Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Call for Trend-Wide Conferences to Summarize the Demise of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center

Issued: September 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Cover Letter to Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective

September 16, 1981

Dear TMLC,

Enclosed are a number of materials regarding plans for trend-wide conferences to summarize the decline of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center. They are mainly self-explanatory, and are being sent to a number of comrades around the country whom we are inviting to participate on regional committees organizing these conferences. We are, however, inviting the TMLC to participate on the national committee. The basis for this invitation is the historical role played by TMLC in the development of the trend and the OCIC process. As the materials enclosed note, the conditions for participation are agreement with the political goal for the conferences and the standpoint toward them of re-confirming the political integrity of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. Some members of this planning committee in formation have expressed particular concerns regarding your participation on this committee and their letters to you expressing these concerns are also enclosed. Whether or not you decide to participate on the national (or regional) level, TMLC will be invited to present your views at the conferences.

We hope to move along fairly rapidly with preparations for these important conferences, and therefore hope to hear from you at the soonest possible time, at the latest October 10.

Comradely yours,
Dave Forrest/Max Elbaum for the planning committee in formation

* * *

September 16, 1981

General Cover Letter

Dear comrade,

Recently a number of us have come together and conducted a series of discussions on the importance of summarizing the political decline of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center. Out of these discussions, we have committed ourselves to organizing a series of regional conferences next January and February where various positions within the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend analyzing why the OCIC failed can be aired and where a deeper understanding of and unity concerning this crucial turn in the party building movement can be achieved. Off of the unity we have achieved so far, we have formed the initial core of a national planning committee to set policy for these conferences.

Briefly, we can summarize the unity we have achieved so far as follows:

1) The purpose of the conferences is to conduct a serious discussion and struggle over the roots of the OCIC’s demise This is taken up from the standpoint of the need to re-confirm the basic political integrity of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend, and the goal of reactivating the many comrades who have lost their bearings to take up party building work within the parameters of that trend. All of us share this standpoint toward the conferences, though we do not agree on the underlying reasons for the OCIC’s demise.

2) The core of the conferences should be debate and discussion over the major positions analyzing the OCIC’s failure. To avoid an ultra-democratic and unproductive use of precious time, the conferences would be organized to give the bulk of time to the major, well-developed positions that have some influence in the trend. At present, we have identified at least two such major positions – that the OCIC failed because of the fusion party building line; and that it failed because of a continuation of the ultra-leftism characteristic of the new communist movement. We have also noted the likelihood of other positions being developed to a similar level of comprehensiveness, specifically the view of the Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective that the OCIC failed because of a continuation of the “Stalinian deviation” and the views of MINP-El Comite that the formation of a national center was premature. As the planning for the conferences proceeds, we would expect the planning committee would have to weigh politically which of these views receive major attention at the conferences. Also, though not all views in the trend would receive equal time for presentation, all views would have the opportunity to be aired at some point on the agenda.

3) We tentatively foresee agendas which include presentations on the major and minor positions as well as workshops and plenary debates on these views. Also, we anticipate panel discussions on two closely related questions: What road forward for the trend? and The state of our trend relative to other trends on the left. We foresee conferences running from Saturday morning to Sunday dinner.

4) The conferences would be organized by a national planning committee which would set overall policy for their implementation. This committee would be made up of leading comrades who share a commitment to the conference goals and to carry out the work needed for their successful implementation. It should be representative of the trend politically and geographically, but not in a mechanical sense. It should be small enough to function effectively to set policy. So far, the comrades who have tentatively agreed to function on this committee are Dave Forrest and Max Elbaum (Bay Area), Sharon Rose (Detroit), Melinda Paras (New York) and John Frampton (Boston). Invitations have also been extended to leading comrades in the Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective, MINP-E1 Comite, and the collective which recently split from MINP to join this committee, and it possible that other comrades would be asked to join it in the future. There has been some complexity concerning the invitation to TMLC, and the particular letters concerning this matter are enclosed.

5) Three regional committees would be established to make decisions regarding regional particularities and conduct the bulk of the actual organizing work for the conferences. These committees would again be representative of the trend politically and geographically. Each committee would have a co-ordinator or two co-ordinators who would work closely with the national committee to guide the work.

6) The planning committees would be responsible to circulate major papers on the positions to be presented at the conference, and to organize preliminary meetings in the various cities where the trend is active to prepare for the regional conferences. We anticipate major papers on the major positions to be completed by early December In some cases, documents outlining the main views in contention have already been developed. These, and other documents that may be drafted by various forces, would be circulated as well.

7) Tentatively, the conferences would take place in the Bay Area January 23-24, 1982; Chicago, January 30-31; Boston, February 6-7; and Washington DC, February 13-14.

8) The work would proceed in four stages. The first, from now until early December, would involve firming up the membership of the national and regional committees, issuing a broad call for the conference, making sure main papers to be discussed at the conferences were drafted, and securing sites for the conferences. The second state, from early December until the conferences, would involve the main work of circulating papers and organizing preliminary meetings as well as tabbing down who would be attending. The third stage is the conferences themselves, and the fourth the summation.

9) For the present, Dave and Max will act as an executive of the national planning committee. Our immediate tasks are to circulate this letter and the enclosures here to comrades who we think should play a role on the national or regional committees, to get initial feedback, firm up an initial list of national and regional committee Members, and issue the conference call. We would also have to be sure meetings of the regional committees are held before the second stage starts to firm up plans for work. A national meeting may be required as well.

10) The conferences would be open to all activists in the trend. At present, we agree the CWP should have observer status. Further discussion on the relationship of the CWP to these conferences must be taken up by the planning committee as the overall relationship between CWP and the trend becomes clearer, particularly since some differences in our assessments of the CWP emerged in our initial discussions.

Based on these initial discussions, we have taken the initiative of drafting this letter and the enclosed first draft of the conference call. You should consider this letter an invitation to serve on a regional committee for these conferences. The conditions for participation are agreement with the basic political goals of the conference and the standpoint toward it that the committee-in-formation has adopted, as well as rough agreement with the more practical plans for its implementation We would like to hear from you by October 10 concerning whether or not you desire to serve on a regional committee, as well as with any feedback you have on the general concept of these conferences, the draft call or particular policies, or other related matters. Please contact Max Elbaum, 298 Fairmount St., #2, Oakland, CA 94611.

If you agree to function on this committee, we would like to add your name to the conference call when it is issued (hopefully by November). This is not a “final deadline” however, as we expect we may well add comrades to the regional or national committees even after the public call is first issued. But we want to have the call have maximum effect, and do not want to hold it up until all the membership of the planning committee is finalized.

Comrades, we believe these conferences can mark an important turning point in our trend’s development. With an organized, trend-wide summation of the OCIC’s demise, we can put the period of sectarianism in the trend behind us, and clarify in a principled matter the key differences on party building line that still exist in the trend. As well, we can reach a higher level of unity on the tasks before us. For these reasons, we urge you to participate in the work around these conferences and lend every effort to make them a success.

For the Planning Committee in Formation,
Dave Forrest/Max Elbaum

* * *

Draft: Call for Trend-Wide Conferences to Summarize the Demise of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center

The anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend in the U.S. communist movement came into being in 1975-76 following the break with the class collaborationist line of the Communist Party of China that crystallized over the question of support for the Angolan revolution led by the MPLA. At the time of the trend’s birth, its most active and self-conscious forces correctly grasped that the central task facing the trend was that of party building. For a considerable period of time in the trend’s history since its inception, the bulk of the trend’s active party building forces regarded the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC) ad the most appropriate vehicle through which to take up this central task.

The OCIC was founded in February 1978 after two years of preparatory work by forces all around the country. It declared itself united around 18 points of unity which demarcated Marxism-Leninism from various forms of opportunism, and stated that its main purpose was to build a single leading ideological center for the emerging anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. The OCIC’s formation caused considerable excitement and optimism among many trend forces that a process was underway which could successfully lead to a genuine Marxist-Leninist party being forged in the U.S.

In the last eighteen months, however, the OCIC has undergone a profound crisis. The most concentrated expression of that crisis was the OCIC’s ill-fated Campaign Against White Chauvinism, which grossly mishandled the crucially important struggle against racism within the communist ranks. As a result of this crisis, the OCIC’s membership declined rapidly and its prestige within the trend and on the broader left plummeted to almost zero. Today it is no exaggeration to state that the OCIC is a hopelessly isolated sect exerting no influence on the direction and progress of the party building movement.

The demise of the OCIC has had a significant impact upon the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. On the positive side, many comrades are re-examining with a new seriousness and rigor their party building views, rejecting the sectarian legacy which became characteristic of the OCIC as it developed, and re-committing themselves to the task of transforming the trend into a genuine Marxist-Leninist party. On the other hand, some comrades have responded to the OCIC’s dramatic decline by questioning the existence of the emerging Marxist-Leninist trend or the revolutionary character of Marxism-Leninism, and are stepping back from party building work. And because the trend’s summation of the OCIC’s demise has thus far proceeded in relatively fragmented fashion, the ability to struggle through these differences and win comrades back to party building has been highly circumscribed.

In our view, these negative effects must be checked and reversed. We believe that party building remains the central task before US Marxist-Leninists, and that the developing anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend remains the entity which continues the legacy of Marxism Leninism in the U.S. today. It is from this standpoint that we believe an organized process of summarizing the underlying reasons for the OCIC’s failure must be taken up, precisely to reconfirm the political integrity of the trend and rebuild its commitment to party building.

Clearly, this summation will be a process of struggle. Different views concerning the reasons for the OCIC’s failure exist in the trend, and probably will continue to exist for some time. But the first step forward in resolving these differences must be an organized process where they are aired and debated before the entire trend.

We have constituted this committee to take the lead in organizing such a process of summation and struggle, concretely embodied in a series of regional conferences this January and February. We believe such conferences must provide a forum to air all opinions concerning the OCIC’s demise. At the same time, our experience convinces us that the debate is most productive if it is focused on the most developed, coherent, and comprehensive lines. At present, at least two such developed lines concerning the OCIC’s demise exist and have influence in the trend: that the OCIC failed because of the fusion party building line, and that the OCIC failed because of a continuation of the ultra-leftism characteristic of the new communist movement. Other lines which may also develop as major contending lines include the view that the OCIC’s failure to break with the “Stalinian deviation” was the root of the problem, or that the formation of a national center itself was premature. While not excluding other views from receiving a hearing, we would intend to organize the conferences around these major viewpoints, or other positions of similar depth, comprehensiveness and influence that may come forward.

The summation of the OCIC’s decline would constitute the centerpiece of the conference agendas, and we would anticipate presentations, workshops, and plenary debate on this topic. At the same time, since our underlying purpose is to rebuild the coherence of the trend and move its party building work forward, we would also allow time for two closely related panel discussions: What Road forward for the Trend? and The State of the Trend and other Trends on the left.

We anticipate the conferences to consist of two days of workshops and plenary sessions, opening on Saturday morning and ending Sunday in the late afternoon. Given geographical and time considerations, we are planning for conferences in the following cities on the following dates: SF Bay Area, January 23-21, 1982; Chicago, January 30-31; Boston, February 6-7; Washington DC, February 13-l4.

Preparatory meetings would be organized in cities where the trend is active to conduct initial discussions of the conference topic. Written materials to frame the conference debates would be distributed to assist comrades preparation. Attendance at the conferences would be open to all trend forces, including those still within the OCIC.

The signers of this call have constituted ourselves as the initial cores of a national planning committee and regional planning committees to organize these conferences. We hold differences among us as to the underlying reasons for the OCIC’s decline, but have initiated this effort because we feel that it is crucial to regroup the trend after its experience with the OCIC, and that this is impossible without an organized and active debate concerning the reasons for the OCIC’s demise.

We believe that these conferences, if successful, can mark an important turning point in the development of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. They are an opportunity to put the period of sectarianism in the trend behind us, identify clearly the unities and differences on party building strategy that still exist in the trend, and recommit ourselves to our party building task, For these reasons, we urge all trend activists to participate in these conferences and exert every effort to make them a success.

Signed: national and regional committees in formation
September 16, 1981