Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Boston and Tucson Theoretical Review Editorial Boards

The White Chauvinism Campaign and the Crisis of the Fusion Line

First Published: Communist Correspondence, An Internal Bulletin of Primacy of Theory Forces, No. 1, December 4, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Editor’s Note: The following is the complete text of an article submitted to the Guardian by the Boston and Tucson Theoretical Review Editorial Boards.

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The speed and thoroughness with which the white chauvinism campaign, launched by the leadership of the OCIC has sent this once significant grouping into a sudden decline has taken many communists by surprise. What has occurred can only be understood if it is seen in the context of the crisis of the fusion line, on building a new communist party. The white chauvinism campaign is but the most recent and most extreme manifestation of this crisis; put another way, the crisis of fusion provided the context for the rise of the white chauvinism campaign.

Consequently, to correctly analyze the white chauvinism campaign and its negative impact, it is necessary to first describe the crisis in the fusion line. Fusion set itself a two-fold task: first, to guide local Marxist-Leninist organizations in the practice in the workers’ movement, and, second, to unite Marxist-Leninists on a national scale in a party building process. The crisis of fusion has manifested itself in the failure of both these undertakings. With the possible exception of Philadelphia, fusion has proven itself incapable of furnishing the theory, politics, strategy and tactics necessary to transform the spontaneous workers’ struggles into a conscious movement (within the limits of the present conjuncture) or even recruit significant numbers of workers. Local groups have been floundering for years, showing that the short gestation period which fusion confidently predicted for its “embryonic communist current” in the working class has proven to be illusory.

As a party building line fusion has also demonstrated its deficiency. It has been unable to successfully combine the local mass work which it so highly values with the requirements of a national party building process, and its theoretical and political practice have failed to significantly deepen and advance the struggle against revisionism and dogmatism, against left and right errors. This second aspect of the crisis of the fusion line has been reflected in the OCIC where the fusion groups were a majority and its line was established according to their perspective. Within the OCIC the crisis has manifested itself in a number of ways. Organizationally, the OCIC set itself the goal of uniting the entire anti-revisionist, anti-“left” opportunist tendency in a single process, but after some initial successes, it proved unable to draw in significant organized and unaffiliated forces, particularly minority Marxist-Leninists. Politically, the OCIC always claimed to be the leading force in the tendency, but in practice it repeatedly refused to take up key political questions such as party building line, or systematically deepen the vague and superficial analyses of racism, sexism and other issues contained in the 18 points of unity.

The combination of these contradictions was exacerbated by a number of new features which were added to this picture over the last year. Local groups belonging to the OCIC found themselves unable to either fuse with the workers’ movement or to coherently take up party building in the absence of an articulated party building line. As a result, they began to split, disintegrate and dissolve. At the same time the fusion directed strategy and practice of the OCIC came under increasing attack, both internally and externally: from the newly formed Rectification movement, from adherents of the “primacy of theory” party building line, and from dissident fusionists. When the Rectification movement refused to join the OCIC the pretense that it unified the entire tendency could no longer be maintained.

The leaders of the OCIC, who were at the same time leaders of local fusion organizations, were in a quandary. The crisis was out in the open for all to see. Leninism seemed to require that they frankly admit the failure of the fusion line and the OCIC attempt at tendency-wide unity as they had practiced it. But such a course was not followed. Instead the OCIC leadership responded with a strong counter-offensive; the first features of which were made clear at the OCIC Labor Day Conference in 1979. These features included the fostering of a seige mentality within the OCIC, organized race-baiting, and the increased restriction of internal democracy, all coupled with the increased resort to organizational means as a way of handling political differences.

These features were consolidated in the OCIC’s “struggle against federationism”. In name this struggle was developed to combat localism (small circle spirit) and lay the basis for the subordination of the local organizations to the national party building process. In practice, however, it merely represented the leadership’s attempt to substitute itself for the national, tendency-wide process, and to bureaucratically force local-organizations to subordinate themselves to the leadership line, without any political basis for such subordination having been established.

The “struggle against federationism” was closely followed by the campaign against white chauvinism. Once again the OCIC confronts a very serious problem of our movement. Historically we have remained isolated from national minority struggles; the struggle against racism has been grossly neglected both inside and outside the communist movement. Our tendency remains predominantly white and petty bourgeois. But this recognition of the problem is the only positive aspect of the OCIC campaign. Beyond that it serves only as a negative model, an incorrect line and method of struggle against which we must develop a qualitatively different approach. As with fusion’s other solutions to the problems of our movement, the campaign against white chauvinism cannot be the basis for a genuine struggle against racism.

This latest campaign was launched without any theoretical or political preparation of the OCIC cadre. Instead it was initiated at OCIC regional conferences by suspending the agenda after comrades had arrived, resulting in political confusion and ideological chaos. Overall, the serious errors of the campaign may be summed up as follows:

1) It deflects the center of attention from the leadership and its mistakes to the rank and file of the OCIC. The white chauvinism campaign blames the lack of success of the fusion line not on the failure of the fusion leadership to provide a solid foundation for communist practice, but upon the essential racism of the majority of white OCIC members. Virtually all errors are reduced to white chauvinism, whereas in reality, they are rooted in numerous deviations, not the least of which is the erroneous fusion line itself.

2) It deflects the center of attention from the political line of the OCIC to inter-racial relations within the OCIC. Proponents of the white chauvinism campaign argue that any attempt to talk about such issues as party building line, the OCIC strategy, sexist practices, and even the leadership’s line and practice on how to combat white chauvinism in the OCIC is an effort to divert the struggle against racism, and is itself racist.

3) It separates the struggle against white chauvinism within the communist movement from the struggle against racism and white chauvinism in capitalist society, and in fact, liquidates the latter struggle. The campaign against white chauvinism in the BCIC is put forward in a vacuum. There are no concrete proposals for deepening the struggle against the racism of capitalist society which is the ultimate source of the white chauvinism in the communist movement.

4) It deflects attention from the serious political and ideological problems of white chauvinism in the communist movement and in the OCIC to the racist ideas in the heads of individual OCIC members. There has been no serious discussion of the theoretical and political requirements of a campaign against white chauvinism or the correct methods of conducting such a struggle within a communist organization. Instead, free rein has been given to subjectivism, unsubstantiated speculation, crude psychological “mind-reading,” and verbal abuse (“sharp struggle”), all to the purpose of isolating cadre, breaking them down, and robbing them of their dignity, self-respect and political integrity. The campaign has demanded demeaning and debasing self-criticisms of an almost pathological quality. Women cadre have been a special object of this campaign, particularly after PWOC defined feminism as racist.

5) It derails the struggle against sexism by strictly subordinating it to the struggle against racism, regardless of objective conditions. The OCIC leadership views any discussion of sexism as a calculated diversion, born of white chauvinist refusal to grasp the importance of the anti-racist struggle. In fact, the fusionists condemn all feminism as racist for not “recognizing” that sexual oppression is secondary to racial oppression, thereby liquidating any struggle against sexism because of feminism’s failure to target sufficiently target racism.

6) It labels as racist any opposition to the OCIC strategy and leadership, and to the white chauvinism campaign itself. For the OCIC leadership, the purpose of ideological struggle is not, and has never been, to work out differences toward a higher level of unity, but rather to defeat all opposition, to isolate and discredit all those who would challenge the leadership’s hegemony.

7) It represents a fundamental departure from Leninist standards of criticism/self-criticism and appropriate norms for struggle within a communist organization. This was always a problem in the New Communist Movement, one which many communists hoped would be corrected so that struggle could be conducted on a principled basis within our own tendency. Unfortunately, the OCIC leadership has chosen to ignore the lessons of history in this regard.

8) It has become a backhanded and undeclared struggle against the tailist mass practice of local fusion organizations in which the failure to raise communist politics in mass struggles has been blamed on the racist ideology and anti-working class prejudices of fusion cadre rather than on the political poverty and disdain for theory of the fusion leadership. In some cases this has led to a left turn in the mass work of fusion groups, and only a hasty self-criticism from the OCIC leadership prevented some fusion forces from carrying the campaign against white chauvinism – complete with the slogan: “break the white chauvinist conspiracy” – into the shops and community struggles.

To legitimise its own campaign the OCIC leadership has consciously modeled its own practice after the struggle waged against white chauvinism in the Communist Party, USA in the 1949-1953 period. However, the OCIC conveniently ignores the negative assessment of that campaign made by virtually every tendency within the Communist Party at that time. William Z. Foster summed it up with words that could equally apply to the present OCIC campaign. It was, he said, left sectarian in character, and isolated from the masses, “a caricature of the fight against white chauvinism,” which weakened rather than strengthened the ability of the party to conduct the struggle correctly and, at the same time, win minorities to Marxism-Leninism.

This conscious imitation of the left sectarian errors of the Communist Party, USA should alert us to two things. First, it points out the danger of uncritically accepting the pre-1956 legacy of world and US communism, which both the OCIC and the Rectification forces fall prey to. More importantly it demonstrates, in the violent convulsions of the OCIC as it increasingly degenerates into dogmatism, how shallow our break with the tradition of the New Communist Movement has been.

The campaign against white chauvinism is the culmination of the fusion line and the OCIC’s inability to deal with the difficulties of building a genuine communist party. While the campaign has emphasised the need to seriously take up the struggle against racism, it has done so in a manner which will only make any real effort in this direction more difficult. Anti-revisionist, anti-dogmatist communists should take the degeneration of fusion forces and the OCIC as a warning sign of the fragility of our movement. While not committing the same errors regarding the struggle against racism, the positions and practices of the Rectification forces also show a failure to break with the same dogmatist legacy. This sobering reality once again points out the imperative need for our movement to make an ever more conscious break with revisionism and dogmatism if we are to forge a genuine communist party in the United States.