Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Southern California Local Center/OCIC

Letter to the Party Building Movement


Written: November 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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November, 1981

To the Party Building Movement:

This letter has two purposes. In the first place, we in the Southern California Local Center (SCALC) want to formally announce our resignation from the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC) and state some of the reasons why. Secondly, we want to urge all members of the tendency, particularly former OC members, to participate in the upcoming conferences which are planned to sum-up and struggle over the reasons for the demise of the OCIC.

As regards the first purpose: we realize that this letter of resignation from the OCIC is long overdue. In fact, all of the SCALC members have been in opposition to the line and direction of the OC since early last Spring, some earlier than that. Originally we had hopes of developing an opposition pole to the National Steering Committee’s line. However, from the time of stating our disagreement with that line, particularly the Campaigns Against White and Petty Bourgeois Chauvinism, we have been virtually abandoned by the NSC (except for a few phone calls asking about our back dues!) Given this state of things, our original intent of taking up struggle from within the ranks of the OCIC has proven to be impossible. In effect, the OC has either collapsed or at best has transformed into an irrelevant sect, and frankly, an irrelevant sect in the state of collapse in no way resembles the party-building formation we joined several years ago. Despite this fact, we took our participation in that process seriously and feel a responsibility to sum-up the errors of the OC’s line which we agreed to and helped to develop. Our self-criticism for promoting that incorrect line is key to our ability to move forward.

Our initial summation has been carried through over the past six months and it has led us to a few conclusions about the incorrectness of the OCIC approach to party-building. We see those errors rooted in both the fusion party building line and in a failure to break with ultra-leftism, a leftism which culminated in the infamous Campaign Against White Chauvinism. Though individual SCALC members place primary emphasis on one or the other of those two aspects, we can summarize here the breadth of our views.

(1) The OCIC was from its inception a sectarian and ultra-leftist organizational form. It was sectarian in that we came to view ourselves as the only center of our movement. It was ultra-leftist in our failure to break with the legacy of ultra-left party-building processes that have characterized the new communist movement. In contrast to our proclamation to organize a tendency-wide process to critique ultra-leftism and develop lines on the pressing questions before the communist movement, the OC increasingly demarcated from all other forces in the tendency. An organizational plan to “unite the tendency” substituted for a party-building line. We then proceeded to write off any force within the OC or outside it who disagreed with that plan. Rather than debate over line, we branded our opponents as federationists, organizational opportunists, small circlist, or whatever. MINP/E1 Comite, the Guardian, Theoretical Review, the Bay Area Socialist Organizing Committee, Rectification, the Socialist Organizing Committee, North Star Socialist Organization and scores of individuals and collectives were discarded because they refused to join the OC or, once in, disagreed with one or another aspect of the ever-changing plan. Finally, the OCIC came to call itself the sole upholder of Marxism-Leninism, which was a continuation of the ultra-leftist practices of the so-called “vanguards” before us: CP (M-L), RCP, CLP, CWP, etc.

Though we in SCALC had refused to listen to the criticisms of the OCIC that were offered by the above groups and individuals, we now recognize much of what was correct in those analyses. We’re glad those critiques were put forth as they have helped us sort out much of what was incorrect in the OCIC line.

(2) Though we claimed to have no fully developed party-building line, only a plan to arrive at one, the fusion party-building line underlay the OCIC’s Draft Plan for an Ideological Center. The Draft Plan called for the unity of Marxist-Leninists in an effort to develop the party-building line for our movement, all of which sounded very good and was the reason why many of us were attracted to the OCIC. However, the absence of a line in the Draft Plan left the door wide open to the party-building line which had unified most OC forces in the first place: the fusion line. In addition, the fusion line was articulated and promoted by the most powerful force within the OC: the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee. Small wonder that adherence to fusion came to be the unspoken first principle of the OCIC, and likewise, we came to reject any force within the tendency who disagreed with this “unspoken” line.

Whereas we all agree that fusion should not have been the hidden line of the OCIC, SCALC members hold to a variety of positions on its correctness or incorrectness as a party-building line. What follows is a brief summary of the breadth of our views. The right economist fusion line relied on the working class movement to provide the answers to the questions being posed to the communist movement; supposedly penetration and leadership of the working class movement was to give us the line. As has been repeatedly pointed out by the critics of fusion, there was scant discussion of the line that we were supposedly taking to the working class and providing leadership around. This approach promoted pragmatism in the mass movements, a cynicism toward theoretical training, and eventually an over-estimation of what could be learned from the working class. The positive side of the fusion strategy is that it takes seriously the trade union and working class movement, and many OC comrades did good work in factories and unions, and a lot was learned. The negative side, however, was that the relationship of communism to the working class movement was never theoretically summed up and offered as a critique to move the work forward. Pragmatism thus resulted. Numerous critiques from Rectification forces pointed out this rightist danger.

The fusion line was left economist, as well, expressed in an over-estimation of the existing level of working class political consciousness and willingness to embrace communism. It assumed that the working class would readily embrace communism, once we had entered its ranks and demonstrated our leadership abilities. The left economism played itself out in the Campaigns Against White and Petty Bourgeois Chauvinism, which the OCIC took up in mid 1980. Our ultra-leftism led us to increasingly demarcate from the tendency and the rest of the communist movement and to shut out any critique of our party-building approach. We did this by asserting that “no white petty bourgeois Marxist-Leninist is capable of producing theory or developing the political line for our movement.” Because the OCIC’s plan to “unite the tendency” had failed, we justified our failure by asserting that we had nothing to learn from the existing stock of Marxist-Leninists, though many comrades outside the OCIC had more experience in leading mass struggles and training as Marxist-Leninists than us. The OC alone was going to win the working class and national minorities because, supposedly, only the OC was worthy of the task. Comrades who disagreed with this approach were simply seen as unworthy, were labeled white chauvinists, accomodating white chauvinism, or anti-working class. The logic of the campaigns was that the only thing that prevented the working class and national minorities from joining the OCIC was the white and petty bourgeois chauvinism of our cadre. We disregarded the fact that they might join an organization because of the correctness of its line. Struggle over theory and political line was thus completely replaced with a bizarre, even “religious”, process of sharp struggle for supposed purity of anti-racist and proletarian consciousness, which basically amounted to mental bludgeoning of comrades into self-criticism or cowered agreement. The Campaigns essentially fused right and left economism.

(3) An important critique of the OCIC’s plan that was advanced by the Rectification forces early on was that the OCIC was really only presenting half its plan in the Draft Plan. They argued that the other half of the plan was the intent on the part of the PWOC to develop a pre-party organization guided by the fusion line and that this pre-party organization was what would call the shots for the OC forces. Though we refused at the time to even consider this critique, it is now clear that not only were they correct in their understanding of the logic of the Draft Plan line, but were correct in what was actually happening!

Last summer we in SCALC were shocked to learn that the PWOC had initiated, prior to the 2nd National OC Conference in 1979, a secret, pre-party organisation. This secret organization, made up of PWOC, the Boston Organizing Committee, Seattle Workers Group, and the Socialist Union of Baltimore, was unified around the fusion line, and was in the process of struggling over political lines for the movement. Moreover, the entire NSC of the OCIC was invited last winter to join the pre-party organization because it was judged that they had “essential unity” with it! As is clear, the OC’s supposed line on the separation of theoretical and practical work, on the development of a common process for arriving at the leading lines for our movement, and of open ideological struggle was being abandoned. The PWOC, clearly the most powerful group within this federation, had apparently decided to bypass even the guise of struggling for its line in any open ideological debate and had opted for the course followed by the OL, CL, RU and others who transformed their so-called unity committees into parties of their own type.

Though we were unaware, as was the bulk of the OCIC membership, of the existence of this secret, pre-party organization and the designs of the PWOC, we should have been able to figure out the direction of the OCIC by merely following the logic of the Draft Planóothers had. At the very least, we should have considered carefully the critiques advanced by Rectification, BASOC and othersówe refused. The absence of struggle over the fusion line, or any other line, in the OCIC had left the door open for the most powerful group within it to assert its uncontested party-building line: PWOC’s particular brand of fusion. And the absence of that struggle over fusion fueled our sectarianism toward the rest of the tendency.

Finally, we come to the second purpose of this letter. As stated earlier, we want to urge all members of our tendency to enter into a process of collectively summing up the errors of the OCIC line and practice. This task necessitates an organized struggle among former OC comrades with comrades within the tendency as a whole.

A series of conferences have been planned for early next year by comrades from Line of March, former OC members, and others from within the tendency. We in SCALC feel that participation in these conferences is crucial for our tendency as a whole to move forward, and of particular importance for ex-OC forces. In the first place, we in the OCIC need recognize that the left sectarianism of our organization’s line prevented us for so long from listening to and considering much of the correct criticism being offered by other forces in the tendency. Participation in this process of summing up the errors of the OC line is an opportunity to break in a beginning way with the sectarian approach, which has been a legacy of the struggle in the ultra-left movement. Secondly, the conference will help us to identify basic weaknesses in the party-building movement. A look at what was at the root of the errors of the largest organization in the anti-revisionist/anti-left opportunist tendency will hopefully prevent their repetition in future efforts. Those of us who were in the CC need recognize that turning our heads away from the past, submerging ourselves in mass movement struggles, or refusing to take a self-critical stance toward the line we promoted, won’t benefit the party-building effort. Finally, the success of these conferences will depend largely on the participation of a broad number of forces from our tendency. We commend the initiative of LOM for calling for the conferences and support the work of the conference planning committees; however, the conferences will .be a truly productive effort if they draw together the wide range of opinions existent in our movement. Certainly the current political climate in this country and the offensive by the bourgeoisie against the working class and minorities mandates that we develop greater unity among communist forces. Principled struggle among forces in our tendency could greatly benefit the development of that unity.

We in SCALC look forward to building closer ties with comrades in the tendency; we want to thank those whose analyses have helped us arrive at our beginning critique of the CCIC; and we welcome all comments and criticisms of this letter.

Southern California Local Center/ex-OCIC