Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

J.R.H., a CPML Central Committee member

The anti-Reagan front and the tasks of our Trend

First Published: Special Supplment to The Call, Vol. 10, No. 8-9, November-December 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Reagan years will see attacks on almost every section of the American population. As always those hardest hit will be the minorities, women and the poor. But the attacks will be much broader. Industrial workers, middle income people, small businessmen and farmers all will be affected.

This sets the stage for the ’80s. It is a different period from either of the two preceding decades. The next period will see a defensive struggle to save hundreds of gains won from years of struggle. Such major social victories as unemployment compensation, social security, the voting rights act and affirmative action are threatened. In opposition it is possible to build the broadest people’s movement, united in defense of democratic reforms and rights. Certainly Solidarity Day was an indication of this potential.

Both the civil rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements were offensive in nature. The freedom movement won important concessions, while mass anti-war activity made the government defend an unjust war. But both of these great social movements failed to involve important sections of the people. In particular white workers never became widely active in either movement.

The middle and late ’70s saw no large, sustained mass movements. There were significant struggles – miners, truckers, small farmers – but by and large this was a period of ebb.

But now the nature of the broad right-wing offensive makes possible, for the first time in decades, the unity of the working class with the social movements of minorities, women and other sectors. It’s important for working class activists to grasp the potential broadness of the movement because it means a particular orientation and set of tasks.

We’d better not look at such mobilizations as Solidarity Day with cynicism, simply brushing it off because the corrupted union bureaucracy called the action to bolster their own position in the Democratic Party and other ruling circles. No other force today, certainly not the left, can call for a demonstration of this size which brings together all the diverse forces involved in the Reagan attacks.

The fact that this leadership will not offer solutions which challenge capitalism is today’s objective level. Solidarity Day showed that people are mobilizing, and that struggle will spontaneously grow on the grassroots level. This struggle will often go beyond the bounds of the current leadership, both in its scope and demands. Our task is to help see that it does.


There is no question of the need to be fully involved in the anti-right movement. The question is how best to build the resistance. The development of a class conscious trend in the anti-right coalition is a vital task for the left inside the broad social movement. This trend must put forward a working class program, und solutions, which target capitalism as the root problem. Such a trend, while small, will attract advanced workers and help sustain and build the resistance.

No longer are leftists isolated in pure, anti-imperialist organizations made up solely of the advanced and communists. Today Marxist-Leninists are in a variety of grassroots organizations. New methods and tactics of work are being formulated. Experience with legislative work is being accumulated. In unions many activists now hold office. This is an important step and a vital orientation to maintain. Through concentrating our efforts on building the base we can develop a political line in step with the American people.

The unions are filled with officials with little experience in mass organizing. Here the left brings a lot of experience and can be of great help. If we continue to shed our former sectarianism, communists will be called upon to organize. By maintaining a mass orientation, developing flexible but militant tactics, and working to unite the advanced activists, we can develop a class conscious trend which can make important contributions to the struggle. While learning to relate to the actual level of consciousness of people, we must also be able to push that consciousness forward. The working class needs to see itself as an independent force, with goals separate from the liberal solutions now being offered. Communists must be able to explain Reaganomics and why this system needs to attack the very people who create its wealth. This calls for new study into political economy. We can’t oppose Reaganomics with Keynesian solutions. Particularly important is relating the attacks against minorities and women to the classwide attacks.

Because of the broad anti-people program of the right many white workers will see that their enemy is also the enemy of minority people. This lays the basis for important steps toward unity in a common struggle. But because of the chauvinism of the present union leadership many minorities will seek independent forms of organization. This is a reflection of the separate identity and character of the national movements.

Marxist-Leninists must make the struggle for working unity, on the basis of equality, a major task inside the anti-right movement. This is key to building a class conscious trend.

A workable intermediate program should be brought into the anti-right movement. Ideas for this will come from many sources, but Marxist-Leninists should strive to make real contributions. An intermediate program linked to concrete agitation and organization can go beyond slogans, to make the left “practical” to the American people. It can also help to unite a broad spectrum of people and activists.

In brief I would like to offer some programmatic ideas to start the discussion. These center on economic demands, who to take money from, and where to spend it. Other political demands, especially the rights of minorities and women, are key to any program. Without such demands, no people’s movement can succeed. I look forward to such contributions from the minority and women’s commissions.

Tax the Export of Capital: The export of capital is an essential feature of imperialism. The huge superprofits made in the third world are key to U.S. imperialism’s economic strength and domination of world affairs. But this has caused sharp contradictions at home–the need to reindustrialize, falling productivity, and less jobs. We should relate the flight of capital to the flight of jobs, and fight anti-import chauvinism. Calling for a 35% tax on capital export (not overseas profits) would put the burden directly on the capitalists, and create revenues taken from their coffers.

Nationalize Oil: The gross intake of the oil corporations are larger than the GNPs of most countries. The $8.7 billion Mobil offered Conoco is just the tip of the iceberg, the amount of unused capital sitting in the bank accounts of the oil monopolies. We should make use of the popular hatred for the oil monopolies by demanding their nationalization.

Many problems of nationalization in Europe come from industries which are dying. The capitalists have given up absolute control because conditions ate no longer profitable. The State, then, has to rationalize the industry with tax dollars. Oil is different; it’s growing and extremely profitable.

Another problem has been the agitation of the CPUSA. In general they claim that nationalization can be carried out under popular control, will do away with discrimination, environmental waste, and be a step towards socialism.

Nationalization under capitalism is no step to socialism, just as social security and unemployment benefits were no socialist steps in the ’30s. But it could be an important reform, and create millions of dollars for public use. We should spread no illusions about popular control, and always raise the demand in conjunction with the right to strike.

Stop Foreign Aid to Dictatorships, Close Down U.S. Military Bases Overseas; The anti-foreign aid feeling is very strong among Americans. We should use this, and turn it into a progressive demand to undercut U.S. imperialism’s domination in such countries as South Korea, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Israel and the Phillipines. These demands would save billions of tax dollars.

Re-Build the Cities: Housing, hospitals, schools, child care centers, parks, public transportation are all suffering and need support. Using revenues created by the above items, massive public work projects could be financed. This could revitalize the construction, steel, and railway industries, and employ thousands of new teachers, counselors and CETA workers, and provide jobs for inner city youth.

For immediate demands we must answer the most pressing attacks the people are facing. Such demands should be: Defend and build the unions; protect social welfare programs; maintain full unemployment and social security payments; defend the democratic rights of minorities and women.


We need organization in order to play a constructive role in the anti-right fight-back. Certainly we could have contributed more to Solidarity Day with a well-organized, non-sectarian, fighting organization. Today the reconstruction of a communist organization is the main task inside the Marxist-Leninist movement.

While the CPML experienced serious mistakes of bureaucratic centralism, the lack of collective sum-ups and struggle over the last year has left many activists out in the cold. Although people have joined community organizations there has been no efforts to chart a new approach to our work. This has left people doing excellent work, but with no strategic view, nothing to link into. In effect our disintegration has isolated many good activists into separated areas of work, rendering our efforts less effective.

The trade union work has experienced some of the same problems. Our labor work was the first to break with ultra-leftism, and some real advances appeared. But with the disintegration of our commissions, our successful new approaches have been left largely unsummarized.

We need an organization of activists, with collective guidance and co-ordination. Centralism should insure that our collective national knowledge is shared, so we can move in an effective, united manner. Internal democracy should be ensured by having rank and file activists along with their elected leadership decide policy. In this way leaders unconnected and ignorant of the demands in a particular area of work can’t declare ill-thought-out campaigns.

Our main theoretical work should be on the social and economic conditions of the U.S. Without centralization there is little holding our work and people together; without democracy it would be impossible to develop theory and organization rooted in the everyday reality of our people.

There have been proposals for a broad political form of organization. But can we really build a group where important differences are overlooked for the sake of unity? Perhaps, but I think we would be constructing an organization with splits built into its structure.

Let’s look at a few problems. A large part of the independent left views the national question as a class question, and often sees raising special demands as splittist. In our common work, contradictions have often arisen over directly confronting national oppression. The broadly attended conferences sponsored by Labor Notes is a good example. Over 2 days and some 40 workshops, only 1 was on “Black-White Unity,” and that only after some struggle. Is this the way to develop a united, multi-national organization? Hardly. Minorities would never stay where such an approach exists. Is upholding peace and independence enough without defining Soviets as imperialist? While most people could agree to defend Poland from Soviet aggression, there are different views of independents. Some forces see the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea as establishing regional peace. Some people see Cuban military involvement in Angola and Ethiopia as a bulwark against imperialist intervention. Still others say the U.S. should maintain its bases in Puerto Rico.

Are we ̴mature” enough to keep all this inside one organization, or are we really dealing with exclusive views!?

What viewpoint gets represented in our press? What money gets spent for leaflets? And if such differences exist, what is the practical usefulness of being in one organization? How do we work together and advance mutual goals?

A broad grouping would also include non-activist members. But non-activists are either left out in the cold, isolated from the life blood of the organization or end up voting and deciding policy for areas where they have no practical knowledge. Aren’t such people better as supporters, rather than members of a fighting organization?

In fact, isn’t the proposal for a diverse organization really directed at the left, and not workers? After all, most workers who are fighters and actually attracted to socialism want an organization to help them struggle. Yet a group with diverse trends would only bog down in debate and chase workers away.

But short of organizational unity there are many other forms: Coalitions, forums, symposiums and united fronts. The important thing is not to think idealistically that real-life differences can be shoved under one organizational rug. It is necessary to recognize that each trend of thought has a role to play in building a revolutionary movement, and a place in socialist society.

Different ideas need to be tested in struggle, clear choices need to be put forward. Let’s not confuse a non-sectarian approach with organizational unity. To maintain such trends in one organization would condemn us to years of splits and disorganization, rather than a workable united front.


A strategic line needs a popular vision of American socialism. We should apply the Leninist theory of the state to our own conditions, to see concretely what form the dictatorship of the proletariat may take. Maintaining a Leninist view is essential to developing a correct strategy. While electoral experience has expanded over the last 50 years, all key features of Lenin’s analysis hold true.

American socialist society should guarantee all rights under today’s Bill of Rights, particularly those freedoms of press, assembly and speech. But added to these we need new socialist rights. The right of self-determination, the right to work and strike, security in old age, freedom from sexual discrimination, etc.

We should guarantee the right of different political parties to function, the key being that all political groups must obey socialist laws and norms. All groups should have the right to run for office in the unions and state apparatus. The existence of political groups arguing their programs openly is in keeping with American political experience, something the Russians and Chinese had relatively brief experience with.

In the third world some revolutionaries fought only for bourgeois democracy. Here that is not a real historic alternative. Such groups as revolutionary nationalists, feminists and progressive intellectuals may fully support a socialist direction.

Along with the expansion of democracy we also recognize the right of the socialist state to defend itself from external and internal enemies. The military should have a system of political cadres.

Of course the best guarantee of democracy is the mass participation of people in the political process on a grassroots level. Our own historical forms will be created in the struggle. And this struggle will decide the fate of the different political groups. According to the struggle we should be ready to embrace, or reject, different political parties.

The united front is an essential feature of revolution and socialist society. After the revolution it’s just as important to maintain this alliance of forces. As Gramsci noted, if the working class is to lead, then it must take care of the needs of the other class forces around it. But U.S. communists have interpreted the united front in its most shallow form, simply a front for communists hegemony. In reality the united front is a complex alliance of forces, with much give and take.

Often revolution will succeed or fail over the state of unity in the united front. A brief survey of the revolutions in Kampuchea, Iran, Zimbabwe, and Nicaragua will show this point.

In a revolutionary process there is always a leading force, a leading party. This doesn’t mean that such a Party knows every nuance and degree of every problem. But it does successfully apply Marxism with the concrete laws of revolution in their own country.

When revolutionary theory is merged with organizational practice a vanguard party appears. It occupies a vanguard position because of its strategic understanding and popular support, not because it labels everyone else social-fascist. Maintaining the united front is part and parcel of this successful revolutionary strategy, as was pointed out, one of the three magic weapons. In the United States such a party would play the leading role in socialist construction.