Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Dave F.

What Happened to the OCIC?
Part 1: A Critique of the OC’s Campaign Against White and Petit bourgeois Chauvinism

First Issued: July 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.

Cover Letter

July 21, 1981

Dear OC or ex-OC comrades,

Enclosed is a draft of a critique of the OC’s campaign against white and petit-bourgeois chauvinism. I am working on two more similar papers: one on the OC’s draft Plan, and a second on the OC’s degeneration in relationship to the fusion partybuilding line. They will he sent out in August and September.

The purpose of these draft articles is to generate discussion in your locality about what happened to the OCIC. They are only drafts, and therefore we encourage all comrades to criticize, and add onto the basic perspective. We are not presently circulating them to the broader party building movement. Our hope is that with people’s feedback we can get out some finished drafts of the articles later on this year for broader discussion.

The origin of the articles begins with the time that I left the National Steering Committee in May. Since that time I have been trying to sum-up my experience through reading and discussions with OC and ex-OC, and tendency comrades. Key to this process has been a number of conversations with ex-NSC members John F., and Tyree S. I have also been in contact with comrades from Boston, Southern California, Seattle, and Philadelphia. Members of the Local Center Steering Committee in the Bay Area, reviewed and improved the draft and Paul E. helped with writing the conclusion.

It is clear with having talked to a number of OC and ex OC comrades that a summation of our experience is very important. Many of us have become demoralized due to the degeneration of a process we all worked so hard to build. Other comrades, have retreated from the partybuilding movement. Still others, especially those supporting the campaign have no explanation for our decline except to blame individual cadre. For all these reasons a summation of the OC should be our key task presently.

We are asking that comrades from local centers, and groupings of ex-OC comrades respond in writing to the articles after your group has reviewed them. We also assume that the present National Steering Committee will respond to them, and insure their circulation and their response throughout the OCIC.

To further the process of summation, we will be calling a small national meeting in September of OC and ex-OC members who presently are opposed to the NSC’s campaign against white and petit-bourgeois chauvinism; and the draft Plan. This meeting, initially discussed by ex-NSC members John F., Tyree S., and myself, will include a few other comrades who are presently in opposition to the OC’s campaign. The informal unity of the group is the main source of the OC’s degeneration is ultra-leftism in its approach to the struggle against racism and its partybuilding line. Initially we shared a common agreement with the fusion partybuilding line. Presently, there is more discussion about to what extent the fusion line was responsible for the OC’s degeneration or whether the OC’s draft Plan represented a deviation from the fusion line.

While this group has no plans to meet as an ongoing body, nor establish itself as a distinct center in opposition to the NSC or other leading centers in the tendency, it will discuss what it sees as future tasks for the tendency. If some basic unity can be reached on specifics we will maintain contact, and communication with one another.

Finally, we do not see the process of summing up the OC’s experience as something restricted to the OC- and ex-OC members. While we are putting our emphasis on discussions with OC and ex-OC members, we also are planning to participate in broader tendency activities. This is important because we have much to learn from other trend forces. In addition we have many positive and negative lessons to contribute to other comrades outside our organizational affiliations. To this end some of us have already participated in the conference on Racism and National Oppression sponsored by the planning committee by the same name. In addition, we are planning to participate in a conference early next year devoted exclusively to summing up the OCIC, We hope that this will include the broadest tendency participation, and the widest range of viewpoints and experiences.

In the meantime, the most important process of summation must start, or continue, in our localities. Please respond or at least contact us and let us know what you are thinking.

Dave F.
PO Box 23531
Oakland, CA. 94623

CC: OC members (local Centers)
ex-OC members

* * *


This is the first of three articles. The second article will he a critique of the OC’s partybuilding line as represented by the Draft Plan for a Leading Ideological Center. The third article will discuss the degeneration of the OCIC in relationship to the fusion partybuilding line, and the other main partybuilding lines in the anti-revisionist, anti-left opportunist Tendency. These are due to come out in August and September.

The articles developed as a result of discussions between several ex-NSC members of the OCIC. In addition, many of the ideas contained in the paper were developed through papers and discussions of OCIC and ex-OCIC comrades from the Boston, Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle Local Centers. Therefore the series of three articles presented here are not only a criticism of the OCIC, but more importantly a self-critical evaluation of the political lines and practices by those of us intimately involved in the OCIC process.

The purpose of the articles is to provoke discussion among the partybuilding movement, and especially the OC and ex OC comrades, over what happened to the OCIC. A summation of the OC is a critical task. Therefore, we do not see these articles as a final analysis, but rather a beginning outline which can be discussed, criticized and deepened, invite ’ your feedback on the articles, and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

* * *

In February of 1978 collectives from around the country formed the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC). At the time, it was the most positive national initiative designed to bring together our young anti-revisionist, anti-left opportunist tendency together. The OCIC played an important role in breaking the hold of ultra-leftism, particularly by demarcating from the ultra-left International line. The OC’s 18 points framed the basic political unity of our young trend. Those of us who joined the OCIC had high hopes. We had committed ourselves to a process of forging a leading ideological center, a national leadership, for a future party. In the process, our goals included developing a party program, and unifying the bulk of the anti-revisionist, anti-left opportunists into a common partybuilding effort.

Three years have passed since the founding of the OCIC. Today, the OCIC is in total dissarray. We have not taken a significant step towards the accomplishment of our goals. We have failed to contribute to the development of revolutionary theory, especially the critique of ultra leftism which we emphasized. We have failed to unite Marxist-Leninists in a common partybuilding effort, but instead have practiced extreme sectarianism towards the bulk of communists in our movement. Nor have we contributed to the development of a leading revolutionary core, but instead have a self-appointed national leadership which stands isolated from its own membership, and gives no leadership to the class struggle.

The main initiative of the OCIC during the past year – the Campaign against White and Petit Bourgeois Chauvinism – has failed to change the class and racial composition of the OC. The bulk of comrades in the OC -both white and minority, working class and middle class, have either left or been driven out by ultra-left methods of ideological struggle which characterized the campaign. The ranks of the OCIC, once a healthy growing organization, have been reduced to a shrinking sect less than a fourth its original size.

In its present state, the OCIC does not provide any future hope for advancing communist presence in the working class. For many of us, the OC process took us away from further developing our ties with the mass movements. It failed to address the pressing theoretical and practical questions which these movements face0 Thus, we cannot agree with the subjective assessment of the OC presented by Chairperson Clay Newlin, that “the future of Marxism Leninism in the U.S. resides with the OCIC”. The OC has failed to accomplish its own goals. So too, by any objective investigation of the OC in relationship to the working class movement in the U.S., the OC stands isolated. Unfortunately, the OC follows in the negative history of so many communist formations in the US anti-revisionist movement, which despite proclamations of vanguard lines or parties, sinks farther into sectarian isolation. Thus, by any yardstick, the OC has failed.

This has been the cause of a lot of demoralization among many of us who worked so hard during the past three years. Many of us came to the OCIC because we rejected the ultra-leftism of previous groups. Yet, we find ourselves today spinning off a similar experience. For some of us this has caused a retreat from partybuilding, for a few an abandonment of Marxism-Leninism.

For many of us, the realization that something was wrong with the OCIC came because of our criticisms of the Campaign against White and Petit Bourgeois Chauvinism. But was it only the Campaign that went wrong? In starting to sum up the errors of the campaign, we saw that we were looking at just the tip of the iceberg. The campaign was not some isolated phenomena separate from the OCIC’s overall party-building line. In fact, the roots of the OC’s incorrect line on taking up the struggle against racism and anti-working class bias are located in the Draft Plan and the OC’s beginning plan and approach towards building a multi-national vanguard party of the working class. While this paper deals primarily with a summation of the Campaign, it is important to view it in the larger context of the OC’s party building line.

The task which our trend faces is to sum-up what happened to the OCIC. As Marxists we must draw out the positive and negative aspects of our experience, so that we avoid similar errors in the future, while preserving positive aspects of our. experience. This is particularly important for those of us in the OC, so that we can fight our demoralization and regain our Marxist Leninist bearings, so as to continue to contribute to the development of a working class vanguard party.

The Campaign against White and Petit-Bourgeois Chauvinism: An incorrect political line for building a multi-national partybuilding effort

Initiated by the National Steering Committee (NSC) of the OC in early 1980, the Campaign was designed to combat white chauvinist practices in the OCIC which were keeping racial and national minorities out of the OCIC, and from assuming leadership in the process.

The problem which the NSC sought to combat was real. The OC, since its beginning was a predominately white organization, with the bulk of its cadre coming from peti-bourgeois class origins. The bulk of circles which comprised the OCIC had neither developed theory or practice in fighting racism. In many cases, white comrades overlooked building political unity with minority comrades and failed to see the leadership qualities which comrades had to offer. The OCIC, like many partybuilding formations in the anti-revisionist movement, had never taken up the negative impact of these white chauvinist practices on developing a multi national partybuilding effort.

Therefore, the OC’s recognition of the problem must been seen as a positive contribution to the movement. The general rightism within the trend on the struggle against racism was fundamentally challenged. Racism was not viewed simply as a divisive force within the working class movement) a source of super-profits for the capitalists, but a real problem with real negative consequences within the communist movement itself. Unfortunately, the plan and methods which the NSC adopted did not succeed. The NSC adopted an ideological campaign against white chauvinism, and later peti-bourgeois chauvinism which was fundamentally separated from the development of an anti-racist political line, and from mass practice. The campaign that was initiated included non-Marxist conceptions of white chauvinism, and ultra-left methods for combatting it. Thus it was the elevation of ideology over politics, combined with ultra-left methods of struggle which has led to the rapid degeneration of the OCIC during the past year.

The present OC leadership still upholds the correctness of the campaign. It views the exits from the OCIC as being fundamentally caused by comrades’ unwillingness to look at their ideological weaknesses around white and peti-bourgeois chauvinism and accommodation. The dramatic flight from the OC is seen as illustrating the pervasiveness of racism in the communist movement. Only a few honest and exceptional comrades are willing to “face their white chauvinism and capitulation”. Many of us have held this perspective in the past. Now, however, ours is a fundamentally different view. The degeneration of the OCIC is not caused by the weakness of individual cadre, but primarily by the incorrect political line and methods for tackling the problem. During the course of the campaign, some correct criticisms have been raised and met with defensiveness. There have been a variety of particular reasons which have led comrades to leave the process, some partially involving white chauvinism, most involving political opposition to the campaign. But we must also see that many comrades stayed long after the campaign was playing a positive role, out of a commitment to take up the struggle against racism because we felt that the OC offered the only visible alternative. In either case, it is not the individual motivations of cadre which were decisive, but the general approach which the OC took to the question.

The campaign was based on the premise that white chauvinist practices of cadre were the decisive reason that the OC has not become a more multi-national formation. Once these ideological attitudes , and racist practices were dealt with, the OC could unite with many national minority Marxist-Leninists and advanced workers. The Campaign was seen as a prerequisite to the development of correct anti-racist theory since this could not be accomplished with the prevailing racist ideological assumptions. This is why the NSC argued against trying to develop a political line on racism prior to the ideological campaign. So too, did the NSC reject the notion that minorities would be brought into the OC based on mature anti-racist practice. Arguments for developing anti-racist mass work were dismissed as bowing to the racist argument that minorities were only interested in mass work, and were too inferior to be involved in a theoretical project such as the OCIC. With these arguments, the NSC called for the primacy of an ideological campaign which it felt would lay the basis for transforming both communist theory and practice later on.

A summation of the campaign shows that these basic arguments put forward by the NSC were incorrect. First, the NSC’s position on what was the main obstacle to developing multi-national unity was simplistic, though not entirely wrong. It failed to account for the fact that many national minorities stood outside of the OC because of differences over political line. This was the case with racial and national minorities in El Comite, the Rectification movement (as well as independents) who remained outside of the process primarily because of differences over partybuilding line, and not primarily because of white chauvinist practices within the OC.

Secondly, it was incorrect to think that the OCIC could be built into a multi-national, formation in the absence of developing political line and mass practice in the anti-racist struggle. It was an idealist notion to think that racial and national minorities and workers would involve themselves centrally in a political organization that did not devote serious theoretical resources to developing a line and strategy for the struggle against racism, and time and energy to deepening their mass work in this area.

The bulk of circles which comprised the OC historically had very little experience in either mass work, or theoretical work around racism. This was partially due to white chauvinist prejudices, and a general underestimation of the centrality of the struggle against racism. Many minority comrades whom the OC sought to organize worked within their communities. They had developed a history of struggle during the sixties and seventies in the movements of racially and nationally oppressed peoples. The bulk of anti-revisionist forces had either ignored them or played a politically backward role within those communities.

The unification of minority forces from the shops and communities with the predominately white forces of the OC could not occur primarily by the transformation of individual white comrades practice towards individual minority comrades. It had to occur as the result of a fundamental change in the relationship of the OC comrades to the particular struggles of racial and national minorities, and to the struggle against racism taken up with white workers. This is a process of building multinational unity which would have demanded that OC forces seriously address the theoretical questions posed by this work. Ideological struggle with individual comrades racist practices was necessary to correct particular errors. But ideological struggle must be integrated with these theoretical and practical tasks, An ideological campaign has a place in a Marxist Leninist organization, but it must be connected to the development of communist intervention in the class struggle.

Our argument is that real multi-national unity can only occur when white communists show a serious approach and consistent practice in addressing the struggle against racism, theoretically and practically, in all aspects of their work and lives. Racial and national minority comrades unite with a process based primarily on seeing a formation as potentially a political force in the struggle against racism and capitalism. The anti-racist practice and attitudes of individual white cadre are important; they reflect the seriousness of any organization. But ideological purity of the cadre cannot be substituted for the development of an organizations commitment to the class struggle. This is even more true of advanced workers, white and minority, who are not yet communists.

A campaign such as the OC’s, which is torn from the decisive theoretical and practical tasks of the struggle against racism in the larger society will fail. Despite the best of intentions of OC cadre, we were doomed to failure because we did not recognize the necessary political tasks in achieving multi-nationality. A historical look at the CPUSA’s experience – its strengths and weaknesses – is useful in understanding this point.

The real breakthrough in the CP’s multi-nationality was made in the late twenties and in the thirties. Previous to 1928, the party had very few minorities, and minorities were poorly represented in leadership. The Party made its breakthrough in 1928 when it adopted its thesis on the Black national question. Regardless of the complete validity of the Comintern line, it did highlight black liberation as a special question which demanded a particular program of struggle, specific communist organizing. Large numbers of blacks came into the party during the thirties when the party took up extensive organizing of black sharecroppers in the south, struggled against racist practices in the mass organizing of the CIO, and fought against Jim Crow through campaigns such as that in support of the Scottsborough boys.

The party also grasped that the development of line and practice were not enough, but that the weaknesses in cadres ideological outlooks must also be transformed. They used the incident of a party member who refused to let black Party members into a dance in the Finnish community to illustrate white chauvinism in the Party’s ranks. This was done through the famous Yokinen Trial. It is important to note that the rectification for comrade Yokinen to carry out mass work in the Finnish community in support of black rights. The rectification was not primarily a written self criticism or squaring with his white chauvinism, but the integration of this cadre into the mass tasks of anti-racist organizing where he had to confront and contradict his own attitudes.

The CP also has negative experiences which the OCIC more closely parallels. This was the Campaign in the CPUSA which occurred between 1949 and 1953. At that time, the CP was seriously threatened by the McCarthy trials. The CPUSA lost much of its base in the mass movements due to repression and an incorrect retreat from its mass work into clandestinity. During this time, the campaign became isolated from the general struggle for Negro rights. This led to serious left sectarian errors within the Party, which participants from all tendencies within the Party document. William Z. Foster sums this ultra-leftism up in his 1953 article which called a halt to the campaign,

...The most serious sectarian error now being made by the Party in its fight against white chauvinism and one which gives birth to various other sectarian mistakes, is to neglect work in general among the Negro masses and to develop the fight against white chauvinism primarily as an inner party campaign . . .

Another harmful aspect of this leftist inner party struggle is its tendency to separate the fight against white chauvinism from the mass struggle for Negro rights. It is a typical sectarian error to consider white chauvinism as a sort of detached phenomenon, and to shoot into it on this basis. But this whole trend is basically incorrect and tends to cripple our work generally among the Negro people. White chauvinism cannot be fought as a thing in itself by a separate campaign. It can be fought only in connection with the struggle of the Negro people for full economic, political, social and cultural equality. The fight against white chauvinism is an organic part of this broad struggle for Negro rights and cannot be divorced from it without becoming reduced to an empty and harmful abstraction...

The most important measure necessary to strengthen the fight against white chauvinism without and within our Party, therefore is vastly to improve our struggle all along the line for Negro rights and to weave the fight against white chauvinism in with the general mass struggle. . . (p. 23, Left Sectarianism in the Fight for Negro Rights and Against White Chauvinism, Political Affairs, July, 1953).

* * *

The Campaign’s Idealist Definitions of White Chauvinism and Petit Bourgeois Chauvinism and its Ultra-Left Methods of Struggle

Prior to the campaign against white and petit bourgeois chauvinism, the OC had discussed the objective racism as certain policies which were adopted by the OC functioned to keep racial and national minorities out of the OCIC. The federationist policy of circle participation was targeted for excluding many minorities who had no organizational affiliation yet had important contributions to make as communists. The beginning of the campaign, which began during the OC discussions around federationism, marked a leap in our understanding that many racist practices had a subjective component| that white chauvinist prejudices which we all internalize underlie white comrades perceptions of racial and national minorities.

This marked a positive advance in our understanding of white chauvinism in the communist movement. It was certainly true that white comrades in the OCIC, being affected by the pervasive bourgeois ideology in the US, held white chauvinist assumptions about the intelligence, political development and overall capabilities of minority communists and advanced workers, both white and minority. Grasping this many local centers made real advances in bringing forward minority leadership, and the participation of working class elements in the OC process. These are some of the positive experiences of the campaign which need to be preserved.

At the same time, the National Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF), basing its work on documents from the CPUSA and the work of the PWOC, began elaborating the various forms that white chauvinism took. Special emphasis was given to racist paternalism, a dominant form of white chauvinism among the liberal petit bourgeoisie. So too, did the task force identify key forms of defensiveness in responding to criticisms, and various deviations, both left and right, in taking up the struggle against white and petit bourgeois chauvinism. Much of the theoretical work contained in Racism in the Communist Movement maintains validity.

Yet during this period various idealist conceptions of white chauvinism were put forward, which separated this form of bourgeois ideology from its material base in the broader US society. This began with the conception of the “conspiracy of white chauvinism”. Initially this term meant simply the way in which whites, conscious that another white had made a racist error, failed to raise a criticism of this behavior. This pact of liberalism between whites occurs both in our society and in the communist movement. But as time went on, it was also interpreted to mean that whites consciously conspire to keep racial and national minorities out of the OC process. As the OC process has developed, the NSC more and more has come to adopt the position that white comrades are always consciously racist. This marks a fundamental departure from the earlier conception of subjective racism, in which whites unwittingly hold dominant bourgeois assumptions about minorities. The new view holds that whites know they are being racist, and consciously choose to be racist. This new view, which has its roots in earlier conceptions, sees white comrades “real” views and positions as the bourgeois views and puts forth a position that white people are trying to “protect” their white chauvinism as if it was in their best interest.

While there will be cases of conscious racism in the communist movement, by and large, white comrades who have chosen to become communists are consciously anti-racist. They have committed themselves both in theory and in practice to struggle for the democratic rights of minorities and against the forces of racism in our society. They are not free, however, from racist ideology, No white people in our society are. The notion of conscious racism, which has become the dominant line of the NSC, paints white communists as bad people who consciously choose to hold on to their racism, rather than be purified. This conception shares the moralistic underpinnings of bourgeois religious morality which sees people as good and evil, not as products of their society and bourgeois ideological forces. This is an idealist conception of white chauvinism and has nothing in common with Marxist materialism.

This idealistic, moralistic conception of white chauvinism has led directly to ultra-left and moralistic methods which the OC adapted to “rid their cadre” of the problem. From the beginning, the OC focused on written and verbal self-criticisms of racism as a cadre’s rectification. This was an idealistic error rooted in the campaign itself which failed to see changes in cadre’s mass work and practice as key to transforming ones outlook. The fact that every OC member was responsible for doing a written self-criticism, while the attempt to design rectifications in a person’s mass work and practice was given secondary importance and carried out very inconsistently shows how, from the beginning, the campaign onesidedly stressed the identification of a person’s racist thinking over the transformation of social practice.

This idealistic notion of rectification became more and more pronounced as the Campaign developed. The result has been numerous examples of unprincipled struggle with comrades. Since the basic assumption is that white comrades are conscious of their racism, the methods have stressed forcing comrades to face up to their weakness, which in some cases has led to comrades making up stereotyped thoughts. Comrades have been verbally abused for hours, made to feel that they were bad people. They have been called “slave masters” and worse things in order to farce a “confession”. Essentially, the process which the NSC presently adopts is one of shaming their cadre into an admittal of guilt. The campaign, rather than helping comrades understand and overcome ideological weaknesses, in many cases played the role of opening up the vast reserve of white middle-class guilt, Rather than overcoming middle-class racism, the campaign has ended up as a manipulation of it.

Ultra-left methods of struggle have led to a situation where many comrades have left the OC. Other comrades, trying to carry out the NSC perspective have been on a perpetual tread mill of dealing with their weaknesses. Cadre who have been more willing to participate and admit to criticisms by the leadership have been brought into leadership, while others have been taken out. Yet, those who at one stage of the process seemed to be leading in the struggle, soon fell behind as the NSC ever increased the sharpness of their attacks. It has been this ever spiraling ultra-left definition of racism and unprincipled methods for combatting it which has led, during the last months, to the final bulk of cadre leaving the OC. In particular, all but one member of the old, democratically elected NSC has either resigned or been removed from leadership. Today, the OC stands on the verge of collapse. The only explanation that the self-appointed three-person NSC has is that in every case, the individuals have been “unwilling” to “square with their racism or accommodation”. This, when carried to its conclusion, has led the NSC to a position that the communist movement in the US is fundamentally built on white chauvinism. They seem determined to go down with a sinking ship rather than confront the underlying incorrect political conceptions and leadership which have characterized the campaign.

The Campaign’s Racist Conception of Accommodation and Unprincipled Methods of Struggle in Combatting it

The bulk of working class and minority cadre have left the OC, along with white, middle class comrades. Initially many of these comrades were attracted to the OC because it appeared that there was going to be a serious attempt at dealing with a long neglected question. In the early periods of the Campaign, the NSC solely focused on the question of white chauvinism, but failed to discuss the role which internalized oppression of minority and working class cadre played in holding these comrades back This was corrected and the Anti-Racism Task Force began to look at ways in which the views which our society perpetuates about minority peoples were affecting the participation of racial and national minorities in the OC process. Later on, the question of capitulation by working class comrades was taken up. Two forms of the accommodation to racism were identified – assimilation and narrow nationalism. While the main focus was put on struggling against white chauvinism, ideological struggle began with minority comrades around asserting themselves more. While in many cases this was a positive step forward in recognizing the problem, it onesidedly focused on ideological transformation. It did not address the real difficulties which many minority comrades face due to discrimination in the broader society. It saw any weaknesses as only ideological. The OC made no programs for theoretical training where this was an obstacle. Like the struggle against white chauvinism, it depended almost entirely on self-criticism and the will to change, which was judged by the depth of a comrades self-criticism.

More recently, the NSC has adopted a thoroughly incorrect conception that minorities in the OCIC are the most accommodationist-minded people in our society, compared with minorities in the broader society. In addition, the current NSC argues that whites within the OCIC teach minorities how to accommodate racism, and train them to become “overseers” over other minorities. This they argue in their theory of “culturing accommodation”.

This characterization of minority comrades in the OC and in the communist movement as the most accommodationist is a radical shift in the NSC’s assessment of minority communists. Before, we recognized that many minority comrades in the communist movement were the most advanced on the question of racism, having played a leading role within their communities and trade unions in the practical struggle for democratic rights. I In addition to being the most politically advanced often in the struggle against the forces of racism, minority comrades had the political consciousness to see the need for a multi-national partybuilding effort. They had rejected both reformist and nationalist strategies and therefore had decided to work within the communist movement. Finally, we recognized that these comrades had been willing to commit themselves to this process, despite the fact that many white comrades had not always treated them with equality and respect. The present line of the NSC seems to have been developed to explain why so many minority comrades have left during the course of the campaign. The NSC’s logic seems to be that these comrades joined the OC because they liked being with whites and enjoyed paternalism but when the campaign took up their accommodation to racism, they left out of unwillingness to deal with their weaknesses. This is a racist characterization of minorities which reduces their role, strengths and contributions to nothing. It is a self serving theory used to cover up the failure of the campaign.

Linked closely with this characterization of minority and working class comrades is the theory that whites within the communist movement have “taught” minorities how to accommodate their white racism. Internalized oppression, rather than being the result of a capitalist society’s bourgeois institutes, which try to instill feelings of inferiority in minority people on a daily basis, is now something consciously taught by racist white communists. Here we see the thoroughly idealist conception of internalized oppression which separates its reproduction off from the real material world of capitalism. The un-Marxist notions of white chauvinism and accommodation go hand in hand. But it is also a racist conception because it is based on the assumption that these “most accomodationist” minded minorities have been well “taught” by their consciously racist masters: the white communists.

Such a view of overcoming internalized oppression and the accommodation to racism has relied on equally unprincipled methods of struggle. Here, minority comrades are told that they are “slaves”, “geisha girls”, to their white counterparts, “Uncle Tom’s” etc. Every weakness of a minority comrade, and any opposition to the leading line, is viewed in terms of their accommodation to racism. And similarly to the way the struggle against white chauvinism was taken up, it is assumed that minority comrades are conscious of their accommodation but are refusing to “break from it”. Whereas earlier in the campaign, it was white comrades who predominately left as a result of the campaign, as the process developed, minorities and working class comrades left due to the unprincipled methods of struggle.

The Campaign’s Opposition to Inter-racial Relationships: The Degeneration into White Chauvinism and Narrow Narrow Nationalism

Nowhere has the OC’s campaign degenerated more starkly than in the racist position and practice regarding inter-racial relationships. In September, the NSC adopted the PWOC’s position on inter-racial relationships which maintained that they should be discouraged. The position pointed to the conclusion that these relationships are not based on mutual respect and love, but primarily on white chauvinism and disrespect. This position was formulated based on a few experiences in Philadelphia.

Since that initial position, the NSC moved rapidly to “investigate” various inter-racial relationships as well as relationships between working class and petit-bourgeois members in the OCIC. In every inter-racial relationship investigated, the NSC summed up that racism was the driving force and even went so far as to encourage partners to split up. The practice of the NSC became opposition to inter-racial relationships despite attempts to state this less directly. One NSC member in fact admitted that he had never seen a “principled” inter-racial couple. Clay Newlin added that the question of inter-racial relationships had to be resolved if the communist movement was to move forward. Here he was speaking to the need for the communist movement to unite in opposing them.

This position resulted in a struggle to break up a number of interracial couples, and in many cases cross-class relationships as well. While the NSC covered its tracks by claiming that these break-ups were based on individual decisions, in each case the NSC comrades judged white and minority OC members’ sincerity in coming to grips with their white chauvinism or accommodation by their willingness to break off their relationships. This led to some of the ugliest and destructive moments within the OC process, as NSC members intervened in other people’s personal relationships, arguing that none of them were genuinely based on love or affection.

The racist position on inter-racial relationships is a graphic illustration of how far the OCIC has strayed from a Marxist-Leninist position on the struggle against racism. Historically the depth of white chauvinist ideology has been represented in the opposition to love relationships between whites and minorities. It has been a cause for the lynching of Blacks in the South, in particular. A key democratic and anti-racist demand has been the right of individuals to marry whom they choose regardless of race.

It is part of the development of capitalism to assimilate people of all races into socialized production, and to a certain extent, create a more common social and cultural life. This does not negate the fact that capitalism maintains racial divisions and denigrates minority cultures. But it does lay the basis for racial grouping to have more and more contact with one another which in turn has led to an increase of inter-racial relationships in the society. It is a racist and backward position to oppose such relationships. Certain nationalist groupings within the minority communities also take a similar stand for racial exclusiveness. But this cannot be the stand of communists. They must instead champion the right of people to relate to and marry whomever they choose, regardless of race.

Within the communist movement people share a common commitment to overthrow capitalism and eradicate racism. This political basis of unity brings comrades of all races together, and in the course of common political work inter-racial love relationships will naturally develop. These relationships will not be free from racial dynamics, however, merely because such political unity exists. Undoubtedly there will exist some relationships which in fact may not be based on mutual respect. This certainly occurs in relationships between people of the same race. But on the whole, the positive or negative character of these relationships cannot be assessed primarily by racial criteria. They must be looked at on the basis of mutual commitment and love which partners build in the process of struggling through difficulties as they emerge.

A communist organization and its principles provide a certain context to identify weaknesses and overcome them. It is not, however, the domain of any organisation to stand as judge over people’s relationships. A communist organization is a political body which engages in class struggle. It concerns itself with the health and well-being of its cadre, but its function in this respect does not include demanding that comrades break (or maintain) a relationship against their wishes.

The NSC stand on inter-racial relationships is a racist one, and it shows how ultra-left ideological struggle taken to the extreme results in unity with a reactionary position: opposition to inter-racial relationships. It also illustrates how far the OCIC has become an organization of internal focus, failing to link its campaign with the broader class struggle. The absurdity of the campaign becomes apparent when one considers that this preoccupation with purifying individual cadres’ personal relationships occurs precisely at a’’ time when we are witnessing a dramatic increase in racism in the broader society.

During the year that the OC took up the question of peoples’ relationships, Ronald Reagan launched massive cuts in social programs affecting minorities, affirmative action and busing were being turned back, the Ku Klux Klan grew and became much more publically active in attacking people of color. These phenomena, however, were not the political questions which the OC chose to focus on, nor develop its mass work around. Instead, the OCIC became consumed with endless discussions of why this or that person’s relationship was unprincipled. Many OC cadre finally left during this period, psychologically worn out, demoralized, and unfortunately unprepared both theoretically and practically to meet the real demands that the class struggle against racism posed.

The Racist and Ultra-Left Ideological Roots to the OC’s Campaign

We have attempted to show how the Campaign Against White Chauvinism essentially was rooted in the very ideological deviation which it sough to rectify, white chauvinism. Ironically the campaign, despite all its good intentions, became a manipulation of white guilt. It justified some extremely racist characterizations of national and racial minorities.

Moreover, the campaign united with the most racist and narrow nationalist forces in the society by its opposition to inter-racial relationships. As such, the form which this racist deviation took was an ultra-left approach to the struggle against racism.

The campaign sought to combat mainly rightist practices in regards to the struggle against racism. But in taking up the general complacency among OC cadre, it swung to various leftist definitions and solutions to the problem. Central to this left approach was the elevation of ideological struggle among the communist forces, above the general anti-racist struggle in the broader society. In its practice the OC made the racist ideology of the communist forces more of a priority than combatting the racism of capitalism, the Reagan administration, and the Ku Klux Klan.

The elevation of ideological struggle against the real bourgeoisie is a common ultra-left deviation, characteristic of ultra-left trends both nationally and internationally. For example, the Chinese Cultural Revolution one-sidedly elevated the ideological struggle against a revisionist within the Chinese Communist Party over the economic and political development of Chinese society. The anarchy of the Cultural Revolution seriously set back the development of the productive forces in China, factionalized the Party, and generally retarded socialist construction.

Within our own communist movement this error has been made time and time again. The ultra-left organizations’ refusal to work with the CPUSA in mass work represents a raising of ideological differences with revisionism above the need for unity of action with broader forces in the mass movement. The CWP, in their recent self-criticism, for example, points to its incorrect blaming of the cadre, especially petit-bourgeois comrades, for failures of political line and strategies. The OC’s deviation from the correct relationship between ideology and politics must thus be seen as part and parcel of this legacy of the anti-revisionist movement’s ultra-left practices.

Secondly, the campaign relied on typically left idealist definitions and rectifications for white chauvinism. As we have shown, the OC tended to separate the ideology of white chauvinism from its material base in the broader society. The theory of conscious racism and accommodation was such an idealist definition.

Thirdly, the emphasis on written and verbal self-criticisms over rectification of comrades1 ideological weaknesses through social practice was a left idealist error. This leant the campaign the character of a purification rite in which people could change their attitudes relatively quickly.

Fourthly, the extreme sharpness, verbal abuse, and unprincipled characterization of comrades is consistent with ultra-left methods of struggle. Ideological struggle took on more the tone of a “super-revolutionary” attack rather than a patient campaign to help comrades see their weaknesses. This struggle failed to produce and develop a plan for overcoming these weaknesses.

While in the main the campaign was rooted in ultra-left errors, rightism played its role as well. In swinging dramatically from rightism to leftism in the struggle against racism, the OC maintained a general empiricism in the development of anti-racist theory. The NSC did not put sufficient emphasis on developing a more general theory of racism and national oppression. Nor did it theoretically prepare its cadre in preparation for the campaign. The NSC did not sufficiently study both the positive and negative examples of the CPUSA’s experience which clearly would have been useful. Nor did it grasp the importance of its cadre studying and discussing these experiences before taking up such a campaign.

Both the predominant left errors as well as the right errors of the campaign must be traced to the OC’s overall approach to party building. The OC’s party building line which called for the separation of ideological and practical centers was a breeding ground for ultra-leftism.

Since the OCIC did not take responsibility for guiding practice, it encouraged the tendency to isolate ideology from politics, and focused on the struggle against racism exclusively within the communist movement. This does not mean that the ultra-leftism cannot have a life of its own in organizations which combine both ideological and practical tasks. A study of PWOC’s experiences and the CPUSA’s struggle against racism in the 50’s illustrates this point.

But the general failure of the OC’s campaign cannot be understood without a thorough understanding of its relationship to the general party building principles of the Draft Plan. In essence, the idealist strategy to forge a leading center and develop advanced theory, separated from to tendency’s practical centers, provided a fertile ground for the growth of ultra-leftism.

The Strengths and Weaknesses of LOM’s Critique of the Campaign Against White Chauvinism

While we see the OCIC’s deviation on the struggle against white chauvinism as primarily ultra-left in character, it is important to examine the criticisms of the campaign from the Line of March perspective. LOM views this deviation as fundamentally flowing from rightist errors. Both the LOM’s The Phony War Against White Chauvinism and to Demise of the Fusion Line and the Working Papers from the Racism Conference (which are representative of the LOM perspective) make important contributions to the discussion of the struggle against racism. We agree with their essential analysis of the OC’s campaign on three main points:

1) The OC’s campaign was fundamentally separated from theoretical and mass work, and thus degenerated into moralism.

2) The positive experience of the CPUSA in the 1930’s verifies the importance of mass work and political line in recruiting minorities to the party. So does the negative experience of the CP’s 1950s campaign stress the essential linking of the ideological struggle with the general struggle for democratic rights.

3) The importance of taking up a conscious program for struggling against racism in the communist ranks.

We disagree, however, on the essential characterizations of the causes for the OC’s errors. For the Rectification comrades the OC’s failure was completely hound up with the PWOC’s Fusion party building line. They view this as a rightist approach which downplays theory. In particular, these comrades locate the campaign’s errors in the PWOC’s political line on the general struggle against racism. In their view, the PWOC liquidates the struggle against racism by failing to grasp the material basis for racism in the workers’ movement: the material privileges of white workers. They argue that PWOC incorrectly reduces the struggle against racism to the struggle against bad ideas, and herein lies the incorrect focus on ideological struggle.

The Rectification view argues that white workers are materially privileged and therefore benefit from racism. While in the long run the class interests of white workers are bound to their minority counterparts, in the short run their interests are bound to the bourgeoisie in what Rectification calls “the White United Front.” White workers’ support for racist policies, this position argues, is not primarily the result of false class consciousness perpetuated by the bourgeoisie and their institutions, but instead a reflection of their real material self-interests.

We disagree that the OC’s campaign flows fundamentally from a liquidationist, rightist line on the struggle against racism. Nor do we agree with the general political line of the Rectificationists on white workers and their real interests in the fight for full democracy within the working class.

First, we do not see how the OC’s campaign flows out of a rightist line on the struggle against racism. As we understand it, a liquidationist line was the practice of the old Socialist Party and in part of the New Communist Movement, which failed to see the question of democratic rights for minorities as a distinct question. Instead this issue was collapsed into the general question of the economic struggle of labor. This genuinely liquidationist line does not factually represent both the theory and practice of the PWOC. PWOC draws its theory of Black oppression primarily from the Comintern analysis which viewed Black people as constituting a nation. Though PWOC feels that this nation has been assimilated, it holds a perspective similar to that of LOM: Blacks are a distinct people, with a distinct Black liberation movement. A study of the PWOC propaganda and its practice represent a commitment to this perspective. Regardless of what one thinks of the PWOC position, it cannot be equated with the old SP’s line. Nor can it be labeled liquidationist.

Second, we know of no historical example of a liquidationist line on Black or minority oppression which led to ultra-left ideological struggle. Almost all formations who hold a rightist position exhibit a corresponding low level of ideological struggle against white chauvinism in their mass work, or in the formations themselves. It was the CPUSA that decisively broke from the liquidationist line, introduced ideological struggle, and indeed made left errors during the 50s. Our summation of the OC’s campaign as ultra-left is consistent with Foster’s and Haywood’s summation of the CP, and even with Rectification’s own definition of left errors in the ideological struggle against racism among communists.

Third, the left errors of the OCIC represent a real shift in the PWOC’s own position on how to take up the ideological struggle around white chauvinism. Prior to the OC experience, the PWOC expressed a generally more correct perspective: ‥The struggle for proletarian ideology and the fight against white chauvinism and bourgeois nationalism can be carried out only in the framework of the actual day to day struggles of the mass of workers and the Black people.” (Strategy for Black Liberation, 1976, p. 51) Unfortunately, this was not the line which guided the PWOC or the OCIC during the campaign. The preoccupation with the ideology of communists, and the separation of the struggle against racism from the day to day class struggle, was a dramatic left shift.

In our opinion, LOM seems determined to link the campaign with PWOC’s rightism. This flows from their general critique of the fusion party building line as being economist. But this link does not square with the facts, nor is it helpful in understanding which political line on racism led to the campaign’s errors. Secondly, the LOM critique of the PWOC’s line as being liquidationist stems from LOM’s own misconceptions about the struggle against racism and white workers.

In our view, white workers in the U.S. do not have a material or class interest in maintaining racism. While it is clear from a study of social reality that white workers as a group maintain a higher standard of livings; than the minority proletariat (wages, working conditions, housing, unemployment, health), white workers, like all workers under capitalism, are exploited. The vat majority of white workers who occupy the industrial and service strata as well as the reserve army of labor do not benefit from racial oppression.

We are not speaking here of a small minority of whites who form the bulk of the labor aristocracy, such as the trades, and the labor bureaucracy. For the bulk of white workers, the system of racism has served to divide the working class as a whole, minority and White, and undercuts a common struggle against capital. In addition, the maintenance of an oppressed group of minorities within the working class has blunted the ability of all workers, including whites, to fight for better wages and living conditions. Witness, for example, how racism in the South has served to keep unions out, and has made the standard of living of white and minority workers there lower than anywhere else in the country.

There has been, and presently, is, a large grouping of white workers who do not see the reality and thus tend to blame the contradictions of capitalism on minorities. White chauvinist ideology is strong among the white working class, and it is maintained and perpetuated by the dominant bourgeois institutions. But the fact that many white workers fail to see their real interests in developing a united struggle with minority workers is primarily due to false consciousness, and not because they benefit from racism. In this sense, the ideology of white chauvinism has become a profoundly material force: it compels white workers to unite with the racist divisions among the working class and society as a whole, and consequently retards the class struggle.

This reality demands that communists constantly agitate against such white chauvinist ideology. Central to this approach is working with white workers in the day to day economic and political struggle, and constantly draw the links between the struggle of minorities and whites. In some cases this involves getting white workers to take up the particular demands for democratic rights for minorities. In others, it means pointing to the common plight of minorities and whites as workers. To the extent that the PWOC has been a leading advocate of this approach, we agree with them. This is not a liquidationist line on the struggle against racism, but a materialist approach in pointing to the common class interests which exist between minority and white workers.

By contrast, LOM criticizes the view that whites and minorities have immediate common interests as being liquidationist and/or economist. They do not think that white workers have a short-term interest in opposing racism. Instead, they point solely to the ultimate, long-run interests that white and minority workers have in overthrowing capitalism and building socialism. They call for “polarizing” white workers by demanding them to sacrifice their material interests for the rights of minorities. In our opinion, this is a line which represents a moralistic approach to the struggle against racism. It borrows from the previous “White Skin Privilege” line which sees workers as reactionary due to their material advantages over their minority counterparts.

But in the end this theory serves to negate the common bond which all workers have, which is rooted in the common exploitation by capitalism. It consequently downplays the real ideological tasks of communists in assisting the merging of whites and minorities in a common struggle against capital.

Conclusion and Beginning Ideas for a Correct Approach to the Struggle Against Racism

The most serious result of the campaign is the driving away of many comrades from a correct approach to the struggle against racism. This holds true not only for the OC comrades who remain proponents of the campaign, but for those who have left as well. The demoralization, confusion, bitterness, and frustration has been expressed in cadre’s avoiding the struggle against racism altogether. In other instances it has meant going back to the old ways of dealing with racism prior to the campaign.

But we cannot go back to the past practices which never really advanced us on the road to a multinational party building effort. It would be a mistake to not use the recent events in the OCIC to move the struggle against white chauvinism forward. This motion forward can be nurtured by a plan, based on collective discussion and summation, which singles out the correct and positive aspects of the campaign and combines them with strategies which acknowledge and confront the campaign’s weaknesses.

Such a plan to address white and petit-bourgeois chauvinism within the communist movement should minimally take up the following areas: 1) theoretical tasks, 2) mass practice, and 3) ideological struggle and its relation to cadre training.

At this time common theoretical work could include a systematic study of the CPUSA and its history of practice in taking up the struggle against white chauvinism both within the party and in its mass work. Another area to take up would be an examination of the various race and national questions, as resources permit. This would mean a study of the various writings and positions already on the table as well as an explicit effort to link such a study to the mass struggles of the oppressed minorities and their communities in the United States. Today this takes on a special importance, due to the present economic crisis of capitalism and the resulting attacks on the democratic rights of national and racial minorities.

Success in learning from our mistakes in the current Campaign depends on moving our involvement in the struggle against racism forward in mass and practical work as well. For this period, due to the relative inexperience of our tendency in mass struggles, and because we find ourselves in a rebuilding period, our ability to lead the struggle for democratic rights at the workplace and in the communities will be limited. But the pervasiveness of racism in the U.S. means that the struggle against it can take place on many fronts, and in many ways. Communists must take the struggle and apply it to all areas, wherever forces are at– in the communities, the trade unions, the unorganized.

Within this context, tactical considerations must be made in how to best deal with racism and its effects in the broader society. This means discussing particular (not exclusive) tasks of minority and white communists. For minority comrades, deepening ties to national minority workers and their notional and racial communities is important, while the particular task of white comrades is to struggle with other whites and win them to the fight against racism and for democratic rights for the oppressed minorities. Aside from these tactical considerations, as communists we must always be ready to learn from the broader forces as well as push ourselves to assist and lead the struggle wherever such action is called for.

Communist assistance and leadership in the mass movements will not be entirely effective if ideological struggle is not taken up against expressions of white chauvinism within the organization and the working class. Internal ideological struggle among communists goes hand in hand with intervention in the mass movements. Lessons learned from each of these areas are, in fact, two parts of a whole. This is why it is important to link the inner-organizational struggle and the process of cadre-training to the ideological struggle in the broader mass movements of the working class. The communist’s ability to sensibly combine these three things– inner-organizational struggle against white chauvinism, direct experience in the mass movements and the expressions of class struggle in the broader society, and the all-sided training of cadre– will be the decisive factor in winning the advanced workers and minorities to communism and the science of Marxism-Leninism.

Ideological struggle(both within an organization and in day to day situations which emerge in our practical work) proceeds from this recognition of linking itself to concrete practice and cadre development. Ideological struggle can make its appropriate contribution only when cadre are taken seriously. This means placing attention on helping comrades to develop themselves theoretically, ideologically, and practically on the principle of “those who know a little bit more teach those who know a little bit less.” Failure to do this leads to the preserving of bourgeois relations within the organization and to an intensification, rather than a confrontation of, racist and accommodationist practices by both leadership and cadre alike.

One weakness of the OC’s campaign has been unclarity on the meaning of “popularizing example of white chauvinist practices.” A white chauvinist error, or for that matter an accommodationist error, should be popularized for the purpose of drawing concrete lessons from the particular error and circulating them so that the organization as a whole can learn from the experience. However, focus should be placed on rectification and on collective assistance in moving the particular comrade forward. In this sense ideological struggle assumes the ability of cadre to move forward on their ideological weaknesses. Even in its sharpest expression, ideological struggle remembers this connection between a racist error and a plan for changing practice. Popularization does not mean trashing, condemning, or writing off cadre, as has been the case at times in the Campaign Against White Chauvinism.

The infestation of moralism in the ideological struggle can be combatted by emphasizing rectification and collective help in moving all comrades forward in the struggle against racist and accommodationist practices within an organization. This approach to ideological struggle is systematic, consistent, thoroughgoing, and therefore protracted in nature. Use of an axe or pretending they don’t exist– neither method is effective in ridding one’s kitchen of cockroaches. Both underestimate the depth of the task at hand. Therefore, ideological struggle is neither inherently abusive or inherently polite. But it should be clear, direct, and forward-moving. The centrality of the struggle against racism, and the effort required to build a truly multinational party, demand that communists, in taking up the ideological struggle against racism, take these minimal considerations into account.