Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party

The career of a social-democrat comes full circle

Barry Weisberg’s ’CPUSA/ML’ denounces Marxism-Leninism and dissolves

First Published:The Workers’ Advocate Vol. 13, No. 8, December 15, 1983.
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.

Barry Weisberg is a social-democratic adventurer who decided to try his hand at corrupting the Marxist-Leninist movement. He had been trained at the social-democratic “think tank” called the Institute for Policy Studies, and he had written books denouncing Marxism-Leninism. But in 1975 he founded a small grouplet called the “MLOC”(Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee). Then, in December 1978, he declared that his grouplet was the political party of the American working class, the “Communist Party of the USA/Marxist-Leninist.” He puffed himself up as the leading opponent of Soviet and Chinese revisionism in the U.S. But, in fact, the “CPUSA/ML” was simply a liquidationist sect that worked to prettify the “left” wing of the Democratic Party and the labor bureaucracy. Its main activities were liquidationist theorizing against the Leninist ideas on party-building, the united front and other questions and practical work to merge with the liberal and social-democratic circles. Now the ̶CPUSA/ML” has taken its own liquidationism to its logical conclusion by dissolving outright.

The disbanding of the ̶CPUSA/ML” took several months to become known; so pitiful had the activity of this grouplet become that no one could tell the difference whether it existed or not. It formally expired at its Second Congress in mid-June of this year. The “Dissolutions Committee” got around to notifying the subscribers of the defunct newsletter Unite! in mid-September, when it mailed them the Resolution of the Second Congress and a cover letter dated August 1. We have reproduced the Resolution in this issue of The Workers’ Advocate, for all liquidationist rhetoric deserves to be held up to ridicule.

The sorry fate of the “CPUSA/ML” confirms the analysis our Party has made all along of Barry Weisberg’s political role. In a series of articles in The Workers’ Advocate entitled “Against Social-Democratic Infiltration of the Marxist-Leninist Movement” and in a pamphlet with the same name, we have exposed the opportunist nature of the MLOC/“CPUSA(M-L)” and the origin, history and role of its leading light, Mr. Weisberg. The fiasco of the “CPUSA/ML” is, in part, a victory for the principled and persistent struggle of our Party against social-democracy and liquidationism.

In this article, we shall draw some lessons from the resolution announcing the disbanding of the “CPUSA/ML.” Why do we bother when the “CPUSA/ML” no longer exists? The “CPUSA/ML” has dissolved, but the social-democratic and liquidationist trends still exist. They remain diehard and dangerous enemies of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and the political independence of the proletariat. The demise of the “CPUSA/ML” should serve to teach once again the importance of persisting in relentless struggle against social-democracy and liquidationism and the necessity to rally around a true communist party, the Marxist-Leninist Party.

The Contradiction Between Image and Reality

The Resolution dissolving the “CPUSA/ML” begins by bemoaning the contradiction between “image” and

“reality.” This is indeed an appropriate theme for an adventurer like Mr. Weisberg, who for several years pretended to be one thing, namely revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist, while in fact representing something else, namely, social-democracy and liberalism. Barry Weisberg’s grouplet was always nothing but a mirage, a signboard without body or soul. For all con artists, flimflam men and bourgeois politicians, the “image” is all important.

For example, Weisberg sought to reduce the Marxist-Leninist movement to the most disgusting subservience to legalism. At one point, his grouplet put it this way: “The essence of the struggle for democratic reforms under capitalism” was “...us(ing) the court system to force it to uphold laws....” This was the “reality” of Weisberg’s politics. Meanwhile, to give a shining revolutionary “image” to this belly crawling before the bourgeoisie, Weisberg pontificated in one of his Political Reports that “When you look around at other so-called Marxist-Leninist groups, you do not hear, find or smell discussion of armed struggle.” Wow, how militant! But if the Weisberg group had smelled armed struggle, it would have fainted.

The claim of Mr. Weisberg’s grouplet to be a “communist party” was always just the same kind of empty playacting. Already in January 1981, Weisberg himself wrote an article entitled “The 1980 Elections, the Working Class and the Party” in which he admitted as much. He talked of “the lack of a nation-wide Marxist-Leninist center” in the U.S. He argued that the Marxist-Leninists were weak and insignificant and hence should give up their illusions about party-building and instead work to unite the liberals, social-democrats, revisionists and labor bureaucrats. This was blatant liquidationism. But it also amounted to Weisberg slapping himself in the face and admitting the fraudulent nature of his “communist party.” The Workers’ Advocate immediately commented, in March 1981: “We would very much like to ask Mr. Weisberg: Since you hold that there is ’no Marxist-Leninist center,’ then what is the so-called ’CPUSA/ML’ if not a wretched sect of social-democratic imposters as our Party has demonstrated all along. Seeing as you claim that there is ’no Marxist-Leninist center,’ then what is your sect if not a gang of desperate political adventurers which through fraud tries to pass itself off as a ’communist party’?” (p. 44, col. 2)

For the next two and a half years, from January 1981 to June 1983, Mr. Weisberg’s grouplet maintained the pretense of declaring that it was the communist party of the working class at the same time as it declared that no such thing existed. Meeting fiasco on all fronts, Weisberg finally abandoned this charade with the disbanding of the “CPUSA/ML” altogether.

Nevertheless, even in its last gasp, the “CPUSA/ML” could not avoid the contradiction between “reality” and “image” that characterizes every step of Mr. Weisberg’s political practice. The resolution disbanding the “CPUSA/ML” praises itself for its opposition to, of all things, liquidationism. It declares that liquidationism is evil. It declares that the former members of the “CPUSA/ML” will never give up the struggle for the party. And, after all this “image,” it then declares that since it is impossible to build a party at this time, everyone might as well give up and go home. It seems that the contradiction between “image” and “reality,” far from being resolved, has just “reached a new juncture.”

Disbanding in Favor of Floating as Individuals in the “Left” Wing of the Democratic Party

Of course, it is not always liquidationism to dissolve an organization. If Weisberg’s group had summed up that its political line was wrong and that it should support the true Marxist-Leninists instead of liquidationism and social-democracy, then dissolving would have been a step forward. Mr. Weisberg and company had denounced our Party for years. They had put themselves forward as the alternative to our Party. For them to admit and correct this error would not be liquidationism, but political courage and true honesty.

But one might as well wait for pigs to grow wings as to wait for Barry Weisberg to display political honesty and revolutionary fervor. The disbanding of the “CPUSA/ML” is not a change of course but simply another step in Weisberg’s fight against party-building. It is nothing but liquidationism pure and simple.

True, the Resolution talks about “a new juncture in the struggle for a Marxist-Leninist party.” It talks of “a unique opportunity and historic responsibility.” It declares that “the fight for the party must continue on a new basis.”

But, ahem, there are just a few little problems. For example, not only did the “CPUSA/ML” disband, but it left nothing behind it. It did not recommend that its former members join other organizations, nor was any new organization established. It simply set the members and sympathizers of the “CPUSA/ML,” insofar as there were any members and sympathizers, free to float as individuals in the liberal and social-democratic marsh. It is the declaration of ultra-liquidationism: no party, no organization, no fight, nothing but hot air.

What have the former members of the “CPUSA/ML” been doing. As far as one can tell, they are doing what they did before the “CPUSA/ML” dissolved: very little, but all in the direction of work in the “left” wing of the Democratic Party. They are prettifying this or that Democratic Party hack or labor bureaucrat. A few distributed the Guardian a bit. Perhaps the largest group has gone into apolitical cultural and educational work aimed at the liberals, the mass media and the petty bourgeoisie.

At one time, Mr. Weisberg talked about the “pre-party situation,” but now he has arrived at a “pre-organization situation.” The Marxist-Leninists are supposed to float passively in the liberal marsh uniting liberals, labor bureaucrats and opportunists. All this is following in the footsteps of the notorious Earl Browder, who liquidated the CPUSA in 1944 on the grounds that the communists should form an educational association while floating in the liberal-labor marsh.

Weisberg Blames Marxism-Leninism for All His Problems

In the Resolution, the fiasco of the “CPUSA/ML” is blamed on the working class, on the revolutionary movement and on everything under the sun but Barry Weisberg’s social-democratic political line. It talks of “the

weaknesses of our class, our movement and our Party.” It implies that the upsurge of the 1960’s couldn’t keep its promises. It wanders this way and that. But its main theme is that Marxism-Leninism has failed and is inadequate to deal with American realities. The Resolution is thus a dramatic demonstration of the anti-Marxist-Leninist nature of the Weisberg grouplet.

The Resolution doesn’t dare directly oppose Marxism-Leninism. Oh no! It simply announces that every problem solved by Marxism-Leninism has “as yet [received] no answers.” It says that “these problems are primarily” the relationship of the economic base to the superstructure, the fight against bourgeois ideology, the relationship between democracy and socialism, the question of “the role of race and nationality,” and the method of organizing in the working class. And Weisberg sums up by concluding that “we have not as yet evolved an adequate theory for party building in the United States.”

The Resolution then claims to accept from Marxism-Leninism one thing, that “As Marxism-Leninism shows, there can be no revolutionary movement without a revolutionary theory.” But this dictum of Lenin’s was referring to the Marxist theory itself. It is Marxism-Leninism that is the revolutionary theory to guide the working class movement. But, according to Weisberg, Marxism-Leninism may apply elsewhere, but “party building in the United States,” “the role of race and nationality in American life” the “analysis of the nature of the economic base of American imperialism,” is something out of the range of Marxist-Leninist theory. Of course, the Marxist-Leninist theory must be combined with the concrete particularities of each country. But Weisberg grossly exaggerates the specific features of American life in order to put forward a theory of American exceptionalism. Why, he pontificates, party-building in the U.S. is a complete question mark, capitalism in the U.S. is an utterly new phenomenon, and look how Marxism fails to appreciate “the strength of bourgeois ideology in American society.” Scratch a social-democrat and you get a chauvinist who believes that American capitalism is a new and beautiful phenomenon, unappreciated by those dastardly foreign ideologies.

In fact, Marxism-Leninism provides quite definite and precise answers to the questions that so puzzle Weisberg. The issue is not that there isn’t any theory of party-building, but that Weisberg has always been a diehard opponent of the Leninist conception of the proletarian revolutionary party of a new type. The issue is not that Marxism-Leninism doesn’t explain the nature of American capitalism, but that Weisberg’s eyes are dazzled by what he takes to be the overwhelming strength and glory of the American bourgeoisie. In brief, the problem facing the “CPUSA/ML” was that Weisberg tried to overthrow the Marxist-Leninist analysis on all the questions listed in the Resolution, but the Marxist-Leninists ripped his social-democratic concoctions to shreds.

The Resolution of the Second Congress of the “CPUSA/ML,” in denouncing Marxism-Leninism, only sums up the views that this grouplet has developed right from the start. It was founded in December 1978, and each year it turned its attention to fighting Marxism-Leninism on yet another front.

1979. Immediately after founding the “CPUSA/ML,” Weisberg began to sing hymns to American capitalism. At a time when the contradictions facing American capitalism are sharpening daily and are preparing conditions for sharp clashes, Weisberg is dreaming of pushing these contradictions into the distant future. Millions walk the streets unemployed, while Weisberg has already theorized that, through “revitalization of industry” and imperialist plunder, the American bourgeoisie might well ”stave off the crisis” as well as “emerge again in an unrivaled position” in the Western bloc for “10-20 years.” The pages of “CP USA/ML’s” journal Unite! began to fill with stories about American capitalism recovering from this or that crisis, about the invincibility of U.S. imperialism and with speculations on whether U.S. imperialism is stronger than Soviet social-imperialism. Just as the notorious revisionist Browder preached the gospel of how American capitalism was a “young” imperialism that would emerge from World War II virtually ruling over the whole world, peacefully, without contradictions either with the masses of people or with rival imperialist powers, Barry Weisberg preached the gospel of American capitalism striding forward to new heights through the reindustrialization program of the bourgeoisie. And just as Browder concluded that revolution was a pipe- dream and the working class should instead collaborate in building this wonderful new capitalism, so Weisberg supported the savage capitalist program of reindustrialization under the code word of supporting automation. (See “The New Browderite Strategy of the MLOC/’CPUSA/ML’ ” in The Workers’ Advocate of November 30, 1980)

1980. In this year Weisberg turned his main attention to the question of the united front. It replaced the Marxist- Leninist ideas on united front tactics with an utterly Browderite distortion. In the name of the “united labor front,” Weisberg took up the banner of building up the liberal-labor alliance of social-democrats, revisionists, trade union bureaucrats and reformists. This too was their justification for lying down in bed with the Democratic Party. The Weisberg group finally discovered the danger of fascism in the U.S. in 1980, but only for the sake of snuggling up as close as possible with the Democratic Party and the liberals as the supposed antidote to capitalist reaction. (See “The ’United Labor Front’ of the MLOC/’CPUSA/ML’ Means Unity With the Khrushchovite ’C’PUSA and All the Social-Democrats” in The Workers’ Advocate of November 30, 1980 and “Bootlickers of the Democratic Party, the ’CPUSA/ML’ Sabotages the Anti-Fascist Struggle With Its Browderite Stand That the Democratic Party Is the Bulwark Against Fascism” in The Workers’ Advocate of March 10, 1981.)

1981. This year saw Weisberg put his finishing touches on his “united front tactics” with his plan for the building of a “Democratic Front” to embrace liberals, revisionists, labor bureaucrats, the bourgeois leaders of the oppressed nationalities, and so forth. The goal of the “Democratic Front” would be the defense of “the existing democratic state.” Furthermore, Weisberg theorized that the “struggle for complete, universal and unlimited democracy in which there exists direct popular legislation by the working people... is a road to a new tomorrow. It is a socialist road.” He thus glorified the oppressive bourgeois state and held that socialism is simply the perfection, the culmination of a perfect, unlimited democracy. “Complete, universal and unlimited democracy” is a chimera, a mirage, that is opposed to the Marxist theory of the state. It is nothing but the typical glorification of bourgeois democracy by petty-bourgeois democrats. With this theory, Weisberg not only bowed down before the supposed glories of American democracy, but he came out, in effect, against socialist democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Browder’s “communism is twentieth century Americanism” is Weisberg’s socialism as “complete, universal and unlimited democracy.” (See “A Liquidator Goes Bankrupt” and “Reference Notes: A Liquidator on ’Democracy’ ” in The Workers’ Advocate, July 30, 1981.)

1982. Having denounced the Marxist-Leninist ideas on capitalism, the state, bourgeois democracy, and the united front, Weisberg turned his attention to the Leninist teachings on the struggle against imperialist war. He found them hopelessly antiquated. Why, just think, Lenin held that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” Weisberg rejected this thesis as outdated and, for good measure, went on to throw out Lenin’s ideas on “turning the imperialist war into a civil war.” Of course, Weisberg said that he was attacking only Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military historian of the early 19th century, and neglected to mention that “war is the continuation of politics by other, i.e. violent, means” is a basic tenet of Marxism-Leninism. Nevertheless, anyone who was familiar with any of the basic Leninist writings on World War I or with the debates in the American left knew where the theses “war is the continuation of politics by other means” and “turning the imperialist war into a civil war” came from. Thus this marked a new stage in the theorizing of the “CPUSA/ML,” where it turned from distorting the Marxist-Leninist theses to a direct denunciation of Marxism-Leninism. (See “On the Path Forward for the Struggle Against Imperialist War, An American Liquidator Versus Leninism” in The Workers’ Advocate of December 30, 1982.)

1983. The Second Congress of the “CPUSA/ML” denounces the inadequacy of Marxism-Leninism. As part of this, it declares that there is no “adequate theory for party building in the U.S.,” and it dissolves.

A Social-Democrat Comes Full Circle

With the denunciation of Marxism-Leninism by the Second Congress of the “CPUSA/ML,” Mr. Weisberg has come full circle. He began his career, as we pointed out in the introduction, as a social-democrat. He wrote such books as The Politics of Ecology (1970) and Beyond Repair (1971). In his books, he denounced Marxism-Leninism as outdated and suited only for other countries; he denounced the Marxist conception of capitalism and the class struggle; he denounced the proletarian revolution as unsuitable for the U.S.; he denounced the dictatorship of the proletariat; he denounced the building of a national (i.e. nationwide) party, and so forth. And now, after a few years of play-acting as a “Marxist-Leninist,” Mr. Weisberg has returned to where he started from. He has thrown off his mask and stands revealed once more as Mr. Social-Democrat, the man in a red-white-and-blue cape with the American exceptionalist label.

Let us review some of his views from his writings of 1970 and 1971 and compare them with the ideas of the now-defunct “CPUSA/ML.”

In 1971, Weisberg wrote that “Much of Marxist thought today clings to that historical period in which Marx formulated his original teachings, without realizing in fact the dawning of conditions which must of necessity temper the contemporary Marxist view of history.” (Beyond Repair, p. 167) And he denied the relevance of the teachings of the October Socialist Revolution of the Bolsheviks in 1917, stating that revolutions, such as those in Russia and elsewhere, occurred when “such nations underwent various forms of revolutionary upheaval under social and economic conditions which bear not the slightest resemblance to those of present-day America.” (Ibid.)

Today Weisberg advocates once again that Marxism-Leninism has no answer to the problems of contemporary American life.

In 1971 Weisberg denounced the idea of the proletarian party..He wrote that: “Such movements within the United States suggest the reconstitution of limits, of boundaries. This will not and cannot be achieved through a centralized mechanism, whether new Federal regulation or a national party. Further centralization today can only serve to further destroy the limited natural and social diversity which remains.” (Ibid., p. 166)

Today Weisberg once again has thrown off the restrictions of even pretending to be a centralized party. The “CPUSA/ML” set its members free to float as individuals in the liberal-labor marsh on the fringes of the Democratic Party. It calls this “a new juncture in the struggle for a Marxist-Leninist party.” But it is just the same old anti-party views.

In 1971, Weisberg denounced the dictatorship of the proletariat, saying that “such a historical reality would call into question many of the most fundamental conceptions of contemporary Marxism – a theory predicated on and propagated under the assumption that the hierarchical nature of human society would be an inevitable necessity given the conditions of scarcity, such that the road to Communism would require the hierarchical organization of ’a dictatorship of the proletariat.’ ” (Ibid., p. 162) In place of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Weisberg praised decentralization and extreme localism. He praised French “communautes des travails” and Yugoslav “workers’ self-management” and Israeli kibbutz for being small units trying to achieve absolute independence, saying that “self-determination will require, in a decentralized context, an adequate and mutually supportive network of basic skills and services which promote the maximum diversification of function, role, and participation in the collective struggle.” (Ibid., pp. 156-7) He tried to find decentralization everywhere, and he rambled on about “the Asian models of decentralization in North Viet Nam, North Korea, or China...” and “the Chinese concern for decentralization, diversification, and the nonspecialization of human and material development.” (Ibid., pp. 151-2, 156-7)

Today Weisberg has once again put forward the pipe-dreams of exaggerated petty-bourgeois democracy as the image of the society of the future. He presents “complete, universal and unlimited democracy” as the path to socialism.

On every front, Weisberg’s views are just social-democracy, dressed up in slightly different words. The Resolution of the Second Congress of “CPUSA/ML” talks of “our 10-year fight for the party.” Yes there was a 10-year fight. But it was a fight against the proletarian party, a fight to infiltrate social-democratic ideas into the Marxist-Leninist movement.