Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Sarah Johnston

Internationalism vs. LOM’s left-wing chauvinism

First Published: Unity, Vol. 9, No. 15, December 15, 1986.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Karega Hart’s article “Fighting Sectarianism in the U.S. anti-apartheid movement” (Unity, December 6, 1985) has drawn a favorable response from many activists. The phenomenon of attempting to split the South Africa support movement which Hart spoke to has also been noted by others.

The reason so many in the anti-apartheid movement are concerned about sectarianism is because the support movement in the U.S., seeing the intensifying oppression and resistance in South Africa combined with press censorship imposed by the Botha regime, is actively trying to step up its activities and broaden out its support. The need for more activity and unity is quite apparent, so one has to wonder what Phil Gardiner and the Line of March (LOM) hoped to accomplish with their March 3, 1986, article in Frontline.

LOM fomenting divisions

To attempt to foment divisions between forces is dangerous and irresponsible. Gardiner’s charge that the League is “backstabbing (the) ANC” in the same way the League’s predecessor organizations attempted to “slander” the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola is nothing other than irresponsible.

Political struggle, criticism and polemics are one thing – fabrications and lies for the purpose of instigating differences between forces are something else. LOM does this not only to the League but to many other forces, including the ANC. Students in Sacramento, California, at a recent Black student conference were quite upset when a member or supporter of the LOM repeatedly badgered an obviously reluctant ANC speaker to attack the PAC. Many students were upset by these efforts to turn an educational forum on South Africa into a polemic about the differences between forces in South Africa.

League amongst first to support MPLA

LOM is resorting to these actions because it chooses not to openly debate the League’s actual line and practice. The LOM knows that League members and supporters have worked long and hard to raise material aid for ANC projects and have played leading roles in disseminating the truth about South Africa and the ANC. We have supported all forces fighting against apartheid regardless of their ties (or lack of) with the Soviet Union. Regarding the MPLA, LOM knows full well that our predecessor organizations were among the first (if not the first) U.S. groups to visit the MPLA in their base camps in Tanzania and publicize their program, work and views in the U.S. back in the early 1970’s.

The reason that the LOM is afraid to discuss the real political issues which are at the heart of its differences with the League is that if struggle were to proceed on a principled basis, the outcome might prove the LOM, if not wrong, at least not the “vanguard” they now pride themselves to be.

Internationalism or left-wing chauvinism?

What then is the basis of the difference between the LOM and the League? In our view, it is the conflict between our effort to practice internationalism and the LOM’s confirmed “left-wing chauvinism.”

Internationalism is the outlook of respecting and supporting the struggles of people everywhere for freedom, progress, liberation and socialism. Internationalism recognizes that any victory for progress is a victory for us all. It is the outlook of the working class.

The advances of the third world weaken imperialism and any setback to U.S. imperialism objectively improves the conditions for the people’s movement in the U.S. Thus, our support for the struggles in the third world is an integral part of the fight for our own emancipation in the U.S. This is internationalism. But LOM, while mouthing internationalism, actually practices left-wing chauvinism.

The LOM has long practiced this type of sectarian “left-wing chauvinism,” declaring who alone are “revolutionary” and “illegitimate” in struggles from Palestine to the Philippines.

The LOM argues that U.S. activists should follow its lead and as Phil Gardiner puts it, “exercise our best political judgment about the program, leadership stability and class orientation of the different organizations claiming to stand for national freedom” and recognize those with “the most consistent anti-imperialist standpoint.”

The left in the U.S. obviously can form opinions about what is happening in other countries, but the U.S. left must also recognize the limited ability we have to be able to understand the concrete conditions in other countries, let alone pronounce judgment on the line, practice, standing and “leadership stability” of the revolutionary forces. For the LOM to assume they have such a capability and smugly assume they understand the actual conditions in other countries so well as to be able to determine who is genuinely revolutionary and who is not in the third world is presumptuous and a mockery of internationalism, of sincerely respecting the struggles of the people of other countries.

LOM says “the acid test of internationalism is the ability to distinguish the real from the sham among various forces who are claiming to be ’genuine and honest’ advocates of national sovereignty” in the third world. In our view, the “acid test of internationalism” is whether one in practice sincerely respects the exercise of self-determination by third world countries. Those activists in the U.S. who are “genuine and honest” internationalists do so, and support the people and all their progressive forces in struggle.

The principal and pressing task for U.S. Marxist-Leninists and progressive forces in the activity to support the liberation of South Africa is to broaden and deepen that activity. Our internationalist duty is to win the people of the U.S. to give as much support as they can to the struggle, from demanding that the federal government end US. ties to the Botha racist regime, to raising material aid for the African freedom fighters.

Our duty is not to promote certain groups over others, label liberation groups as this or that, or encourage the already pervasive chauvinism among people in the U.S. Our task is to provide as much help as we can so that the people of South Africa themselves will be able to determine their own future without outside interference. This is the attitude of democracy, self-determination and internationalism that we should encourage.

Sarah Johnston is a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L).