First Published: IWK Journal, No. 1, August 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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During the past year, there have been numerous rumors regarding the now defunct national Liason Committee. (NLC) composed, of representatives of the Revolutionary Union (RU), the Black Workers Congress (BWC), the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), and, for a time, I Wor Kuen (IWK). Because our organization was a part of this and our role distorted by some parties, this brief explanation has been written to clarify the basis upon which we entered and then left the National Laison Committee.
We recognise that a thorough summation of the NLC cannot take place outside of an analysis and position on party building. As stated earlier in the Introduction [to IWK Journal #1 – EROL], our organization is preparing a paper on our position on party building and a thorough evaluation of the NLC will be contained in that paper.
In this paper we hope to briefly clarify the initial formation and purpose we joined the NLC and the principled political basis upon which we left the NLC.
The NLC was proposed by the PRRWO at the 1972 Congress of the Young Lords Party (where they officially became the PRRWO). The PRRWO proposed that the RU, the BWC, IWK and PRRWO form a National Liason Committee which would undertake the following tasks:
A. Begin to work out joint city strategies;
B. Establish joint city-wide labor schools; and
C. Conduct research together.
The RU then proposed, stating that we should “shoot for the moon,”
A. Summarizations of practice and theory to each central committee on a periodic basis;
B. Joint propaganda towards students, workers and communities;
C. Joint work teams, and
D. Liason persons between organizations to work out contradictions, exchange experiences, etc.
The NLC was then set up on the basis of the combination of suggestions proposed by the PRRWO and the RU and under the general principle that all of our organizations would subordinate our organizations to the overall cause of what was coming into; being – the “new party.”
By January, 1972, we had established a position on the need for the developmental of a multi-national communist party. Although we had severe criticisms of RU’s practice in the Chinese community in San Francisco...our ideological development at that time was not high enough for us to he able to state our criticisms in a clear ideological fashion. Furthermore, we felt that perhaps the differences could be worked out especially because when we raised our criticisms of the RU in the Bay Area Asian movement; we were given the rationale by one of the RU’s top leadership that the RU’s practice in the Bay Area Asian community “had never been consolidated and therefore were not really reflections of the overall RU line but rather the work of individuals.” Although we did not completely accept this rationale, it was on the basis that there was to be hard struggle around ideological and political line and because of our firm commitment to building unity as steps towards building a genuine multi-national communist party that we joined the NLC.
The primary reason for our withdrawal from the NLC was the RU’s unprincipled line and practice. The RU showed they ware not sincere in wanting to engage in a clear principled political struggle, We raised, many questions and differences, with the RU (as our July 11, 1973 letter shows); however, they consistently refused to respond to our political points.
At the same time, that the so-called “comrade” organizations were meeting, the RU also tried to split our organisation and slander it throughout the country. We have recently learned from former leading members of the RU that the RU had adopted a conscious policy to either “smash or absorb” us into their organization. One of their principle instruments in this strategy was to use an Asian organization that was close to the RU – the tactic of using “Asians to fight Asians.”
The result was that instead of a relationship of equality, respect and principled struggle, the NLC descended into bullying, slander and gangsterism. For example, during one NLC meeting our representative was physically held in a city until our representative would state personal agreement with the line on the Black national question as stated in Red Papers 5. Furthermore, ideological struggle was not engaged in openly and honestly. The RU only demanded blind, mechanical following of their organization and when we raised questions of their political line and practice, we met only hostility and derision. To this day the RU has not answered any of our major political questions.
As these contradictions became sharper, we wrote the July letter to the central committees of the other organisations based upon our understanding of their position at that time. These differences revolved around the national question and party building. We did not receive a reply and therefore submitted the August 16, 1973 letter. After there was no response to our second letter, organizational discussions were terminated.
In rereading our letter of July, 1973 from which the following quotes are taken, it is clear that while much of our formulation was not clear or very precise, and in some cases not entirely correct, we feel that, on the whole, it represented a correct and honest response to the RU’s opportunistic line and attempted machinations.
It has been agreed by all parties involved in the NLC that our Organization was the first to raise struggle with the RU, and the first to raise serious and fundamental questions about their political line. It is also true that the PRRWO and BWC for a time accepted the RU line. It is further true that they participated together with the RU in their attempts to split and smash our organization.
In meetings with PRRWO and BWC after they left the NLC, we raised criticisms of their practice in the NLC. They accepted the criticism that they did not attempt to raise principled political struggle with the RU while we were in the NLC, and that they were manipulated by the RU into believing many fabricated lies from the RU leadership about our organisation. (For example, the RU spread the rumor that we had a secret member of the Venceremos organization in our central committee and that we were very close to the Communist League.) It has been agreed upon by the PRRWO, BWC and IWK that principled struggle was made impossible by the RU who used every opportunity to sow distrust and subjectivism among the three organizations.
The BWC and the PRRWO have also withdrawn their criticisms of our organization (made in their “Rebuttal to the RU’s; National Bulletin #13) that they “felt that IWK manifested tendencies towards Bundism (isolation from the American workers’ movement while pushing all Asian concepts)”; and “resisted basing its work on the industrial proletariat and workplace while ...favoring to work more in the community.” The two organizations recognize this criticism was based on no investigation and a misreading of the actual struggle that took place. The BWC and PRRWO have also made self-criticism that their attitude towards our organization was sectarian and incorrect.
In summary, we feel that our organisation joined the NLCC in a spirit of unity, open to working-out differences and trying to build unity in a principled fashion, towards building the new party. While in the NLC we raised many concrete questions and disagreements with the RU but did not struggle hard enough to raise our questions and disagreements to a general and theoretical level. When it became very clear that principled struggle was not possible within the NLC and that from the very beginning the RU had no intention of allowing principled struggle to take place, we left the NLC.
The NLC was set up on that basis although, to our knowledge, almost none of the plans were ever carried out.
At that time our disagreement was over our strategy of building a United Front within the Chinese national minority as an important component of our overall work. ’Community work’ was an important aspect of that united front work. RU, PRRWO and BWC felt that we should concentrate on the workplace whereas we felt that while that was extremely important, to neglect the development of a united front within the oppressed nationalities would be a serious error. But this was not a struggle of a ’working class line’ vs. a ’bundist line,’ but reflected, rather, differences on the national question.
To the Central Committees of the Black Workers Congress, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, and the Revolutionary Union
It has been a year since the formation of the Liason Committees. In the course of this year it has become apparent that certain political questions central to the nature and purpose of the L.C.’s must be clarified. We are writing this letter in the spirit of building further unity between our organisations.
This letter will cover some areas that have been discussed in the National Liason Committee already, and which must be thoroughly clarified resolved in order for the N.L.C. to continue in its present form.
I. The National Question.
II. Party Building
III. Methods of Resolving Differences and Promoting Struggle.
A. The Black Nation
We are still studying and discussing this question and we would like some clarification:
1. Why and in what way is the Black bourgeoisie counter-revolutionary?
2. What is the relationship of the Black bourgeoisie to the monopoly capitalist class?
3. Does the concept of a dispersed nation (a nation without territorial base) lead to emphasizing cultural and psychological factors as the primary factor binding the nation together? (i.e. cultural nationalism?) In what way does it not?
4. How is the right to self-determination of a dispersed proletarian nation practically advanced at this time?
5. In what ways does the position that Black people are a national minority liquidate the National Question for Blacks?
B. Asian National Minorities
We understand the position of the BWC, PRRWO, and RU as expressed in May N.L.C. meeting is as follows:
The Japanese and Filipino national minorities are overwhelmingly petty bourgeois.
The Chinese, although about half are in the working class, since most have either fled the socialist homeland, or come from petty bourgeois backgrounds in Hong Kong or Taiwan, have small potential. Furthermore, there is no strategic value in organising Chinese restaurant and garment workers. This is because most of the garment and restaurant businesses in Chinatown are family-owned, and therefore, economic struggles against the employers do not attack monopoly capital. The strategy for Chinese American communists should be to organize Chinese workers primarily in a multi-national context, in highly socialized industries such as the post office. Even though there may be a very small number of Chinese in these industries, Chinese workers in such industries represent the most highly conscious proletarian elements. Their struggle along with Black, Brown and white workers will “spark” economic and political struggle among garment and restaurant workers.
The; representative from the RU further stated that the difficulty in organising Chinese immigrant workers who did hold citizenship was compounded because they are seeking legal status in this country. He said there was very little potential. His exact words: “How can you organize someone against the State when they are trying to become part of it?”
We disagree with the above stated position on the nature of Chinese-American workers. The idea that most Chinese garment shops and restaurants are family-owned, employing cousins, brothers and sisters is a myth and a stereotype. Chinese restaurant workers who work in Chinatown are almost completely non-unionized, receive usually less than $1.50/hour wages, have no benefits and work an average of 50-60 hour week. Economic exploitation of workers is extremely intense, and no family affair, Chinese garment and restaurant workers have been seeking unionization and have begun to organize together in many ways.
An estimation of the revolutionary role of Chinese workers cannot be made merely upon a superficial: analysis such as “they come mainly from petty bourgeois backgrounds ” and, “they are not overwhelmingly proletarian.” We must take a more dialectical view, and see how the effects of imperialism in Kong Kong and Taiwan, and how class exploitation and national oppression in the U.S. will give rise to revolutionary consciousness and fervor among immigrants. As the contradictions of imperialism intensify, various strata within the working class and petty bourgeois strata as well will see more and more that their class interests are opposed to the monopoly capitalists. To rely solely on the strategic core of the proletariat, and to negate the revolutionary role of the Chinese working sector and Chinese national minority is to fail into mechanical materialism.
The role of socialist China has been a significant factor in the development of a high level of proletarian consciousness among Chinese-speaking workers. This has been a real contribution to the overall revolutionary struggle in America, The mass celebrations of October 1st which are now important events in the struggle, originally were initiated by workers in Chinatown.
We consider the organising of garment and restaurant workers as important. They are not the. strategic core of the proletariat, but they are one of the most exploited sectors of the proletariat. As other Third World workers, they are used as a cheap labor pool by the monopoly capitalists. And, along with other sectors of the working class, such as the unemployed, they comprise an Important part of the proletariat which must be organised.
Furthermore, the organizing of Chinese garment and restaurant workers will have a decisive impact, and will be an inspiration for the Chinese national minority as a whole. And, it will be an important contribution to building working class solidarity.
The fight against national oppression is in the interests of the entire working class, and is certainly one of the leading struggles of the American revolution, it is a matter of principle. The organizing of Chinatown workers is a component part of the Chinese national minority struggle against national oppression. It is a serious error to belittle this political work on the basis of its little “strategic value.”
We feel that the RU’s statement regarding Chinese immigrant workers– “wanting to join the State”–reflects a very superficial understanding. Of course, individual aspirations of immigrants must be understood, and there are definite limitations to involving them in revolutionary or communist, activity when their status and future in this country is not fully clear legally. But, the vast majority of immigrant workers are not trying to become a part of this oppressive, imperialist State, but struggling to achieve equal rights and opportunities in the U.S. The democratic rights of permanent residents and citizens must, be upheld by communists, and the masses must be drawn into political struggle to achieve full rights and equality. The understanding among immigrant workers who are forced into the worst jobs and living, conditions upon entering the U.S. develops rapidly that the State does not protect their interests: as workers or as oppressed national minorities.
[We also stated that we had no basis to state anything about the Japanese and Filipino national minorities.]
At the last N.L.C. meeting, a proposal was put forward by the representatives of the BWC, PRRWO, and RU regarding the role of the N.L.C. in party building. This proposal was first presented at the previous N.L.C, meeting by the representatives of the PRRWO and RU. We understand the proposal to be the following:
That the N.L.C. [itself] should be a center to struggle and consolidate one unified line among the four organizations. The representatives to the N.L.C. should struggle to come to unity on major questions facing the communist movement, Once unity is reached in the N.L.C.; the positions should be brought back and struggled for within the leadership bodies of the respective organizations. The four organizations would be committed to consolidating one line, and to centralized planning on the lower levels (i.e. the local L.C.’s and lower levels of each organization) on the basis of a unified line.
Furthermore, the proposal stated:
That the N.L.C. was the core of the new communist party. The party will come about through a series of mergers of the four organizations.
Other communist forces may join later and merge also. The N.L.C. is a pre-party formation, the formation immediately preceeding the formation of the party itself. The PRRWO said that the N.L.C. should function on the basis of democratic centralism of a “new type” meaning that the minority is not subordinate to the majority, when unanimous decisions are reached they are binding, and the lower levels are subordinate to the higher levels. [The highest level being the meeting of the national representatives of the four organizations.]
The Black Marxist-Leninist organization will be longer in existence than the Marxist-Leninist organizations of the other national minorities. This is because of the existence of a Black nation of the new type. Before merger, the Black M-L organization must have gained influence over and united a significant sector of the Black proletariat. It must have correctly implemented a proletarian line, summed it up, and given leadership to the Black proletariat and national liberation struggle.
The Puerto Rican M-L organization has a longer basis of existence before merger with the multi-national M-L organization than does the Asian M-L organization. This is due to the fact that the Puerto Rican national minority is overwhelmingly working class, while the Asian national minorities are not overwhelmingly working class. The Puerto Rican national minority is much more politically conscious and active than the Asian national minorities.
The proposal also stated that the immediate task of the M-L organisations within the national minorities is to build anti-imperialist national forms to struggle for democratic rights. Once such an organization is built, the M-L organizations within the national minorities can dissolve and merge with the multi-national M-L organization.
The representative from the RU also stated that there is no basis for existence of either a Japanese or Filipino communist organization because these national minorities are overwhelmingly petty bourgeois. And, he stated that there is probably no basis for the existence of an Asian communist organization, although there is a basis for a Chinese communist organization at this time.
We would like to confirm if the above is a correct summation of oar comrade organizations’ positions. Ours is as follows.
We feel that the above summarized proposal is mechanical and does not recognize the political tasks of M-L organizations within the oppressed nationalities, as well as the organizational tasks. The political task of M-L organizations within the national minorities is to develop proletarian line and leadership within the democratic struggle far equality and justice, and to develop the leadership of the working class as a whole.
The question of merger of communist forms of organization and the formation of anti-imperialist forms to lead the struggle of the national minorities cannot be decided merely upon abstract formulae. The question of forms of organization, and their length of existence can only be determined as our line is developed, implemented and tested in the course of mass struggle. When the decision is made, to merge communist forms of organizations, questions must be evaluated such as how will that help advance the struggle of the oppressed nationality, as well as overall working class and communist unity. The decision is based upon a political line, political strategy and objective conditions.
The goal of our organization is to dissolve and merge into either a higher form of organisation or the party itself. We do not think that each M-L organization must have gained political leader ship over the entire working class sector of the national minority, or over the entire national minority before merging into a new form. The exact steps remain to be seen, but we do not agree with the mechanistic projection of series proposed at the N.L.C.
We do not consider the N.L.C. the core of the new party. While it is possible that we are the only pre-party formation in the country, and the body from which the new party will spring, we think that additional testing of our theory and practice within the working class and movements of the oppressed masses is necessary to firmly establish that. It is possible that we will be replaced by more advanced and correct ideas, and organization. To declare ourselves the core of the party and the only pre-party formation and to act upon that assumption at our present level would be an error.
[At this point, our letter raises a number of criticisms we held concerning many specific contradictions which arose over local work. We are not including them because much of it is repetitive and for security reasons. We are including the final section of our letter which refers to the concrete struggle over RU’s line and practice in the Asian movement in the Bay Area.]
The RU is involved in the struggles of the Asian national minorities. We have raised again and again to the RU representatives in the course of the N.L.C. meetings and local meetings certain clear questions. They are:
1. What is the strategy and plans of the RU in its work within the Asian national minorities?
2. What is the strategy of building ACC/WMS [Asian Community Center and Wei Min She] into an “anti-imperialist Asian organization” and how does the RU see the relationship between ACC/WMS and IWK as a communist organization?
We have from the beginning of the meetings been open about our criticisms of ACC/WMS and our perspective on that organization. We have always been open to meeting with them and conducting joint work. This is well known by the RU representative.
The two questions above were raised for principled discussion by us from the very beginning of the meetings and the RU has consistently refused to struggle to answer them. We have never demanded or even suggested to the RU that they either not work among Asian people at all, or that they withdraw from ACC/WMS. Our purpose then and now is to engage in a principled discussion with the RU so as to advance the unity within the Asian movement in particular and the revolutionary movement as a whole. We, therefore, again request from the RU a thorough response to the two above questions.
In summary, because of the serious nature of the N.L.C. and the sharpness of debate currently taking place, we request in writing from our three comrade organisations responses to the questions posed in the above letter:
1. The Black nation;
2. The Asian national minorities;
3. The N.L.C. and party building; and
4. On Methods of resolving differences and promoting struggle.
We look forward to hearing from you by August 3 1973. Please hand your responses to our N.L.C. representative.
I Wor Kuen
July 11, 1973
* * *
To the Central Committees of the Black Workers Congress, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization and the Revolutionary Union
We understand from the PRRWO representative that all three of your organizations will not reply to our July letter in writing because of security reasons. We cannot accept this explanation because prior to this time, minutes have been prepared and kept in writing. Therefore, to argue that to put anything in writing would endanger security is not understandable to us. We would still like written responses to our questions and positions. However, because we want to resolve this situation, if representatives of your organizations Central Committees would like to meet with us about our July letter, please notify ____________.
Furthermore, the reason why we place such importance in a thorough clarification of your organizations’ positions on these questions in because we cannot participate in something whose basis of unity is so unclear, We are very anxious to clarify and arrive at unity on those questions raised in our July letter. Until that time, we are suspending our participation in the local LC’s, and all its subordinate work-teams and commissions. In _______(city) the local LC has been functioning on the basis of positions that we are not in agreement with. For example, we do not agree that the N.L.C. is the core of the party, or that it should operate on democratic centralism of a new type. Our position on these questions were presented to you in our July letter. We hope that we can still meet together on a local level on the basis of local conditions to coordinate and develop our work in the interests of building the unity of the working class, developing the overall working class movement, and building an anti-imperialist movement.
We hope that we can clarify the situation as soon as possible.
IWK Central Committee
August 6, 1973