Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Line of March Editorial Board

The OCIC’s Phony War Against White Chauvinism and the Demise of the Fusion Line

III. The Campaign Against White Chauvinism and the Fusion Line

As we have seen, the Campaign Against White Chauvinism is the most concentrated expression of the all-sided crisis of the OCIC. As such it also serves to crystalize the major shortcomings endemic to the fusion line itself.

The campaign’s weak political foundations expose the general tendency of the fusion line to belittle the theoretical tasks posed by the revolution, to belittle the role of the conscious element. This neglect of political line development, in turn, stems from the pronounced opportunist tendency to subordinate everything to the achievement of some immediate influence among the workers. This is evident in the campaign’s fetish over quickly altering the racial composition of the OCIC and developing a political line for the campaign which uses such shallow and narrow criteria, effectively reducing the struggle against racism to a question of individual style of work and a cleansing of individual racist attitudes. In addition, the failure of the fusion line systematically to train its cadre, raise and even out their theoretical development, and instill respect for the centrality of theoretical struggle, has produced favorable soil for the unrestricted utilization of demagogic appeals and unprincipled maneuvers to take the place of line struggle. This has had a profoundly corrupting influence on the OC cadre over the years, without which it is impossible to explain how this Campaign Against White Chauvinism could have gotten so wild and completely out of hand.

We are convinced that the OCIC crisis is all-sided and irreversible and that the same underlying problems can be detected in all its major campaigns and activities, not merely the Campaign Against White Chauvinism. For example, the Campaign Against White Chauvinism has served to throw a spotlight on the OCIC’s gross theoretical and practical mishandling of the struggle against sexism. In a typical mechanical materialist and opportunist fashion, the struggle against sexism has been declared subordinate to the struggle against racism at all times and in all places. In fact, the Campaign Against White Chauvinism has served as an ill-disguised broadside and sectarian attack upon the women’s movement, and mention of sexism within the OCIC has become a sure invitation to being attacked as a racist. In addition, the SC has now promised us yet another “ideological” campaign against petit bourgeois chauvinism. There is every reason to believe that this new crusade will be at least as bizarre as the Campaign Against White Chauvinism.

The OCIC’s complacency toward advancing our trend’s theoretical work has also become painfully clear to everyone. The 18 points of unity did not serve as a starting point for the struggle to rectify the general line of the U.S communist movement. Rather they were treated as a culmination of the process. As a result, no serious theoretical work has come forth from OCIC circles since its formation. Even in their self-proclaimed specialty the fusionists have done badly, as OCIC attempts to initiate and coordinate trend-wide intervention in the class struggle have been marked by political confusion, organizational amateurishness and sectarian intrigue.

Consequently we think that it is both appropriate and timely to conclude our commentary on the OCIC by restating our critique of the fusion party building line which serves as the consistent underpinning for the numerous concrete shortcomings, failures and blunders which have come to be associated with the OCIC. Hopefully, in light of the OCIC’s disastrous history, many fusionists will be prepared to rethink their views on party building line.

The phrase “fusion is the essence of party building” captures the core of the fusion line. Initially the fusion line held that the achievement of a “communist current” within the working class was a necessary precondition for forging a party. Later it shifted to a more muddled position that a “measure of fusion” or an “embryonic” communist current is the goal of the party building movement, along with the enigmatic formulation that theoretical work would constitute the principal aspect of fusion. Nevertheless, fusion as an attempt to integrate communist cadre into the spontaneous workers’ movement remains the consistent centerpiece of this party building strategy. Recently, as the sectarian deviation has been consolidated in the leadership of the PWOC and OCIC, the fusion line has reemerged in its earlier, unadulterated form.

The fusion line’s ideological flaw is that it focuses the attention of those who must reestablish the party principally on the present relationship between the communist movement as it exists and the spontaneous mass movement. Such an approach is inevitably dominated by bourgeois ideology due to the fact that the present communist movement does not have a leading line to bring to the spontaneous movement to combat spontaneity and thus bourgeois ideology. Focusing principally on the relationship of communists to the masses in this period inevitably limits the development of the communists and ties them to the bourgeois ideology of the spontaneous movement. It ties the development of the conscious element to the immediate objective conditions of the present backwardness in the working class.

Such a flawed orientation fosters right opportunist errors in political line. The narrowest criteria are utilized to judge the adequacy of a political line. Among the communists, a Philistine and complacent attitude toward the importance of theory and political line develops. Within the OCIC this can be seen in the unspoken tendency to view PWOC’s rudimentary lines on the trade union question, Black liberation, international line, and independent political action as sufficient to begin winning advanced workers to “communism.” This gross oversimplification of the tasks of party building is an error which the OCIC shares with the major party building efforts associated with the New Communist Movement.

The backwardness of the “winning the advanced formulation” as a strategy for party building is that, in the absence of a general line, it is not communism which is actually being fused with the working class. This party building line provides absolutely no guidance as to how a general line will be developed; instead it implies that the general line must flow spontaneously from the workers’ movement. This view ties the communists so narrowly to the immediate experience of the working class that it negates the leading role of political line and the conscious communist element altogether.

Yet it does not follow that the opportunist character of the fusion party building line would have necessarily led to the all-sided degeneration of the OCIC. This phenomenon can be understood only as the intersection of an incorrect party building line with the steady deterioration of the class stand and orientation of the OC leadership, first and foremost the leading body of the PWOC. Opportunism in the ideological realm is the abandonment of the long term interests of the whole proletarian struggle. In the particular case of the OC/PWOC leadership, this opportunism is manifested in the persistent and adamant refusal to re-evaluate and surrender the fusion line in the face of its being proven theoretically and practically incapable of uniting and developing the Marxist-Leninist trend into a party–the central task of communists in relationship to the long range interests of the proletarian struggle.

Concretely this ideological shortcoming has turned into an increasingly virulent sectarian deviation. The OCIC/PWOC leadership has consistently equated its own organizational interests with those of the whole trend. They have refused to acknowledge that their efforts were based on a particular party building line within the trend, taking the particular organizational form of the OCIC. Instead, they presented their efforts as the only legitimate position for the entire trend. Unable to contend for the leadership of the trend based on the merits of their party building line, they attempted to establish hegemony through organizational maneuvers, the slander and caricature of opposing lines, the intentional shifting and obscuring of their theoretical formulations as the fusion line began to lose its internal logical coherence, and–as the sectarian deviation intensified–demagogic attacks labeling all critics racists and petit bourgeois elitists. The consolidation of such an opportunist class standpoint has made the possibility of resolving this line contradiction with the OCIC/PWOC leadership in a non-antagonistic manner increasingly slim.

A Brief History of the Degeneration of the OCIC

How did this sad state of affairs come about? What went wrong and when? The recent crisis surrounding the Campaign Against White Chauvinism is so conspicuous it can no longer be denied. But it certainly did not fall from the sky; the present crisis has been unfolding for quite some time. Within our trend, forces have become aware and critical of the problem of the OCIC at different times, in different places and in different degrees. However, at this juncture, an effort to step back and gain a common, more all-sided and objective summation of the OCIC process is important for our trend. Toward this end, a brief review of the history is useful and timely.

During the formative period of the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend, the OC’s fusion line objectively pushed the Marxist-Leninist forces forward. It contributed to the necessary break with “left” opportunism and won numbers of comrades to the view that party building was indeed our central task. It highlighted the central role of the working class in making revolution at a time when anti-working class theories from the New Left still had some currency. PWOC’s line correctly emphasized the importance of a nationwide perspective for party building work.

However, by the time the OCIC was actually founded in February 1978, the struggle over party building line had already emerged within the anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist trend. For several years a number of forces had been criticizing the fusion line, and rectification adherents in particular had made the link between the fusion line and the OCIC. The stage was thus set for a straightforward political and ideological struggle over the various party building lines before the trend, a struggle which would necessarily and legitimately include assessments of the achievements of the political and organizational forms built around each party building line.

Unfortunately, PWOC and the OCIC leadership pursued a course which made this kind of struggle impossible. They eliminated the fusion party building line from the formal level of unity of the OCIC and promoted the fiction that building this particular type of center was not part of a larger conception of party building. Supposedly the alteration of a few words in a points of unity statement was supposed to change the essential underlying logic of the OCIC as a political formation resting upon PWOC’s fusion line.

The impact of this step was decidedly negative. It opened the door for the PWOC and OCIC leadership to insist continually that the OCIC was the only legitimate party building vehicle in the trend and to retreat from the necessary struggle in the trend over party building line.

Forming the OCIC without explicit unity on the fusion party building line also laid the basis for the sectarian deviation of the PWOC and OCIC leadership to come increasingly to the fore as time went on. By early 1979, the sectarian concept of the OCIC building the “single center”–with more accent on the single than on center–was already consolidated. This was particularly evident in Clay Newlin’s attack on the National Network of Marxist-Leninist clubs (NNMLC) on April 4, 1979, in Oakland, a few weeks after the Clubs were formed and had decided against joining the OCIC. In this attack on the Club Network, the OCIC leadership explicitly decided not to focus on political differences over party building line, but rather on the organizational question. This was acknowledged, even boasted about, as a correct tactical approach to struggle by Newlin himself.

Responding to OCIC members who had asked why a straightforward debate and struggle over the two contending party building lines was not being taken up, Newlin wrote:

Even some who adhere to fusion–and thus have no interest in extending the life of ultra-leftism or the circle spirit–question these tactics. Why not just ’take on’ the rectification line and *be done with it’ they argue. . . . There is much that is attractive to this point of view. Certainly a ’rectification vs. fusion’ formula would ’simplify’ the two-line struggle. . . . Though attractive, this approach is nevertheless wrong. It is not only not in the best interests of our tendency as a whole but not in the best interests of those struggling for the fusion line as well. In fact, at this stage, a ’rectification vs. fusion’ polarization would be wholly to the advantage of the NNMLC. In the first place, it would allow them to obscure their opportunism on questions of organization. This would not be of minor consequence. For opportunism on questions of organization is presently the principal expression of opportunism in the NNMLC line. . . . Organizational opportunism is not only principal, but it is also the most easily exposed deviation in the NNMLC’s line. (Why Not Rectification vs. Fusion? in The Organizer, October 1979.)

At a time when our entire trend has accumulated first-hand experience with the consequences of avoiding questions of political line, this “ancient” history of our trend is worth recalling. For with hindsight–and in light of Newlin’s current maneuvering in response to the widespread criticisms of the Campaign Against White Chauvinism–it is not hard to read between the lines of the earlier polemic. Let us trade on the desire for unity in our trend, Newlin is telling the fusionists, and refuse to take up a line struggle in which we acknowledge there are two clearly contending positions. Rather let us attempt to “settle” this line struggle before it even gets off the ground by charging our opponents with “organizational opportunism” because they won’t join our self-proclaimed single center. Present and former members of the OCIC are entitled to wonder whether they would have had to waste two whole years of fruitless endeavor if their leadership had not taken the “low road” back in 1979 but instead had been willing to take on the line struggle before our trend in a principled fashion.

The fatal flaw in Newlin’s position, of course, was that for Marxist-Leninists, the question is never unity or disunity, but on what basis shall unity be built. The OCIC ignored this basic fact and increasingly posed itself as the equivalent of the trend as a whole. All who would not join the OCIC were labeled splitters, ultra-leftists, and opportunists.

While this hollow appeal to unity enjoyed a certain temporary success, it also required a series of “refinements” in the OCIC’s official positions in order to refute the growing questions and criticisms of this poor logic. The key refinement was the invention of the “partial party building line” of the OCIC. The OCIC leadership could no longer continue to claim it had no party building line (how could this possibly be for an organization whose main purpose was party building?), but no one was about to admit that PWOC’s fusion line lay behind the OCIC. Consequently the concept of a “partial party building line” for the OCIC was born. This “partial party building line” supposedly provided guidance for the Marxist-Leninist trend in that it could explain:

How ultra-leftism has been the main obstacle to party building attempts since 1957....

That our strategic goal for developing the anti-left trend is to bring a leading ideological center into being.. ..

How the process of forging a leading core will occur. . . .

How the most important step in this process would be the establishment of a national center whose objective would be to carry out the ideological, theoretical, and organizational tasks of a leading ideological center at a beginning level....

That putting the national center on a firm basis of unity must include (a) unity on the 18 points (b) an analysis of the state of the movement and tendency, and the main tasks before us (c) unity on a plan for developing a leading ideological center.

What is more, this “partial party building line” explained all this (plus 13 other points) but still did not represent “a fully developed strategy for party building.. . [because it did] not attempt to characterize the essence of the party building process. . . [did] not specify the relationship between our primary and secondary tasks nor specify the particular relationship between theory and practice in the party building period. . . .” (All quotes from the OCIC’s Study Guide on the Draft Plan.)

This is certainly an amazing “partial party building line,” one which can guide virtually all the work of our trend in the period ahead and determine how a core for the party will be built, but takes no stand on the essence of party building or the relationship of our primary and secondary tasks! Quite a unique invention in the communist movement indeed!

The Crisis of the OCIC Matures

The demagogy surrounding the OCIC’s “single center,” “partial party building line,” and “campaign against ’federationism’” were relatively effective in keeping the OCIC afloat and promoting the illusion of progress, roughly through the fall of 1979. But by the early months of 1980, some cold hard facts were beginning to become apparent to those closely watching or involved in the OCIC. Fundamentally, OCIC members and supporters were forced to confront the fact that the OCIC was not actually delivering on its promised advances in party building work.

In the first place, the OCIC leadership was conspicuously failing in its attempt to sweep the trend along into a PWOC-led pre-party organization. The OCIC was unable to project a leading party building line before the movement and unable to contend theoretically with the increasingly influential rectification line. The OCIC was making no progress at the summation and critique of ultra-leftism or any other theoretical task. It was unable to unite ever-increasing numbers of Marxist-Leninists under its banner, particularly those comrades with more extensive experience in the revolutionary movement. The OCIC was miserably failing to attract minority comrades to its ranks, having in fact alienated many of these comrades by its blunders surrounding the National Minority Marxist-Leninist Conference.

In essence, the OCIC was not successful in uniting the Marxist-Leninist trend under its leadership. PWOC’s party building line had been tested and found wanting.

But this process did not take place in a vacuum. The efforts of the OCIC were being measured not just in relation to its own stated goals but to the progress being made by forces in the trend functioning under a different party building line–the rectification line–and by an acceleration in the class struggle nationally and internationally.

Let us deal with this latter question first because the fusion line has always treated it in such a mechanical fashion. Does the class struggle impact the theoretical tasks, the political work, the organizational forms of the communist movement? Of course it does. Those who would deny this fundamental reality are not materialists. But this does not at all mean that the obviously narrow practice and experiences of the class struggle in an immediate sense literally “sets the agenda” for the communists.

The heightened contradictions of the imperialist system on a world scale–bringing in their train an increased danger of war and the rise of fascism–cannot help but make Marxist-Leninists impatient with any party building center which views its tasks in either a leisurely or sectarian fashion. And yet, while important questions of theory and line were posed before our trend with a new urgency as the result of objective developments in the class struggle, the OCIC leadership demonstrated only its own lack of capacity to move this trend forward to the point where it could begin to address the political tasks of the communists in a serious fashion.

It became increasingly evident that the narrow vision of the fusion party building line which, in effect, saw immersion in the economic struggle of the workers as the cure for all the ills of the communist movement, was completely inadequate as the basis on which a party capable of actually leading the class struggle could be built.

But there was also another factor at work. The rectification line had become a material force within our trend–both as a line that was continuing to win new adherents and also as the guiding dynamic in the actual political and theoretical life of the trend. As a result of the initiatives undertaken by rectification forces based on their party building line, our trend was actually registering important gains in theoretical work, cadre training and certain areas of the class struggle. The appearance last year of Line of March and its establishment as a serious locus for developing and popularizing the theoretical advances made by our trend inevitably held our trend as a whole accountable to a more rigorous political and theoretical standard than before. Nor did it escape the notice of the OCIC. Does this account, in part, for its hasty and ill-fated Campaign Against White Chauvinism? The forces leading the rectification movement are conspicuously multi-racial.

It was the conjuncture of all these contradictions and more that catalyzed the crisis in the OCIC. Sometime in the spring of 1980 a re-evaluation of the OCIC’s progress was, like it or not, thrust upon the OCIC leadership. The evidence that the OCIC was failing miserably in demonstrating its capacity to mature our trend into a party was simply too visible to be further ignored. What course should be taken?

Moments such as these are important testing grounds for communist leadership. The capacity to make a sober evaluation of negative phenomena in order to get at their root and correct the problem is indispensable to a communist vanguard. Unfortunately the OCIC leadership fared no better on this test than they had on previous occasions. Instead of reevaluating their party building line, a course clearly dictated by concrete experience, they chose to reassert the line–with a vengeance. The result was the Campaign Against White Chauvinism. The OCIC rank-and-file were to become the scapegoats for the OCIC leadership’s failures.

The Campaign Against White Chauvinism was the idealized representation of the fusion line and the sectarian opportunism of the OCIC/PWOC leadership. The campaign’s fusionist orientation was bound up in the view that the key to everything was the degree of immediate influence by the OCIC among the workers. This would be registered concretely by the numbers of workers and minority cadre present within the OCIC. The sectarianism was likewise clear from the start as the OCIC leadership made agreement with the campaign the litmus test for all cadres, culminating in Newlin’s ridiculous assertion that equated support for the Campaign Against White Chauvinism with support for the MPLA in Angola.

Under such circumstances, a theoretical defense of the fusion line was no longer necessary and all pretense to one was dropped. The line was now reduced to its fundamental prejudices. By the same token, a theoretical defense of the OCIC as the trend’s only legitimate center was also dropped. Now opposition to the OCIC leadership could be dismissed quite simply as “racist.”

But far from resolving the crisis of the OCIC, the phony Campaign Against White Chauvinism brought all the contradictions within the OC to the surface and the crisis in its ranks broke open. True to form, the OCIC claims that this major setback is actually a great step forward, soon to be followed by still greater achievements in the announced campaign against anti-working class bias.

This self-deluding summation will take root only among those who are thoroughly blinded by the assumptions of the fusion line and who have adopted the sectarian opportunism of the OCIC leadership. The bulk of the trend, meanwhile, in different ways and at different speeds, confronts the fact that the OCIC has rapidly degenerated into a spectacle almost too bizarre to be believed. That the degeneration should be most highlighted by a racist campaign billed as the only possible method of fighting racism only adds the criticism of racism to the political criticism of the fusion line and ideological criticism of sectarianism that now rests on the PWOC and OCIC leadership. The combination of errors assembled here is deadly; more thorough degeneration of a political process can hardly be imagined.

The Future of the OCIC

The OCIC is rapidly heading down a road which has been travelled by many other groups on the U. S. left. Unable to win adherents among the already revolutionary elements through political struggle, the organization finds one or another way to declare that the rest of the left is hopeless. They then proclaim that they will take their now-purified organization to the “real masses” where they will prove themselves the “real vanguard.” When the masses don’t respond in the predicted way, the few diehards who remain invent wilder and wilder fantasies to call failure success. With a few particularities, this is the course now being followed by the PWOC and OCIC.

The OCIC has been politically ignoring all forces outside its ranks for some time, and using such epithets as ultra-left, elitist, careerist, etc., to describe all its critics to its own followers. Now the sectarian basis has been laid to write off all those outside its ranks as racists and anti-working class elements, hopelessly unable to function as communists. Those who dissent from the path of the leadership will be expelled or forced out and given the same name-calling treatment.

The nationwide pre-party always planned by the PWOC will probably come rapidly to the fore. Already, and by a mere change in its masthead, The Organizer has become a “national newspaper” under the PWOC’s editorial control, clearly making this publication the scaffolding of the pre-party to be. For a period of time, this new formation may exist within the larger OCIC shell, a move that would seem to be necessary in order to win over any remaining OCIC cadre who actually took that formation at face value. But the center of gravity of party building work among the fusion forces will certainly shift to the pre-party.

Whatever particular twists and turns this process goes through, or however long it takes to unfold, the fundamental point is that the OCIC has qualitatively degenerated and become a mere sect. Little more remains but to write its epitaph.