Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ex-Boston Local Center/OCIC Members

The OCIC’s Phoney Campaign: Ultra-“Leftism” in Command Once Again


Struggling against incorrect views is a good thing. With a correct approach a struggle against white and petty bourgeois chauvinism can draw out the real strengths and weaknesses of national minority and working class comrades, the political impact of chauvinist views, and the necessary steps to change our practice and views. However, the present campaign cannot help us change our practice or our views, because it is fundamentally ’left’ idealist.

Ideological struggle around ideas or attitudes is not necessarily idealist. But struggle solely around ideas to the exclusion of other issues and questions is idealist, and this is exactly the approach of the present campaign. Focusing on attitudes divorced from practice; treating them as the be-all and end-all of our political work; and exaggerating the content and significance of these attitudes–these are fundamental features of idealism. Lenin summed this up this way:

Exaggerating any aspect of knowledge, depriving it of bonds with other aspects and with matter, and absolutizing it inevitably lead to idealism. (Lenin, On Dialectical Materialism: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Progress Publishers, Moscow, pp. 384-385.)

Our position is that the methodology of the campaign reduces all political questions to white chauvinist and petty bourgeois chauvinist ideas. This idealism takes the form of three main errors. One, the campaign uses a dogmatic approach of getting down on the single key view, which inevitably separates the campaign from other chauvinist views and other aspects of reality. This one-sidedness of the idealist method guides all OC meetings, where struggle focuses primarily on “speaking to your view” and all questions are reduced to white chauvinism and petty bourgeois chauvinism.

Two, by separating off attitudes from practice and adopting the goal of “squaring” with our chauvinist views, a moralistic approach is inevitable. Not only is there one main view, but it has to be the worst view imaginable. This is the exaggeration of one aspect of knowledge which is characteristic of idealism.

Three, the method of the campaign separates theory and practice by treating white chauvinist and petty bourgeois chauvinist ideas as the start and end of ideological and political struggle. The campaign treats any other issue as an opportunist diversion, such as speaking to someone’s strengths in the class struggle, changing practice, the political context of the class struggle, etc.

This idealism is “left” because it proceeds from an overestimation of the subjective factor (ideas, consciousness, development of the masses and the communists). This is a basic feature of “leftism”. The campaign dwells on the single view, because it sees this view as the only obstacle to winning the advanced workers to being leaders in the communist movement. The campaign overestimates the consciousness oft he advanced. The exaggeration of stereotypes also flows fro m the overestimation of the role of ideas. And the separation of theory and practice stems from an underestimation of the importance of the objective factor (practice, the class struggle) which is characteristic of “leftism.” Finally, the “left” nature of the idealism stems from the OC’s attempt to portray itself as the only genuine communists; the idealism serves this “left” sectarianism.

The line on the single view

The leadership argues there is in every case one single dominant white chauvinist and petty bourgeois chauvinist attitude to workers and national minorities, which is also the view that is accommodated by them. At the February Local Center meeting, the leadership argued that comrades could not deal with white chauvinism towards David W. unless they spoke to the view that he was a clown. Despite the fact that no one from the local center could speak to this concretely, the leadership dogmatically insisted on its correctness. But the discussion in fact drew out the reality – there are several views in operation. F. and R. spoke to the white chauvinist attitude that W. is basically a servant of white communists who can be relied on to go along with what the whites say. R. gave two specific examples of this view in operation. Lisa S. had one example of the clown view at work. This is consistent with a dialectical approach; there are different views, based on different experiences, struggles, and preconceptions. Reality confirms this –three views have been identified towards W., each with a definite political impact – the servant, an unfit father, and a clown. By refusing to address this reality, the present campaign in fact liquidates the real struggle against white chauvinism and accommodation concerning W.

This line on the single view has had a very destructive impact on the practice of OC members in taking up the broader class struggle. The intensification of the campaign has meant more and more getting down on the single view, to the exclusion of doing anything else. For example, BOC members in the health care industry have taken up the issue of affirmative action in a Boston hospital. There has been a lot of struggle within the BOC group and with the advanced workers over the correct approach to affirmative action. The BOC leadership, which supports the campaign, has refused to take up political line differences on the affirmative action struggle. The leadership has refused to sum-up the recent struggle in the hospital and take a position on the correct line. The leadership instead argues that we can do none of this until we speak to our views towards the advanced white workers.

A similar example of liquidating our other political work comes from the local section of the national tendency health fraction, in which the same BOC members work with other forces in Massachusetts. Discussion and elaboration of communist program in the health care industry has been ruled out of order. Instead, a recent fraction agenda focused almost entirely on speaking to chauvinist attitudes towards three contacts of the fraction. The agenda did not address these contacts’ differences with the 18 points of the OC, or their differences with our very embryonic communist program.

In the above examples, the campaign did initially have a positive effect on the BOC’s work; the failure to take up affirmative action was due to white and petty bourgeois chauvinism. But in addition to struggling against the chauvinism, comrades in the BOC and the fractiond need leadership and an advanced theoretical understanding of why affirmative action is key and how to take it up. The question is how to move off of the white and petty chauvinist obstacle and low level of theoretical understanding. We need to take it up in practice, learn from errors, test existing theory, etc., not only “speak to our views.”

The line on “squaring with your view” – the exaggeration of stereotypes

The leadership of the OC argues that we must “square with our views,” which in practice means a process where we are told that if we do not admit to holding a grossly exaggerated and completely disgusting view (savage, junkyard dog, clown, slave, to name a few well-known examples), we are not being honest. We are presumably free to put out and struggle for other positions, but if we do so the leadership criticizes for not really “squaring with our views.”

In this situation comrades have admitted to exaggerated views which they later realize they do not hold. This happened in the struggle with Tyree Scott and M. the woman he lives with. The national leadership struggled sharply with these two comrades around the extent of M’s petty bourgeois chauvinism to Scott and his accommodation. Supposedly, she had totally opportunist, careerist motivations for entering the relationship. She has never loved him or respected him at all. She thinks he is violent and stupid. The national leadership struggled with M. six hours a day for three straight days until she united with this exaggeration of her petty bourgeois chauvinism. In our opinion, this is a case of being “forced to confess.” The exaggeration is contradicted by TS and M’s continuing relationship based on love and respect, and their ongoing struggle around petty bourgeois chauvinism and accommodation.

The campaign’s approach is thoroughly undialectical. Comrades cannot admit to any positive attitude towards some one. The campaign holds that our real view does not have both positive and negative aspects, and instead is one of complete disrespect and disdain. This is exactly the line on TS and M’s relationship.

The moralism of this approach has a very destructive impact on the class struggle. For example, several weeks ago, Paul R. meet with a working class revolutionary (formerly an advanced worker) to confess his petty bourgeois chauvinism towards her. His approach was to tell her he never respected her, to confess how bad he’s always been, that he’s never done anything positive. To see that as the way to build unity is sheer lunacy. It is also a denial of the positive work that R. has done. The campaign’s supporters view the petty bourgeois chauvinism as the sum total of OC comrades’ relationship with this woman. They ignore the political development that has gone on, the advances this contact ha made; they ignore the process of dialectics and reality, and substitute breast-beating self-criticisms. The woman was justifiably disgusted by R’s confession. This is how the ideas that we are to blame, and that workers will be impressed by how much we trash ourselves, are played out. This is the bourgeois liberalism and moralism of the present campaign in action.

This process of “squaring” with exaggerated views is a serious departure from materialism in that comrades fail to confront the chauvinist views they really do hold as they claim to hold these exaggerations. Did the LSC really “square” with its view of F. and L. when all they could tell us is that they see F. as an “attack dog” and L. as a “puppy dog”? This liquidates the real petty bourgeois chauvinism. Other farms of chauvinism towards these comrades have never been discussed. For example, comrades R. and M. (at least) have held the view that Liz F. is more racist than white, middle class comrades. Based on their petty bourgeois chauvinism, and on a history of struggle with F. around political line in the struggle against racism, they have a petty bourgeois chauvinist attitude that she is more racist than they are. R’s chauvinism shows up in his view that F. over-reacts to the white-skin privilege line by liquidating the question of racism. This is a petty bourgeois chauvinist distortion of F’s position. Holding that there are no privileges or very few privileges for white workers (her position) is very different from saying there’s no difference in the oppression of white and Black workers (R’s petty bourgeois chauvinist view of F’s position). But the “squaring with your view” approach of the present campaign has totally liquidated this form of petty bourgeois chauvinism to F.

Finally, the line of “squaring” does not have a dialectical understanding of how people change, but rather an infantile and revolutionary impatience which will never correspond to reality. We change our views over time, and we can begin to contradict chauvinist views in the process of criticism/self-criticism. This process continues as our practice changes. But the campaign’s “make the break,” “turn the corner,” “get on the bandwagon” approach is thoroughly “leftist” and unscientific.

This approach liquidates the real progress comrades make, leading to demoralization and further liquidation of real struggle. When comrades make a white chauvinist error for which they have already made a self-criticism (such as paternalism towards a particular national minority person), they are accused of having tried to “get clear” on people in the original self-criticism, of having made no progress, of not really having squared with their views, of having postured in the original self-criticism, etc. So although the campaign gives lip-service to opposing the “make the break” mentality, in fact this is the approach of the present campaign.

The revolutionary impatience of the campaign distorts the character of ideological struggle in the OC. It intensifies the already rampant defensiveness of comrades instead of promoting a climate where we will honestly confront our chauvinism or accommodation. Moral condemnation has replaced a concrete and respectful approach. Comrades inevitably feel attacked and humiliated, and this holds back productive ideological struggle.

As opposed to this idealist approach, we must remember that changing practice is the key to making progress; this is the only context for a successful struggle against stereotypes. Also, this struggle must be in the context of advancing the whole class struggle; we fight chauvinism in order to do this. This is the significance of the Yokenin example; changing our practice in the class struggle is primary in fighting white and petty bourgeois chauvinism. But if the struggle turns inward, we will lose.

The fundamental separation of theory and practice

The present campaign separates theory and practice by making speaking to the essential view and squaring with exaggerated stereotypes absolute preconditions for taking up anything else. These are impossible preconditions to meet, as we have shown above. So inevitably we never get around to taking up practice, and when comrades make the attempt the campaign’s loyal supporters criticize their opportunism.

To be specific, the campaign’s supporters oppose speaking to our patterns of practice towards working class and national minority comrades. Comrades F., L., and L. criticized Jenny F’s opportunism for playing a leading role in drawing out the chauvinist patterns of practice towards a national minority and white working class hospital worker. Jacqueline L. and Rachel M. criticized R’s opportunism for proposing a control task for Len D. to take up in rectifying his white chauvinism towards Nancy G. (While R. was opportunist, D. and M. eventually took up the control task). And it is well-known that the leadership has always denounced proposals for taking up political study and line around racism to deepen our grasp of the struggle against racism, the interests of white workers, the advanced role of the Black movement historically, etc. By opposing these initiatives to relate the campaign to our communist and mass practices, the present campaign explicitly argues for a separation of theory and practice.

By contrast, comrades who are serious about a genuine campaign against white and petty bourgeois chauvinism should argue for an approach which focuses on changing practice. We should identify the chauvinist views and -patterns in practice towards individuals, in the mass movements as well as the communist movement. We should draw out the political impact of these attitudes and patterns of practice. We should contradict stereotypes by identifying the real strengths and weaknesses. We should propose specific control tasks for our mass work to rectify errors and lay the basis for changing ideas over time. And we should deepen our understanding of racism to better take up the class struggle.

This approach involves a dialectical view of how people change. Ideas change over time and tend to lag behind practice; this is a fact. Productive struggle must be grounded in the actual class struggle} this is a basic lesson from the communist movement’s history. Without this approach, we end up in a circular process of discussing ideas.

This is exactly how the present campaign works. We see endless spirals of criticism and self-criticism in. a vain effort to get down on the “real view.” It Is no mistake or error that the campaign’s supporters in the health care workers’ movement are liquidating our political work. They are trying to meet impossible preconditions for taking that work up.

The effects of the campaign

Thanks to the idealism of the present campaign, the OC’s agenda has been liquidated. For example, at the second regional conference, the Draft Plan discussion on the agenda was taken up in a totally false way. The leadership struggled sharply with S. and D. over why they didn’t take the Plan up with their contacts, and that was it. There was no discussion of the content of the Plan, our contacts’ differences with it, or OC members’ criticisms. The eighteen point study has largely been liquidated. The groups in Boston have mostly taken up the present crisis and speaking to attitudes. Discussion of the political content of the points is continually short-circuited by focusing on the weaknesses behind each and every error that the leadership spots. The groups are not consolidating anyone; no one is learning anything. The whole question of cadre development is consequently liquidated.

Other items on the national agenda have disappeared, such as follow-up to the National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conference, the critique of ultra-leftism, and further discussion of the main danger to the anti-revisionist movement.

As Marxist-Leninists we seek to play a leading role in the mass movements. But thanks to the present campaign’s “left” idealism, this political work is increasingly neglected and liquidated. This is the most damning indictment of the present campaign. To take one example, about a year ago, before the campaign began, the BOC organized several very successful propaganda events. The May Day and International Women’s Day events in particular were well-attended by advanced worker contacts, and despite weaknesses, marked real steps forward in the communist work of the BOC. Today all this work has been liquidated, and the OC and BOC leadership holds that these events were not positive at all, but were thoroughly opportunist. To take another example, in Philadelphia, due to resignations from the PWOC, practically the entire anti-racist mass practice of the PWOC has ended. And this was once the most advanced practice in our tendency. Finally, just the impossible workload that OC members currently face makes taking up the broader class struggle next to impossible. This comes not just from downplaying the importance of the practical struggle, but from an extremely idealist, ultra-“left” view of what individuals are capable of doing.


An especially harmful effect of the campaign is to promote white and patty bourgeois chauvinism in the form of ghettoization. The focus on attitudes alone has led to a situation noted by the leadership – many OC members have discussed the campaign at length with their contacts yet failed to discuss the Draft Plan. While this error stems from a chauvinistic underestimation of our contacts, it also reflects the racism and petty bourgeois arrogance inherent in the campaign. The campaign has ghettoized national minority and working class comrades, by holding they are interested only in attitudes ad not politics, and only want to see white and petty bourgeois comrades deal with chauvinistic attitudes. This ghettoization is one reason why at the December forum a phoney criticism session replaced any political struggle. OC members wanted to show national minority and worker contacts how good they were at struggling against chauvinistic attitudes.

The ghettoization also leads to the promotion of working class or national minority comrades to positions of leadership only on the basis of their actual or potential role in the campaign, not on the basis of an overall evaluation of strengths and weaknesses.

As the later section on accommodation will argue, an implicit glorification of workers and national minorities underlies these chauvinist errors of ghettoization. This glorification is the position that national minority and working class people can be advanced leaders if they can only “make the break” with their accommodationism. This not only underlies placing Liz F. and Tom L. on the LSC with no examination of their politics, but it is fundamental to the conception of the present campaign. The chauvinist glorification feeds the OC’s “leftism”, by arguing that the advanced workers are ready for communism now, but are only held back by accommodation.

Finally, political line struggle is liquidated with national minority and working class comrades inside the OC and outside. (For examples, see section an accommodation). This white and petty bourgeois chauvinism is intimately connected to the “left” idealism of divorcing the campaign from all political questions. This flows from the glorification. If the only thing holding back the advanced is accommodation, there is no need to discuss political line questions, their criticisms of our practice, or their positions on the 18 points. And in fact this is the current practice of the OC.

Political roots of the “left” idealism

In our opinion, the “left” idealism of the present campaign flows from two political sources: methodological errors of the campaign, and the present party building line of the OCIC. The main error of method is that the OC has failed to place the campaign squarely in the context of our present political task – uniting the tendency. Rather than examining specifically how our chauvinism has held us back in taking this up, the OC has declared a campaign against every manifestation of white and petty bourgeois chauvinism. The first resolution at the first regional conference calls for “sharp and persistent struggle against all manifestations of white chauvinism and anti-working class bias within the OC.” We believe this is an impossible task and this concept is “left” idealist. A fundamental characteristic of “leftism” is an overemphasis of the subjective factor and the separation of this from practice. This characteristic error is implicit in the failure to situate the campaign clearly in the context of the OC’s practice towards this main task – uniting the tendency.

Why is it wrong to struggle against each and every manifestation of chauvinism? First, our task now is not and should not be to wipe out every manifestation of white and petty bourgeois chauvinism, but to take up struggle against manifestations of chauvinism that hold us back from uniting the tendency. It is idealist to say that we should break with every manifestation now, because as materialists we know that we break with bourgeois ideology as we take up our political tasks in the class struggle. We will gain a deeper understanding of white and petty bourgeois chauvinism as we see contributions made by national minority and worker comrades; and through struggle over a wide number of theoretical questions, we will gain a deeper understanding of white and petty bourgeois chauvinism at the level of political line. Also, the struggle against white chauvinism is a long-term struggle, from here to the socialist revolution and beyond. It is impossible to eradicate each manifestation in a given time period.

By not clearly situating the campaign in the context of our political tasks, and by incorrectly setting the goal of the campaign as struggling against each and every manifestation of white ad petty bourgeois chauvinism, changing attitudes is now seen as primary over changing practice. Making changing ideas primary comes from “left” idealism and bourgeois moralism – “we change our ideas “by changing our ideas.” A materialist approach holds that we struggle to change our ideas in order to improve our practice in the class struggle. The campaign’s approach reverses this dialectic. Ideas and attitudes are usually treated in isolation from practice. At best, changing practice is seen only as a means to changing our ideas. For example, upon learning that Barbara S. had waged a positive struggle with David W. over the correctness of the fusion line, Rosa C. responded, “But so what? It doesn’t mean a thing. You still haven’t changed your attitude towards him.”

The campaign’s idealism also flows from a second political source, the fundamental “left” idealism of the OC’s party building line. This idealism consists of the separation of ideological struggle from the context of the practical class struggle. In our opinion this is a step away from the fusion line, which argues that the actual class struggle determines what theoretical questions we take up. The key error here is postponing the Ideological Center stage indefinitely. A long process of developing the most advanced leadership core should not be a barrier to dealing with the day-to-day and long-term questions of the mass movements. The present campaign is an attempt to take a shortcut and develop that leadership core now, while postponing taking up the class struggle.

This is the real cause of the crisis in the OC. We are following a “left” line, one which greatly exaggerates the subjective factor in the class struggle. The line exaggerates the development of our national leadership, by requiring total consolidation with their lines and premature lines of demarcation with forces who disagree with them. The campaign holds that advanced workers are part of our tendency and are ready to take up communism if only we all “make the break” with chauvinism and accommodation. The implicit glorification of the white and national minority advanced elements is a driving force behind the “left” idealism.

The “left” idealism of the OC’s party building line has a social basis in the petty bourgeois background of the bulk of the tendency. Historically, the bourgeois liberalism and moralism of the middle class has compromised the civil rights movement, the student anti-war movement, and the New Left. A moralistic approach to the fight against racism undermined these movements by promoting paternalism to national minorities and petty bourgeois chauvinism. And today the same petty bourgeois moralism around racism feeds the idealism of the OC’s party building line. Reducing political questions to guilt-tripping and breast-beating clearly is fundamental to the OC’s party building work today.

Related weaknesses play into this petty bourgeois moralism. The low level of cadre development makes OC members vulnerable to a “shortcut” approach to party building as well as the appeal to moralistic guilt. Also, our movement’s history of flunkeyism to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the RU, CL, etc., feeds the OC’s moralism and idealism. These weaknesses cripple our cadre’s ability to struggle against the “left” opportunist party building line of the OCIC.