Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

What Went Wrong?

Articles and letters on the U.S. communist Left in the 1970’s

Edited and introduced by Charles Sarkis

Proletarian Unity League

A Letter to The Call

We were happy to see Comrade Carl Davidson’s article on the recent two-line struggle within and around the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC) (The Call, July 2, 1979). We wanted to raise a few issues in this connection.

First, we simply want to confirm completely Comrade Davidson’s account of “what really happened” on the recent joint delegation of six US Marxist-Leninist organizations to China, of which we were a part. On the trip, the Communist Party of China did not hint at intervening in the internal affairs of the US revolution. The CPC maintained a rigorous equality in its relation with members of the delegation and contributed mightily to an atmosphere of “ease of mind” among the component organizations which unfortunately had until then largely escaped all of us back here.

Anyone in the least bit concerned with the facts, anyone honestly motivated by the least desire for truth, anyone not intent upon mounting a slanderous frame-up of the CPC regardless of all evidence could never charge, as the PWOC does so freely, that the CPC dispenses “franchises” in the international communist movement. Comrade Davidson rightly cites the differences on this issue that emerged openly in the Albanian attacks on China.

Consider the testimony of Raul Marco, the leader of the Communist Party of Spain (M-L), a fervent supporter of the Albanian position: “It suffices to skim the magazine Peking Review to see that the new opportunists maintain ’close and friendly’ relations with four or five groups in Italy... they do the same in Germany, in Portugal, in Greece, in Belgium, in France, in Latin America, in Japan, in Iran, etc., etc.”

Second, some background is necessary on the lopsided 15-to-l majority vote Comrade Davidson mentions. To join the OC, you could not disagree with (though you did not necessarily have to agree with) the proposition that US imperialism constitutes the single main enemy of the world’s peoples. (This point of unity dates from the very beginning of the OCIC effort, not from a later period, as Comrade Davidson incorrectly stated.) For this reason, we could not enter the OCIC.

Some organizations in the OCIC, however, came to adopt the view that two main enemies exist – US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism. Once they did so, they lost their votes in the regional conferences. It was a catch-22 situation – once you disagreed with the Steering Committee’s international line, you could not vote in disagreement.

Further, the Steering Committee controlled accreditation, and the groups that opposed the single main enemy position were barred from membership on the Steering Committee. This resulted in a West Coast conference where many pro-Point 18 individuals representing no group were given voting privileges, while long-time member organizations of the OCIC back East had none.

So in that regional conference, the first of three, the majority position on point 18 got a vote larger than the total votes of the other two regional conferences combined. This despite the fact that none of the original Committee of Five organizations and none of the minority organizations are located on the West Coast! The two superpowers position would have been beaten pretty easily anyway, but it is significant that the OCIC leadership went in for such tactics, and now crows about their 15-to-l majority vote.

Third, we wondered why Comrade Davidson passed up the opportunity to comment on the direction from which the main danger to the communist movement has come – right or “left.” For four or five years now, the CPML and the OL (M-L) before it has said that the main danger came from right opportunism and right revisionism. It is significant, we think, that much of the recent evolution in the CPML line – on whether the CPML already constitutes the vanguard of the working class, as your Constitution says; on whether the communist movement is “relatively isolated” from the workers’ and national revolutionary movements; on trade union line; on electoral work – goes in an anti-“left,” Marxist-Leninist direction. We support this evolution and look forward to the CPML making further contributions to the building of a unified, multinational Marxist-Leninist party.

The question of the main danger is relevant to the fight against the centrist line on international matters itself. The true centrist line has attracted many sincere Marxist-Leninists by wrapping itself in “anti-dogmatist” and later, anti-“left” opportunist phraseology. Those sincere Marxist-Leninists are reacting to something in the Marxist-Leninist movement – to a deviation that we think comes from the “left,” and has expressed itself in the “left” revisionism of the RCP, MLOC, PRRWO, etc., but also in the “left” opportunist errors on the part of genuine Marxist-Leninist organizations.

Comrades who think that the main danger to the communist movement comes from the right, who think that the RCP was dominated by a right opportunist line, who in the past have labeled any talk of the main danger coming from the “left” as centrism, or who until recently have ridiculed the idea that the Gang of Four pursued an ultra-left (and not an “ultra-right”) line – those comrades are going to have a harder time reaching the honest centrist-leaning comrades.

There has also been a tendency among those who support the three worlds thesis simply to denounce “anti-dogmatists” as “centrists” from afar, pursue no relations of unity and struggle with them, and let it go at that. We can’t say that we have been fantastically successful in winning honest Marxist-Leninists away from the centrist international line. But questions concerning the “left” line in our movement and relations towards people who do lean in a centrist direction are going to remain important.

With the stepped-up Soviet offensive, the racist Vietnam government’s occupation of Kampuchea, and the various Cuban adventures, the centrist line is not going to go away. Marxist-Leninists still remain within the OCIC. All of us who do believe in the three worlds thesis need to make arduous efforts to help our peoples understand the true features of the Soviet Union. In this regard, major organizations who want to combat the centrist line, like the CPML and the LRS(M-L), should also try to sum up their past approaches to the OCIC effort and the results they achieved.

Finally, Comrade Davidson refers to the sharp polemics which have taken place between ourselves and the PWOC. A partial record of these polemics can be found in our pamphlets: The Ultra-Left Danger and How to Fight It; Party-Building and the Main Danger: An Exchange between the Proletarian Unity League and the Committee of Five; and On the ’Progressive Role’ of the Soviet Union and Other Dogmas. We and other Marxist-Leninist organizations hope to publish a few remaining speeches and papers. We hope that the Liberator bookstores and other CPML-influenced bookstores will begin making available these publications.

With communist greetings,
Executive (Central) Committee
Proletarian Unity League