Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

I Wor Kuen

Opportunism in the Asian Movement – Wei Min She/Revolutionary Union

2. History of WMS


The disastrous effect on the national movements of the RU line on the national question can be seen more concretely if we examine Wei Min She, an organization the RU helped to build from its beginning. The RU’s fundamental right opportunism on the national question led it to unite with some of the most backward political elements in the Asian movement in opposition to a developing revolutionary tendency in the Asian struggle.

The trend with which the RU united was a right opportunist trend in the Asian movement, which in the Bay Area crystallized into WMS. The other trend consisted of the Red Guard Party (RGP) and other revolutionary elements which eventually came together to form IWK in San Francisco and other Marxist-Leninist organizations in the Asian movement.

Let us cover a brief history of the relations between these two tendencies.

An extremely significant political development took place in the late sixties in the national struggles – the break with social reformism and the call for revolution. This did not spring up overnight but emerged only through sharp struggle within the national movements. Within the Asian movement, IWK in New York and other forces comprised the tendency that wanted to make a sharp break with social reformism and social pacificism. This tendency stood openly and staunchly for the need for revolution to solve the contradictions of capitalist society, and that revolutionary minded individuals and organizations should integrate themselves with the masses, transform their thinking and promote revolution. This tendency was composed of revolutionary individuals from a variety of backgrounds: working class, petty bourgeois, student youth, working class youth and intellectuals. All had been profoundly inspired by the revolutionary example of the Black Panther Party and national liberation fighters in Asia.

In San Francisco this tendency had to fight tooth and nail against the tendency which concilliated with social reformism and soon became Wei Min She. In the late 1960’s this tendency maintained that the masses were too “backward” and “ignorant” and that one had to first “prove” oneself to the masses by becoming a professional or gain some “respectable” title before one openly promoted politics.

The class basis of this tendency was the petty bourgeoisie which recognized the hopelessness of their own future situation and tried to unite with the rising revolutionary forces and at the same time hold on to their old class thinking. The WMS tendency was composed exclusively of U.C. Berkeley students who came from the increasingly depressed petty bourgeoisie of the Chinese community.

The revolutionary tendency and the rightist tendency were two fundamentally different outlooks and stands and came into constant clash over the years over practically each and every issue of the revolutionary movement.

Some of the first differences arose over the two central issues of the day in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s: the Vietnam War and the Black Panther Party. The revolutionary tendency adopted a position of full support for the Vietnamese freedom fighters. This stand was expressed by actively organizing the Chinese community to demonstrate its solidarity with the Vietnamese people and uniting with all progressive forces opposing the war. The revolutionary tendency brought demonstrations, leaflets and other educational materials to the predominantly working class community of Chinatown. In opposition to this forthright stand was the WMS tendency which staunchly opposed the raising of any political issues including the war in the community. They maintained that the masses were “too backward” to be concerned about the war.

This was the same attitude the WMS tendency took toward the Chinese community to justify their refusal to openly support the Panthers. The opportunists said that Chinese were too racist to support the Panthers, and therefore they refused to agitate and propagandize around the revolutionary significance of the Black Panther Party.

The two lines also clashed over the question of the People’s Republic of China. The revolutionary tendency in 1969 led by the Red Guard Party (RGP) tried to unite with other forces to sponsor an open rally in Chinatown to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the May 4th movement in China, a great anti-imperialist movement which directly preceded the formation of the Chinese Communist Party. The RGP wanted to take the unprecedented step of unfurling China’s five star red flag and playing revolutionary music, but they were opposed by the WMS tendency, composed exclusively of a certain section of Berkeley students (other students united with the RGP), who wished only to raise the issue of Sun Yat-sen and patriotism to the Chinese nation and then openly condemned the RGP in a local newspaper for their stand. And again several months later in October 1970 these same tendencies clashed over the issue of celebrating the anniversary of China’s 1949 liberation. The RGP held that it should be celebrated openly in the community, while the WMS tendency opposed an open celebration. While perhaps seemingly small issues, these differences represented a central struggle in the Asian movement, for the Chinese community had long been terrorized by the Chiang Kai-shek fascists. The bold way in which the RGP brought out the issues of the Chinese revolution pioneered the contemporary left movement in the Chinese community, which had been brutally suppressed since the McCarthy days.[1]

These differences over particular practical problems, although they were not raised to general theoretical levels, were very serious differences none the less. In that crucial period, the contradiction between the tendency wholeheartedly standing for revolution versus concilliating with social reformism was a very real and central one. It is absolutely wrong to excuse WMS’s errors for being Just those of immaturity, for while the errors lacked a high level of theoretical Justification at that time, their consistently right opportunist approach to politics objectively represented a right opportunist deviation. Furthermore as the struggle continued WMS began to invent all sorts of justifications for their backwardness (the masses are backward) and finally culminated in adopting the RU’s rightist “theory”. What we are pointing out is the actual consistency of WMS’s rightism and the RU’s rightism.

There was also sharp struggle over many community issues as well. One of these concerned the construction of a new Holiday Inn tourist hotel on city land that should have been devoted to public housing for the overcrowded Chinese community. The revolutionary forces attempted to develop a broad campaign to demand the construction of such housing and raised the issue of big business and government collusion. The WMS tendency stood in active opposition to this position, tailing behind the community government social welfare agents who channeled the mass discontent into legal maneuvering to “ensure” that the new hotel would hire Chinese workers. (This demand of course was perfectly acceptable for the Holiday Inn corporation which wanted to hire Chinese as maids, doormen, porters, etc. to lend “atmosphere” to their Chinatown branch.)

During this time, two political developments occurred which would alter the form of the struggle. The first was that opportunist elements in the RU (which have since become the dominant force in the RU) hooked up with the existing WMS rightist tendency. Under the direct influence of the RU, the rightist tendency organizationally consolidated within WMS with an RU member in a leading position. The RU, thus, has been instrumental in the development of the WMS line and was responsible for providing a “theoretical” justification for WMS’s rightism (more on this later).[2]

The other development was the coming together of many forces in the revolutionary tendency in San Francisco. Members of the Red Guard Party and other revolutionary forces in the San Francisco Bay Area joined together to form a new organization (which was unnamed). This new organization, after discussion and struggle, decided to merge with IWK. While IWK at that time was not yet a Marxist-Leninist organization and did not understand the need for a proletarian party, the merger was an important step in the further revolutionizing of the national struggle of Asians in the U.S.

Before these two major developments, the contradiction between the two tendencies sharply existed in many different mass organizations such as the Asian Community Center, Asian Draft Help and student organizations and so forth. The organizational consolidation of the two tendencies concretized the two line struggle between the WMS/RU on the one hand and IWK and other forces on the other. Thus, for the next five years the struggle in the Asian movement between reform and revolution in large part became concentrated in the struggle between WMS and IWK.


Let us look briefly at the practical history of the relationship between the two organizations. This will show that the struggle between the two tendencies was a continuation of the struggle in the previous stage and in fact continues to this day.

One of the first major clashes between the two organizations occurred in 1971 over the question of the celebration of October 1st, the anniversary of China’s liberation. IWK, along with other forces sponsored a Bay-Area wide celebration that included educational material on the developments of socialism in China. WMS, however, withdrew from the coalition and wrote: “The movement in America as a whole has not been doing mass work. We have not as a whole immersed ourselves in the every day life of the people in our communities... In our analysis we found that the general level of political consciousness among the people is low, and therefore it is necessary to start at a low point...”[3]

Their principal error was not that they had a. faulty evaluation of the level of mass political consciousness (although this was a serious error) but rather that they based themselves on a subjective and idealist one-sided analysis, on a fundamentally incorrect way of looking at the relation between the mass and revolutionary movement. According to their view, the revolutionaries should limit their activities because of the “backwardness” of the masses, rather than take up the task of finding ways to disseminate in a mass way fundamental political ideas, such as the existence of socialism in China.

This promotion of right opportunism came out even more clearly the following year when a struggle arose around saving the International Hotel, a building providing low income housing for the Chinese and Filipino communities and for the right of all people to have decent, low cost housing. This demand was put forward by IWK and other left forces among the masses. In opposition to this stand, WMS wrote: “At present, it is not possible to mobilize the masses in this issue. The mobilization or even education of the people in Chinatown could only be done on the basis of theoretical generalities, not on the basis of a concrete threat to themselves”. WMS then advanced the idea that we all should rely on government social welfare agencies and professionals to put pressure on the owners of the International Hotel and prevent eviction.[4]

The political difference here goes beyond the immediate issue of the International Hotel but hits at the basically incorrect stand towards the masses held by WMS/RU and all right opportunism. According to the opportunists, the masses are backward and are interested only in those issues that are “concrete threats” to themselves. The importance of political stand and consciousness is pushed into the background by the excuse that politics is too “theoretical”.

Even on the basic issues such as police harassment, WMS refused to take an open stand against the local police. In late 1972, a key figure in the developing Chinatown left movement, Harry Wong, a newsvendor who sold openly on the streets, literature from China and progressive literature from the U.S., was repeatly harassed and beaten by hired Kuomintang thugs and police. Finally the local police arrested him one evening, beating and choking him on the street. Harry Wong was charged not just with misdemeanors but with felony charges as well.

Immediately, a broad movement arose to defend Harry Wong, but was boycotted by WMS. In their view, protesting the police and political repression was “too left”. In spite of WMS’s non-support, the defense of Harry Wong was successful and he was soon back on the streets promoting revolutionary literature.

Later that same year other struggles arose in which WMS had the opportunity to again express their rightism. In mid-1972, the Bay Area Asian Coalition Against the War (BAACAW) formed to try to unite the Asian communities to contribute to the anti-war movement. This was an extremely important mass organization that held as one of its principles the support for the Provisional Revolutionary Government’s 7-Point Peace Proposal. However, WMS believed that the concepts of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, the 7-Point Peace Proposal and imperialism were too “abstract” for the people of Chinatown. They maintained that the movement should focus on how the war is “economically” affecting people.

At the same time, however, within the movement and among students, they had no reservations about discussing imperialism and national liberation. It is here we begin to see one of the characteristics of RU work being expressed through WMS, namely this “two-level” approach – reformist, economist or no politics for the masses, and reserving politics for the so-called revolutionaries and intellectuals. This two-level approach became a very convenient way to maintain right opportunism and at the same time believe one is revolutionary.

This opportunist two-level approach (in contradiction to the dialectical method of the mass line, of linking the communist and the mass movement) became explicit in the 1973 and 1974 October 1st celebrations in which RU/WMS raised to a level of principle, their refusal to bring political ideas to the masses. In their view, the friendship with China, movement was to be reduced to one actually little different than the U.S. government-sponsored attempt to “better” relations with China. For example, the RU/WMS opposed the discussion of socialism and the Chinese Communist Party, two major facets of contemporary People’s China. RU/WMS claimed that the masses should only be exposed to such things as the culture and daily life in China. Any political content was to be limited to the “higher level event”.

Thus in practice the RU/WMS actually tries to prevent communists from linking with the masses. The mass event according to them should be sponsored mainly by “non-political” groups, such as churches and community groups and the communists should stay away or at least hide their principles. The right opportunism of WMS actually resulted in staging events with the representatives from Alioto’s and Reagan’s offices as the key attraction. On the other hand, communists should devote most of their attention to an “anti-imperialist” event where political ideas could be presented.

At first glance, the RU/WMS two-level approach may seem to be different from their approach to political propaganda and agitation in the past, but it is actually a logical and consistent development of their right opportunism. With regards to the mass movement, WMS has not changed one bit. The ideas they promote among the masses are backward and advance no one’s thinking. The only thing that has changed is their creation of their “higher” level to create some credibility in the revolutionary movement.

As a final example, we wish to discuss a very recent political struggle in order to show that WMS/RU to this day continues to manifest right opportunism.

This Journal contains a more complete paper analyzing the Jung Sai garment workers strike [not included here–EROL] and the WMS/RU line on the trade unions and workers movement. In this paper, however, we point out that WMS/RU’s rightism in the workers movement manifests itself in their economism – of making the economic issues the sole or at least principal basis for their political work. They approach the working class from the standpoint that the working class is interested only in its immediate economic interests, and thus everything is reduced to a question of the pocketbook. This is exactly the same idea as advanced years ago by WMS – that the masses can only be mobilized on the basis of a “concrete threat” to themselves; and “concrete threat” defined in the most narrow way.

On the one hand they liquidated the importance of the national question in this garment workers issue. The Jung Sai strike is not just one more strike in the general workers movement, but a strike that developed out of not only the class exploitation but also the national oppression of Chinese laboring people in the U.S. WMS eliminated this aspect for they maintained that the “common aspect or common denominator” should be emphasized, (i.e. the “economic aspect”, as if understanding and fighting against national oppression is not in the interests of the working class).

On the other hand, because WMS maintains that the working class need only focus on its economic interests, it therefore mistakes the consciousness and militancy arising from the economic struggle and spontaneous issues for revolutionary socialist consciousness and activity. Thus during the Jung Sai strike, WMS, as external strike supporters, reduced themselves to the level of just being “militant trade unionists” fanning up the issue rather than being communist organizers. They did everything they could to prevent the development of conscious political unity and action, of the Jung Sai workers.


Thus, in conclusion, while the form of WMS’s rightism has changed, its essential backward nature has remained consistent. It started out openly-social reformist and refused to take the open stand of revolution. Then as it became more tied to the RU, it developed a more sophisticated cover for its rightism – the two-level approach: one line for the masses and another to cover themselves in the revolutionary movement. And finally, they then adopted the RU’s economist conception of building a revolutionary workers movement, liquidated the national question and bowing in worship to spontaneity.

On the part of the RU, they deliberately allied themselves with the reformist tendency in the Asian movement in opposition to the tendency that openly stood for revolution. WMS and the RU were united on the issue of stifling and trying to smash the revolutionary tendency and this has become consolidated now in the RU’s theoretical and practical liquidation of the national question.

Any glance at recent Revolutions (RU’s organ) shows how much the RU tries to push WMS as a good example of its work in the national movements. But the RU promotion of WMS is really a reflection of the desperation and isolation of the RU, for an examination of WMS’s “Reactionary Line” article reveals just how unprincipled it is. If the RU thinks WMS is an example of its “good” work, its bad work must be pretty bad.

But it would be wrong to believe that the RU/WMS alliance is only a marriage of convenience, because in fact the two have established conscious political unity. The next section of this paper covers the political differences that we have with WMS’s “Reactionary Line”, political differences which also hit at the essence of the RU’s right opportunism.

We would like to focus the rest of this paper on presenting some observations on the political line of WMS which has jelled around the rightism of RU. We hope WMS will take up these political points in a serious way, and stop covering themselves by lies, quoting out of context and twisted logic.

We will discuss:
1) How WMS’s fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of imperialism results in their liquidation of the national question internationally and in the U.S.;
2) How WMS bases itself on vulgar materialism and commits economist errors; and
3) How WMS as an example of an RU “anti-imperialist” organization has held back the development of revolutionary consciousness and attempts to liquidate the revolutionary essence of the national question.

The source of WMS’s rightism comes from its fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of imperialism. Their inability to grasp the basic characteristics of the era in which we live is extremely serious and decisive to comprehending why they are so wrong.

Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism remains the greatest and most comprehensive work on imperialism. It contains profound revolutionary lessons, for Lenin lays bare the basic laws and features of imperialism. Let us briefly review some of them which will help in understanding WMS’s deviation.

Lenin clearly differentiated the era of capitalism from the era of monopoly capitalism, or imperialism:

Capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites... Economically, the main thing in this process is the displacement of capitalist free competition by capitalist monopoly. (Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Foreign Language Press, Peking, page 104)

He goes on and presents “five essential features” of this new stage, this highest stage of capitalism. He says imperialism in characterized by:

...1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; 3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquirer exceptional importance; 4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world among themselves, and 5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. (Lenin, Imperialism, page 106)

For the purposes of this article, let us focus on just one of these five features: the export of capital.

The export of capital became one of the characteristics of imperialism because the accumulation of capital reached “gigantic proportions”; the monopolists collect a “superabundance of capital”.(Lenin, Imperialism, page 73). But this capital can never be used for the benefit of the working masses in the capitalist countries; but rather it will be used for the “purpose of increasing profits by exporting capital abroad to the backward countries” (Lenin, Imperialism, page 73).

And why is imperialism attracted to such places? Lenin states: “In these backward countries profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, wages are low, raw materials are cheap.” (Lenin, Imperialism, page 73) Capital exports are not limited to the underdeveloped countries of the world of course, but investment in other capitalist countries also takes place, leading to intensified imperialist competition.

Has U.S. imperialism avoided the feature of capital exportation? It of course, has not because it could not. Lenin in Imperialism written in 19l6 already noted the tremendous amount of U.S. capital that had been exported. Contemporary studies only confirm Lenin’s great teaching on imperialism. It is noted that U.S. capital investment abroad was valued at $7.5 billion in 1929; in 1950 it was $11.8 billion and by 1966 it was 5 times greater, or $54.6 billion “with an additional $32 billion in other forms of private holdings” (Gabriel Kolko, Roots of American Foreign Policy, page 14).

What is the result of such capital export? It results in incredible profits. It results in the even further accumulation of capital. It results in “parasitism”, in “exploiting the labour of several overseas countries and colonies”. The era of imperialism is characterized by a world ”divided into a handful of usurer states and a vast majority of debtor states”. (Lenin, Imperialism, page 120 & 121)

However it is not the “debtor states” that are dependent on the “usurer states” but the usurer states are dependent on the “debtor states”. For example, in 1961, 44 of the one hundred top industrial corporations in the U.S. were “dependent on their overseas branches for sales and profits”.(Kolko, Roots, page 77)

How does Lenin characterize this phenomenon? He describes this tremendous collection of profits as the creation of “enormous superprofits”. They are super profit- because “they are obtained over and above the profits which capitalists squeeze out of the workers of their “own country”. (Lenin, Imperialism, page 9)

All this Lenin presents quite clearly in Imperialism, and we see that it is a guide to understanding contemporary U.S. imperialism. And yet WMS base themselves on the following view of imperialism:

In the last couple of years, we have seen U.S. imperialism on the decline. The rise of national liberation movements in the underdeveloped and oppressed nations have been kicking U.S. imperialism out of their countries. Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asian, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America have cut off the ability of U.S. companies to make superprofits. (from “What is Wei Min She” in “Reactionary Line”, our emphasis)

U.S. imperialism is certainly finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its world position. This is undoubtedly true. The bourgeoisie has admitted this. But can we go so far as to say that U.S. imperialism is no longer making superprofits, that it can no longer superexploit? Is the conclusion to be drawn here that we have “imperialism of a new type” an imperialism that is no longer imperialism? Or perhaps the conclusion to be drawn is that the Third World countries are no longer superexploited and therefore no longer oppressed countries but are (now imperialist countries) on a par with the U.S.

U.S. imperialism is in a serious economic crisis, a crisis brought on because of the inherent contradictions in the capitalist system. One of these contradictions is that imperialism must conquer by fire and sword, or with sugar coated bullets, other countries, nations, and peoples to expand and maximize profits. This inexorable law leads to antagonistic conflicts with other imperialist and capitalist countries on the one hand and oppressed countries and peoples on the other. Imperialism must superexploit in order to exist. Superexploitation is a decisive economic aspect of national oppression.

More than any other U.S. president, Nixon distinguished himself with his zeal to maintain and further extend neocolonialism, to carry out expansion, and to plunder and exploit the national riches of the developing countries. Under his rule, capital flowed faster than ever outside the borders of the U.S.A. (Albania Today, Number 5, 1975 page 64)

What is the consequence of the WMS assertion that U.S. imperialism has lost its ability to superexploit with regards to the international situation? The result is a tremendous miscomprehension and underestimation of the profound revolutionary struggles taking place in the Third World. The millions upon millions of oppressed people have been moved to oppose imperialism. The struggles of the Third World in fact are the main motive force today in the struggle against imperialism. We have already seen 70 years of great anti-imperialist movements in the world, but by no means has the revolutionary potential of the oppressed peoples been exhausted. It is only beginning to be felt. The battle against superpower hegemony, colonialism and neo-colonialism and so on – all aspects of imperialism and national oppression – is far from over; although clearly the main trend in the world today is revolution.

The Third World countries’ struggle against imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism in the economic sphere is unfolding extensively. However, imperialism, the superpowers in particular will never take their defeat lying down. Habitually living on the fat of the land belonging to others, they will not lightly give this up. Now only a prelude, the struggle in the economic field is bound to be long and arduous.– The Third World countries are summing up their experience and reinforcing their struggle. They are forging ahead victoriously. (“Earth Shaking Struggle”, Peking Review, Number 1, 1975 page 25, emphasis added)


[1] The RGP, the Black Panther Party, and the Young Lords Party and similar forces in the national struggles made serious errors but they were errors that must be judged within the context of their unflinching dedication to the people and revolution and their very difficult fight to break with bourgeois reformism. The overwhelmingly dominant aspect of them was positive. Please see here for a reprint from Getting Together newspaper on the history of the RGP.

[2] WMS is currently trying to dismiss its early period by saying that they were just a "reformist organization" (Los Angeles Forum at the Long March, early in 1975) in the past but that it has transformed. While we certainly agree that WMS was reformist, we also point out that they pawned this reformism off as revolutionary politics. WMS from their earliest days as students at U.C. Berkeley has always claimed to be "revolutionary" and the leading left organization in the Asian move¬ment. The leading members have from the beginning considered themselves to be revolutionaries. And thus we point out that because WMS never really criticized and got to the roots of their rightism, they have only continued their right op¬portunism and have never broken with their past. Today their right opportunism only comes under a new cover - the cover of the RU's "theory".

[3] The entire statement is appended at the end of this paper (appendix #1).

[4] The entire statement is appended at the end of this paper (appendix #2).