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

Section III: Introduction

The last three documents concern the perspectives of the Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist) (WC), an organization which emerged in the 1975 four-way split of the Black Workers Congress (BWC). The Proletarian Unity League submitted the first article here, “Rectification: For What and Against What?,” to The Communist, newspaper of the Workers Congress, and also circulated it separately in a mimeographed version. The WC agreed to print it but did not: The Communist never appeared again. During the rectification campaign referred to in the article, a large number of WC members began to see the systematic character of the WC’s mistakes over many years, and they identified those mistakes as deriving from an overall “left” opportunist line. The Workers Congress had been founded on a particularly well-articulated set of ultra-left assumptions, and the organization proved unable to withstand the severe strains involved in a fundamental re-examination and rejection of those assumptions.

In a roundabout reference both to the origins of the Workers Congress and to the possible outcome of their rectification effort, the PUL article states that, “Those who believe splits in given organizations are unavoidable have to bear that responsibility before the people and answer for their actions.” The policies guiding the Workers Congress were chiefly responsible for the disintegration of the Black Workers Congress, at one time the most significant communist organization within the Black national movement. Both the WC and the Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee justified their split with the BWC through elaborate ultra-left critiques of the BWC’s supposed reformism. Once the WC had reversed its appraisal of the respective dangers posed by “left” and right deviations, the responsibility for the fate of the BWC was an especially heavy burden to bear. The struggle within the Workers Congress concentrated in its last stages on the policy and practice of the WC in the national revolutionary movements, and particularly in the Black movement.

We have included a much earlier exchange between the PUL and the WC dating from the fall and winter of 1976-77. The exchange is interesting for the highly revealing way that the WC attacks a PUL statement about the Soviet Union (see the commentary on this issue in the opening essay to this book). Since the WC has now split apart, we have taken the liberty of printing their letter, which they did not wish published at the time.

The fate of the Workers Congress must be added to that of literally scores of communist groups, both large and small, destroyed by the illusions of ultra-leftism on the one hand and the inhospitable political climate of the US on the other. Ultra-leftism ate away at the Workers Congress, and by the time its membership recognized that fact, the malady had apparently spread too far. Those remaining organizations who have yet to realize how dangerous this ultra-leftist condition is have no time to lose. They should take note of the political convulsions that the struggle against “left” opportunism has brought to the CPML, to the people that now make up the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters, and to the WC. The longer they wait, the longer they kid themselves, the more they risk.