Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Paul Costello

Enver Hoxha and the Crisis of Anti-Revisionism


First Published: Theoretical Review, No. 10, May-June 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Enver Hoxha, Imperialism and the Revolution, available in Proletarian Internationalism, Vol. 1, No. 2 (February 1979), published by COUSML.


“The crisis of Marxism” – this is a phrase which we have often used in the Theoretical Review. The crisis of modern revisionism is a similar phrase which has enjoyed a certain popularity in communist circles – it is used by anti-revisionists in polemics against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its supporters throughout the world, and in polemics against the Euro-communists and their followers.

Yet, with the publication of Hoxha’s book, Imperialism and the Revolution, we are sharply confronted with a fundamental crisis in an unexpected place: within the camp which until now held high the banner of Mao Tsetung thought. And not only that, we are seeing the attack being waged against Mao Tsetung thought led by China’s staunchest former ally in the struggle against modern revisionism – the Party of Labor of Albania.

When we say unexpected, we are not ignoring Enver Hoxha’s report to the Seventh Congress of the Party of Labor of Albania nor the Zeri i popullit editorial, “The Theory and Practice of Revolution.” For, even though these documents demonstrated Albania’s disagreements with the “theory of three worlds,” there was hardly any indication in them that the Albanians, who had always insisted that “the name and work of Comrade Mao Tsetung are immortal,”[1] would all too soon be declaring that Mao had never been a Marxist-Leninist.

Yet, Enver Hoxha’s new book does precisely that. First published in April 1978 for distribution only within the Party of Labor of Albania, the Albanians made the text available in English early in 1979 after China ended all military and economic aid to Albania in July of the previous year.

Today, the international anti-revisionist movement is being torn by a significant crisis which goes beyond the China-Albania rift. For even in the China of Hua and Deng, “Mao Tsetung thought” and the legacy of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution are not being treated as unquestionable truth. One is tempted to draw an historical parallel to the treatment of Stalin at Khruschev’s hands.

But such historical parallels are always suspect and we will make this comparison only in one respect: in its effect on those trying to orient themselves theoretically and politically to the changes resulting from the death of two important figures in world communism.[2] Louis Althusser, noting the phenomenon of “de-Stalinization,” has remarked that those who wanted to blame Stalin for all the “disappointments, mistakes and disarray” of our movement were disconcerted to find that the end of Stalinian dogmatism did not by itself restore Marxist theory and revolutionary practice in all its integrity.

In fact, the end of Stalinian dogmatism, in Althusser’s words, only

restored to us . . . the right to assess exactly what we have; to give both our wealth and our poverty their true names, to think and pose our problems in the open, and to undertake, in rigor, a true investigation.[3]

The communist movement is once again at the crossroads. Two paths lie before us. We, too, have the opportunity of laying the blame for all our problems and failures on the doorstep of the Chinese communist party and Mao Tsetung. Or, on the contrary, we can begin the difficult process of frankly and openly trying to assess exactly where we are, what we have, and how we can go forward. Unfortunately, Enver Hoxha has taken the former option. It is necessary to examine the most important elements of his polemic and its significance for our own movement.

In Imperialism and the Revolution, Enver Hoxha raises some important questions about Mao and the Chinese Cultural revolution, questions that have long been buried under uncritical acclaim for the Chinese revolution. But he raises these questions in the framework of what we will show is a stultified and mechanical dogmatism that leaves his answers far short of Marxist-Leninist critique.

A Static Conception of Theory

Hoxha’s primary asset is his repeated call to remember the class struggle. Over and over we are reminded that the struggle between the proletariat and its allies, on the one hand, and the bourgeoisie and its allies, on the other, is a ruthless and merciless battle between irreconcilable classes. Unfortunately, Hoxha relies exclusively on the classics of “Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin” to advance this understanding. He makes no reference to advances in Marxist-Leninist theory since the 20’s and 30’s. Lenin and Stalin are Hoxha’s constant reference, not for theoretical insights that help clarify a specific point, but rather for slogans that dovetail into his own sloganeering rhetoric. Hoxha even goes so far as to claim that “... nothing in Lenin’s analysis and conclusions on the nature and features of imperialism and the revolution can be altered.”[4] Theory in this book is presented, not as a living science in a constant process of expansion and revitalization, but as a static block of literature to be reviewed in search of the appropriate quote. The lessons of how Marx and Lenin arrived at their conclusions are not of concern to comrade Hoxha. Nowhere is there a new concept, or a reference to an innovation or refinement on someone else’s part. Lenin and Stalin said it all; we only need to apply their truths to the present situation.

And even worse, popular concepts and usage in Lenin’s Imperialism (“A popular outline”) are held up as the last word in theory. For example, Hoxha makes much of the point that the imperialist epoch is “the eve of the proletarian revolution.” In a broad ideological sense, this is correct, it was explicitly true in Russia in 1916 on the eve of the Russian revolution. But such a formulation provides no theoretical insights into the conjunctural character of imperialism today. It is more an expression of hope and confidence than a scientific analysis of a concrete situation. Hoxha follows this by quoting Lenin again:

Imperialism is a specific historical stage of capitalism. . . . [It] is 1) monopoly capitalism; 2) parasitic or decaying capitalism; 3) moribund capitalism.[5]

This is followed by several paragraphs reiterating how capitalism is now monopoly, parasitic, decaying, and moribund. With the exception of monopoly, these terms are hardly scientific, and all the empirical data in the world cannot make them into the theoretical or rigorous concepts that we need to examine contemporary imperialism.

Hoxha follows this popularization of Lenin’s Imperialism with an equally popular generalization of the general crisis of capitalism, drawing the following conclusion:

It is precisely this situation of the present general crisis of capitalism, the trend of which is to become steadily deeper, that makes us draw the conclusion that the revolutionary situation has already enveloped or is in the process of enveloping the majority of capitalist and revisionist countries, and hence, that this situation has placed the revolution on the order of the day.[6]

The voluntarism that pervades this statement epitomizes Hoxha’s general outlook. How is this statement voluntarist? Specifically, Hoxha confuses a broad and general concept with a specific one.

The concept of the general crisis of capitalism is not a conjunctural concept, but is a concept that treats the entire historical period of the decline of capitalism. Hoxha draws from this general concept the specific conjunctural and tactical conclusions that revolution is on the order of the day in the majority of the capitalist and revisionist countries. To view the world in its present state, one is hard pressed to penetrate the dream world that paints a picture of inevitable revolution just around the corner. In such a view, there is no conception of a conjunctural analysis that recognizes the place of national revolutionary struggles, such as in Iran, in a capitalist world that maintains relative stability.

Strategy and tactics must be based on a concrete analysis of the specific conjuncture, not of the long-term trend. An historical trend towards revolution does not imply that at any one time we are in a revolutionary period. Hoxha reduces a general historical tendency to a voluntarist conception of the conjuncture that dictates specific communist tactics – revolutionary action. He produces no conjunctural analysis of the balance of class forces internationally and nationally, but rather replaces such an analysis with his subjective desires, pious wishes, and left phrases. Hoxha attempts to give his pious wishes credence by quoting some of Lenin’s writings immediately after the revolution, but he takes Lenin out of context.

In this case, it is an erroneous emphasis of certain misconceptions by the Bolshevik leaders concerning the character of the world revolution that provide the basis for voluntarism on the part of many revolutionaries today, and not just Hoxha.

For several years, Lenin and the majority of the Bolsheviks saw revolution in Europe following closely on the heels of the Russian revolution. Ideological polemics emphasized the need to push for the world-wide socialist revolution, and even pointed out that the Russian revolution relied on the European revolutions for its survival. But, in the wake of the bloody defeat of the European revolutions, there was a need to reanalyze the theoretical conceptions that had held sway earlier. The world revolution was not to be immediately forthcoming, and the Soviets had to change their strategy. Unfortunately, Hoxha relies on the earlier conceptions of the impending collapse of imperialism to build his own notions of the character of imperialism today.

The Inevitable Collapse of Capitalism – A Myth

Many revolutionaries have fallen victim to the thesis that capitalism is rotten and decaying in such a way that it will inevitably collapse. This thesis had prominence in the Second International and led to a complacency that gave rise to Bernstein’s theories and the defeat of the European workers parties.

Lucio Colletti, referring to the notions of the inevitable breakdown of capitalism prominent in the early 1900’s, says that “the way in which Marx’s own theory was expounded in the Marxism of that period transformed what Marx himself had declared a historical tendency into an ’inevitable law of nature’.”[7]

A scientific analysis requires that we recognize that there is nothing inevitable about the collapse of capitalism from the weight of its own contradictions. The careful use of an analogy from nature can give us a more concrete example of what is involved. A large tree can develop a rotten cavity at its base and still survive, and even grow taller and bigger for many years. Such cavities can be filled with concrete, and as long as the life-giving connection is maintained between the roots and the branches and leaves, the tree can live on and maintain a stable life cycle. Likewise, capitalism can decay and rot, and witness all sorts of decadence, corruption, national revolutions, and crises and not simply “inevitably” collapse. The possibility does exist to topple the system, but such is not of what inevitabilities are made.

The incredible state intervention exemplified by the New Deal and Keynsian economics of the 1930’s documents only a part of what is possible to salvage capitalism in crisis. Capitalism can be defeated by the organized struggle of the working class, but this struggle is always conducted within definite structural and conjunctural limits, limits which Hoxha ignores.

The success of the socialist revolution requires immense effort and a scientific strategy, as well as a socialist consciousness gripping the masses, all of which work to smash the system. To say that capitalism will inevitably fall implies that we can wait for its collapse. To say that we can defeat the capitalists with the proper conditions and proper preparations is not to say that we will defeat them because we want to, or because “it is just.”

Critique of the Theory of the Three Worlds

But, in spite of the errors cited and expanded upon above, Hoxha does provide us with a clear indictment of the “theory of the three worlds.” He clearly targets the class collaboration of this non-Marxist theory. In critiquing the “theory of the three worlds,” Hoxha states that this theory ”. . . judges countries and peoples according to bourgeois geo-political concepts and the level of their economic development.”[8] A basis is laid to understand that the working class is the motive force in history. This is counterposed to the theories of the Chinese revisionists who “... are trying to present the ’third world’ as the ’great motive force which is driving the wheel of history forward’.”[9] Hoxha continues:

The Chinese leadership takes no account of the fact that in the “third world” there are oppressed and oppressors, the proletariat . . . and the capitalists. ... To fail to point out this class situation in the so-called third world ... is to revise Marxism-Leninism and defend capitalism.[10]

But, as was pointed out over a year ago in the Theoretical Review[11], Hoxha’s critique of the “theory of the three worlds” is inconsistent. By holding that the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union has elevated it to one of “two superpowers,” Hoxha simply substitutes one non-Marxist notion for another. There has been and can be no class definition of a “superpower.” This ideological notion diverts any real attempts to analyze the class character of a society and holds back scientific knowledge. Hoxha relies on other ideological phrases, such as “social imperialism,” a term utilized by Lenin to make specific points for agitational and propaganda purposes, as rigorous scientific concepts. Without elaborating what this term concretely means in terms of Marxist political economy, without elucidating its implications for the relations and means of production, we are called on to accept it as a description of the Soviet Union. In addition to his unsubstantiated use of certain terms, Hoxha intersperses quotes from Lenin with an outline summary of Lenin’s own “popular outline.” This is not the Marxist-Leninist practice of theory. It is rather a crude mechanical attempt to force today’s reality into Lenin’s conclusions, conclusions which were based on years of analysis and theoretical production, and analysis of “the current moment.”

The basic premise of the “theory of the three worlds” is the theory of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. While Hoxha rejects the “theory of the three worlds,” he continues to uphold the thesis of the capitalist restoration.

Hoxha basically presents the theory of capitalist restoration as the result, not of the social and class contradictions in the Soviet social formation under Stalin, but of an ideological and political campaign directed against the Soviet Union by foreign imperialism and its internal agents. This is nothing more than bourgeois conspiracy theory disguised in Marxist-Leninist phraseology. Hoxha’s simplistic presentation of this complex issue should open the eyes of all honest Marxist-Leninists to seriously reconsider conclusions about capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union that have long been taken for granted in our movement.

Further, Hoxha has no conception, outside of Lenin’s popular summary, of the world imperialist system as it exists today, and the hierarchy it imposes on various countries, nor of the internal developments of specific countries. He reduces the complex class struggle in Angola to the maneuverings of two “different imperialist states.”[12] And, though Hoxha does recognize the imperialist aims of France and Morocco in Zaire, he does so, again, by linking all the external forces, including China and its aid to the reactionary Mobutu, while failing to analyze the internal contradictions that made the external aspects operative.

Hoxha takes a clear step forward from Mao in critiquing the non-Marxist character of the “theory of the three worlds,” but he does so in a mechanical and dogmatic manner, and ends up attributing all of its errors to Mao.

Even if Mao did not elaborate the extreme class collaborationist manifestations of the “theory of the three worlds,” like the “united front with U.S. imperialism,” he did not openly and actively argue against this non-Marxist theory. Mao is not above criticism, as so many in the anti-revisionist communist movement have been want to acknowledge. But a thorough critique of Mao has nothing in common with vulgar denunciations.

An Undialectical Critique of Mao

The most controversial of all the issues raised by Hoxha is his critique of the Chinese cultural revolution and of Mao himself. Though it is absolutely vital that Marxist-Leninists begin to realistically assess Mao’s contributions, and especially the cultural revolution, such an assessment must be first and foremost dialectical. Hoxha fails abysmally at such an endeavor. He states flatly that,

. . . Mao Tsetung was not a Marxist-Leninist, that his views are eclectic. This is apparent in all Mao’s “theoretical works” which, although camouflaged with ”revolutionary” phraseology and slogans, cannot conceal the fact that “Mao Tsetung thought” has nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism. ([13]; our emphasis)

Hoxha even states that,

. . . the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was neither a revolution, nor great, nor cultural, and in particular, not in the least proletarian. It was a palace putsch on an all-China scale for the liquidation of a handful of reactionaries who had seized power.[14]

Such statements are the undialectical opposite of the uncritical adulation with which the Albanians previously, and the U.S. anti-revisionist movement generally, has approached both Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Neither treatment offers a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this important and complex revolutionary figure and event. A dialectical analysis will address Mao’s strengths and weaknesses, and the positive and negative aspects of the Cultural Revolution. The beginnings of this all-sided analysis can be found in Charles Bettelheim’s China Since Mao (see the review of this book in Theoretical Review, #9). A thorough analysis of Mao’s work will surely raise other significant errors. But, for all of this, Mao’s theoretical contributions, especially his conception of class struggle and the transition period, his understanding of dialectics, his conception of intra-party struggle, and in leading the revolution in a predominantly peasant nation, have, and will continue to have, significant impact on communist theory and practice. Mao’s contribution to the understanding of the role of class struggle in the socialist transition period, alone, affords him acclaim as a Marxist theoretician of importance. This understanding was encapsulated in the challenge to “never forget the class struggle.”

Finally, Hoxha’s explanation of why the Albanians never publicly criticized China or Mao before this, even though they had serious reservations about Chinese policy, is weak and unconvincing. To say that the Albanians really didn’t know what was going on in China is hard to believe, given the close relations between the two parties and states for so many years.

Conception of the Party

But an even more serious step backward from Mao than Hoxha’s conception of dialectics is his conception of the party. Quoting Stalin, Hoxha states that “... the communist party is the monolithic party of the proletariat. ...” ([15]; emphasis in the original)

Hoxha’s misconceptions of dialectics are quite crucial at this point. Lenin spoke of contradiction being primary over unity as the essence of dialectics. Yet, with the ideas Hoxha puts forward, we are led to believe that the communist party does not reflect internal contradictions. Hoxha even goes so far as to claim that it is anti-Leninist to “permit the existence of many lines, of opposing trends in the communist party....” ([16]; our emphasis) This thesis dovetails nicely with the dogmatist conception of theory that the correct Marxist-Leninist line is laid down once and for all, and that debate can only proceed on its application.

Charles Bettelheim, in his second volume of Class Struggles in the USSR, provides a clear critique of the conception of the monolithic party, the conception of the primacy of unity over contradiction in the party. Bettelheim draws on the contributions of Mao, who recognized the necessary and inevitable two-line struggle within the party as a reflection of the class struggle going on in the broader society. Bettelheim says,

The thesis of the primacy of unity over contradiction is “rightist-leftist” in character. Depending on the conjuncture of the class struggle, it functions either as a “conciliatory” thesis providing a “basis” for renunciation of struggle, especially inside the Party (in the name of unity at any price), or, as was the case at the end of the 1920’s, as a thesis providing a “basis” for sectarianism, for “ruthless struggle” (in the name of a unity which seems preservable only by excluding all contradiction). . . . The second . . . implies a negation of the diversity of contradiction, and of their universality.[17]

Bettelheim points out that if the “monolithic principle” is carried to its logical conclusion, “the Party deprives itself of the means of uniting the broad masses, because it is led to reject, in practice, the principle of democratic centralism.” This is because democratic centralism presupposes “that different ideas can be centralized after being examined and critically discussed.”[18]

But this is not the only place where Hoxha, relying on Stalin, advances anti-Leninist conceptions. Earlier in his arguments, the comment is made that the Albanian communists have acted “... for the interests of our country and the revolution, contrary to which we have never acted, and never will do so.” ([19]; our emphasis) This is a particularly categorical proclamation and contradicts Lenin explicitly. Lenin said that when new situations are being addressed, especially where no practical experience is available, mistakes are inevitable. He was clear that in such cases mistakes must be made in order to progress. Lenin further has stated that recognizing errors and working to rectify them is a communist principle. To say that the Albanian party has never acted contrary to the interests of the revolution is to effectively deny that the Party has ever made errors, and is to elevate dishonesty and conceit to a Marxist-Leninist principle in the place of truth and modesty.

Lessons of a Negative Example

What are the lessons of this critique of Imperialism and the Revolution for U.S. anti-dogmatist, anti-revisionist communist forces? First and foremost, this book exposes once again the crisis in Marxism. Indeed, the complexities of this crisis are quite obvious in Hoxha’s work. As one of the last defenders of Stalinian “orthodoxy,” Hoxha’s correct defense of the clear role of the class struggle as a critique of the “theory of the three worlds,” combined with his undialectical approach to Mao and the cultural revolution, expose a complex and contradictory problematic that provides some key lessons for the nascent U.S. anti-dogmatist, anti-revisionist communist forces in our struggle to demarcate ourselves from the dogmatists and apologists of the U.S. anti-revisionist forces.

We can see in Hoxha’s work the manifestations of a further split in the anti-revisionist forces, unfortunately a split that doesn’t break with dogmatism, but further consolidates this backward trend.

As we discussed earlier, Althusser has pointed to two approaches to the recognition of the evaporation of the myth of Stalin’s infallibility. One approach blames all the problems on Stalin, and dogmatically returns to Marxist-Leninist theory before Stalin. This is Hoxha’s approach to the revisionist seizure of power in China; he blames all the errors and problems on Mao. This is a totally incorrect approach.

The correct approach independently launches a true investigation into the current state of our movement and its theoretical/political basis. By recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, we can come to grips with the work that immediately faces us, the work that must be undertaken to lay the basis for future work. Such an investigation is crucial for anti-dogmatist, anti-revisionist communist forces at this time.

The New Communist Movement in the USA and the Current Crisis

Here in the United States, the same ideological conceptions which Hoxha employs in his new book have also made their appearance.

1) Pro-Chinese and pro-Albanian groups alike have united to proclaim 1979 “the year of Stalin.” This cult celebration is proceeding as an unabashed exercise in hero-worship – a form of ideological practice which has a long history in bourgeois thought.

2) As with Hoxha, the cult of Stalin functions in the new communist movement to gloss over the real historical/political problems of Soviet history and the history of the communist movement as well. In a eulogy to Stalin, the leader of the newly formed Communist Party USA (M-L) had this profound analysis of the events following Stalin’s death:

In life, pressure was brought to bear against Stalin both from within and without the Soviet Union. After his death, the forces from within were assisted from the outside and managed to seize control of the Party and the State.[20]

3) Like Hoxha, many in the new communist movement confuse the long-term trends in capitalism with an analysis of the present moment or conjuncture. In other words, they fail to distinguish between the long-term historical trend of revolution and the short-term ebbs and flows of the class struggle in different countries.

In assessing the balance of class forces in the United States, these groups interpret capitalism’s historical decline to directly mean a decline in U.S. capitalism here and now, and a corresponding revolutionary situation. The press of the new communist movement, particularly the pro-Albanian groups, is filled with talk of the ripening of objective conditions for revolution and the “growing” resistance and struggle of the masses.

4) Perhaps most welcome of all of Hoxha’s criticisms of Mao Tsetung thought, to some U.S. new communist groups, is his polemic against the concept of two-line struggle in the party. Although Mao’s views on the necessity of two-line struggle and his insistence that the bourgeoisie existed “right inside the party” were well-known in this country, they were never given the attention they merited.

The new communist movement has always looked for its organizational practice to Stalin’s conception of the monolithic party; and the rigid and oppressive bureaucratic centralist organizations which resulted have carried even that incorrect conception to its logical (illogical) extreme. Is it any wonder that Hoxha’s defense of the monolithic party has won a warm reception in some quarters?

All the ideological elements noted above borrow in one way or another from previous and contemporary Chinese and Albanian analyses and views. In one sense, then, their existence in the new communist movement is the legacy of flunkyism and the reliance which that movement demonstrated by its borrowing from the ideological arsenal of the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labor of Albania.

But to only see the problem as one of flunkyism would be an error, because it is possible for the new communist movement to make a resolute break with unquestioning reliance on a foreign party and still not rectify its theoretical and political practice. The best proof of this is the Progressive Labor Party, whose break with China in the early 1970’s did not prevent their continued degeneration.

The ultimate source of the new communist movement’s theoretical and political bankruptcy is the same crisis out of which the flunkyism of the movement developed. We are referring, of course, to the crisis of Marxism which has gripped the communist movement since the 1930’s. A crisis in which Marxism failed to maintain itself and grow as a revolutionary, creative theory, strengthened in the struggle against hostile bourgeois ideology, and through its organic link to revolutionary political practice.

The theory and practice of Stalin, Mao, Hoxha, and even our own efforts, are all a product of the crisis of Marxism and the quest for a way out of the crisis. Hoxha’s book and its supporters deny the existence of the crisis and reject the idea that the communist movement will go forward only when it liberates our theory and practice from the shackles of history and the dogmatist straightjacket in which those like Hoxha seek to confine us.

Between ourselves and them there exists a wide gulf; they seek to drag our movement back to some mystical point in time: “the golden age of world communism under Stalin.” We, on the contrary, insist that we go forward, building on the past, but on guard against its errors. Time, further study and analysis, and ultimately the political practice of party building will determine the correctness of the path we have chosen.


[1] Albania Today, November 1977.

[2]We are not attempting here an overall comparison of Stalin to Mao. The beginnings of our analysis of Stalin are to be found in the two-part review of Bettelheim’s work, Class Struggles in the USSR, Second Period: 1923-1930, in Theoretical Review, #8 and #9. Our overall analysis of Mao has yet to be written.

[3] Althusser, Louis, For Marx, Pantheon, 1969, New York, p. 30.

[4] Hoxha, Enver, Imperialism and the Revolution, Proletarian Internationalism, Vol. 1, No. 2 (February, 1979), p. 37.

[5] Ibid., p. 35.

[6] Ibid., pp. 43 and 44.

[7] Colletti, Lucio, From Rousseau to Lenin, Monthly Review, 1974, New York, p. 54.

[8] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 71.

[9] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 72.

[10] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 72.

[11] “The Albanian Critique of the Theory of the ’Three Worlds’,” Theoretical Review, Vol. 1, No. 3.

[12] Hoxha, op.

[13] Hoxha, op.

[14] Hoxha, op.

[15] Hoxha, op.

[16] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 57. cit., p. 108. cit., p. 107. cit., p. 109. cit., p. 85.

[17] Bettelheim, Charles, Class Struggles in the USSR, Second Period: 1923-1930, Monthly Review, 1978, New York, p. 539.

[18] Ibid., p. 540.

[19] Hoxha, op. cit., p. 85.

[20] Unite!, March 1, 1979, as quoted in “The Roots of Opportunism in the Committee for a Proletarian Party,” San Diego, California, April, 1979.