Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Clay Newlin

Racism and the Decline of the OC

First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 7, No. 9, October 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Editor’s Note: The following is the first of a series of articles summing up the lessons of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center’s (OC) Campaign Against White Chauvinism. This article briefly sets forth our perspective on the source of the OC’s near-collapse and the tasks that tie immediately ahead. In subsequent articles, we will elaborate on such controversial questions as the OC’s position on the consciousness of white chauvinism, seeking out the most accommodationist, and culturing accommodation, the role of interracial relationships, and the history of the Communist Party U.S.A. ’s internal campaigns against white chauvinism.

* * *

Reality has a way of shattering even the most sacred illusions. And it intrudes upon the fantasies not only of bourgeois society, but all too often those of communists as well.

The latest illusion to be punctured is the anti-revisionist movement’s view that it, and it alone, was willing to rigorously confront and vigorously oppose all forms of racism in our society. Though we have seen numerous organizations, both in the mass movements and on the left, flounder as a result of their unwillingness to face racism, we were nonetheless sure that it would not happen to us. After all, our movement was historically nurtured by, and developed as a key outgrowth of, the great struggles for civil rights of the 1960’s. Ours was a movement that was literally forged in the struggle against racism – or so we thought!


But the near-collapse of the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OC) exposes the hollowness of our claim to anti-racism. Barely fifteen months after initiating a campaign against white chauvinism in its ranks, the OC has been decimated. Its national leadership has been reduced from seven to just two members, functioning local bodies have declined from eighteen to six, and in excess of eighty percent of the membership has resigned. In addition, the OC faces nearly universal opposition within the communist movement and is severely isolated on the left. Indeed, what was once widely regarded as the most promising revolutionary organization on the left is now largely held in contempt.

The breakdown of the OC illustrates graphically how far the current anti-revisionist movement will go to avoid facing the deep-seated white chauvinism in its ranks. Formerly, the forces that made up the OC had played the leading role in combatting opportunist views. The OC led the struggle to consolidate an anti-revisionist tendency around the view that it was the U.S. bourgeoisie and not the Soviets who constituted the main enemy of the world’s peoples. OC forces also were in the forefront of the struggle for a centralized, movement-wide process which alone could yield principled unification of Marxist-Leninists. And finally, most OC members staunchly supported the view that a genuine party could be built only through fusion with the advanced elements from the working class and national movements.

But when faced with a protracted struggle against white chauvinism, the overwhelming majority of these same forces fell down. Having long thought themselves to be virtually free of chauvinism or accommodation to it, they were unwilling to confront the real depths of racism in our movement. Instead of applying Marxism-Leninism to the problem, they attempted to cover the existing racism with opportunism.

Just how far the opponents of the campaign have gone in their turn towards opportunism is indicated by the fact that all now belittle the problem of racism in our movement. They will still grudgingly acknowledge that our movement remains overwhelmingly white despite the fact that national minority workers are the most open to communism. But they deny that this contradiction has anything to do with white chauvinism in our ranks.

Instead, they seek to rationalize the white composition of our movement by pointing to both our theoretical weaknesses and those in our mass practice. It is our lack of developed theory on racism and our weak practice in the anti-racist struggle, they argue, that has kept national minorities out. Of course, they ignore the fact that both the inadequacies of our theory and our practice are themselves an expression of the chauvinism in our movement.

Furthermore, in their attempts to counter the campaign, its opponents even go so far as to implicitly debase the struggle against all forms of opportunism. Asserting (correctly) that since no white communist is intentionally racist, they then proceed to argue (incorrectly) that racism in our movement is therefore unconscious. This view opens the door for whites to argue that we should not be held accountable for our chauvinist practice – after all, that practice is merely an unconscious reflex reaction to the material conditions of our racist society.

But even more significantly, to apply such thinking to the struggle against opportunism, in general, would be absolutely disastrous. For example, we would all agree that no communist is intentionally revisionist. But what Marxist-Leninist would argue that, therefore, revisionism is unconscious?

Perhaps the best demonstration of the degeneration of the campaign’s opponents is their refusal to engage in a principled struggle over their differences. Opponents have consistently objected to putting forward their views in writing, consistently resisted struggling over these views with supporters of the campaign, and, in nine cases out of ten, refused even to meet with supporters.

So the majority of those who, in past years, led the communist movement’s struggle against opportunism now advocate peace with white chauvinism. And even despite their majority status, they also refuse to engage in principled struggle with the few remaining supporters of the OC’s campaign. White chauvinism’s ability to shackle our movement needs no better testimony than this.


Though testament to the power of white chauvinism, the OC debacle can also prove to be an advance. The minority supporting the campaign must refuse to give way to the opposition but confront squarely the harsh reality of white chauvinism among antirevisionists.

The first requirement of such a confrontation is recognition that when it comes to white chauvinism, our movement has been constructed on a fundamentally opportunist basis. Rather than basing relations between whites and national minorities fundamentally on mutual respect and equality, multinational unity has been constructed on the basis of white chauvinism and capitulation to it.

Whites who come into the party-building movement have little or no genuine grasp of our own white chauvinism. Schooled by our society in the ideological tenets of a bourgeois liberal approach to the race question, we become self-satisfied “anti-racists” long before we are communists. We see ourselves as modern missionaries whose destiny it is to uplift the “downtrodden minority masses.”

Thus, while many do have at least an elementary critique of racism in our society, racism tends to be viewed almost entirely as an institutional problem. And even to the minimal extent that it is regarded as an ideological weakness in the people’s movement, it is always seen as “their” – the white workers’ problem.

Sad to say, the anti-revisionist movement has not only fundamentally failed to challenge this situation, but in significant ways reinforced it. On the one hand, it has played up the role of the capitalist system’s responsibility for racism and, on the other, been quite attentive to dispensing rhetoric about racism in the trade union movement – all the while extolling its own virtues as the future “vanguard” of the struggle against racism.

Placing these facts in the overall context of U.S. society, it should not be hard to understand why so many white communists quickly turn to advocating peace with white chauvinism. Any genuine campaign against white chauvinism in the movement faces a formidable opposition. It must oppose not only the white chauvinism so central to the maintenance of the bourgeoisie’s political power, but also the entire history of racism within the people’s, left, communist and anti-revisionist movements!

At first thought, one would expect (as we certainly did) that at least the national minorities in the movement would support the campaign. True, they only made up a small percentage of the membership, but it would nevertheless be difficult for whites to justify opposition when faced with solid support of the campaign by minority comrades.

Initially, minority comrades did gravitate towards support of the campaign. But the more we exposed the underlying racist paternalism characterizing the practice of whites, the more minority comrades tended to become first uneasy with, and then opposed to, the campaign.

It became more and more clear that we had missed an important dynamic of the relationship between white chauvinism and capitulation in our movement. As a result of the racist paternalism that had characterized both the ideology and the bulk of the practice of white communists, our movement has been the most selective in its recruitment of minorities. By and large, those minorities who viewed white condescension as respect were welcomed with open arms – or, perhaps, a pat on the head. But the minorities that rejected paternalism were kept out, usually under the guise that they were “nationalists” and “anti-white.”

The above-described recruitment of the relatively more accommodationist-minded minorities has ensured white dominance of our movement in two important respects. First, those minorities most likely to challenge our paternalism (who for obvious reasons tend to predominate among the most politically conscious) are kept out of the movement.

Second, the “chosen few” become politically isolated and thus dependent on their white patrons. To be recruited into a movement dominated by paternalism demands that a minority comrade sacrifice the interest of their people in a consistent struggle against white chauvinism, in the name of becoming a “communist.” And once that choice is made, the minority comrade becomes isolated from the pressure of the masses and thus dependent on the whites who dominate the communist movement.


The political compulsions of this alliance of paternalism and accommodation have proved to be deadly. The more the fundamental paternalism of whites has been challenged, the more the existing minorities have gravitated towards defense of their patrons. Threatened with exposure of the sacrifice of their people’s interest, most of our minority comrades began to rationalize or otherwise downplay our racism.

As a result of this situation, white comrades have been able to front national minorities for their own objections to a campaign against white chauvinism. Calling in the debt of gratitude they feel minority comrades owe them for being allowed to enter the movement, they press their minority subordinates into service. It is for this reason that leading minority comrades who were never shown significant respect have suddenly become “recognized leaders” in the movement. And so we now see the OC’s leading white critics scrambling to push the formerly-most-prominent minority leader to the forefront of opposition to the campaign.

It is this combination of racist paternalism and accommodationist-minded capitulation which proved to be the undoing of the OC. Emboldened by the opposition of the very minorities that they sent out to do their bidding, white comrades became more and more willing to openly oppose the campaign. Beginning as a slight trickle of whites leaving the OC, the flow gradually picked up steam to the point where only a mere handful of OC supporters remain.

Appreciation of the full meaning of the OC crisis leads inevitably to the conclusion that the anti-revisionist movement has got to be reconstructed almost from scratch. There is little chance that groups like Line ofMarch, Theoretical Review, and the Guardian, whose very political identities are bound up with white chauvinism, will soon be won to the campaign. And though more likely, former members of the OC will only be regrouped to the extent that they see the correctness of the campaign proved broadly in mass practice. Given the meager number of supporters who remain, such proof is obviously years away.


The way forward, then, is for the small core of supporters of the campaign to assume the task of rebuilding the anti-revisionist movement. Though not giving up struggling with them, we should not base our strategy on winning back our former comrades. Instead we must turn our face squarely towards the advanced elements and seek to forge principled unity with them.

In order to make such principled unity possible, however, we must first ensure thorough consolidation of the campaign’s supporters. Past practice has shown that those who merely express unity while practicing disunity are often more successful in organizing opposition to the campaign than our most vocal critics. Thus, we must continue the campaign so as either to win over or weed out those who are merely pretending unity.

But even more importantly, we must develop and consolidate around a thorough summation of the major lessons of the campaign. A thorough critique of the history of the anti-revisionist movement’s white chauvinism, together with an analysis of the OC’s experience in conducting the campaign and a response to the major arguments of the opposition should be written up. In addition, shorter summations of key areas of mass work examined in light of the lessons of the OC’s campaign should be drafted. Insofar as possible, each comrade’s unity with the analysis should be tested by requesting that they draw out concrete examples which either support or oppose it. After several months’ preparation, a national conference should be called to formally consolidate the OC’s unity.

Though focusing primarily on internal consolidation, we should also continue our outreach. In particular, we should focus on forging political unity with the less accommodationist-minded national minority advanced workers that we have previously written off. To do this, we will have to begin with a critical review of our political summation of national minority workers, re-examining especially those workers who have been historically summed up as “distant and aloof,” “anti-white,” or “nationalist.”

Where re-examination proves our summation to have been in error, as it will in many cases, we should discuss with those workers both the historical white chauvinism in the communist movement and the roots of our particular summation of them. This will create the context for a process of struggling for principled unity on the basis of communism and not capitulation to white chauvinism.

Whites who seek to enter our movement must prove their willingness to confront their white chauvinism before they become communists. This does not mean that whites must demonstrate a full and correct understanding of the role of racism in our society, but it does mean minimally showing a commitment to struggle principledly and honestly to overcome white chauvinism.

By correctly combining a focus on internal consolidation with minimal but real steps towards outreach, the current campaign supporters can take an important first step towards rebuilding our movement. We can ensure that lessons of our past are learned and that a new beginning is made. And most importantly, we can help make certain that this time, communists strive to forge a multinational unity based, not on white chauvinism and capitulation, but on mutual respect and equality.