Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Correspondence on LOM’s Proposed Conference to Sum-Up the Demise of the OCIC

Issued as unpublished letters: January 1982.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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January 13, 1982

Dear comrades,

Last September a number of trend activists received a letter concerning a proposal for trend-wide conferences to summarize the demise of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC). The enclosed two letters are to update you on developments since that communication, as well as the present position and plans of the different forces involved.

Max Elbaum
Dave F.

* * *

January 13, 1982

Dear comrades,

Ever since the effective collapse of the OCIC about a year ago, we have been concerned with regrouping the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend and reactivating the many comrades who had lost their political bearings to take up party building work. This goal was an important reason why ourselves and other comrades associated with Line of March put significant energy into the national and regional conferences on racism and national oppression held during the past year. In the course of these conferences, it became clear that to effectively regroup the trend, organized trend-wide struggle over questions beyond the scope of those particular conferences would be needed as well. Specifically, it was apparent that an organized process of discussing the overall state of the trend, its history, and its future would be crucial to uniting many widely scattered trend elements and moving the party building process forward.

Given the important role the OCIC had played within the history of the trend, last summer it appeared to us that trend-wide conferences organized around summarizing the reasons for the demise of the OCIC could serve as a focal point for such necessary struggle and could effectively serve to regroup the trend. Consequently, we entered into discussions about the possibility of holding such conferences with other trend forces. As a result of these discussions, the three of us, along with Dave F. (Bay Area) and John F. (Boston) agreed to form the initial core of a national planning committee to organize conferences on this topic. Dave and John were former members of the OCIC steering committee and as such they bore an important share of the responsibility for the debacle of the OCIC; at the same time, there were indications that these two comrades were moving to take responsibility for the history of the OCIC and their particular roles within it, and committed to a process of regrouping the trend as a whole.

To review briefly the core’s initial discussions, we agreed that the conferences should be taken up from the standpoint of re-confirming the political integrity of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend and with the goal of reactivating comrades who had lost their bearings in the wake of the OCIC failure to take up party building work. With this standpoint and goal in mind, we set some tentative policies for the conferences, the most important of which were:

-the primary agenda item should be debate and struggle over the reasons for the demise of the OCIC, but time should also be allotted to air different views on the present state of the trend generally and the correct path forward in party building;

-all views in the trend on these topics should have the opportunity to be aired, but the bulk of time should be given to the most influential and comprehensive of them.

-the conferences should be held in cities in the east, midwest, and west roughly in January and February 1982.

On the basis of these aims and policies, the initial core drafted the September letter and set out to draw other trend forces into national and regional planning committees for the conferences.

There was widespread interest in these conferences and a number of forces agreed to participate on the regional level. We did not receive any formal response to our invitation from the other forces invited to participate on the national level – Theoretical Review, MINP-El Comite, and the ex-MINP collective. Additionally, John resigned from the planning committee stating that he no longer views party building as the central task of the period.

Most recently, in December, Dave also indicated that he was not prepared to push forward with the conference work at this time (see Dave’s letter). Dave stated that his principal immediate reason for this was his central role in an attempt now underway to cohere a political center in the trend based upon the fusion party building line and the summation that the OCIC failed because of ultra-leftism. Dave held that the consolidation of this center was a crucial pre-condition for the success of these conferences, stated that key meetings scheduled to pull this center together had encountered unforeseen delays, and felt that this work had to be his main priority at this time. Secondarily, Dave also argued that the present planning committee was too narrow politically, and that he felt certain sectarian errors (not directly in this conference work) and a generally sectarian line on the part of Line of March was responsible for this narrowness.

Under these circumstances, Dave proposed that work on these trend-wide conferences be suspended, and stated that he would reconsider his role in them after the first meeting (unscheduled at that time) of the still-to-be-consolidated fusion center. To our request that Dave make a firm individual commitment to the work of these conferences independent of the timing or outcome of the fusion meeting, Dave stated that he would participate in any conference held to debate the demise of the OCIC, but would make no commitment to help organize them at this time. He also felt no such commitment could be collectively made at this time by the forces working to construct a fusion center.

For our part, we believe Dave made an error in judgment in pulling back from this work. In our view, the need to reintegrate into active trend life and party building work the many forces who have been disoriented by the OCIC’s failure remains as great as ever. Thus, trend-wide activities remain an important priority for all concerned with the overall development of the trend.

We also disagree with Dave’s reasons for withdrawing at this time. Concerning his secondary reason, we disagree with Dave’s criticisms of Line of March for sectarianism, and believe that the present “narrowness” of the planning committee is mainly due to a reluctance to take national responsibility for the progress of the trend as a whole on the part of other forces who were invited to do so. (Regarding the controversy concerning the conferences on racism and national oppression, we agree with the paper “Response to ’Comrades in the Bay Area1” by the National Conference Steering Committee). More importantly, we believe the policies initially developed for the conferences provide a firm basis for healthy line struggle and for all forces planning the conferences to be held accountable to a principled and non-sectarian approach. We believe that it is mainly a firm commitment to uphold and implement these policies, not political diversity for its own sake, that would be decisive to any successful planning committee. The point is, conferences may well conduct trend-wide struggle while at the same time being organized by one or a few forces who have the basis and take the responsibility to organize the debate. To hold, as Dave apparently does, that there is an inherent contradiction in such a process is to embrace ultra-democracy as a principle.

Concerning Dave’s principal reason, we agree that the consolidation of a non-sectarian center united on and accountable to the fusion party building line could potentially push forward the trend’s struggle to summarize the demise of the OCIC. Indeed, the creation of such a center might allow the trend to engage in the struggle over party building line in a serious and principled manner that was not possible when the trend’s fusion center in the IWOC and OCIC was characterized by a marked sectarian deviation. However, we have serious doubts that the particular process in which Dave has been centrally involved will result in the near future in the consolidation of such a non-sectarian center. This process has been marked by consistent delays, many of which negatively affected the planning for these trend-wide conferences as early as last October. The basis of unity upon which meetings have been called to cohere this center has been confusing at best and arbitrary and sectarian at worst. As well, the forces centrally involved in this effort, many of whom held leading positions in the OCIC, have almost without exception failed to take responsibility within the trend for their particular roles in the OCIC disaster. For these reasons, we are extremely reluctant to tie key decisions about trend-wide activities to the process Dave is involved in, at least until there are more tangible indications that its political foundation is clear and that it has made a decisive break with the OCIC legacy of sectarianism.

We discussed these differences with Dave, but were unable to come to a common agreement on what exactly should be done from here. Under these circumstances, the national core as it was initially constituted no longer really exists, and the process of organizing conferences along the lines agreed to last summer has objectively come to an end.

From our point of view, however, the conclusion of this particular process has not at all diminished either the necessity or the capacity to regroup the trend. On the contrary, we believe the process of conducting trend-wide struggle in an organized form with the goal of reconfirming the political integrity of the trend and reactivating comrades to take up party building work remains as important as it was six months ago.

We do think, however, that accomplishing this goal will require a broader focus of discussion than the summation of the demise of the OCIC. For many comrades, the question of whether the OCIC failed because of the fusion line or because of ultra-leftism is now only one among a series of questions to be debated, up to and including the existence of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend itself.

We have discussed this situation with other comrades working with Line of March and have decided to proceed as follows. Through Line of March local boards, we intend to organize two-day conferences on the state of the trend, its past, and its future in six or seven major cities in late spring/early summer 1982. One day of the conferences would focus on the question of the lines of demarcation which define the trend, with particular emphasis on debating the view that the trend must become self-consciously anti-Maoist if it is to mature politically. The second day of the conferences would focus on the question of party building line, and include debate and discussion over the reasons for the demise of the OCIC. Line of March would prepare working papers for these conferences, in all likelihood using the article ̶The International Communist Movement – A Reappraisal” in Line of March #9 is one such paper. As well, we would solicit papers from other trend forces on the topics to be debated. The conferences themselves would consist of workshops and plenary sessions, where the various views in the trend on these matters can be aired and struggled over.

All forces in the trend would be invited to attend and present their views at these conferences. This, of course, includes, Dave and the other comrades working to construct a fusion center – collectively if they are successful in cohering such a formation, individually if they are not.

We intend to be developing more detailed plans for these conferences in the coming months, and would be eager to hear ideas and suggestions from other trend comrades. In particular, we would urge all comrades to prepare their opinions on the state of the trend and its future so they can be advanced in their most coherent and rigorous form before the party building movement. We believe that it is through a process such as this that the maximum possible unity can be achieved and the trend can take another step forward toward its maturation into a genuine Marxist-Leninist vanguard.

Max Elbaum (Bay Area)
Melinda Paras (New York)
Sharon Rose (Detroit)

* * *

To Planning Committee of Tendency-wide Summation:
To party building movement:

Dear comrades,

I am resigning from the planning committee, designed to hold conferences summing up the OCIC. When I left the OCIC I decided to participate on the planning committee for the conferences because I felt that a tendency wide discussion of the OC experience would be important. It would be an opportunity to share our experiences and to have other forces put forward their assessments. This effort, I had hoped, would help in the reconsolidation of the tendency in the aftermath of the OCIC’s degeneration. I still remain committed to an exchange of views between different tendency forces around the OCIC, but I know longer feel that the planning committee and the conferences as they are proceeding, are really going to result in tendency wide struggle.

It is my view that the main obstacle to realizing a truly tendency wide planning committee and process is the result primarily of the sectarianism of the present Line Of March. The rectification forces have alienated themselves from a number of important tendency forces due to their presently incorrect conception of the tendency and view of theoretical struggle in this period. This became most clear to me at the recent Bay Area Report Back conference on Racism and National Oppression held in November. Comrades from BASOC, Inkworks, and a study group associated with the TMLC [Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective–EROL] developed a fairly in depth critique of the conference’s working papers, and yet were not allowed to attend the conference. Essentially the planning committee for the conference put so many preconditions for participation on these forces that they effectively excluded their contribution. Without going through all the details I refer comrades to a statement from these comrades that includes a chronology that I essentially agree with.

The important point of this experience for me was that while three of us with differences did participate in the conference, the other important forces from the Bay Area tendency (TMLC study group, BASOC, and Inkwords) did not. In addition, the planning committee rejected my request that the CWP be allowed to participate. The result of all these various exclusions was that theoretical struggle was really narrowed and constricted as the major opposition lines were excluded. This occurred in the context of the Line of March, and the conference planning committee, stating that these conferences were tendency wide and were willing to take on the different lines. For me this was far too reminiscent of the sectarian stand that many of us in the OCIC took toward other forces in the tendency. Under the guise of saying we wanted tendency wide theoretical struggle (single center) we continually excluded forces from the OC, and took a sectarian stand toward other tendency forces. Unfortunately the editorial board of the Line of March is similarly following a sectarian course in excluding forces from tendency wide conferences, and writing some people out of the tendency.

This sectarian party-building line has already influenced substantially the work of the planning committee thus far. In our first meetings the Line of March opposed the TMLC being on the planning committee despite the fact that they were in the OCIC and constitute one of the main theoretical forces in our movement. The Line of March comrades used a number of sectarian arguments that TMLC was ’anti-trend’, would be a ’disruptive force’ etc. They only begrudgingly conceded this point after it was made clear that their exclusion was totally unacceptable to me. More recently Line of March members have told me that they see TMLC as objectively outside the demarcation of the trend, due to their adherence to Althusserian Marxism, but won’t demarcate until this struggle is completed. A more sectarian stand to toward making demarcations could not be imagined.

The planning committee also did not receive favorable response from other tendency forces. TMLC while not formally responded, make it clear to me that they were interested in pursuing future summations discussions but would not participate on a planning committee with LOM given their sectarianism.

Comrades from El Comite declined participation on the planning committee because they did not feel that such a conference was a priority to them given that it was more important that ex-OC people meet to sum up their experience. The question of the CWP was also never resolved given that LOM does not view them in the tendency, the obviously opposed any participation in the conference. On the other hand, I argued that they should be allowed to participate in the conferences given their break on international line.

Given this situation there seems to be no possibility for a truly tendency wide summation of the OCIC, as the planning committee is presently constituted. In my opinion this is caused primarily by the Line of March, although not entirely as we can see from some of the responses. It was this underlying situation which caused me to reevaluate my commitment, since I did not want to take leadership responsibility in conferences that were billed as tendency wide and yet really only organized LOM and a number of ex-OC forces. Nor did I want to be on a leadership that excluded important tendency forces, or made it difficult for them to participate.

My final decision was made due to another immediate factor as well. Upon stating my differences and reservations about the process to Max on the Planning Committee, I suggested that for me to proceed two conditions would have to be met. First, a better composition to the leadership bodies which were truly tendency wide. Secondly, the conferences would have to wait for various summations of ex-OC members that were happening. I explained that I was involved in organizing summations of ex-OC comrades who felt that ultra-leftism was the primary cause of the OC degeneration, and also that other comrades from LA and the Bay Area were planning a conference of all ex-OC members from the west coast.

Max explained that he would not gear the schedule to the tendency wide meetings to after our meetings, particularly the one I was involved in organizing. He said that he felt that our meetings, whatever the intentions, were really sectarian and the only basis of unity was opposition to LOM. I disagreed that it was sectarian, and explained that while forces who came would certainly disagree with LOM analysis, that we were interested in struggling over our experience and also discussing our own views of party-building and future tasks. I said that it was not sectarian for us to be trying to develop our party-building line, aid to put emphasis on doing this. I also explained that tactically it would very difficult to get many ex-OC members to tendency wide conferences prior to meetings of ex-OC people.

At this point I was basically asked to decide which was a priority since the LOM comrades would not wait for out meetings. In this context, of underlying criticisms of sectarian practices of LOM, fears that the conferences weren’t shaping up at all to be tendency wide, and a refusal to put the tendency wide conferences after the ex-OC meetings, I decided to resign.

Since that time I understand that the LOM has decided to abandon the idea of tendency wide conferences, and instead has proposed holding conferences to discuss their particular perspective on the state of the party-building movement and tasks. My own attitude is that we will not have tendency wide conferences but that comrades should use various conferences and forums that are lead by different organizations and groupings, in order to take up the theoretical struggle. In his way we may not have as centralized debate as we might of but nonetheless we can learn from other comrades, and sharpen our own lines for future party-building work.

Dave F.