Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party

’CPML’ Debates How to Liquidate

First Published:The Workers’ Advocate Vol. 11, No. 6, May 20, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The acute crisis of the “three worldist” sect known as the “CPML” continues to deepen. For many months they have been moaning and groaning about their profound and all-round disintegration. In the March issue of their paper, The Call, they report among other things that their standing committee has collapsed, a number of their leaders have jumped ship, Klonsky has resigned as chairman, and their Central Committee has been shunted aside.1 Now, with the April issue of The Call, an open debate has begun in the pages of their newspaper over whether or not “CPML” should be dissolved outright.

In an effort to save themselves from total collapse the “CPML” has set up an Interim Political Committee (IPC). In the April issue of The Call an article is printed from a member of this IPC, John Martin, which purports to analyze “CPML’s” disease and to prescribe a cure. 2 However, Martin’s prescription proves to be nothing more than a rehash of many of the liquidationist theories currently fashionable in the “CPML” combined with a resurrection of anti-party theories from “CPML’s” dark neo-revisionist past. Nevertheless this article is of interest. It not only reveals the depth of the crisis of “CPML,” but it is also very instructive for all class conscious workers who wish to understand the features of present-day liquidationism and merger with social-democracy.

Liquidationism and Renegacy in the Name of a Fight Against “Ultra-Leftism”


For some time “CPML” has been extolling the virtues of liquidationism and merger with social-democracy dressed up in the disguise of a fight against what they claim to be their past “ultra-left” sins. Martin continues this crusade, beginning his article with the assessment that “Any reader of the last few issues of The Call can plainly see the CPML is in the midst of a serious ideological, political and organizational crisis. The basic reason for this crisis is the ultra-left orientation, line and method that held back the CPML’s development from a small sect into a political force in the United States.”

Any reader who knows “CPML” will of course be astounded by this assessment since “CPML” is most known for its ultra-rightist history, its social-chauvinist call to unite with U.S. imperialism to direct the “main blow” against Soviet social-imperialism, its “three worldism,” and so forth. But all of these facts are of no significance to Martin. He declares, “some openly rightist and liquidationist views have emerged and even appeared in the pages of The Call. But the existence of rightist views does not change the fact that it is the ultra-left orientation, line and method that is mainly responsible for our problems today. To blame rightism as the principal reason for our deterioration is to confuse cause and effect.” What seems to be confused here is not “cause and effect” but right and left. No, “CPML’s” disease is not “ultra-leftism.” Instead, it has a terminal case of revisionism, right opportunism. Martin’s “analysis” of the ultra-left danger aims to conceal this cancer and to spread it by attacking the very principles of Marxism-Leninism itself.

For example, Martin has special hatred for the Leninist teachings on the proletarian revolutionary party of the new type. He argues that liquidationism is not the problem in the “CPML”; oh no, it’s just this “ultra-left notion” of the vanguard party that he is opposed to. Martin mocks at party-building and the party concept in the most virulent terms. He sneers against “This ultra-left notion of ’we are the vanguard party.’” He complains that “the slogan ’party building is the central task’ has led to a certain one-sidedness.” He pontificates that “a highly centralized party type of organization is unlikely for the immediate future.” And he denounces anyone who fights for the organizational unification of the class conscious workers into a party based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism as doing harm to the class struggle because “to expect today a high degree of ideological unity as a precondition to organizational unity only holds back the Marxist-Leninists from having maximum effect on the class and national struggles.”

Of course mocking at the party principle and opposing the arduous and constant work to build it is the very heart of liquidationism. The working class must at all costs build its Marxist-Leninist vanguard, its fighting headquarters because there is no other way to train the workers in their own class interests, to organize them as a fighting force, rallying around themselves all of the oppressed and downtrodden and leading them to victory in the class struggle against the capitalists. But the liquidators are opposed to building the party and they want to wipe out the very idea of it from the minds of the workers. With its crusade against “ultra-leftism” this is precisely what “CPML” is trying to do.

Martin also attacks the fight against revisionism and opportunism as an “ultra-left” excess. Writing about the campaign against “ultra-leftism” of the Deng clique in China, Martin remarks enthusiastically, “Particularly criticized has been the tendency to magnify the extent of right revisionism in the Party and over-emphasis on the two-line struggle.” The liberal and anarchist theories and practices of the Chinese revisionists, such as that on the inevitability of “two-line struggle” inside the party, were factionalist theories designed to justify coexistence with the ultra-revisionists. 3 But Martin is trying to paint a picture that what was wrong with the past stand of the Chinese leadership towards revisionism was not that it conciliated all the various revisionist currents while elaborating its own bankrupt anti-Marxist-Leninist doctrine, but that it fought revisionism too hard. Today, after the experience of Mao elevating the discredited ultra-revisionist Deng Xiaoping to party leadership, after the spectacle of China welcoming the arch-revisionist Carrillo in 1971 and afterwards, after the exposure of Mao’s fondness for Tito and the sight of the Yugoslav-Chinese embraces, after the exposure of the rotten revisionist ideological basis of Mao Zedong Thought itself, to paint such a picture can only be called a whitewash.

Such artistry seems to be Martin’s forte. To prove that the struggle against revisionism must be done away with, he goes on to create the utterly fantastic story that even the arch-revisionists of the Soviet Union have now supposedly become “ultra-leftists.” He states, “But today the Soviets enjoy military superiority over the West and are globally on the offensive. Correspondingly, ’armed struggle’ is replacing ’peaceful transition’ in the Soviet lexicon, and the USSR has become the new advocate of ’Leninism’ and ’revolution’ in the third world – with, of course, a good dose of Russian arms to pave the way to ’socialism.’” Martin dubs this the “new left posture of the Soviet social-imperialists.”

What an amazing fairy tale! Martin would have us believe that the brutal Soviet social-imperialist invasion of Afghanistan, their savage threats against Poland, their exploitation of the Russian workers and the oppressed nationalities in Russia, and so forth, are not the bitter fruits of the right opportunism of the Soviet revisionists but, instead, manifestations of “leftism.” Despite Martin’s incredible concoctions, even the Soviet revisionists’ demagogic posturing is not more “left” today than in the past but most of all turns upon pacifist calls for collaboration with U.S. imperialism against the world’s peoples.4 The depths of the rotten opportunism of the “CPML” can be seen by the fact that they place themselves to the right of the Khrushchovite revisionists of the CPSU.

Martin goes so far as to suggest that the utterly state monopoly capitalist Soviet Union is “socialist,” although imperialist. He talks of “the numerous unanswered questions about the social and economic systems in Eastern Europe and the USSR itself.” This is a diplomatic repetition of the views of the arch-liquidator Jim Hamilton, who complained in the February 1981 issue of The Call: “Isn’t there also something wrong when we insist on describing the Soviet Union as ’capitalism restored’ even though no one in our movement can offer a coherent proof of that contention?” 5 The “CP ML” liquidators are simply trailing in the wake of the Chinese revisionist leadership. The Deng clique in China has already hinted at this reassessment. Their contradiction with the Soviet revisionists has never been one of principle. In their striving to become an imperialist superpower in their own right they have today allied themselves with U.S. imperialism. But tomorrow they may embrace the new tsars of the Soviet Union. To pave the way for this pragmatic maneuvering the Chinese revisionist Deng clique has begun to suggest that the Soviet Union is “still socialist,” only suffering from “revisionist tendencies.”6

Thus Martin and the “CPML” are dropping even the slightest pretext of any ideological differences with Soviet revisionism. This helps pave the way for “CPML” to work for an accommodation with the pro-Soviet groups in the U.S. as they work in parallel in the liberal-labor marsh. Contradiction or accommodation with the Soviet revisionists will depend on the changing circumstances of cynical international power politics and will even more openly than before, if that is possible, be based simply on the clash of rival imperialisms and rival social-chauvinisms. Thus the stand of “CPML” towards the Soviet revisionists has come to resemble more and more that of, say, various “Eurocommunists.”

Martin makes it clear that he wants to put an end not just to the battle against Soviet revisionism, but for that matter to the struggle against any other trend of revisionism or opportunism. He denounces the powerful polemics against revisionism and opportunism from the past and pleads that more sober and realistic minds should prevail and find the way to unity. “While we desire a constructive exchange of views, we do not wish to return to the polemics of the ’70s, with the label ’opportunist’ hurled carelessly about, forcing differences to harden.” What matter is the defense of Marxist-Leninist principle against the revisionist distortions? What matter is the defense of the interests of the workers against the class betrayal of the revisionists and opportunists? This is just so much hardening of difference pleads Martin. And so, down with the “ultra-left” excess of the fight against revisionism and on with “constructive exchange of views.”

Besides attacking the party concept and the fight against revisionism, Martin also finds the space to oppose any revolutionary communist work as “classic ultra-leftism.” He moans in despair that, “We saw the masses as more advanced than they are and underestimated the strength of anti-communism. Rather than making a sober analysis of the consequences for M-Ls of the resilience of imperialism at home, we saw U.S. imperialism as tottering on the abyss of disaster.” He concludes, “This is classic ultra-leftism. It led us to exaggerate the openness of the advanced workers and other activists to the red flag of communism.” In other words, the masses are just too backward, U.S. imperialism’s just too strong, so fold up the red flag and get down to the nitty gritty work of seeking cozy positions in the trade union bureaucracy, working inside all of the capitalist political parties, organizing a “constructive, exchange of views” with the revisionists and social-democrats, etc. The only thing classic in these views is the depth of their renegacy.

Here you have some of the features of “CPML’s” crusade against ultra-leftism. Renunciation of the party principle, renunciation of the fight against revisionism and opportunism, renunciation of any revolutionary work.

Merger with Social-Democracy Under the Signboard of “to the Masses”


Along with the crusade against “ultra-leftism,” Martin argues that “CPML” must put its “main efforts” into a “to the masses orientation.” Our Party, ;e revolutionary Marxist-Leninists the world over, has ways laid stress on work among the masses, on wide-spread agitation, on protracted work to draw ever wider masses into revolutionary organization, etc. But the “CPML” every few years rediscovers the slogan of “to the masses” as if it had found a new world. As always, from the mouths of the renegades of the “CPML,” “to the masses” becomes a call not for agitation among or organization of the workers but for a rush to merge with social-democracy.

Martin, in the first place, emphasizes that the shift to a “to the masses orientation” is a call against the building of the party. Martin complains that, in the past, the slogan ’party building is the central task’ has led to a certain one-sidedness, of over-emphasizing the tasks of socialist propaganda and ’wining the advanced to communism’ in isolation from the need to fuse the M-L cadre into the workers’ and nationalities’ movements.”

Martin is here resurrecting the traditional neo-revisionist theory of counterposing the building of the mass movement against the building of the party. For CPML” there have always been two categories, “party”and “mass movement,” that stood in irreconcilable contradiction to each other. They have never been able to understand the conception and work of the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists of building the party in the thick of the class struggle. They simply cannot fathom that it is precisely so that the workers can better carry out the class struggle and carry it to victory that they must have organization, and that the Marxist-Leninist party is the highest form of the independent class organization of the proletariat, that organization which is essential to train the workers in their own class interest and to lead them in battle against the capitalists. In an article against the liquidators of his day, Comrade Lenin explains the relationship of the party to the masses in this way:

The Marxists have a fundamentally different view of the relationship of the unorganized (and unorganizahle for a lengthy period, sometimes decades) masses to the party, to organization. It is to enable the masses of adefinite classto learn to understand its own interests and its position, to learn to conduct its own policy, that there must be an organization of the advanced elements of the class, immediately and at all costs, even though at first these elements constitute only a tiny fraction of the class. To do service to the masses and express theirinterests, having correctly conceived those interests, the advanced contingent, the organization, must carry on all its activity among the masses, drawing from the masses all the best forces without exception, at every step verifying carefully and objectively whether contact with the masses is being maintained and whether it is a live contact. In this way, and onlyin this way, does the advanced contingent train and enlighten the masses, expressing theirinterests, teaching them organization and directing allthe activities of the masses along the path of conscious class politics.” 7

All of this seems clear enough. But “CPML” cannot grasp it. For them “to the masses” necessarily means opposition to building the party. It is difficult to understand why “CPML” is such a dimwit until it is seen that when “CPML” says “to the masses,” it does not mean to the masses at all but to the trade union bureaucrats, to the “riot stoppers,” to the social-democrats. Martin spells this out. Immediately after his call to “fuse the M-L cadre into the workers’ and nationalities’ movements,” Martin explains,“For example, the CPML overestimated our own strength and took an incorrect stance toward the reformist forces in the trade unions and nationalities movements. Instead of seeing these forces as allies to be won over, we aimed our ’main blow’ at them. We saw the masses as more advanced than they are and underestimated the strength of anticommunism.” So to “fuse with the workers’ and nationalities’ movements” means to make alliances with the reformists like Doug Fraser, Jesse Jackson, and Hosea Williams. While as to the masses of workers, well they are just too backward to be dealt with.

As far as Martin’s tears about the “strength of anticommunism” it is true that among the “reformist forces” of trade union hacks and the sellouts of the oppressed nationalities anti-communism is a byword. Indeed, the very idea of struggle they find abhorrent and they have dedicated their lives to putting out the flames of the mass struggle and tying the working and oppressed masses to the coattails of the capitalist parties, and especially to the Democratic Party. It is no small wonder then that “CPML” finds that building the vanguard party of the proletariat, propagating the party concept and organizing the party among the workers, is an obstacle to unity with the social-democratic sellouts. Here is the answer to “CPML’s” confusion over the relationship of the party to the mass movements. It is not that party-building must be opposed in order to achieve a “to the masses orientation.” No. Party-building must be opposed in order to unite with the social-democrats against the masses.

CPML” Debates Whether to Dissolve Outright or Maintain a Social-Democratic Liquidators’ Party


With the flourishing of such extreme liquidationist views throughout the “CPML” it comes as no great surprise that a section of their organization has now stepped forward to demand that “CPML” dissolve itself and completely amalgamate with the social-democrats. Various of their leaders have apparently already taken their liquidationist views to their logical conclusion and left “CPML” for the greener pastures of social-democracy and bourgeois journalism. Martin reports that there are “a number of the former top leaders of CPML, including former Call editor Dan Burstein and former Call writer Jim Hamilton, who have left the party rather than continue the struggle for their views.” Despite their departure the debate continues to rage in “CPML” and even in The Call one can find appeals for dissolution. For example, in the April issue “CPML” carries without comment a letter from one of their readers which says in part, “I agree that the left needs unity and a searching down-to-earth development of a program for socialism in the real-world USA of the 80’s. I suggest that you analyze the impending merger of DSOC and NAM and consider the possibility of fusing with that new group when it emerges as a ’Revolutionary Democratic Socialist’ tendency. That’s essentially what I will be doing.” Here you have stated without embarrassment, without any of the usual demagogic cover, the liquidators’ program – complete amalgamation with social-democracy, with that spineless and always impotent left wing of the Democratic Party. The liquidators will sprinkle some holy water on the Democratic Party marsh and, presto, social-democracy will become “revolutionary” social-democracy.

Martin, in his article, takes up the cudgels against those who want to dissolve “CPML” and argues that their organization has a far nobler role to play. Martin explains that “Other calls to dismantle communist organization and replace it with a ’mass party of labor and progressives’ would actually leave us unable to build such a party of give it a multinational or revolutionary character.” You see, Martin is not against joining with the social-democrats of the DSOC, NAM, Citizens Party and so forth. In fact, he is in favor of assisting them to divert the mass ferment against the capitalist parties into a “mass party of labor and progressives” composed of the labor bureaucracy and social-democratic chieftains. His only disagreement with those who would dissolve “CPML” is that he believes the existence of “CPML” is essential to carry this out.

To understand the full meaning of Martin’s idea one only has to look at how “CPML” “gave a multinational and revolutionary character” to the Citizens Party in last year’s election. “CPML” admitted that the Citizens Party wasnothing more than a social-democratic left wing of the Democratic Party. In a Call interview with Barry Commoner, thepresidential candidate for the Citizens Party, it is pointed out, “The Citizens Party, in fact, shares the same basic social-democratic views on replacing capitalism through reforms as, say, the pro-Kennedy Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.” 8 Nevertheless “CPML” praises it “overall as a bold endeavor” and tries to paint up in revolutionary colors the Citizens Party’s disgusting Carterite program of support for wage controls, capitalist productivity drives, a “strong” U.S. imperialism, and so forth. The Call calls this “a clear stand opposing corporate power’s stranglehold over the lives of the American people,” and a “general orientation against war and aggression of the superpowers....” 9 Instead of exposing that the Citizens Party is completely tied to the Democratic Party, having not only the same program but even working to run Democratic Party candidates on the Citizens Party ticket, The Call claims that the Citizens Party “could be the forerunner of a major independent break-away from the two main political parties.” 10

The “CPML’s” work for the Citizens Party shows what Martin means when he argues that “CPML” still has a role to play. That role is to prettify merger with social-democracy, to paint up the left wing of the Democratic Party in militant and even revolutionary colors while giving unity with the social-democrats a “Marxist” cover. Thus Martin argues don’t “dismantle” “CPML.” Instead build it as a social-democratic liquidators’ party; a party based on the science of how best to cozy up to the social-democrats, the trade union bureaucrats and “riot-stoppers”; a party adept at pouring perfume over the rotten smell of treachery and betrayal of the working class.

A Pre-Pre-Party-Collective


In order to pull off the trick of vigorously fighting against the building of the vanguard party of the proletariat while at the same time fighting that “CPML” should not be dissolved but should be maintained with a thin veil of Marxist-sounding rhetoric, Martin has gone back into the dirty neo-revisionist history of the “CPML” and dug up from its grave the thoroughly discredited theory of building “pre-party” collectives. Filled with the despair of a thoroughgoing renegade, Martin argues, “Given the diversity and effects of ultra-leftism, the present theoretical confusion and the conditions of relative ebb in the U.S., a highly centralized party type of organization is unlikely in the immediate future.” In place of and against the building of the party Martin argues that “the organization that will be formed through any merger will approximate a preparty organization and not the party itself.” After all, Martin goes on, “The task of building a vanguard party is protracted....” Here you have the logic of an extreme liquidator. Martin moans that there is just so much confusion, the mass movements are so small, it is just not possible to build the party now. Furthermore, he cries we must fight against those silly “ultra-leftists” who are actually building the party, don’t they know it takes a long time to build the party, they should be “realistic” like us and build what is possible now, a loose social-democratic federation which will only “approximate a pre-party organization.”

The resurrection of the theory of “pre-party” collectives is one of those events which Marx once remarked occurs “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”11 The promotion of this theory in the early 70’s by the “CPML” (then called the October League) and by other neo-revisionists such as the “RCP,USA” (then called the Revolutionary Union) did great damage to the Marxist-Leninist movement in the U.S. With this theory the neo-revisionists fought tooth and nail against the party concept, opposed the Marxist-Leninists uniting in one national center, factionalized the movement and scattered the Marxist-Leninist forces. It was only after a number of years of arduous work and struggle of the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists in favor of the party that the neo-revisionists were forced to abandon their anti-party theory of “pre-party collectives.” But the “CPML” and other neo-revisionists simply shifted, dubbed their pre-party collectives as parties, and stepped up their splitting and factional activities, acting as diehard wreckers of the Marxist-Leninist movement. Their shameful activity showed that their theory of building “pre-party collectives” was not a line to prepare the grounds for the Marxist- Leninist party at all, but was from the beginning a line against the Party.

After a decade of struggle the genuine vanguard of the working class, the Marxist-Leninist Party, has been formed and continues to advance, building organization in the factories and elsewhere, training the workers in their own independent class politics, and orienting the mass movements in a revolutionary direction. Meanwhile the “CPML” has continued to slide down the incline plane of opportunism, exposing themselves as raving social-chauvinists and “three worlders,” degenerating further into out-and-out liquidators, and staring total collapse in the face. Today, after so much water has flowed under the bridge, to try to maintain the fraud that “CPML” has anything to do with Marxism-Leninism by returning to the discredited theory of building “pre-party collectives” is absolutely ridiculous. It shows that after some ten years of activity the “CPML” has been unable to take one step forward. In fact they are going backwards. In the early 1970’s they claimed to be building a “pre-party collective.” But today the “CPML” has reached the sublime heights of being a pre-pre-party collective. As Martin himself explains, the ”pre-party collective” is itself now a matter of the future, for, it will not be until after the “CPML” merges with some other liquidationist sect that it will “approximate a pre-party organization.” It is little wonder that their ex-leader Jim Hamilton wrings his hands in despair that “nearly ten years of difficult and dedicated mass work by our hundreds of cadres has yielded little result....” Yes, opportunism means waste and tragedy for those caught in its sway. But if the liquidators have accomplished nothing in the last ten years, the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists have accomplished a great deal. They have built up a solid, stable, revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party of the new Leninist type in close connection with the carrying forward of the burning tasks of the revolution. The fight against “CPML” and the other revisionist liquidators is an indispensable condition for the further fruitful development of the proletarian revolutionary movement.


1 For more on this report, see The Workers’ Advocate, ” ’CPML’ on the Verge of Dissolution,” Vol. 11, No. 3, March 10, 1981, p.17.

2 John Martin, “The Crisis in Marxism and M-L Unity,” The Call, April 1981, p. 8.

3 See The Workers' Advocate, "There is not an ounce of anti-revisionism in the inter-imperialist rivalry between Beijing and Moscow," Vol. 9, No. 11, December 5,1979, p. 6.

4 See The Workers' Advocate, "Against Mao Zedong Thought! Part 1: Mao Zedong Thought and the Fight Against Soviet Revisionism," Vol. 10, No. 4, July 10, 1980, and Part 4 "On the Question of Two-Line Struggle," Vol. 10, No. 10 November 30, 1980.

5 See the two articles in this issue on the 26th Congress of the CPSU.

6 Jim Hamilton, "A Message to the Movement," The Call, February 1981, p. 12.

7 Carl Davidson and William DeCosta, "Interview with Barry Commoner, Is the Citizens Party a Real Alternative?'' The Call, August 18-September 7,1980, p. 3.

8 Ibid.

9 Lenin, "How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism," Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 409.

10 Carl Davidson, "An Alternative to the Two-Party System? Citizens Party Founding Draws 500," The Call, April 21, 1980, p. 5.