Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

U.S. League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist)

Congress Papers #2

A Brief Response to the Paper by Five Central Committee Members, Called “Moving Forward Our Tradition”

By the Central Committee majority (Signed by 28 people)

The Central Committee, in preparing its own papers, adhered to the agreement to state its position affirmatively and not to include a critique of any other view. However, since the five persons who wrote “Moving Forward Our Tradition” decided that attacks on the Central Committee view should be a major part of their position, we have decided to issue thi6 partial reply.

We want to limit our response to the following areas: Allegations and distortions regarding the process; the importance of a view which has meaning in real life; and the importance of the willingness to take on responsibility for one’s views.

The process. The paper alleges that the process is undemocratic and unfair. It alleges that it is unfair because the minority was not allowed to “develop a unified view” and to present this view “equally” with the majority position. Furthermore, that the process is undemocratic because the majority allegedly does not want to allow for a long process of debate or for the participation of working class members and those whose first language is not English.

First of all, sprinkled throughout the caper “Moving Forward...” are numerous efforts to cast the entire struggle into the context of a “two line struggle,” in which one side is “for” and the other side “against” the working class and non-English-speaking people, this includes making misleading inferences and outright lies. In doing so, the authors have taken a leap beyond principled, reasonable debate which can have a constructive outcome, to a destructive situation in which people will be pitted against each other and the outcome, of necessity, will contain “winners” and “losers.”

The Committee wants to make only two points here – one general and one particular. We ask everyone to judge those of us in the majority by our practice and our history. We are the ones who moved to Watsonville to participate in that struggle. We went to work in working class job6 in factories, hotels and department stores. The overwhelming majority of the lower strata workers in this organization agree with the majority position. Yes, some of us are from the “petty bourgeoisie” with “options,” yet we were the ones who quit our jobs, risked our futures and made many personal sacrifices in order to aid in the MEChA situation and other similar situations through the years. We find it outrageous that our commitment and our stand can be criticized in this way.

On a particular level, we want to reply to the charge that we want to hurry the process because we don’t care about the participation of working class and non-English-speaking members. We in the Central Committee are the ones who have arranged for Spanish translations, who have stayed up nights to xerox additional documents, who have traveled many hours so that we can explain directly to Spanish speaking workers about the views and to ensure their full participation. The authors of the paper “Moving Forward...” know full well that the process proposed by the Central Committee included provisions for translations and the full participation of everyone.

But perhaps most importantly, “Moving Forward...” makes no mention that the date change to move up the Congress was made because the entire student area in California voted unanimously to request the Central Committee to move up the date because they felt that it was not possible, and would be too destructive to the entire student movement, if we waited until November to make a decision on our future direction. They felt at stake were the three student networks which would have a hard time defending against an outright anti-communist attack. The potential was that all three networks could be seriously set back. It was in light of this request that the entire Central Committee voted to change the date and agreed that the process could be completed in a fair and reasonable manner within this time. The vote was 30 to 3. (Why two people who voted for the date change would go along with signing the paper which makes these contradictory charges is not understandable to us.)

Furthermore, in advocating that the process be extended beyond September, the authors of “Moving Forward...” offer no thoughts, no plans, no options for how the student area should deal with the consequences of extending the date. This is what we mean by taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s views.

Regarding the process generally, it should be clear that at all meetings, at all levels, those in the minority were and are free to present their ideas, and papers by any individuals are being circulated to the entire membership as part of the usual pre-Congress process. The Central Committee has not sanctioned the formation of distinct minority groupings because it has been unclear if there is in fact a single minority position; secondly, because the CC members with minority views have stated they could not and would not assume responsibility to provide leadership to the national organization; and thirdly, to accord these few individuals “equality” in status with the majority bypasses democratic norms.

Regarding the politics of the paper “Moving Forward...” We understand from the minority that they have attempted to produce a position which would contain enough “tactical concessions” to win over more people from the majority. The paper states that we should uphold Marxist-Leninist ideology and theory, and the League’s line and program which are applications of Marxism-Leninism, but just not call the group Marxist-Leninist. Rather, we should be an open socialist organization that advocates a constitutional oath for achieving socialism, and have more flexible cadre policies.

We want to say straight out that if people believe in Marxism-Leninism, they should say so and stand on it. We don’t know what it means to say an organization upholds M-L but we won’t call it that. We should have the courage of our convictions – this has always been our tradition. We don’t know how you would recruit members to it. (Do you tell them it’s M-L after they join?) Even as a secret organization, the League in our publications and our members (open and closed) never denied that the organization was M-L. And we question what kind of organization upholds or discards principles like the dictatorship of the proletariat or the vanguard party based on “tactical considerations?”

The basic position “really M-L but openly socialist” is not implementable in real life. In fact, if it were attempted, it would be both foolish and dangerous. It is foolish to think that the “changes” made for tactical or cosmetic reasons would be credible.

And it is dangerous because an organization based on Marxism-Leninism (even if it is admitted only internally, which is not realistic) cannot at this time be open. It would have to be secret, i.e. many members would not be able or willing to be openly affiliated. In fact, the authors of “Moving Forward...” recognize and accept that individuals may want to be secret members of the “open socialist organization” they are advocating.

In fact, what “Moving Forward...” advocates is really very similar if not in essence the same as the League’s current policy, which we have found to be increasingly difficult to maintain. “Moving Forward...” advocates an M-L organization that openly promotes socialism, but doesn’t necessarily have “socialist” in its name. That is what we have now. They advocate an organization with some public members and other secret members, which is collectively discussed but ultimately the individual’s choice. This is what we have now.

To advocate an “open” organization with “secret members” is not only a contradiction (our experience shows that very few people can or will be open) but for the authors of “Moving Forward...” to advocate lowering discipline in practice would be irresponsible and dangerous, since such an organization must have a structure and a level of discipline that can protect the secrecy of its members.

“Moving Forward...” also avoids the issue of what this policy means for our electoral work. It is deliberately vague on electoral work – it acknowledges the heavy red-baiting, but doesn’t say what to do about it, or if we actually should or should not run people for office at this time, and what iv. should happen to those elected officials in the organization at this time who feel they cannot be open – or closed – members of an M-L, socialist, or “secret” organization.

Finally, on taking responsibility. It is not responsible for leaders to put forth a theory and ask that others follow them if they have not thought through the implications and logical conclusions of their views, if they themselves are not willing to do what they advocate others to do, and if they themselves are not willing to take full responsibility for the implementation of their ideas. What has always been difficult for the Central Committee has been the great variety of views which has been out forward by the five individuals who have signed the paper “Moving Forward...” The Central Committee has always believed and still believes today that the views of some of the individuals who signed the paper are actual alternatives. In individual papers which some of them have written, coherent views and plans have been presented. While we disagree with these views, we believe that they present a consistent alternative view.

This view generally believes that given the nature of the state and the long range requirements and goals of the revolution, it is necessary to have a Leninist party that can empower the working class and with its allies, overthrow capitalism. The advocates of this view recognize that since there is so much anti-communism at this time, it would be necessary for many members of such a Marxist-Leninist organization to be secret. They generally see this organization emphasizing work among oppressed strata and workers, and they recognize that it may not be able to attract many people from other strata, such as university students. Proponents of this view also do not see this organization running people for elected office, since no open Marxist-Leninist can do so and expect to win today, and even closed members are vulnerable to heavy red-baiting. It may be able to do electoral work around other issues like ballot measures, etc. Such an organization may not grow a lot at this time, but it is the long-term struggle and goals that are important.

We have already stated why we disagree with key aspects of M-L and what kind of theory, strategy and organization we feel we need. But while we disagree with this minority position, we respect it as a principled and consistent position.

At the same time, we want to point out that this view has no organizational reality either. The proponents of this view have not put forth how this organization would be led, built and sustained and who actually would do it. Even as a “secret” organization, it would have to have some open members. Who would they be? Those questions are not answered.

The purpose of a political debate is to clarify different views so the best path forward can be found. While we appreciate the intention of some people in the minority to attempt to make “tactical compromises” in order to appeal to some of us in the majority, we feel it is unprincipled to tack together some mish-mash in an effort to unite the largest possible number of people against the majority view, but not for anything that has meaning in real life. The purpose of this debate is not over “tactics” or “cosmetics” or what may sound good theoretically. The purpose of these papers should be to put forward a coherent view which can exist in real life, and which is capable of answering the concrete questions and problems confronting our work. Any “theoretical alternative” which makes no effort to grapple with real life and takes no responsibility for the concrete consequences of its views is irresponsible.