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 a West Coast Collective

April 6, 1978

Dear Comrades,

... The Communist Party (M-L) “Unity” initiative and our approach. You raise a criticism of us for “having tactics as process,” for a “vagueness to your tactics.” In this regard, you ask about our attitude towards the CPML initiative and the Committee of Five [predecessor to the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center, led by the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee–ed]. By now you should have received our letter to the CPML. We felt we should try to relate to this development for several reasons:

1) Our policy has been and remains, that insofar as organizations or Parties take steps toward building Marxist-Leninist unity around a generally correct line, we support those efforts; insofar as they sabotage unity, or take steps towards splitting and weakening the communist forces, we oppose them. The CPML declared themselves ready to take certain steps which all Marxist-Leninists would welcome. We declared our support for such an initiative, if it really will do what it says it will.

2) We felt that the CPML initiative would have some effect among other organizations, for example, the Bay Area Communist Union, the August Twenty-Ninth Movement (M-L), I Wor Kuen. Therefore, we view the struggle for unity as not only one with the CPML, but also with those organizations relating to this initiative.

3) We see this and other areas as potential places for establishing a relationship of unity and struggle around major issues like the Three Worlds analysis.

The first two reasons also informed our producing the pamphlet, On the October League’s Call for a New Communist Party: A Response. Because of our few contacts, tiny size and low visibility, we were not able to follow up very well on that pamphlet, but we still hold to its basic analysis of the October League initiative at that time, and as you can see from our letter to the CPML, what we did stands us in good stead this time around.

... We recently had a relatively brief and disappointing discussion with I Wor Kuen.... They are very critical of Two, Three, Many Parties..., which they feel is chauvinist and sectarian, and doesn’t deal with the whole movement. In particular, they object to the idea that the communist forces are relatively isolated from the working class and national movements. This criticism boils down to a criticism of us for not recognizing that while other communist groups (the ATM[M-L], the CPML, etc.) may be isolated, they, the IWK, are not. To us, this is a prime example of subjectivism and sectarianism, and we try to argue that if we look at the basic industrial areas, the Black Belt, the Southwest, etc., we don’t see much communist presence there, but they brush this kind of approach aside. It is really a bit discouraging.

Two, Three, Many Parties... doesn’t deal much with the ATM (M-L) or IWK because we did not consider them prime examples of the ultra-left line (except in ATM’s “revolutionary wing” pronouncements), we certainly didn’t see them as prime examples of anti-“left” opportunist politics either, we wanted to “narrow the target,” and, particularly in IWK’s case, they had put forward very few analyses of the Marxist-Leninist movement, the main danger, party-building, etc. The analyses the IWK has put forward are generally not very good – the characterization of the October League/Communist Party (M-L) as “ultra-right” for example (likewise, the Workers Viewpoint Organization). They get this term from the early criticisms of the “Gang of Four.” We tried to argue that the “Gang” was “left,” but it has been apparent that the IWK does not have any clear conception of “left” or right errors. Now that the Chinese have recently started to describe the “Gang” as “fake Lefts, Real Rights,” we fully expect the CPML and IWK analyses to change, despite their strong statements that the “Gang” could not be seen as “lefts.” This inability or unwillingness to make their own analyses of problems is a very serious weakness. (By the way, we had this meeting and heard once again these criticisms of our not taking into account the IWK’s close ties with the masses following an IWK presentation on the Three Worlds attended by about 50 people, almost all representatives of different Marxist-Leninist groups.)