Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Harry Haywood

Reformist work or Revolutionary work – Harry Haywood Remarks prepared for the Second Congress, May 23, 1981


First Published: The Call, Vol. 10, No. 6-7, August-September 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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My comments were not delivered in full to the CPML’s Second Congress due to a move to limit debate. I have submitted them in full here.

The Congress confirmed many of my worst fears. A set of revolutionary principles was adopted by the delegates. But the majority expressed the sentiment that such principles were “of little or no consequence to our work.” With such an attitude even the best set of principles will not be taken as a guide to action.

The Congress elected a Central Committee which, in its majority, shares this approach and is relatively blinded to the pitfalls of American exceptionalism and reformism.

It is therefore no accident that little practical unity could be reached on communist tasks in the present period. It seems to me that the CPML’s Second Congress represents a detour from–rather than an advance towards–genuine communist unity and party organization in the United States. –Harry Haywood, Georgia, June 1, 1981

Call Note: Harry Haywood’s speech has been edited. The section recounting the ideological struggles of the Communist Party USA in 1956 was deleted. All his remarks on the present situation are reprinted here.

When we formed the CPML four years ago, I was very happy because the next generation seemed to have absorbed these lessons.

But evidently this was not so. Mistakes were made – serious ones needing genuine rectification. But this experience seems to have led many to lose their bearings.

For example, the West Coast Committee has submitted a set of “principles.” I found them totally unacceptable from a communist point of view. They make every error I spoke of earlier.

I am very heartened to see that the Afro-American Commission has done its part to combat this turn towards right opportunism.

But I must say that the Interim Political Committee has done us a great disservice, though. Instead of taking a forthright stand in opposition to the West Coast principles, it hurriedly devised a new set which contains many of the same flaws. You give us back self-determination and in exchange you think we will buy a shameful position on the State?

I don’t like all of this fiddling around with and crude compromising on principles. This has been a hindrance to democratic debate – not a help.

Another comrade has written an article in The Call which calls for communist unity to be based primarily on “opposition to ultra-leftism” and a “to the masses” approach. It is a well-known fact that revisionists, too, will “unite against ultra-leftism.” Shall we drop any lines of demarcation with right opportunism? This is a very dangerous business. It covets up the large danger of rightism and it is precisely that right danger which has emerged so pronounced in our own ranks during the past year or so.

The only durable basis for communist unity is upon communist principles which, of course, must be concretely applied to our specific conditions. Any other sort of unity will not stand the test and is based on the whims of the moment.

These principles have everything to do with how you conduct yourself among the masses. As I pointed out in response to a similar call during the ’50s – The Call to “Get To Work!” – I said:

Yes, but what kind of work? Work towards what end? What must be the features of this work? Against whom must it be directed? What must it accomplish? Unless these and other related questions are answered in detail, without confusion or ambiguity, our work can go for naught, and actual damage can be done. For there is reformist work and revolutionary work; there is work that aims to unleash a mass movement, and work that aims to quell it; work that leads the oppressed masses and work that tails along behind them; work that succeeds in linking the economic and political issues and work that separates them; work that builds the communist party as a vanguard, leading and indispensable force, and work that liquidates the party, considering it of insignificant importance.” (from “For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question,” 1958)

Some people have played a role in shielding this rightward move and done a lot of double-talk. They have blocked with the Right to defeat those standing up for Marxism-Leninism. These blocks have contained little in the way of principles of their own. Please take a second look at this kind of conduct.

All sorts of anti-communist slanders have been thrown around and very few comrades have spoken up against them. Charges of taking “Peking Gold,” charges that the CPML was out only “for its own ends” as opposed to the masses. Think about it – aren’t these the exact sorts of things that the FBI says that we communists are up to? There have been all kinds of underhanded, factional and personal slanders against good comrades–something which we are supposedly trying to get rid of in Party life. The Emergency meeting made an illegal purge of the old CC, which in actuality was a purge of primarily its Left members.

As far as principled, ideological struggle and democratic debate–some people will have to do a lot to convince me that this is what you are really committed to.

I will conclude now with these thoughts. The mass movements are once against stirring. Some are regrouping and beginning to crawl, others seem to be preparing themselves to start a up and walk. Where will we be when they get ready to run?

At this moment we find ourselves not only without revolutionary principles. Another direct result of this rightward drift is that we have no common revolutionary immediate program to guide our work in this period.

I’m afraid this is where we are going at present. It can be reversed with serious efforts and a fight against this rightward drift – but not without such a fight!