Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ex-Boston Local Center/OCIC Members

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


“Left” Methods, of Ideological Struggle – Sectarianism and Dogmatism

To treat comrades like enemies is to go over to the side of the enemy. – Mao

Throughout the campaign, the leadership’s line on methods of ideological struggle has been ultra-left. Underlying the ultra-left method is the view that the leadership’s line is correct beyond question and that the role of the rank and file is to fall into line and not ask questions. The rank and file is not seen to have contributions to make to the development of line. Let’s look at history - all those who have questioned or criticized the leadership have been viewed as backwards and opportunist. Struggle is not designed to build unity, but to isolate and expose the opposition. This is the same ultra-left line that has historically sabotaged principled ideological struggle in the anti-revisionist movement. The leadership banks on the flunkeyism of the rank and file (another historical weakness of the anti-revisionist movement, based to a large degree on the theoretical and ideological underdevelopment of the rank and file) and the fear and guilt on the part of comrades of being the object of unprincipled methods of struggle to keep the left sectarian line in operation.

This left sectarian line makes a mockery of the Draft Plan, which says that the purpose of the OC, and later the IC, is to create the conditions for open ideological struggle which will facilitate the emergence of a leading ideological core for our tendency. Lip-service to the contrary, the leadership’s line as demonstrated by its practice is that the leading ideological core already exists, in the form of itself. It is not surprising that an opposition movement has been organized so rapidly since the Regional Conference. Comrades who are part of this movement have, for the most part, been trying to squelch and hide their disunity by their silence or by posturing.

The leftism dovetails with the error of idealism. The campaign, which is a material reality, has been defined as being identical with the struggle against white and petty-bourgeois chauvinism. The two line struggle is defined by the leadership such that those in opposition or those who even raise a criticism are advocating white and petty-bourgeois chauvinism or are capitulating to it and are opposed to the emergence of national-minority and working class leadership. This method of drawing the line leaves no room for opposition and leads to the discounting of all opposition views. Because opposition to the campaign is by definition opportunist, the actual political content of the opposition doesn’t have to be taken seriously or addressed. It is sufficient to go straight to “exposing” the opposition’s ideological weaknesses and opportunist motivations. This approach does not foster the development of ideologically strong cadre, nor the development of correct lines. To the contrary, this method promotes a membership unable and unwilling to stand on its own two feet and be held accountable. Flunkeyism is fostered. The rank and file does not have input, nor is it won over by reasoned arguments. This approach leads to a lot of scared cadre who either sit silent or posture, afraid to say what they really think for fear of coming under opportunist attack and going against the all-knowing leadership.

The left sectarian line and idealist approach to ideological struggle began with the very first BLC meeting. Based on the intervention of the chair of the RSC, Sal W., the planned agenda for the meeting was changed without notice. Initially, the meeting was to be an introduction to the OCIC etc. but W. felt that a report from his recent trip to the Mid West Regional Conference was more important. It was at this Conference that the OCIC’s CAWC was unofficially initiated.

Those comrades who objected to the change in the agenda because they had prepared for the originally scheduled meeting, and felt that discussion of the Mid West Conference would also benefit from comrades’ planned preparation, were met with unprincipled criticism.

These objections were not struggled with politically, and the leadership’s position put forward through struggle. To the contrary, these comrades’ points were rejected out of hand as a defence of their white chauvinism. The merit of their arguments, even the fact that they may have wanted to know something about the OCIC (this being the very first meeting), was seen as pure defensiveness and opportunism. Further, comrades were criticized for anti-leadership attitudes and ultra-democracy. This line was employed by the then leadership and comrades soon to be in leadership such as R., R., W. and F.

The incorrectness of this approach, the ultra-leftism in it, is obvious, and was obvious to many comrades at that time. These comrades tried to take up principled struggle against this approach but their criticisms were ignored and written off as being motivated by their opportunism. If the leadership’s position was correct then a political struggle could have been waged for the correct view. But to discount totally the position that we should go along with the meeting as planned and take up the issues W. wanted to raise at the next meeting with the R&F prepared, is absurd. That position is politically sound, does not postpone the SAWC indefinitely, and most importantly, allows for cadre to participate in discussion as informed as possible.

Rather than the opposition comrades being the opportunists, it was the leadership who was opportunist. The leadership resorted to unprincipled charges rather than take up the content of the issues, and fostered an undemocratic approach which was to continue to this very moment in the BLC!

This approach continued at the next BLC meeting in July. Paul R., then chairperson of the BLC, made a presentation in response to papers written by Liz Mc. and Peter F. criticizing the approach and line of the leadership. Despite the fact that this was at the second BLC meetings, at a point in history where no one, including the leadership, had much of a view if how to take up the SAWC, nor much of an idea of what the emerging two line struggle was all about, R. drew a sharp line between himself and Mc. and F. R. was a man willing to struggle against his white chauvinism. Mc. and F. were the defenders of white chauvinism in the communist movement.

As such, R. found it acceptable to threaten to throw F. out of the OCIC and to say that a section of MC’s paper “simply reeked of white chauvinism” and that “the smell is made 10 times worse by the fact that it is an opportunist appeal for comrades to be complicitous in her white chauvinism.” The lines were drawn and anyone who united with criticisms raised by Mc. or F., well, we know where they’re coming from.

Prior to the 2nd BLC meeting, R. had been criticized for his liberal approach to the minority at the first meeting. He was struggled with by at least F. and R. to take a much stronger line against the minority’s viewpoints. R’s method of struggle was prompted and encouraged by them. In fact, after the meeting R. was congratulated for having done so well.

In reality, this approach served only to stifle productive struggle by totally squelching views which were in opposition to the line of the leadership. This was accomplished by creating an atmosphere of confusion and fear. The fact that such an atmosphere fosters dogmatism and flunkeyism can not be denied by any objective observer.

The left sectarian line was consolidated at the September NE Regional Conference when any and all criticism of the leading line was rejected as defense of white and petty bourgeois chauvinism a and opportunist. At that Conference, a resolution submitted by the RSC was passed stating, “be it resolved that this conference reject the various forms of opposition to the campaign... as being a defense of the white chauvinism and anti-working class bias in the OC, as an effort to avoid the struggle against white chauvinism, and as being based on white chauvinism and class bias. Not one single criticism raised by the opposition was thought to be principled or of any value. But let us look at a few examples of the reality.

At the July BLC meeting G.J. stated that he didn’t know any NMML’s [national minority Marxist-Leninists – EROL]. This situation was in fact one which many other BLC members felt themselves to be in. Rather than look concretely at GJ’s situation and evaluate whether in fact that was true and why, or why GJ thought it was true, GJ was simply ridiculed.

J. should have been praised for his honesty, for he put forward a view which many others shared but would not put out. A materialist analysis should have been made. But that did not happen. In fact, when J. asked for a materialist analysis, i.e., for the beginning of a scientific approach to understanding what constituted the tendency in Boston, he was again ridiculed.

Why were J’s comments treated in this manner and left unanswered? It is because the leadership as well as most of the other BLC members shared his questions. In the context of the methods of struggle established by the leading line and in particular by its appeal to white racist guilt, very few of us – and no one in leadership was willing to admit that we too thought we didn’t know any NMML’s, or thought “thank goodness I know so and so,” and that we too were unclear as to how to define the tendency. It is now clear that Comrade Johnson was scape-goated because, the leadership, as well as most other comrades, didn’t want to face up to the fact that on the one hand they were rallying behind the line that said that national minority comrades are among the most advanced in New England, and on the other hand they couldn’t actually say concretely who these advanced national minority comrades were.

Some serious racist errors grew out of this approach. First, GJ was struggled with around his failure to see a NM/WC man, K. as part of the tendency. Johnson maintained that K. was in fact not part of the tendency. He was criticized for his racism.

But the reality is that K was not part of the tendency. While open to discussions around socialism and an advanced worker, K. did not consider himself a socialist. The struggle waged with GJ around this struggle was a racist and petty bourgeois chauvinist one in which the concrete realities of K.’s situation were ignored for the sake of others’ posturing at how much more anti-racist and proletarian they were than GJ. Consequently the error of abstract equality was made toward K. in which his political differences were liquidated and his actual level of development meant nothing.

This error has been made over and over again in the BLC’s outreach work and stems from the fact that neither of GJ’s comments at that July BLC meeting were taken seriously. The leadership has dug itself into a hole now since the posturing has continued for 8 months on this question. That this continues to be the case in outreach can be seen in the following fact. In the cases of H., R., P., C., O’M., Q., M., C., L., U., and S.: not one of these comrades could speak to why their national minority contacts were OCIC contacts, other than the fact that they were NM’s!

Comrade Mc. says in her paper, “Individuals’ racist attitudes should be examined, but in the context of a discussion of our collective practice and program. Instead, the first BLC meeting lost this focus (on our collective practice and program), and dwelt on criticism of individuals per se.”

Rachel S. wrote in her paper How Can the OC Join with National Minorities?, “We need to make a careful analysis of the individuals and groups of national minority comrades who might be won over to the OC. And then we should delegate responsibility to various BLC members for beginning or deepening the process of achieving political unity with these comrades. In making this analysis and assessing how the delegated work is going, we could make some useful criticism of our racist attitudes that impede these processes. But the process of actually taking up these tasks is primary and provides the context for criticism and self criticism. To focus on individual’ attitudes alone amounts to a view that once we get our heads together correct theory and practice will automatically follow.”

These views were dismissed as being totally backwards in the September Regional Conference resolution: “Whereas certain ’questions of organization’ have been raised, such as the way meetings are organized, the need to discuss an outreach plan, etc., these are a deflection and diversion of the struggle against white chauvinism and postpone it to the indefinite future.”

Comrade S. was discredited by others pointing to her practice as being backward and therefore she need not be listened to seriously. This is an example of neat debating tricks used through out the CAWC by those holding the leading line. They have nothing in common with a dialectical- materialist approach for in reality the practice of the leadership itself was no different from Comrade S’s. However, an unprincipled and opportunist attack was used to avoid dealing directly with the political content of Stein’s position and evaluating it on its merits.

This method continues to the present, comrades are discredited by the assertion that their motives are opportunist and the political issues they raise are never addressed. A stark example of this is the conduct of the struggle at the March BLC meeting (see appendix I).

Then in November, further compounding the error towards RS, the LSC wrote a self-criticism on its failure to provide leadership to outreach. In it they wrote, “and key to rectification is actually taking up outreach work, our own and that of the center, and struggling with our White chauvinism in that context.” The correct content of RS’s points were never addressed. As Vicki L. stated in her paper (which has also been ignored) “The importance of struggling to develop an outreach plan (forums, study groups, observer follow up) as an integral way to move the struggle against white and petty bourgeois chauvinism forward was recognized by the leadership. Suddenly it was no longer opportunist or avoidance; it was, in fact, a key way to take up the struggle. I welcome the recognition of this – but what concerns me is the lack of recognition by leadership that it is now agreeing with a position which it vigorously attacked not two months earlier. We are supposed to be scientific socialists, capable not only of analyzing the world outside, but our own experience as well, of seeing how our lines develop in a dialectical way. It is crucial that changes in line are conscious and the process by which they change analyzed. Otherwise the theory behind the line is not fully grasped and it is impossible to judge whether or not the line is being implemented correctly”.

The significance of L’s statement is brought home to us many months later. Because an understanding of the errors toward S. was never attempted, no real consolidation around the weaknesses in the approach toward her or toward our outreach was ever fully realized. Consequently we continue to perpetuate the same errors and continue to fall to take up struggle against our bourgeois ideology as it relates to our practical work. Outreach meetings have degenerated even further into idealist “speak to your views” sessions in which questions of uniting the tendency around issues of party building have been totally liquidated.

In fact the leadership continually makes self criticisms for errors such as posturing, liquidating politics, ignoring practice, scapegoating and yet not much changes. The leadership would like us to think that in this period things have changed. The example they give is the meeting of the supporters of the campaign recently held in Boston. At this meeting, the leadership accepted several criticisms raised by the WC and NM comrades such as the fact that the content of the 18 Point Study Groups was being liquidated, and that there had been some unprincipled methods of struggle used in the CAWC.

But let us look at the reality, at the opportunism behind this self-criticism on the part of the leadership and the history prior to this meeting. The fact is that many of these criticisms had been raised by the opposition forces at the March BLC meeting only 2 weeks earlier. The fact too is that the NM and WC comrades who raised these criticisms at the meeting did so after a meeting they had among themselves at which time they united behind the position that if things did not change rapidly, they would be compelled to leave the OCIC.

The approach to this situation taken by the leadership was that they had to unite with some of these criticisms or lose their NM and WC credentials. That they do not take the criticisms seriously can be seen in the fact that at no time since this meeting has any member of the opposition been contacted by any member of the leadership to say that there was any change on the position taken toward the opposition line at the March BLC meeting.

No. Despite months of errors of this kind, the same approach is taken towards opposition. Any and all opposition is opportunist unless of course it is put forward by our credentials. Then we have to appease them rather than have them continue the pattern of exodus from the BLC.

There are many other views which the “old” opposition put forward that the leadership and the new opposition now agrees with. Our own left sectarianism prevented us at the time from giving a fair hearing to what they had to say. And our own left sectarianism and flunkeyism, along with the intimidation which resulted from the left sectarianism of the leadership, kept some of us from openly uniting with aspects of their position which we secretly agreed with at the time.

The leadership’s line is that the “old” opposition left the OC entirely because of their unwillingness to deal with their white and petty bourgeois chauvinism and that they have abandoned M-L. Newlin repeats this unsubstantiated allegation in the Dec. Organizer. We think that this is a continuation of the left sectarian line – again the opposition is being scapegoated and written off as hopelessly opportunist. This is a convenient way of blaming a victim of the campaign and not listening to what they’re saying in order to avoid looking at the incorrect political line of the campaign. While no political analysis has been made of the points raised by members who have left, many in the “old” opposition saw the OC embarking on an ultra-left campaign which was not in the interest of the CAWC/PBC. In taking up struggle against this ultra-leftism they must have felt the brunt of the left sectarianism – they were treated with gross disrespect: they were discredited in unprincipled ways: they were branded as hopelessly backward: and their views were summarily discounted in the absence of a principled two line struggle. This is the context in which these comrades left the OC - they were driven out by left sectarianism.

When the “new” opposition raises this aspect of “white flight” we are often asked “Who is being abused? The white pb comrades or the NM and WC comrades?” We are told that our concern for the white petty bourgeois comrades exposes our chauvinism and our lack of concern for the abuse of NM and WC comrades. Let us be clear on our position and the reality of the OCIC. All comrades, NM, WC and PB are being abused. To discredit concern for the sectarianism that has been exhibited towards white PB comrades by speculating on their guilt as does the line “Who is being abused” does a tremendous disservice to an honest effort to unite the tendency and to struggle against white and petty bourgeois chauvinism.

The leadership has actually criticized itself for scape-goating the “old” opposition. But, a thorough analysis or written self criticism has never been done, the full extent and political effects of the errors have never been acknowledged, and the roots of the errors were never fully explored. The leadership has refused to admit that the scapegoating had anything whatsoever to do with these comrades leading the OC. The self serving and non-materialist aspect of this position are clear and patently dogmatic. The leadership has identified white and petty bourgeois chauvinism as the roots of the scapegoating.

As we have established time and again in this paper, the root of the errors is ultra-leftism. It is the ultra-left approach to ideological struggle, deeply rooted in the history of the anti-revisionist movement, which needs to be targeted in order to move the struggle forward.

By reducing the error to white and petty bourgeois chauvinism we never acknowledge the ultra-Leftism, and therefore can never aim the arrow at the correct target. No ideological struggle is taken to root it out. Ultra-leftism will continue to lead the OCIC and the intensification of the Campaign will mean an intensification of the idealist and sectarian approach to ideological struggle. In fact we have seen this happen in the BLC in the last period.

We have seen it with the scapegoating of Jenny F. in the period after the Feb. Regional Conference. Comrade F. made serious errors at the Regional Conference. However, the significance of these errors were not primarily for Comrade F. as an individual. The significance was that Comrade F. was leading a fundamentally flawed campaign in which we were all participating. The correct approach would have been to target the political errors of the campaign (including the left sectarianism, such as F’s error toward Jim R. at the Regional Conference). Instead, because the campaign itself is untouchable, F. herself was targeted, with the purpose of isolating and exposing her. Since Comrade F’s errors at the Regional Conference were actually symptoms of an incorrect, political line which we all have advocated and practiced, targetting F. as an individual inevitably led to intense scapegoating and posturing.

Comrade F. has been written off by the leadership as a gross opportunist and her views have been totally discounted. At the last BLC meeting, Sal W. referred to the “total political degeneration” of Comrade F. After Comrade F. gave the initial presentation of the opposition position at the last BLC meeting, the political positions which she represented were not addressed. Rather, an attempt was made to discredit Comrade F. by “exposing” her white and petty bourgeois chauvinism.

This is consistent with the approach taken since the Feb. Regional Conference. In the two meetings since the Reg. Conference designed to take up struggle with F. around her disunity with the CAWC/PBC, the chair Alice C., liquidated F’s positive contributions to the SAPBC. In the first meeting F. made a self-criticism around her errors toward D. and at the second meeting she made a major advance in taking up her (and others) errors towards F. In both cases, because these were advances and represented leadership by F., C. was forced out of her sectarianism to deny the reality. And so C. was unprincipled and said to F., “There you go again, trying to get over on us by your ’honest self-criticism’ ploy. But, we know that; you’re coming from opportunism”. With that, the meeting moved on and F. was not allowed to respond.

A further example of the unprincipled approach to F. was at the meeting one week after the Reg. Conference attended by 18 members of the NE OCIC including the full RSC. Struggle was waged with R. and F. who represented the only opposition viewpoints. Prior to the meeting F. was told that three comrades (T., L. and J.) would be there. Later, she was told that W. would also attend. The day before the meeting R. was also included. It was not until they arrived at the meeting that F. and R. were to learn the true nature of the event.

At this meeting whenever F. or R. raised a point, the chair, C. did not allow the other to speak. When F. raised an objection, she was criticized for opportunism, speculating on sexism, rushing to defend R. and ultra-democracy. This is in spite of the reality that these two comrades were the only ones defending the opposition political position. The manner in which the meeting was chaired allowed 16 people to put forward one view and only one person to oppose it. Clearly this is not open political struggle nor a democratic approach.

Numerous other examples could be given of unprincipled struggle towards the opposition. A typical one is O’H’s experience at the second meeting of her 18 point study group. J.L., study leader, laid out the agenda. She said the first hour the group would discuss a sum up she wrote Of the first meeting, focusing on 2 points - our views of Tom L. and a new sum up of F’s role (as not having played a leading role at the first study session, as had been stated before). Struggle focused on O’H. for the entire meeting (F. wasn’t there and M’s views, very similar to O’H’s were ignored, perhaps because she had not stated her open opposition to the CAWC yet.). O’H. was scapegoated by L. and others in support of the CAWC as the most backwards person in the group, based solely on her open opposition to the CAWC. One example of this is that when O’H. pointed out that the hour for discussion of the sum-up was 2/3 over, that the group hadn’t finished the first point, and that they should move on to the study itself, she was criticized for opportunistically trying to divert the meeting from struggling with her white and petty bourgeois chauvinism.

At the third study group, L. handed out a self-criticism for having postured towards O’H. the meeting before and for having held back the consolidation of people around the 18 points. She targetted white and petty bourgeois chauvinism as the root of this error. Specifically, her unwillingness to expose her chauvinism to struggle. L. argued this led her to scapegoat O’H. as someone who was “obviously” backwards, since O’H. was opposed to the CAWC/PBC. Never did L. look at the ultra-left sectarianism behind her behavior. Her failure to do this means that she will be unable to correct the error.

Recently the leadership has been self-critical of its paper “LSC View on the ’New Opposition’ Line in the BLC”, but, the self-criticism was shallow and did not target the left sectarianism of this paper. The political positions of the opposition were not seriously addressed. The LSC assumed that opposition to the campaign couldn’t possibly be correct, so it was sufficient to “expose” the opposition’s opportunist motivations. Thus, in describing the opposition position they question the sincerity of the oppositions’ view that there have been positive aspects to the campaign by putting “positive aspects” in quotation marks. The paper’s main contention is that the “opposition’s appeal is rooted in an intense speculation on white, petit bourgeois, and male chauvinism and capitulation to them.” “All this speculation is necessary to provide a cover for the defense of white and petit bourgeois chauvinism”. It is clear that the real speculation is coming from the left sectarianism of the campaign. The struggle is again defined by the leadership such that opposition automatically represents a defense of WC and PBC and fierce opposition to NM and WC leadership. The line is drawn. The LSC and its supporters represent the friends of the WC and the anti-racist fighters, while the opposition forces are gross opportunists. We think that given the errors which the leadership has made towards Comrades W., F., L., G., and B. in the last month, that they should be somewhat more humble in their approach.

The leadership says that the intensification means that these errors will be examined and corrected. What they refuse to look at is the fact that these errors are caused by the line of the intensification. The liquidation of F’s political points, the chauvinism towards G. at the last BLC meeting, the attack on B. at the same BLC meeting, the errors in the struggles with W. since the Regional Conference, all must be seen as flowing from the intensification. These are not errors in isolation from a leading line.

At the last BLC meeting the left sectarian method of bypassing political struggle to attack motivations reached bizarre proportions. Almost anything that came out of anyone’s mouth(especially the opposition, but others as well), was either speculation, or a plea for paternalism or capitulation, or posturing, or a defense of WC or PBC, etc. Are we to believe that opportunism is so thoroughly rampant in the BLC, or is it that the left sectarianism of the CAWC/PBC has intensified?

Upwards of 20 comrades have left the BLC. Now the leadership has expressed the view that up to half of the current BLC may have to leave and that that will be a good thing. Where is the room for democratic struggle in the OC? Democracy has been sabotaged and replaced with a “drive the white chauvinists, petit bourgeois chauvinists, and capitulationists out of the BLC” line. Get rid of all the riff raff and then the 25 (or 15 or 5) of us who are left will really get down on the WC and PBC and capitulation. This is the politics of sect building, not party building.

The left sectarian method is a lazy, dogmatic approach to ideological struggle. Trying to win someone over in a principled way, through the persuasiveness of the political rationale, clearly takes mental exertion, honestly examining one’s own unity with the opposing position, being open to reexamining one’s own position, etc. It is necessary to deliver clear and convincing arguments as to how a change will benefit the comrade and the revolutionary struggle. Principled struggle requires care and patience (not to be confused with liberalism). Accusations of defensiveness, and the approach of battering down rather than convincing, only serves to cover up one’s own weaknesses in taking up the struggle, and to demoralize the comrade who is being struggled with. These methods have not proven to be effective. Despite proven problems the leadership has never altered the original line initiated two years ago. While defensiveness is a genuine problem, the real question is how to take up the struggle in a way that will minimize defensiveness. Perpetually blaming the lack of progress in the campaign on individual comrades’ defensiveness is an easy answer which again deflects attention from the incorrect political line of the campaign. The fact is that as Marxist-Leninists we believe that while on the one hand bourgeois ideology has a strong hold on comrades, on the other hand comrades have an even stronger interest in rooting it out. It is this positive interest which needs to be emphasized and built upon in the struggle, as opposed to the continual emphasis on comrades’ “desire” to defend their bourgeois ideology.

(For other examples of unprincipled struggles, see Appendix I)