First Published: IWK Journal, No. 3, January 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The October League’s (OL) recent declaration that the immediate organizational formation of the party is the central task of the communist movement is a further step in the wrong direction of OL’s consistent and consolidated right error on the question of party building. According to the OL, “the development of objective and subjective factors for party building have ripened” (Call, August, 1975, p. 11), making the immediate organizational formation of the party possible.
According to the OL,
The objective factors include the deepening of the present crisis in capitalism in which all of the basic contradictions in the system are coming to the forefront and bringing thousands of revolutionary-minded workers and oppressed people to Marxism-Leninism. Furthermore, the growing threat of war on the part of the imperialists as well as the increasing fascist threat serve as a warning the present period of pre-party organizations cannot adequately serve the people’s complex and difficult struggle which lies ahead. (Call, August, 1975, p. 11)
The “qualitatively new” subjective conditions are due, according to the OL, to the “great advances in the ideological struggle within the communist movement against revisionism and all other forms of opportunism . . . Through the struggle against revisionism, and in our work during this pre-party period, consolidated opportunist trends have “been exposed and driven from the ranks of this young movement—aliens to Marxism-Leninism. This fight against national chauvinism, Trotskyism, anarchism, syndicalism and ultra-’leftism’ in general, has strengthened the movement and set the stage for the organizational formation of the new party. (Call, August, 1975, p. 11)
OL’s position on party building makes serious ideological and political deviations. These deviations include the failure to recognize that struggle for a correct ideological and political line lies at the heart of party building. The OL has belittled the role of conscious struggle in the development of unity among communist forces. It has come out in the shallowness and vagueness of their political line and theoretical work. And it has also come out in their confusion and lack of scientific application of Marxism-Leninism in practice.
Looking at their past position in their 1973 pamphlet on party building in the U.S., their position is reflected in their one-sided emphasis of the unity that develops through immediate day-to-day struggles and their dependency upon the spontaneous movement in building unity among communists.
A real Communist Party can only develop in the course of struggle. It is here we, as well as the masses, learn to distinguish between what people SAY and what they DO. In recent months, we have seen more and more examples of communist groups playing a leading role in the workers’ movement; leading strikes; and building united-front demonstrations against the government’s policies of war and fascism. The increased level of this kind of work has made a higher level of unity among the communists possible.
To help forge unity, as much practical cooperation as possible between the different groups should be encouraged. As they, begin to develop unity in the course of practical work, organizational unity will become more of a reality. They must consult and work jointly in the united front and factory work whenever possible. This includes work among, the multi-national as well as the national groups. This kind of cooperation is necessary because of the absence of one center. (OL, Party Building in the U.S., spring, 1973, p. l4, emphasis added)
These passages as well as OL’s declaration of “qualitatively new” objective conditions calling for the party bear some similarities to the RU’s party building position. These similarities are shown in OL’s and RU’s advocacy of Marxist-Leninist unity arising primarily from Joint practical work, and from seeing the need for the party arising out of new objective conditions. Instead of seeing that the changing objective conditions call for increased struggle for the correct ideological, political and organizational line to forge principled unity of communists, OL concludes that communist forces must merge into one organization now to avoid being smashed and reserve existing points of struggle over ideological and political line for later.
While we certainly hold joint work of communists as important as one way we come to know one another and struggle in concrete situations, we do not hold that practical work in and of itself makes a higher level of unity among communists possible. The OL’s view leads to the position that the more Joint “fanning of the flames” there is, the closer we will be to the party. In contrast, we put forward that the objective conditions have called for and have been “ripe” for a new party since the degeneration of the CPUSA to revisionism, and that the struggle to build the party is a struggle in the conscious realm, and cannot be built only or even mainly in practical work or in superficial organizational unity such as the OL advocates.
Corresponding to their rightist, tailist view of party building around the aspect of “qualitatively new” objective conditions is their conception of a party which can more efficiently coordinate the mass movement. For example, in a San Francisco Bay Area Forum in 1974, an OL spokesman spoke on party building, mainly stressing the importance and necessity for us to have a party to coordinate things better and to have a greater division of labor. This corresponds with OL’s stress that people should Join the OL because they are a nation-wide organization, are larger, and have numerically more people of various nationalities rather than placing as primary the ideological and political line. This reflects OL’s emphasis on placing the expediency of forming a party now above the forging of a unified correct line. Of course, a large, disciplined multi-national organization is necessary, and the organizational union of communists will represent a qualitative step forward in the proletarian revolution in this country. But the basis of this unity and discipline must be unity around ideological and political line. Chairman Mao teaches us that ”the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything.” (Mao Tsetung, Documents of Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, p. 17) Again, it is OL’s belittling of this struggle for correct line which is our fundamental criticism of OL’s past and present party building position.
In addition to putting forward the new objective conditions to form the party and their rightist conception of the role of the party, OL has also drawn erroneous conclusions regarding the “new subjective conditions” upon which they base their present position. OL says that opportunist trends have been “driven from the ranks” of the communist movement, and that sufficiently clear lines of demarcation have been drawn between genuine Marxist-Leninists and opportunist elements and that the OL has played a leading role in this development. This testifies to their subjectivist and erroneous analysis of the developments of the communist movement and their assessment of their own role and their own line. How does the OL draw the lines of demarcation? By such examples as incorrectly proclaiming that the main danger in the communist movement today is ultra-leftism, as represented in OL’s view by the Revolutionary Union (RU), now called the Revolutionary Communist Party. Such an analysis fails to see the essence of the RU’s right opportunism, of their descendence to the role of militant trade unionists, of their belittling the role of communists among the masses, of their failure to bring communist ideas to the masses, and of their refusal to struggle in a principled way for a correct line to unite Marxist-Leninists. Instead, OL bases their claim of the “ultra-left danger” on the observation that communists are isolated from the masses. Without analyzing the political reasons for the weaknesses of communists in making political ties with the masses, OL formulates such superficial and misleading statements as:
In the United States, there were several splits from the CPUSA whose objectives were the reconstruction of the Communist Party along revolutionary lines. So far, none of these groups have succeeded. Several of them have degenerated into ultra-leftist sects and have died a quiet death. Several others have begun to root themselves among the masses and are leading some important struggles within the working class movement. (OL, Party Building in the U.S., p. 6)
The OL puts forth the view that ultra-leftism is in contrast to “rooting yourself among the masses” and “leading some important struggles.” This superficial, inaccurate and seriously distorted understanding of what ultra-leftism really is covers OL’s own rightism in their theory and practice and in their incorrectly putting forward that “ultra-leftism” is combatted by rooting oneself among the masses. Ultra-leftism is not corrected by simply “rooting oneself among the masses,” but by struggling for a correct ideological and political line. Neither is right opportunism, which is the essence of the RU’s erroneous line, corrected through such a process of doing “better” mass work divorced from rooting out erroneous tendencies and consciously correcting their political line through struggle. OL’s view diverts attention away from the central aspect of line, which is what determines what is “left” or right and whether or not one will be able to really sink roots among the masses and correctly lead struggles.
OL’s view of the RU and the “left” danger seriously distorts the actual needs of the communist movement today to intensify struggle for a correct line and to draw clear lines of demarcation with opportunism which still exists among new communist forces, and genuine Marxist-Leninists. OL only promotes confusion and an attitude that further struggle to clarify the line for the movement is nothing but a sign of “sectarianism.” OL’s belittling of the struggle for correct ideological and political line has led to their failure to demarcate themselves from the RU, one of the more clearly exposed opportunist forces in the new communist movement. OL’s position regards the intensifying line struggle which we all see taking place today as unnecessary, and arrogantly negates the increasing importance of intensifying the struggle at a time when the rest of the communist movement is still shouldering these responsibilities to unite Marxist-Leninists to form the new communist party on a firm, clear and principled basis.
In struggling against the OL’s incorrect line on party building, we uphold that line struggle must take place around the correct application of MLMTT to the concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and not in the abstract. We uphold that the objective of struggle is to forge unity, towards organizational unity, in the communist movement. But the struggle for a correct ideological and political ine must remain at center stage in order to unite and because we must unite organizationally at the earliest possible time.
We feel that this new development in OL’s line marks another step in a wrong direction, a step that they are already implementing through their plan to turn the Call into a foundation for their party. We have numerous disagreements with the OL and wish to intensify struggle with them. We believe, however, that this new development in OL’s line and implementation will make this more difficult.