question of a communist current, it should be clear that such a current can mature to a significant degree prior to the first congress of our party. While a full-blown communist current assumes the existence of a party, a communist current in embryo does not.” (Emphasis in original–I.S.)

And so, for the first time, “fusion” in its embryonic form is introduced into this debate which had been taking place by then for some two-and-a-half years. It does not take a great deal of experience in debates to recognize the tactic employed here. The Club Network experienced the same phenomenon when Jack Smith amended his original proposal to create a Guardian political organization by asserting that what he really had in mind was a “limited” political organization. In both cases, the words “embryo” and “limited” were mere devices to counter political criticisms by cleaning up the original act.

If one were to take Newlin seriously, the suggestion that “fusion” in the preparty period had been reduced to its “embryo” should have settled the debate once and for all. After all, how could one go on speaking of fusion being “the essence of party building” when it could only be achieved in this embryonic form? How could this embryo provide the verification and validation of theory which the fusionists had been proclaiming was their safeguard against dogmatism? Could this “embryo” possibly produce “a tried and tested theory (workers’ communism) which has proven itself directly in the class struggle?”

Unfortunately, the political commission of the PWOC was not up to the forthright reevaluation of its party building line that was required. Perhaps they had too much at stake in the prestige they had already acquired by catering to the anti-theoretical prejudices of the movement. Or perhaps their own mechanical materialist world outlook prevented them from grasping the essence of the critique of the “fusion” line that had developed and so they settled for some new phraseology which, they thought, would neutralize the most telling arguments against their line.

The important thing, however, is that the PWOC still upholds the “fusion” line on party building to this very day. Nor can the PWOC avoid responsibility for the views and general orientation of the rest of the “fusionist” forces whose formulations may lack some of the subtlety and obscurantism of the PWOC’s latest pronouncements but with whom there is fundamental ideological unity.

Still, even though it should be obvious to one and all that there is indeed a struggle over party building line which has been developing in our movement for a number of years, this fact by itself does not settle the question of why the Club Network has decided not to affiliate with the OCIC. Many comrades have pointed out the fact that the “fusion” line is not a principle of unity for the OCIC, that there are groups in the OCIC who share (in part, at least) our critique of the line, and that the purpose of the ideological center to which the OCIC is committed is to provide a means for centralizing and systematizing the ideological struggle in our trend as a whole–including the struggle over party building line.

We are respectful of the concerns of these comrades. They are correct to be on guard against any attempts to trifle with the all-too fragile unity of our trend. It is altogether proper for them to raise questions about sectarianism and the possible emergence of a “circle spirit” in the party building movement. We ourselves have experienced the negative consequences of the factionalism and petty intrigue that accompany the “rule or ruin” outlook of the sectarians and careerists in our movement.

Our decision not to affiliate with the OCIC was not, therefore, taken lightly. Nor does it signify in any way a rupture in relations between the NNMLC and the other forces in our trend. To the contrary, we want to share views with all forces in the trend, undertake joint theoretical and practical work and attempt to establish “party relations” between Marxist-Leninists in this preparty period. Such an approach flows directly out of our conception of rectification work.

But rectification of the general line of the U.S. communist movement and of its ideological orientation is not an end in itself nor can it proceed simply in a spontaneous fashion. While in an objective sense, a rectification movement has been underway for more than 20 years, its failure heretofore to lead to the reestablishment of our party can in large measure be attributed to the absence of a conscious element imbued with a broad vision of its tasks in the process.

Rectification, to be meaningful, must proceed consciously and under the guidance of a line that establishes Leninist criteria for summing up its progress and advances the movement on to its next stage. Concretely, it requires the development of a leading center for the anti-revisionist, anti-left opportunist party building movement. In its first stage, this leading center will emerge as a leading ideological center whose unity will be based on a common party building line within the lines of political demarcation arrived at by our trend as a whole. In the present preparty period, there cannot be a leading ideological center without a unified and advanced party building line. This should be readily obvious once we accept the thesis that the central task before our movement is in fact party building.

In time, this leading ideological center will take responsibility for summing up the advances made in the actual work of rectifying the general line of our movement and consolidating these advances into the rudiments of a party program. As the leading center develops and consolidates, it will also take responsibility for the organizational tasks of party reestablishment.

It must be obvious that the only correct basis for forging such a center is the leading line that will guide it. In other words, it is the line that creates the center. But a line does not exist in the abstract, independently of those who hold it, develop it and advance it. The center, then, can be forged only by individual Marxist-Leninists who are united–not by virtue of being in the same locality, engaged in similar or even joint mass work, common employment, common class or national origin, ties of friendship, or even a set of minimum political principles–but on the basis of a common ideological outlook as manifested in a common position on the principal outstanding questions before the movement. The leading center can be forged only on the basis of the most advanced experiences of our movement.

In short, the Leninist conception of the vanguard role of leadership and the decisiveness of the conscious element applies in even greater measure to a period in which the leadership of our movement is not so easily identified.

Such a conception of the role of leadership runs counter to the ultra-democratic prejudices that continue to have wide currency in our movement. When these views were advanced by leading members of the Club Network in the struggle with the Guardian staff, they were characterized as “elitist” and aimed at leaving the task of party building to “Marxist intellectuals.” Unfortunately, such anti-intellectual and anti-leadership prejudices are not confined to the Guardian staff but are all too common throughout our movement. These prejudices have been echoed by leading members of the OCIC in essentially the same terms.

But this conception of leadership and its decisive role within the party is a fundamental aspect of our Leninist legacy. “It is far more difficult to wipe out a dozen wise men than a hundred fools,” writes Lenin (“What Is To Be Done?”). “And this position I shall defend no matter how much you instigate the crowd against me for my ’anti-democratic’ views, etc. I have already said time and again that by ’wise men’ in connection with organization, I mean professional revolutionaries, irrespective of whether they are trained from among students or workers. No revolutionary movement can endure without a stable organization of leaders that maintains continuity.... Such an organization must consist chiefly of people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity.”

When the Italian Communist leader, Antonio Gramsci, advanced this Leninist conception of the party, he was criticized–again from the standpoint of “democracy”–for advocating an organization of “captains without an army.” To which he replied: “One speaks of captains without an army, but in reality it is easier to form an army than to form captains....A constituted army is destroyed if the captains come to be absent, while the existence… of a group of captains, who are settled among themselves, in accord, reunited by common aims, will not be long in forming an army even where nothing exists.“

These are the principles underlying our conception of a leading ideological center and how it is forged.

All this stands in sharp contrast to the concept of an ideological center that guides the OCIC and the whole process by which such a center is to be forged. Not only is it proposed to bring this ideological center into being without a leading line on the principal question before our movement, party building; it is even claimed that the center will be forged without a common line. That, in fact, the center will be created in order to develop the line.

In other words, the available stock of Marxist-Leninists (if we may borrow the phrase with which the PWOC has ridiculed what it deems “left” party building lines) will be united in a loose (federationist) organizational form around a set of “lowest common denominator” political principles. Then, with all proper deference to systematizing the debate in a fair and democratic fashion, the participants will eventually develop a common party building line–although it is clear that the leading forces and most participants already have a particular party building line–the “fusion” line.

Comrades, what is the sense in all this? Can such a scheme, which is bound to be tailored to suit the present ideological outlook of our movement and to conciliate its anti-theoretical prejudices possibly solve the problems of line rectification and party reestablishment? We do not doubt that this process will proceed very “democratically,” that it will fully take into account all the prevailing views in our trend and not advance too far ahead of the less developed groups and cadres. We are sure that equal time will be provided for contending positions and that decisions concerning agendas, studies to be launched, questions to be taken up will all be properly decided by majority vote. And we also note that the leading forces in the OCIC speak of “fusion” being put into practice for the first time when the ideological center is formed, that indeed “fusion” will determine the theoretical agenda of the center.

But such a process cannot bring into being the kind of ideological center capable of uniting our movement around a leading line and its most advanced experiences. Such a process can only perpetuate the present backwardness of our movement by disguising that state of backwardness and promoting the illusion that “progress” toward party building is being made when nothing of the sort is actually occurring. Such a process can never build a party–not a Leninist party at any rate.

This conception of an ideological center and the process by which it is to be forged is the direct product of the “fusion” line on party building. It is a natural outgrowth of that line. It is stamped with the same mechanical materialist world outlook that characterizes the “fusion” line. Just as the “fusion” line subordinates the question of theory and political line to the task of gaining influence in the working class movement as it presently exists, so this conception of an ideological center subordinates the principle of unity around a leading line to the formal, organizational unity of all those who, with but minimum criteria, lay claim to being Marxist-Leninists. In both cases, organization is given precedence over politics.

The present federationist form of the OCIC is not an accident. It is not some simple oversight that escaped the notice of the PWOC when it first put forward its plan for bringing together the existing local organizations of Marxist-Leninists into a common form. In the absence of a leading line on which all were united, why should the existing organizations subordinate themselves to a higher centralized body?

Federationism is completely contrary to all Leninist conceptions of communist organization. It is contrary to democratic centralism. It means, ultimately, that the whole is subordinate to the part, the higher bodies subordinate to the lower bodies. In both a formal sense and a substantive political sense, the various constituent groups within the OCIC provide the primary political focus for their cadres. This is readily obvious, since each of these groups is based on a democratic centralist form of organization while the OCIC itself is not–nor can it be.

Let us have no illusion, then, that groups who do not affiliate with the OCIC are somehow shunning the most advanced organizational form so far developed in our movement.

But leaders of the OCIC have said that they are taking steps to whittle away at the federationist form of organization. They point to the fact that individuals as well as organizations may join the OCIC and that its steering committee is not necessarily elected on the basis of organizational representation.

Federationism, however, cannot be eliminated through formal measures. For whether explicit or not, federationism is the organizational content of any formation of Marxist-Leninist groupings which is not based on a leading line. Only the existence of a leading line provides the objective criteria for leadership–those who have the best grasp of the line and who can best advance the line are given the authority and responsibility of leadership. Without a leading line, the authority and responsibility of leadership can only flow from subjective notions or from “representatives” of constituent groupings. Thus the very process of founding the OCIC around a set of minimum political principles rather than an advanced line on the principal questions before the movement means bringing the forms of coalition politics into the communist movement.

For all these reasons it would be irresponsible of us to join the OCIC. For us to do so would be to perpetuate the illusion that this is a correct path to the forging of a leading ideological center and ultimately the party.

Nor do we believe that the ideological struggle will be particularly enhanced or advanced simply by virtue of the fact that a certain number of organizations hold formal membership in a council that will attempt to systematize and coordinate it. Genuine ideological struggle is not a tea party to be so neatly ordered. If the differences being taken up are subject to such polite organization they are probably not worth struggling over. But when the issues are urgent, then they cannot be bound by systematizing and coordination.

At the same time, there is no reason for the lack of a formal organizational affiliation between the Club Network and the OCIC to stand in the way of developing joint study teams or holding planning meetings for the purpose of identifying outstanding questions and attempting to devise common methods for debate and discussion.

To summarize: The Club Network has decided not to affiliate with the OCIC for two closely connected reasons.

1) The actual leading line of the OCIC is the “fusion” line on party building. By contrast, the Club Network advances a completely contrary line on the same question, the line on “rectification and reestablishment.” Such a sharp difference on the principal question before our trend cannot help but lead to distinct organizational forms. This must be said even if some comrades are under the illusion that they are not members of a “fusionist” federation. Centralizing the ideological struggle over party building, giving it shape and substance, conducting it in a principled fashion–none of these goals requires formal organizational association. And we are prepared to cooperate with the OCIC and its constituent groups in every possible way so as to advance the interests of our movement as a whole. We likewise invite all of the OCIC forces, as well as other Marxist-Leninists, to join with us in the various rectification tasks which we will initiate and develop–as well as in the rectification tasks that will be undertaken by other groups.

2) Neither the OCIC’s conception of an ideological center nor the process already under way to bring it into being can succeed in solving the principal tasks before our movement. We believe that the forging of a leading center for our movement is one of the principal goals of our rectification work. But the conception of this center advanced by the OCIC is fundamentally flawed. If, as many in the OCIC claim, it is not based on an already developed line, then it has no basis for being formed and cannot hold. If, as we believe to be the case, it is based on the “fusion” line, then it cannot succeed because its foundation is a backward, mechanical materialist line that liquidates the subjective factor and denies the validity of Leninist ideological principles.

We urge all comrades in our movement to think long and seriously about the arguments we have raised. The fact is that with the emergence of the line on rectification, a new period in the history of our trend has begun. The party building question is now on our agenda, not simply as an administrative/political task but as a point of contention between two lines.

There is nothing to fear about such a process of ideological struggle–except if we refuse to recognize the reality of its existence. For this is the process through which communist cadre not only settle outstanding questions, but forge their own proletarian world outlook.