Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Rafael, Scott and Norman

Line of March and the Anti-revisionist, Anti-“left” Opportunist Trend


In the last several months the center of gravity in the political movement which describes itself as the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend has moved steadily towards those forces associated with the “rectification” party-building line, led by the Editorial Board of the journal Line of March. This has been the twin result of the advanced theoretical work being done by the rectificationists, and the rapid degeneration of their leading contenders in the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC).

The most significant theoretical contribution to date by the rectification forces has been their exposure of the thesis of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. Although this contribution is not as original or path-breaking as the rectificationists would lead us to believe, given such works as Jonathan Arthur’s Socialism in the Soviet Union (1977) and Albert Szymanski’s Is the Red Flag Flying? (1979), they have nonetheless done much work to break the grip of anti-Sovietism that has infected the left in the U.S. for all too long. This is an important contribution because it was precisely behind the thin veil of the thesis of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union that the Communist Party of China and its associated parties were able to conceal their “left” opportunism, lead astray many genuine Marxist-Leninists, and hinder the development of a materialist analysis of modern revisionism. Line of March has also done some excellent political analysis on such related questions as the conflict in Vietnam and Kampuchea, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and the nature of the crisis in Poland.

However, anti-Sovietism is hardly the only negative legacy which the U.S. communist movement must overcome. Our movement must also come to grips with a long history of sectarianism, which has bedeviled every serious political trend on the left at least since the collapse of the CPUSA into revisionism. By sectarianism we mean the placing of the interests of a particular political organization or grouping above the interests of the working class as a whole. The caricature of a sectarian organization is one that succeeds only in isolating itself from other political forces and the broader working class movement. But sectarianism is just as much a problem for sizable and influential political organizations which have the capacity to seriously hold back and damage the growth of a revolutionary working class movement. At root, sectarianism is the result of a weakness or vacillation in class stand, an inability to firmly uphold the interests of the working class, and consequently to allow the perceived interests of a particular organization, group, or section of the class, to dominate one’s political perspective.

Sectarianism in turn gives rise to a whole host of associated political problems. When organization is placed above politics, the correctness and internal consistency of an organization’s political line becomes secondary. The most outrageous political and theoretical constructs can be justified by appeals to the authority of the organization. Often pragmatism replaces politics – whatever works to build the influence and hegemony of the organization must of necessity be deemed politically correct. An organization’s followers are inculcated with a flunkyist mentality, trained to religiously follow the “big heads” of the organization. Dealings with those outside the organization become filled with intrigue and confusion.

Even a brief survey of some of the organizations which at one time or another have been prominent within the U.S. revolutionary left since the sixties – Progressive Labor, SDS, the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the Revolutionary Union, the October League, the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee – almost inevitably calls these problems to mind, despite the often important advances which these organizations represented in their particular historical circumstances. Our movement is littered with the carcasses of political trends done in by their confused class stand and consequent sectarianism, by their inability to grasp the fundamental essence of the struggle against the exploitation and oppression of finance capital – the fight for the seizure of state power and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Unfortunately, despite their important contributions to date, the rectificationists have recently exhibited the same old vacillating class stand and sectarian tendencies that are the bequest of the U.S. left. The original conception of the rectificationists, that of creating a wide-ranging political, theoretical and ideological debate among all principled sections of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend in order to rectify the general line of the U.S. communist movement, was an important step forward, inasmuch as it helped to reorient us towards our pressing theoretical and practical tasks. However, these days the leaders of the rectification movement have increasingly been promoting a kind of hand-me-down rectification, whereby a select few formulate their theoretical constructs and deliver them to their base almost by fiat. At present, the conception of a wide-ranging rectification seems to be taking a back seat to an attempt by Line of March to establish its organizational hegemony over the trend. This process has been somewhat obscured by the continuing theoretical contributions being made by the rectificationists, but has become evident nonetheless.

Probably the clearest example of this process is the new formulation by the. Editorial Board of Line of March of their proposed United Front Against War and Racism, which even took many of the middle-level cadre of the rectification movement by surprise, despite the fact that it has been proposed as a strategic concept to guide the work of the communist movement for several years to come. Instead of calling first for a serious debate on their proposal among rectification and other communist forces, the Editorial Board has simply declared that the task at hand is to conduct a struggle to win the communist movement and the entire left in the U.S. to their proposed United Front. The process of taking a critical look at this proposal among the base of Line of March, much less among the political forces to which they are close, has been summary at best. Such schemes are all too familiar in the history of our movement.

The process employed in the unfolding of the proposal for a United Front Against Mar and Racism is all-the-more disturbing because of the weak class analysis which underlies this formulation, We will return to this subject later in this article.

The tendency to attempt to rectify the general line by fiat becomes increasingly dangerous precisely as the prestige of Line of March grows. There are at present a whole slew of folks dredged up from the ruins of the new left and the new communist movement who have recently been jumping on the rectification bandwagon, with their bourgeois baggage firmly in hand. Probably the most outrageous example of this is the announcement by the Communist Workers Party (CWP) that, by virtue of their superficial abandonment of the thesis of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, they are now “squarely” in the center of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. But more significant are the former cadre of a whole variety of petty-bourgeois organizations, from the New American Movement (NAM) to the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC), who are now herding towards Line of March. This fact alone mandates that there must be a most thoroughgoing ideological struggle, in the full sense of that term, to prevent the rectification movement from collapsing under the weight of this new realignment. The mere pronouncement of new leading lines by the Editorial Board of Line of March, no matter how brilliantly conceived, will simply not suffice to effectively combat the weak class stand and sectarian tendencies of the overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois base of the present-day U.S. communist movement.

In this article we will discuss two recent manifestations of the direction which the leaders of the rectification movement are taking at present. First, we will discuss an intense controversy that erupted within the Bay Area Marxist-Leninist Education Project (MLEP), which focused on the authors of this article and our views. A description of the events in this struggle, and of the line and practice of the MLEP leadership, will help to demonstrate the political confusion and sectarianism which is taking hold in the rectification movement. Second, we will offer a preliminary critique of the proposal by Line of March for a United Front Against War and Racism, focusing on the weak class analysis at its heart.