Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Rafael, Scott and Norman

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


Originally we had planned that this article would primarily be a summation of our experiences in MLEP. However, shortly after we were expelled, Line of March made public its proposal for a United Front Against War and Racism. Our understanding of this proposal has convinced us that the sectarian manipulation of the struggle in MLEP was but a reflection of the weak class stand evident in this new United Front proposal. Therefore, we want to make a few comments about this United Front Against War and Racism.

We uphold the call of Line of March for a United Front of working-class organizations to oppose the present offensive of finance capital. The historical juncture in which we find ourselves demands that all conscious working class forces actively struggle to defend the class against this wholesale assault. However, we feel that the analysis by Line of March of the defining features of this reactionary offensive betrays a weak class analysis, and misdirects our fire from the proper targets of our counter-offensive.

Line of March argues that:

...the U.S. bourgeoisie has responded to the deepening of the profound economic and political crisis gripping it. Internationally, U.S. imperialism has adopted a more aggressive and militaristic posture in defense of its world-wide strategic interests, a posture which has sharply increased the likelihood of military intervention and even full-scale war. Domestically, it has launched a massive assault on the working class, seeking to heighten capital formation and impose a program of social austerity on the masses. This assault has an overwhelmingly racist coloration to it, so that the consequences of the bourgeoisie’s drive for social austerity will be felt most heavily by the most oppressed sectors of the working class. On behalf of this program of militarism and racially-defined social austerity, the bourgeoisie is presently attempted to forge a ’white’ ideological consensus. (Our italics: “A Communist Proposal for a United Front Against War and Racism”. Line of March, March/April, 198l)

From this analysis, Line of March concludes that the key arenas of struggle for communists in the coming period will be the fight against war and racism.

Certainly militarism and increased racist assaults on a grand scale are quite evident in this period. We agree that the drive towards war is clearly one of the defining features of capital’s response to the growing economic crisis. However, we would argue that more fundamental to this reactionary offensive than racism is the attempt by the finance capitalists to dump the effects of the gathering crisis on the backs of the working class as a whole, by an accelerating cut in our standard of living.

Of course, as Line of March points out, the effects of this economic crisis are felt hardest in the U.S. by racial and national minority workers. Such has always been the case in every economic crisis this country has gone through. But this crisis is not the result of the white supremacy of the ruling class. Rather it is the result of the inherent contradictions of capitalism creating ever-more profound cyclical crises, and the need of the capitalist class to preserve and expand their profits. Thus capital is forced to drive down the wages of the entire working class, and to redirect government expenditures away from low-return or no-return social services to more profitable sectors of the economy, such as military production. This crisis can not be resolved solely by the rollback of the living standards of minority workers, but only by a wholesale attack on the working class. Racism, despite its horrors, is primarily a tool which the bourgeois ideologues use in order to divide the working class and prevent us from fighting back in an effective and unified way. Even when such prejudice reaches the level of genocide, as in fascist Germany where millions of Jews were put to their deaths, it functions primarily to divide and disrupt the working class movement. This is why we say that, aside from the drive towards war, the defining feature of the present offensive of finance capital is a generalized assault on the working class, rather than primarily an attack on the racial and minority sectors of the class.

Why do we find this difference important? The facts are that it has been a long hard struggle for many people in the new left and the new communist movement to fully embrace a class analysis of imperialism, or to grasp an historical understanding of the role of the U.S. working class. This is the result of the break in the continuity of the communist movement following the decline of the CPUSA into revisionism, as well as of the overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois and bourgeois class origins of the anti-revisionist movement which arose in the sixties.

All too often various trends within the revolutionary movement have fallen into the trap of viewing class struggle as a morality play. Fighting racism, or opposing imperialist war, easily come to be seen as the only truly revolutionary struggles. The argument, crudely, goes something like this: Black children are being murdered in Atlanta, peasants are being beheaded and tortured in El Salvador, how can we stop to worry about a few workers having their wages cut by inflation? The tasks before us are too many, the times too urgent. We must take on capitalism with what we’ve got. If the working class isn’t ready to come along, well, that’s just too bad.

Who can deny that this kind of attitude has motivated many of us at one time or another? Certainly, those serious revolutionary-minded people who stick to their guns, rather than phasing out after one hot moral blitz, learn that history is far more complex than it sometimes appears. But this kind of petty-bourgeois fervor lingers on, and is constantly refueled by the newer recruits to the left. After all, our tasks are many, and times are very urgent. This confusion is further exacerbated by the fact that, at particular historical junctures, opposing an imperialist war, or fighting a racist offensive, has been and will be again our primary political task. Such, many Marxist-Leninists would argue, was our primary task during the Vietnam war. Nevertheless, without a firm class analysis of imperialism, even the most militant and heroic resistance can rarely succeed in concretely exposing the cause of our oppression, or in consolidating a lasting movement capable of making revolution.

Marxist-Leninists must firmly understand that the ills of racism and of imperialist war will not be eliminated short of the destruction of capitalism. Only the dictatorship of the working class, and the removal of the material basis of man’s exploitation by man, can actually permit us to wage a winning struggle against the ideological garbage of racism, white chauvinism and national chauvinism.

What the working class in the U.S. lacks more than anything else is a sense of itself as a class, and of the inherent contradiction between its needs and the needs of the capitalist class. It is precisely this class consciousness which Marxist-Leninists in the U.S. must strive, above all else, to instill in the working class. This consciousness of itself as a class is what can lay the actual basis for a firm and relentless struggle not only against racism and imperialist war, but ultimately against capitalism as well.

This is precisely where Line of March’s proposal for a United Front Against War and Racism fails. Instead of calling for a vigorous struggle to raise the class consciousness of the working class in the face of the reactionary offensive, and on this basis for a struggle against racism, Line of March all-too-easily slides back into the comfortable new left stance of fighting racism and war. The very formulation of this slogan – the fight against War and Racism – is so reminiscent of the old reformist slogans of the past that the comparison is nearly inescapable.

Of course, Line of March avoids many of the crudities of their predecessors, and the proper genuflections are made to the working class. Yet, in substance, they replace the struggle for the unity of the class with a further slogan of their own invention – the struggle against a so-called “white” ideological consensus. This is given considerable emphasis in their proposal. It is only the quotation marks around “white” which prevents this formulation from being an open call to unite against the white sectors of the working class. In actuality, it is perceived just that way by many of the more petty-bourgeois minded elements, as well as many of the less class conscious minority workers, within the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend.

The Line of March formulation of a fight against the “white” ideological consensus inevitably brings to mind the old PFOC slogan of fighting “white skin privilege”. Both slogans are based, in part, on the correct analysis that white workers are materially better-off, on the whole, than non-white workers. But this racial sloganeering completely obscures the complexities of uniting the class and of winning both white workers and non-white workers to a class analysis of the current economic crisis. Instead, it covers up the constant reproduction of racist ideology inherent in capitalism with a moralistic condemnation of white workers. It also thoroughly obscures the actual content of bourgeois ideology, which encompasses far more than the simple contradiction between white and non-white workers, and has a firm grip on workers of all races, nationalities and sexes. Thus this slogan liquidates the distinction between class consciousness and anti-racist consciousness, while confusing both with revolutionary consciousness.

We do not propose that the remedy to these errors is to abandon the struggle against racism until capitalism has been overthrown, although we are well aware that there are many examples of alleged Marxist-Leninists doing just that under the cover of “class unity”. On the contrary, we would argue that the willingness to fight for anti-racist consciousness among the working class, on the basis of a sound class analysis, is what divides a serious revolutionary movement from a petty-bourgeois left playing at revolution. Petty-bourgeois moralists who stand outside the class and look down their noses at tainted, racist workers are far more easily tolerated by the ruling class than revolutionaries who concretely fight racism by uniting the working class. Our job is not to berate the working class for its sins, but to unite the class for the struggle against the common enemy of all oppressed people, the capitalist class, in the spirit that an injury to one is an injury to all.

The weakness of the class analysis underlying Line of March’s United Front proposal is summed up very starkly in a recent opinion by the Editorial Board in the Guardian newspaper of May 27, 1981. In this article they state that:

...any program of mass resistance to the imperialist offensive and the tendency toward fascism which is not firmly based on the struggle against war and racism will be inherently unstable.

This, of course, is beyond question. But the Editorial Board goes on to add:

This is not at all to argue that the left must organize only around the questions of war and racism. A mass resistance to the general economic assaults on the working class is forming as is resistance to the fascist attacks on the women’s movement and gay rights. Other political and social questions – tenants’ rights, the anti-nuclear movement, etc. – likewise are on today’s agenda. But the struggle against war and racism is the axis around which all mass struggles of this period must revolve. This is what links every movement and every political force. (our italics)

Is it not abundantly clear that the class struggle, i.e. “the general economic assaults on the working class”, has been relegated to one of several movements of “mass resistance”, along with the women’s movement, the anti-nuclear movement, etc., while the struggle against war and racism has been raised to the essence of the struggle against capitalism, “the axis around which all mass struggles- of this period must revolve”? Is it not actually the struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie, between the private appropriation of capital and the social nature of production, which actually “links every movement and political force”?

The Line of March analysis of fascism: The Editorial Board of Line of March has put forward its United Front Against War and Racism as the “historically concrete expression of the united front against fascism”. Therefore, it is not surprising that the weak class analysis of their proposal is evident also in their understanding of the class-roots of fascism.

As stated in their article, “The 1980 Elections: Reaffirming the Marxist-Leninist Theory of the State”, in their October/November, 1980 journal, Line of March holds to the view that:

...fascist movements most often develop somewhat independently of – and sometimes in direct opposition to – the mainstream of capital... fascist movements develop a political base which is not dependent on the approval of monopoly capital, but then make themselves available to capital at a certain moment when the class struggle brings the system to the edge of a political crisis... (our italics)

This position was repeated and amplified in the Line of March United Front article in their March/April, 1981 journal:

Such movements tend to well up out of the anger and frustration of large sections of the petit bourgeoisie and those sectors of the working class whose relatively ’protected’ position in class society is compromised by the social chaos spawned in the process of capitalist crisis... It is in this sense that we take note of the relative independence of fascist movements from capital.

In other words, fascist movements are the creatures, not of finance capital, but of the petty bourgeoisie and the “protected” sectors of the working class. If there is any doubt about what Line of March is driving at, it is cleared up in a letter on this subject written to one of the authors of this article:

...this movement is not at all a simple creature of finance capital, directed, subsidized and promoted by it. The grassroots fascist movement and the dominant sectors of finance capital see eye to eye on a few particular questions (increasing military spending, for example) and the bourgeoisie glibly look the other way as right wing terrorists shoot down minorities and demonstrators and then shields these terrorists from punishment. All these factors notwithstanding, the mass fascist movement growing in the U.S. today exists principally as a movement independent from and not directed and controlled “by the big bourgeoisie. Its leadership is from the petit bourgeoisie and backward strata of the working class...(our italics)

This viewpoint is at fundamental variance with the Marxist-Leninist analysis of fascism and fascist movements. It liquidates the primary role of the capitalist class in promoting, developing and consolidating fascist movements. It thoroughly confuses the social base which fascist ideologues appeal to, and the class which creates and promotes fascist movements – the ruling class. It should be carefully noted that, operating under the analysis that the fascist movement in the U.S. today is independent from finance capital, it only follows that a United Front Against Fascism must be directed against those “large sections of the petit bourgeoisie and those sectors of the working class” with a “relatively ’protected’ position in class society”, rather than against the capitalist class. This is the underpinning to Line of March’s sloganeering about the so-called “white” ideological consensus.

This view of fascism is nothing new. It is consistent with the longstanding liberal and social-democratic view which characterizes fascism as a “middle class” movement, and which openly shifts the blame for fascism from the bourgeoisie to the petty bourgeoisie, the working class and the lumpen proletariat. The logic of such an incorrect position dictates that those who oppose fascism should direct their main blows not at the finance capitalists who are responsible for and profit from the rise of fascist movements, but at those sections of the masses who are the ideological victims of fascist demagoguery.

This should be contrasted with the long-accepted Marxist-Leninist definition of fascism in power, summed up in the Comintern’s description as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital”. We can do no better in describing the class-roots of fascism than by quoting a few lines from R. Palme Dutt’s Fascism and Social Revolution, written in 1934 precisely to counter the distorted liberal and social-democratic view of fascism. Chapter IV on “What is Fascism?” is particularly appropriate:

In the one viewpoint Fascism is presented as an independent movement of the middle class or petit-bourgeoisie in opposition to both the proletariat and to large-scale capital.

In the other viewpoint Fascism is presented as a weapon of finance-capital, utilizing the support of the middle class, of the slum proletariat and of demoralised working-class elements, against the organized working class, but throughout acting as the instrument and effective representative of the interests of finance capital. (page 97)

Fascism... is from the outset fostered, nourished, maintained and subsidized by the big bourgeoisie, by the big landlords, financiers and industrialists.

Further, Fascism is only enabled to grow, and is saved from being wiped out in the early stages by the working-class movement, solely through the direct protection of the bourgeois dictatorship. Fascism is able to count on the assistance of the greater part of the State forces, of the higher army staffs, of the police authorities, and of the lawcourts and magistracy, who exert all their force to crush working-class opposition, while treating Fascist illegality with open connivance... (pages 100-101)

Fascism, in short, is a movement of mixed elements, dominantly petit-bourgeois, but also slum-proletarian and demoralised working class, financed and directed by finance capital, by the big industrialists, landlords and financiers, to defeat the working-class revolution and smash the working-class organizations. (page 102)