Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ron Whitehorne, Philadephia Workers Organizing Committee

Line of March’s Strategy for resistance...A Critical Response

First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 7, No. 8, August 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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What is the political significance of Ronald Reagan’s ascension to the presidency? What is the nature of the period we are in? What strategic perspective should guide the working class and its allies in defending and promoting its interests against those of monopoly capital? These are questions that are clearly at the forefront of the Left agenda at the present moment and properly so. How we answer them bears centrally on the prospects and future political character of the emerging fightback movement arrayed against Reaganism and the Right.

The Line of March editorial board, the leading center of the rectification party building circle, have offered their contribution to this discussion in two documents, A Communist Proposal for a United Front Against War and Racism, a long article in the March/April edition of their journal, and a much shorter broadside entitled Strategy for Resistance. An analysis of these documents is not only important because it can clarify key differences in strategic perspective but also because they shed light on the divergence over party building between the rectification circle and those who hold to the fusion line.

The essential points of the LOM analysis are that “the cutting edge of the overall imperialist offensive is to be found in preparations for war and the program of a racially-defined social austerity,” that “the concept of a united front against fascism is a correct one for the present stage of the class struggle in the U.S. and that the precise political expression of this united front is a United Front Against War and Racism.”

We think each of these formulations is flawed. LOM misunderstands the character of the ruling class offensive, misunderstands the dynamics of fascism and ends up with a muddled and wrong-headed strategic perspective.


LOM’s assertion that the struggle against war is a strategic task of the first order is not controversial. No one could deny that one of the defining characteristics of Reaganism is an intensification of militarism and the danger of war. Nevertheless, there is a misleading one-sidedness to LOM’s analysis of the war danger. There are powerful checks on U.S. imperialism’s drive toward war that LOM simply ignores. To effectively contend with the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism must have the support of its imperialist allies, particularly the West Europeans. But these countries are not prepared to scuttle detente and embark on a course of all out confrontation with the Soviets. They act as a constraint on the Reagan administration. This, along with the strong manifestations of domestic opposition, was a factor in deterring a fuller and more direct U.S. intervention in El Salvador, for example. To fail to note, let alone weigh, the factors that serve to check the war designs of U.S. imperialism leads to an exaggeration of the war danger.

Our main differences with LOM’s assessment center on their view of the domestic side of the right wing offensive. The rectifiers argue that “the brunt” of the attacks “is directed at its (the working class’) minority sectors.” If all that was meant here was that the minority sectors of the working class are disproportionately effected by these attacks, that they fall with particular intensity on national minority workers, no one could have any quarrel. This is true and of obvious political importance.

However LOM has something more than this in mind. Monopoly Capital, according to LOM, has chosen not to mount “an across the board attack on the entire class” but is, rather, limiting the scope of its assault to the most oppressed sectors of the proletariat. The white workers are being “cushioned” from the effects of the economic and social crisis. This is the meaning of a “program of racially defined austerity.”

While LOM acknowledges, in passing, that the ruling class offensive does impact to some degree on the class as a whole, it is clear that for them this is of little political consequence. Their whole prognosis rests on the premise that the more privileged sectors of the proletariat will be immune, at least in the short term, from the effects of the present economic and social crisis.

This is a profound misreading of what is presently occurring in the U.S. LOM has managed to liquidate what is one of the most critical features of the right wing offensive – the intensification of attacks on the living standards of the U.S. people as a whole. It is certainly true that the offensive is directed first and foremost at the racially and nationally oppressed sectors of the working class who are most vulnerable. It is indisputable that the consequence of the Right’s policies will be a deepening of racial and national inequality, in the society as a whole and within the working class. But the attacks on minority workers and peoples occur in the context of a generalized assault on the multi-national working class and other oppressed sectors of the people as well. The effects of the right wing offensive in relation to white working people are not being deferred to some future point, as LOM suggests, but are being felt in the here and now.

Perhaps LOM could explain to us how white auto workers, miners, public employees and railroad workers, to just name a few, are being “cushioned” from the impact of Reaganism? Tens of millions of white working people, ranging from the elderly on social security to unemployed youth, are going to experience the ravages of the Right’s austerity program over the next year. That a disproportionate number of minority people will be affected in no way cushions the blow for those white workers who will suffer directly from these attacks.


Certainly it is true that the unequal and uneven impact on whites relative to minorities provide the material basis for ideologically disarming and politically misleading the white section of the working class. But the point is that the objective conditions, specifically the across the board nature of the ruling class offensive, make this undertaking far more difficult. The monopolists are neither able nor willing to make substantive economic concessions to buy social peace. On the contrary they are attacking gains that Labor has long taken for granted. Relatively high paid and previously secure sectors of the organized work force are being confronted with massive layoffs and wage cuts. Congress is cutting social programs of vital importance to all working people and rightist forces are sponsoring a raft of anti-labor legislation as well.

These circumstances maximize the opportunity to expose and defeat the divide and rule strategy so basic to monopoly. Given that the offensive strikes in direct and immediate ways at the whole working class, the white workers can be more readily won to taking up the struggle against monopoly, including the racist attacks on oppressed nationalities, as a class fight. The divisive, anti-working class nature of racism, the destructive consequences of racial inequality as the principle obstacle to class unity, are much more likely to be grasped by masses of white workers under the present set of social and economic circumstances.

To counter this possibility the ruling class has stepped up its ideological assault designed to reinforce and promote racism. The cutbacks in social programs and the attacks on democratic rights are rationalized by arguing that the beneficiaries (i.e. minorities) are undeserving. The ruling class aims at justifying its economic and political assault on minorities and effectively isolating the resistance these attacks generate It also seeks to draw the masses of white working people into collaborating with monopoly against their own interests And here we do not mean simply the long term class interests of the white workers but very immediate interests as well To the degree the white workers accept the racist premises underlying the Reagan austerity program, they are politically disoriented and crippled, unable to mount an effective challenge to the attacks directed at themselves as well as toward the nationally oppressed sector of the class.

LOM argues that a feature of the present period is the ruling class’ effort “to forge a ’white’ ideological consensus in support of its policies of militarism and social austerity.” We agree that racism is the cutting edge of the bourgeoisie’s ideological offensive and that it is absolutely critical to grasp this fact. It is the appeal to racism first and foremost that Reagan is utilizing to generate popular support for his program.

Where we disagree is over the strength and durability of this consensus. LOM reads the election results in a one sided fashion, seeing in the success of Reagan the effective consolidation of this consensus. While the Right made definite ideological inroads into the working class and this cannot be ignored, neither can the sizeable negative, anti-Carter vote, the substantial numbers of people who didn’t vote at all and the widespread indications of lack of enthusiasm for Reagan among working class voters who cast their ballots for him.

What LOM has, in effect, done is to echo Reagan’s own claim that he has a “mandate” from the U.S. people. This is an unwarranted and dangerous concession.

In our view, the consensus that Reagan has succeeded in forging is not only narrow, but shallow and likely to be short lived. This consensus will shrink and come apart at the seams as the impact of the Reagan program becomes broadly felt.

The experience of Reagan’s British counterpart, Margaret Thatcher, is instructive here. Thatcher capitalized on working class disillusionment with the class collaborationist policies of the Labor Party and their inability to address the problems of inflation and unemployment. Predictably Thatcher’s version of supply side economics have led to record levels of unemployment while inflation continues to spiral. The working class has swung to the left and popular support for Thatcher and the Conservatives has fallen sharply. While there are important and obvious differences between the U.S. and Britain, the political consequences of Reaganism in power are, nevertheless, likely to be similar.

Even in the present period, when the full impact of Reagan’s policies have yet to be felt, there is evidence of growing working class combativeness and ebbing of support for Reagan from a variety of quarters. Spontaneous rank and file resistance to the Chrysler com cessions, the Miners strike, the AFL-CIO call for a demonstration against the budget cuts, the growth of support for a Labor Party, and Labor initiative and involvement in relations to safe energy, Atlanta and El Salvador are all real, if uneven, manifestations of this.

LOM, if they bother to take note of these developments at all, miss their significance. From their standpoint to see in these events the seeds of massive and articulate opposition to monopoly capitalist reaction on the part of the working class is undoubtedly “glorification of spontaneity.”

Since LOM believes that the majority of the working class is being “cushioned” from experiencing the effects of monopoly’s offensive, it is not surprising that they do not anticipate any significant resistance from this quarter.


In their longer article, A Communist Proposal for a United Front Against War and Racism, there is a lengthy discussion of the question of fascism and the following formulation is advanced: “We hold that the concept of a united front against fascism is a correct one for the present stage of the class struggle in the U.S. and that the precise political expression of this united front is a United Front Against War and Racism.”

In the broadside version of this analysis there is no mention of the united front against fascism as the correct strategic perspective for this period and the united front against war and racism is advanced without reference to this. We are not clear whether this omission represents a retreat from this position on the part of LOM. Since there is no repudiation of this view, we must proceed on the basis that the rectifiers still hold this position.

This is a major question because it is one thing to argue that the tendency toward fascism, which is inherent in the very nature of monopoly capitalism, has been strengthened by the ascension of Reagan and the growth of the New Right. It is quite another to suggest that these developments require a fundamental shift in the strategic perspective of the Communist movement.

To say that the United Front against Fascism is the correct strategic perspective for the present period can only mean that the danger of fascism has assumed such proportions that its defeat and the defense of bourgeois democracy has become the principle task of the proletariat and its allies, a task to which all others are necessarily subordinate. This has a number of profound implications.

The struggle against fascism and to defend democracy is in no way incompatible with the pursuit of proletarian revolution. Even under conditions where this becomes the principle task there is no fundamental contradiction. As Dimitrov noted, the struggle against fascism, conducted in a revolutionary fashion, can open up new approaches to the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the same time if fascism is the main danger then the working class must subordinate its specifically revolutionary objectives to the building of the broadest and most effective anti-fascist front.

The case of Spain during the Civil War is a practical illustration. While perhaps a majority of the Spanish working class were subjectively committed to socialist revolution and prepared to carry out revolutionary measures against the capitalists and landlords, Spanish Communists sought to keep the Spanish Revolution within a bourgeois democratic framework. They argued against large scale nationalization of capitalist property and collectivisation of land and acted to restrain spontaneous initiatives by workers and landless peasants in these directions. This policy rested on an assessment of the strength of fascism, both in Spain and internationally. To attempt to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat under the concrete conditions of Civil War with the forces of fascism would split the anti-fascist alliance, alienating the pro-Republican section of the bourgeoisie and broad sections of the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry. This would be an ultra left policy that would strengthen the position of fascism and fatally undermine the position of the working class. In our view this was a correct orientation. As events conclusively bore out, the Spanish Communists hardly exaggerated the danger of fascism.

But what about the U.S. in 1981? Is the danger of fascism such that we must subordinate all to the building of the broadest possible anti-fascist front? Is the danger of fascism such that our attitude toward the liberal bourgeoisie needs to undergo a shift?

LOM never even acknowledges these questions, let alone answer them. Yet clearly if fascism is the main danger, and this is the only possible meaning of saying that the united front against fascism is the correct strategic perspective for the period, the main questions are who can be rallied against fascism and on what basis.

If the danger of fascism is exaggerated the inevitable result is political disorientation – either in the form of a generalized right opportunist downplaying of class struggle in the name of anti-fascist unity or a headlong ’leftist” rush to the barricades or the underground. Given LOM’s assessment of the mass movements, it is the right deviation which is the likely result if their prognosis of the danger of fascism is wrong.

Of course an underestimation of the danger of fascism can be equally disastrous as the experience of the communist movement in the early 1930’s amply illustrates. Thus the critical question comes down to how we read and analyse the present concrete conditions.

In our view LOM utterly fails to make a case that fascism is on the present agenda of the U.S. ruling class. In their longer document there are almost 8 pages devoted to a discussion of fascism including the forms it is assuming at the present moment in US. politics This discussion is marked by vagueness and ambiguity.

Nevertheless a certain picture emerges. The dominant section of the ruling class, while not yet prepared to opt for fascism, is moving in that direction and is giving aid and comfort to the development of a fascist movement. The New Right is essentially the contemporary U.S. equivalent of such a movement – a fascist tendency still in its embryonic stages.

LOM describes the shift on the part of the ruling class toward “a more active military posture, a program of social austerity for the masses, government intervention to maximize profit and accelerate capital formation and a strengthening of the state’s repressive apparatus” as part of the “politics of rising U.S. fascism.” In addition we have the “dramatic growth...of fascism as a social movement” – namely the proliferation of the New Right.

It is the conjunction of these two developments which LOM believes constitute the danger of fascism. Fascism will come about through a convergence of the two under the pressure of intensified class struggle.

If the man in the White House is the darling of a “fascist social movement” and committed to carrying out a program that represent “rising U. S. fascism” then indeed we would appear to be dangerously close to fascism in the U.S.

The reactionary aims of the dominant sector of the ruling class and the New Right are not in dispute here. The question is whether or not the pursuit of these aims will require in the coming period the destruction of bourgeois democracy – the liquidation of constitutional rights and parliamentary institutions in favor of outright tenor and dictatorship.

In fact, there is nothing in the present political situation to suggest that reaction must resort to fascist dictatorship in order to realize its aims. The present framework of bourgeois democracy continues to be the most effective means of monopolist rule and neither the circles around Reagan or the “grass roots” reactionaries of the New Right have given any indication that they intend to dispense with it.

The question of fascism comes to the fore when there is a political crisis –when the class struggle has developed to a point where the bourgeoisie feels compelled to abandon its preferred form of rule and resort to naked and brutal dictatorship. Such a crisis presumes the existence of a revolutionary working class movement capable not only of thwarting particular policies of the monopolists but posing a threat to monopoly capitalist rule. Fascism is Capital’s last resort in its struggle to neutralize the revolutionary proletariat. This was an historical feature of fascism in Italy, Germany and Spain. Fascism rose up to intercept a potent and revolutionary minded working class movement.

But is this really the case? Is ten percent of the Congress representative of U.S. fascism as LOM maintains? Are the thwarting of ERA, the Proposition 13 style tax revolt and the erosion of affirmative action expressions of the political success of this fascist movement as LOM argues? No, we don’t think so. All of the political developments cited by LOM are evidence of the growth of monopoly capitalist reaction. None of them make a case for the emergence of a mass based fascist movement or a commitment to fascism on the part of the leading circles of finance capital.

As LOM points out, monopoly capitalist reaction carries with it an inherent tendency toward fascism. As its anti-popular aims come into conflict with bourgeois democracy, this tendency comes to the fore. But to cite this tendency, which we would agree has assumed a greater weight in the context of the election of Reagan and related developments, as if it was sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a full blown fascist movement in all but name is to effectively equate reaction with fascism.

Clearly there is no such political crisis in the U.S. today. Recognizing this, LOM concedes that fascism is not on the immediate agenda in the U.S Rather, they argue, the intensification of the class struggle, brought about by the policies of monopoly capitalist reaction, will generate conditions where the dominant sectors of the ruling class will go over to fascism. Yet, at the same time, LOM stresses that the prospects for mass resistance to these policies are modest to say the least.

The whole thrust of their argument is that the working class, owing to its political immaturity, particularly the strength of racism among its white members, is incapable of mounting an effective resistance. Significant sectors of the class are either part of the Reagan consensus or are vulnerable to the Right’s ideological appeal. If this is the case, then where is the motive force that will compel monopoly to scuttle bourgeois democracy in favor of fascism?

(To Be Continued)