This first item below is a review of Revolution in the Air posted to the Marxism Mailing List in 2002 by Darryl Waistline Mitchell. Below that review is a further elaboration of his views on the nature and history of the New Communist Movement – as well as the history of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Communist League – posted to the Marxist Glossary Discussion Group October 27, 2018.
Revolution in the Air
by Darryl Waistline Mitchell, 2002
Max Elbaum set himself the task of tracing the formation of the various grouping that constituted the “New Communist Movement” of the early 1970s and 1980. This is a formidable task and herein resides the value of this work which should be a part of ever revolutionary’s library.
“Revolution in the Air” is a complex work that weaves together the story of a sector of the social movement of two decades, with the ideological thread of the “New Communist Movement” that it is describing.
The strength of this work is its weakness.
To make sense of this period of history Elbaum divides history into several time increments: 1968-1973, 1974-1981 and 1982-1992. Although not stated in these terms, the great strength of this book is that it openly acknowledges that the African American peoples movements set the pace and stage that birthed – first, the black youth and then black student movement, which called forth and served as catalyst for a broad Student Movement across the depth and breadth of America. This is the specific stage the social movement went through once one understands what happened in Montgomery Alabama.
What happens is that the adults and leaders of the spontaneous movement were jailed and no more troops are available except the youth. Most of the other adults have to go to work to pay the rent and pay for the social movement. The youth are throw into the struggle because it is better to die on one feet than live on one knees. The youth movement or social movement amongst the youth, sparks the student movement. It was on this basis that America experienced a reawakening to Marxism.
We should understand the social process a little bit better.
The second strength of this book resides in its conscious effort to rewrite history to conform to what a generation of revolutionaries experienced. Each generation is charged with the task of rearticulating history fused with their experience and on the basis of their given state of development of the productive forces. This is so because this framework clarifies and documents the subtle changes in class relations as various class sectors decay and new sectors rise to the fore.
The Third strength of “Revolution in the Air” – no matter what ones political tradition, is that it outlines – more or less, the mechanics of how revolutionary theory and ideology enters the working class. One literally takes propaganda – books, articles, newspapers and films to the insurgents generated as the spontaneous movement.
People do not come and will never come to a class politic on the basis of simply “fighting back.” The Communist Manifesto is distributed – sold, and study circles are formed with the willing. In this sense revolutionaries do not and cannot create “revolution.” Rather, the revolutionary impulse is generated on the basis of changing in the means of production and in this instance we are talking about the liquidation of the sharecroppers as a class and the need to dismantle the system of Jim Crow that trapped the black on the land.
The final strength of this book is that it describes the kind of lives the insurgents lived to effect and affect the social movement in America. Elbaum describes why the Leninist forms of organization appeal to a segment of this generation in combat with the state, segregationists, fascists and corporate power. Centralism was the affirmation of democracy and the only known roadblock to police penetration and the agent provocateur. Centralism means the systematic fulfillment of plans, checking up on assignments and unity of action. Unity of action means once the decision is made the discussion comes to an end and one carries out what has been decided by the collective.
One does not have the right to “fight for their position” after they have been voted down until the next convention dealing with policy change.
Elbaum treatment of the CPUSA and the SWP as a backdrop is reasonable and more than less balanced because the story of the “New Communist Movement” is not about them. There is an Appendix: Glossary of New Communist Movement Organization on page 339, which pinpoints the organizations that are the focus of this study.
Elbaum discuss the political tendency from which I come in a candid and frank manner, admitting that we were neither Maoist, “New Communists,” uncritical supporters of the CPSU – most certainly not Trotskyites, nor did we evolve from the student movement. For this I am personally grateful. Nor were we led by anarcho-syndicalist ideology – as evident in twenty years of publishing the “Peoples Tribune.” This is not to say that individuals were not infested with this ideology – I for one, and will probably die with a peculiar love and fondness for men and women in heavy industry.
For the audience of Marxmail “Revolution In the Air” will broaden one perspective.
My disagreements with “Revolution In the Air” – which does not out weigh its contribution, is wholly political in the sense that we were not an organic part of the “New Communist Movement” although we went through organizational transition during this era, which is why we are mentioned as a part of an era. I personally remember the five main groups Elbaum pinpoints as the nexus of the “New Communist Movement.” We attempted to incorporate any and ever body on the basis of unity of action and the general program of communists, which is “victory to the workers in their current struggle.”
On such meeting with the folks in the Revolutionary Union I shall never forget. At one point in the conference all the RU members stood up in unison with copies of the Red Book – Quotation of Chairman Mao, in their right hand, bending elbow in unison saying something about something. All of us in the Communist League – the overwhelming majority of this meeting in Detroit, looked at one another in amazement.
I love Chairman Mao as much as the next admirer and most certainly had my own personal copy of the “Red Book” – and had memorized important passages (for those who understand the ideology of the period go to page 212) but – damn. We all looked at each other and said to ourselves, “we might not be able to integrate these guys into the organization” and in Detroit we were the most dogmatic section of the Communist League, which would drive Nelson Peery up the wall. The bottom line was that one had to go to work the next day and win over someone.
Elbaum outlines the rigid structures of the “New Communist Movement” and their control of their membership, which would be more than less comfortable to any industrial worker with a few years under his belt. Nothing on earth is more controlling than the assembly line. In other words the ideology of the “New Communist Movement” was industrial ideology – not sectarianism. Sectarianism is something different in the living context of the 1970s and 1980s.
Elbaum states that a main weakness of the “New Communist Movement” was that is overestimated the revolutionary potential, but a review of all the literature from every political grouping espousing communism will revel this to be true of every one of them. Further, one can investigate on their own and discover this was also an error of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The point is that we have only recently – in the last ten years, figured out exactly where we are in the evolution of history – transition in the mode of production. No one can figure this out before the transition takes place. The human eye cannot see transition, but rather only that, which has emerged. “That having emerged” can be witnessed because it has emerged and is visible, and this indicates that you are at the second stage of the process.
In the end Elbaum book is reasonable and worth owning, but he apparently is incapable of breaking with his roots in the Anglo-American student movement, although he understands and articulates its inherent limitation. The “New Communist Movement” – of which we were never an organic part, was birthed by the SDS in the last instance.
The strength of this movement and of this work is its weakness.
- My review of “Revolution In the Air” can be reprinted and published anywhere without reservations, including this response.
- Revolution in the Air was a painful and difficult book for me because it summarizes a period of history I am familiar with. Perhaps it is this personal experience that blinded me to pages 235-236.
- My name is Darryl Mitchell, but I write under the name Melvin P. or simply “Waistline.” I was recruited into what would become the old League of Revolutionary Black Workers by General Baker, Jr at age 16. My work in the Civil Rights movement dates back to age 11, when Uncle Leroy – my father’s brother, ran for Secretary of Treasure on the Freedom Now ballot in Michigan. Leroy Mitchell was and is a Pan Africanists that moved his family to Ghana in the mid-1960s and is formerly of the Faculty of Art, Ust, Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa. Leroy currently resides in Detroit.
– Leroy’s daughter – Aretha Mitchell apparently dated General Baker Jr., their teen years or very early 20s. As a young man General disagreed with Uncle Leroy’s point of view and deeply felt that our battle ground resided in America and not Africa.
– My father – Maurice Mitchell, Sr., worked at Ford Motor Company after a stint in the armed forces fighting in the Philippines (One moment fighting on the side of the Huks and the next under the barbaric leadership of imperialists) and became a skilled worker – electrician, Ford Rouge Local 600. Dad was what was called in that era a “race man,” a semiprofessional boxer in the armed forces and an authentic bully boy. That is to say be believed in fighting the police. Dad’s first cousin – Napoleon Mitchell (yes, Napoleon) was arrested and jailed in the late 1950s for impersonating an FBI agent and sent to Jackson Penitentiary, where he won his release by winning the “Golden Gloves” boxing prize for the state of Michigan.
Apparently the Mitchell clan were destined to fight to the death.
Ardell Cynthia Jones – Mitchell, my mother, had a father named JD Jones. JD was an early follower of Elijah Poole who would later evolved into the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and found the “Lost-Found Nation of Islam” in the wilderness of North America. 🙂 Ardell’s sister Leona, would later in life become the Financial Secretary of the old Bud Wheel Local for over a decade.
Ardell had another sister, Johnnie Mae, whose daughter would decades later become the lead organizer of the Union – UAW, at the Casinos in Detroit – specifically the MGM.
I have an older brother, Maurice, Jr. He is an International Representative of the UAW having first won the position of Committeeman at Sterling Stamping in 1984. Sterling Stamping is a Chrysler Motors facility and the largest stamping plant in North America – if not the world. Committeeman is the highest elected union position in a UAW/Chrysler shop and at that time his district consisted of 1700 people. Today the same district consist of a little less than 500 people.
As I write this Maurice is in my home and we have been discussing the technological revolution and the revolution in the technological regime. This discussion is abstract but based on what is actually in front of us. I can only repeat this discussion in general terms as a law system. A new technological innovation is injected – grafted upon, an existing infrastructure and an incremental process of change begins. A qualitatively enchanted production process begs another and begins the reconfiguration of the existing infrastructure. The quantitative addition of new technological innovations no simply destroys the quantity of labor needed in the production process, but hits a barrier halting expansion on the same basis.
“On the same basis” means that adding new technological innovation to an existing infrastructure or rather the pathways of an old infrastructure hits the wall or barrier of the old infrastructure – pathways, and requires the creation of new pathways for a qualitative expansion of the new quality. It is my brothers contention that this barrier has been hit in the stamping division.
Although the new stamping process have reduced the workforce from 1700 to five hundred people, the new equipment only process 75%-80% of what the old labor of human beings produced. The other side of the equation is the 70% rise in quality or consistency of product.
In a word the apparent barrier being hit is the pathway of the industrial stamping process. Perhaps “liquid metal” or enhance plastics allows technique to supersede the industrial process and give rise to a qualitatively new process. The point is that the discussion continues as does the fight against capital.
Pardon, but I needed to get these ideas down on paper.
- At age 51, I retired from Chrysler Motors October 2001 at age 49, having completed a 30 year tour.
I am a founding member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and founding member of the following organizations: The Black Student United Front in Detroit, The Communist League, the Communist Labor Party, the Equal Rights Congress, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (Detroit) and former Executive Board Member and the American Writers Congress.
A former editor of the Southern Advocate, and participant of the Detroit II Liberation Theology Conference in the Americas. Vice Chairman of the Unemployed Council of Local 51 and former Committeeman and Chairman of the Shop Committee at Mound Road Engine, Local 51. Committeeman automatically makes one a member of the Executive Board of the Local Union in the UAW/Chrysler system.
I am also a communist and was won over to Marxism many years ago.
Somewhere in my memory are the first several issues of “Line of March,” a concept rejected by primarily the so-called Trotskyite leftists.
Generally, the comrades who were a part of or fell under the influence of our political orbit, have maintained a very low profile for three decades. To my knowledge I am the first one to write publicly. I have my personal as well as political reasons for this.
All the majors people mentioned in Revolution in the Air – in relations to the LRBW and the Communist League I have a personal relationship with.
Revolution in the Air is a one of a kind book with vast source material and will stand the test of time, no matter what ones political and ideological inclinations.
I review this wonderful book on a listserver with a Trotskyite heritage and probably would have written the review differently if this was not the case. I have little patience for ideological Trotskyism and a substantial record to stand on to sustain my inclinations. Thus, I am afforded a certain latitude – freedom. others cannot maintain and sustain.
I would suggest minor adjustments to the text concerning history I am familiar with. Page 104 states that the “CL published a newspaper, the Western Worker.” It would be more accurate to state the “CL published the People’s Tribune and the Western Worker.”
Before the LRBW split it was an article from the Peoples Tribune that altered by concepts of the national question called “Take Negro Nation Day to the People.”
It did disturb me that nothing was said of the “Vote Communist Campaigns” in Detroit during 1976 and 1978, but much of this is our fault for not making the literature historically retrievable. There was a 1978 article in our Theoretical Journal – Proletariat, called “Communist Work in the Trade Union,” featuring an article by General Baker.
Revolution in the Air is must reading for a new generation seeking its own passion and inspiration.
On the New Communist Movement, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Communist League (CL), and Marxism in Different Historical Periods
by Darryl Waistline Mitchell
Posted to the Marxist Glossary Discussion List October 27, 2018
1 The New Communist Movement (NCM) has a history, a motion and environment in which it was birthed. Like all political phenomenon it had a shelf life that was bound up with other political trends that arose, declined and decayed in correspondence with quiet changes in the means of production
2. The NCM originated in the imperial centers of world capital, as an appendage to the worldwide national-colonial revolutions of the post WWII era and was feuded by the historic destruction of the European based direct colonial system.
3 In the wake of the 1956 Khrushchev revelation, Marxism-Leninism split into different sectors and factions.
4 The context of development of the productive forces and finance-capital, is the decline of the Henry Ford system, emergence of GMAC as an example of the new financial architecture and birth of a new digital-robotic technology regime.
5.. The NCM was a mixture of the striving of the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois revolutionary ideologists, in correspondence with a form of Marxism-Leninism prevalent amongst the higher paid workers and communist members of the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class. This era of history came to an end in the late 1980’s and early 1990s.
6. I was one of those higher paid workers of the strata that was the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class, and thus look at the NCM very different from those who developed within it.
Darryl (Waistline) Darryl Waistline Mitchell
October 27, 2018
Taken from the unpublished Marxist Glossary Supplement, written 2013.
New Communist Movement:
The New Communist Movement (NCM) in America came forth as a trend within the ideological Communist-Marxist movement, whose stated goals was to build a “genuine” Communist Party, able to lead the proletariat in the struggle for political power. Formed between 1968 and 1976, the NCM advocated a neo-Trotskian view of Soviet socialism and became more than less spokespersons for the political state of China and/or various political factions within the Communist Party of China.
Context and environment:
Although the rise and fall of the NCM occurs within a ten-year period, its life cycle can serve as bookmark in the post-World War II period. The gigantic historical epoch is transition from agriculture to industry, with its class antagonism and stages of development of industrialism. During this epoch communists and capitalists fought for leadership of the industrial revolution seeking socialist and capitalist political regimes respectively. This was a period of class conflict in the advanced capitalist countries; the struggle for re-division of the world by imperial powers, the rise of Soviet power and colonial revolts and wars of national liberation.
The Third Communist International (Comintern) was formed on the basis of World War I and victory of Soviet power, to protect and expand the 1917 October Revolution. The Comintern dominated the world communist movement and the Soviet party (Bolsheviks) politically dominated the Comintern. This last stage of industrialism ushers in the technology foundation for the evolutionary leap from industrialism (industrial mechanics or the electro-mechanical production process) to electronics and robotics. This political period closes out with the victory of the Vietnamese revolution, reunification of Vietnam and formation of a slew of “Marxist-Leninist” parities.
Just as the rise of the steam engine brings the world of the feudal lord and manufacture to a historic end, the digital brings industrial society to an end. The digital revolution does not take place all at one time, as one stroke or in the blink of an eye. Qualitative change takes place quantitatively. When something fundamental to a process undergoes qualitative alteration – change – everything dependent upon that, which is fundamental must in turn change. Not all at one time but inexorably. Qualitative changes in the productive forces, the form of wealth and mode of accumulation gives rise to and calls forth a new form of the revolutionary movement. Here is the context in which the New Communist Movement is examined.
The new communist movement’s historians and chroniclers, exemplified by the “Encyclopedia of anti-Revisionism On Line” and Max Elbaum’s book “Revolution in the Air,” identify and label the American new communist movement as third wave anti-revisionism and a form of “Third World Marxism” ideologically wedded to “Maoism.”
Defining the NCM as “anti-revisionist” presents problems. Anti-revisionism in the post Stalin period was a political response to Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 “Secret Speech,” condemning Stalin for all real and perceived ills of Soviet society. The Khrushchev “revelations” became the form of the split in the post-Comintern world communist movement. In America the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in the United States (POC) was formed in August 1958, in response to Khrushchev’s lies and his revisionism. (See “Khrushchev Lied” by Grover Furr, Erythos Press and Media, LLC, Corrected Edition, July 2011.)
The neo-Trotskian new communists asserted that the Khrushchev clique overthrew Soviet socialism by political fiat (literally by saying it was so) and converted the Soviet state into an imperialist state “more dangerous than the American imperial state.” These propositions were variations of the Trotskian notion of the “Stalinist betrayal of Revolution” and hence, neo-Trotskian. After the 1977 publication of “Socialism in the Soviet Union” by Jonathan Aurthur, the neo-Trotskians abandoned this claim. (See “Revolution in the Air,” Max Elbaum, page 244, “A Slowly Shifting Balance.”)
Roots of the New Communist Movement:
The primary groups constituting America’s new communist movement did not evolve from the Third Communist International and its offshoots.
This was the period of victory of neo-colonialism, the era of the Sino-Soviet split and the final victory of the Vietnamese Revolution.
The early American foot soldiers of the new communist were the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The SDS was in turn created by the League for Industrial Democracy (or LID). The original name of the League for Industrial Democracy and its purpose was the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, organized to “throw light on the world-wide movement of industrial democracy known as socialism.” Under its original name, the League focused its efforts on educating college students about the labor movement, socialism, and industrial democracy. After World War II the LID evolved as anti-communist democrats opposing fascism and Sovietism or a political block consisting of anti-anti-communist. On January 1, 1960 LID changed its name to the Students for a Democratic Society.
The SDS and “New Left” were formed in the universities, driven by the anti-war movement under the impact of the African American people’s movement. The only thing new about the “New Left” was its call for participatory democracy similar to the participatory democracy of Occupy Wall Street. SDS evolved in opposition to the anti-communism of the conservative LID and would later fragment with individuals being won over to Marxism.
African American Liberation and Social Revolution:
The 1965 Watts Rebellion ushered in a new political stage in the Freedom Movement, challenging every revolutionary organization in America to adjust itself to the struggle of the “Negro masses” or “go out of business.” Watts signaled the black masses rejecting non-violence and completing the encirclement of American imperialism by the colored colonial masses of the world. Watts and later Detroit in 1967, forced realignment in the social-political sphere, compelling all “revolutionary groups” to take heed of Leninism on the national-colonial question.
Revolutionary groups are not military organizations marching in columns with the ability to march “right,” “left” and “turn on the dime.” Revolutionary organizations come into existence based on the salient features of their material and political environment; the class and ethnic-nationality character marking their specific stage in the development of the social process.
When the Negro people’s freedom movement broke into the open in Montgomery Alabama December 4, 1955 the Communist Party USA was unable to build up its organization on the basis of this social movement for a complex of reasons including government harassment, attack and jailing of its members. Like most political organizations the CPUSA, could not change or leap from one economic and social basis to another. Unlike a military column, it could not simply turn “left,” “right” or shift its members and resources from their base in the trade union movement to the African American freedom movement. Compounding matters was the party’s liquidation of the Leninists approach to the Negro Question. The shift away from Leninism on the colonial question was matched with the party dismantling the “party organizations” in the Southern United States. These actions coincided with passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which excluded Southern labor (the area of concentration of African Americans) from elementary protection against the razor edge of capital.
The stage was set to deliver the final defeat of the Communist left-wing hegemony over the Negro people movement. The fight was against rightwing socialist such as A. Phillip Randolph. Randolph was a remarkable labor organization and trade union leader, with politics and ideology to the “right” of the CPUSA. That is to say, Randolph was historically cut in the cloth of Booker T. Washington rather than Dr. Dubois, although both expressed the aspiring bourgeois and petty bourgeois class tendencies intersecting with the push of the poverty stricken black masses against lynch rope violence and discrimination.
A Philip Randolph and Baynard Rustin organized the “March on Washington Movement” (MOWM) outside the political and ideological domination of the Negro Labor Councils and the CPUSA. The MOWM lasted from 1933-1947 and was formed as a tool to organize a mass march on Washington, D.C., designed to pressure the U.S. government into desegregating the armed forces and providing fair working opportunities for African Americans. Despite its name, the March on Washington Movement did not lead to an actual march on Washington during this period, as Randolph’s requests were met by Roosevelt.
When the CPUSA did not support Randolph’s call for a 1941 march on Washington for jobs to blacks, their actions would be attributed to the Comintern and an “international communist conspiracy” by right wing socialists and radical left wing Trotskyists. It did not matter that a march on Washington by blacks – or anyone else – would never take place in this period. The right wing socialist and Trotskyist would declare that the CPUSA lack of support of the Randolph organized march was proof of their betrayal of “Negro liberation,” rather than an intense struggle involving hegemony of “the Negro Peoples Movement.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_on_Washington_Movement
In 1963, Randolph would be the figurehead of the March on Washington, which was organized by Bayard Rustin, at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. A hidden political struggle over class leadership had taken place spanning decades, and it is this hidden political struggle which had led to Dr. King giving his first version of his “I Have a Dream” speech in Detroit. The long struggle involved the 1920 and 1930 Communist International documents and policy on the “Negro Question,” which continue to stir profound emotions amongst freedom loving communists.
A struggle over communist hegemony of the African American people’s movement has always taken place in the past century. In this struggle the communists, organized in and around the CPUSA, opposed the ideology and policy of Mr. Randolph and the Trotskyists. Under war time conditions the “United Front Against Fascism,” policy was based on the “real world” coalition between Soviet Power and American imperialism, as this policy was applied in America as the Roosevelt Coalition. Mr. Randolph (not withstanding his eloquence, intellectual brilliance and organizational skills) was part of a cabal of anti-communists, anti-Leninists and the forerunner of the “anti-anti-communist democrats” that would later constitute the politics of the Nation magazine.
This struggle for hegemony within “labor in the black” would not reach a decisive turning point until the late 1960s and early 1970s during the period of the rise and fall of the NCM, with its first stage separation of the black middle class and black bourgeois from the struggle of the destitute “Negro” proletarians.
The Khrushchev clique anti-Stalinism campaign was launched during at the outbreak of the upsurg of the Negro Peoples Liberation movement, splitting the Communist Party and rendering it incapable of providing leadership to this movement. On February 25, 1956, at the Soviet Communist Party 20th Party Congress, barely sixty days after Montgomery Alabama exploded in protest; Khrushchev delivered the “Secret Speech,” denouncing Stalin’s purges and promising to usher in a new era in the Soviet Union. Seeking to relax tension with American led imperialism Khrushchev’s put forth a model of collaboration with imperialism to overthrow the direct colonial system, embracing a theoretical and practical policy of Third Worldism. The third path of development was stated to be non-capitalist and non-socialist or the idea that the colonies could free themselves without overthrowing capital and entering the orbit of Sovietism.
Khrushchev’s domestic policies of “goulash communism or “two chickens in every pot” claimed to better the lives of ordinary Soviet citizens by ushering in economic communism and liberating the masses from the military and police aspects of Sovietism. To perpetuate this vision required liberating the petty bourgeois intellectual, whose extreme individualism leads it to declare its emancipation from proletarian discipline equal society emancipation from the military aspects of the Soviet regime.
The lesson is pretty clear: it is virtually impossible for a communist organization to recast itself and reform itself without purging itself of the features of a previous period. Generally, communist groups are not successful at transforming themselves. New groups connected to the organized history of communism have to be reconstituted on the basis of a Marxist assessment of “line of march.” Generally, all of the past leaders and administrators have to be purged and/or reoriented. Lenin broke with the Second Communist International and much of the new members of the Third Communist International did not agree with his vision, especially on the national-colonial question. An example of this difficulty of transformation is apparent in all of the documents of the American NCM on the “Negro Question” as a colonial question in the context of Soviet power.
The NCM groups had difficulty in discerning the difference between the “national question” and the “national-colonial question.” The national question and the national-colonial question is the difference in a historical era and the form of the class struggle.
I have in mind anti-Comintern documents such as Critique of the Black Nation Thesis” 1975 by the Racism Research Project http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/CBNT75.html;”
“The Struggle for Black Liberation and Socialist revolution” March 1976 by the October League (Marxist Leninist), October League (M-L) Afro-American Self-Determination [on the RU’s Boston busing position] http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-2/ol-ru-bus.htm;
The New Voice Defeat the “National Question” Line in the U.S. and Unite to Fight Racism http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/new-voice-nation/chapter2.htm;
Communist Workers Group (Marxist-Leninist) “Our Tasks on the National Question Against Nationalist Deviations in Our Movement”http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/cwg/part1.htm;
White supremacy and the national question Preface to the 1978 Reprint http://www.sojournertruth.net/natlquestion.pdf and of course the historical literature from the Revolutionary Union and Revolutionary Communist Party.
The documents above have common roots in SDS and its political ideology, which evolved outside the Comintern legacy of Leninism on the national-colonial question. The new communist movement emerged from the political vacuum created with the demise of the Comintern; under conditions of victory of the Khrushchev clique and splitting of the world communist movement in the context of the last stage of the national-colonial revolutions as the salient feature of the worldwide social revolution. The Sino-Soviet split (China vs. the Soviet Union) had to happen because revolutionary China could not accept any propositions that smacked of capitulation to “imperialism” and former colonial masters in the metropolis.
Lacking connection with historical stages of struggle against revisionism of Marxism by the Leninists and the living experience of American communism shaped by the Comintern, the student organizations that sprung up during the mid and late 1960s, becoming the base of the NCM, evolved as more than less support committees of the national-colonial revolutions. These groups were indistinguishable from “foreign agents” of the political state of China or representations of a political-ideological vision promoted by the state, party, government and axillary organizations of Peoples China.
The totality of the NCM did not leave one single theoretical contribution to Marxism. Marxism is an intellectual movement and as the general science of society has to be pursued as a science, studied and developed. This science has a history requiring one assimilate its lessons and to do so required being a part of the tradition. Today, one can go to the internet to access the entire history of the American Marxist movement. The groups and individual forming the NCM could not overcome the legacy of their birth from the dynamic creating the LID or the early SDS.
Consequently, the NCM could not and did not advance an American narrative and understanding of applied dialectics and the American social revolution. Nor did the NCM contribute to clarifying an organizations “line of march” and the historical context for the rise and fall of revolutionary organizations or advance an inquiry into the form of the American proletarian revolution.
Harry Haywood’s autobiography “Black Bolshevik” remains worthy of reading, if for no other reason than to understand the theoretical positions he would later repudiate. Actually, Harry plays a seminal role in American communism and it’s grappling with the Negro Question. His “Negro Liberation,” 1949 expressed the Comintern direction addressing African American oppression and would not be formulated into an American narrative until Nelson Peery’s “Negro National Colonial Question.”
By the mid1980s, the NCM had all but vanished. A general review of the literature of the new communist movement is possible using the material from the Encyclopedia of anti-Revisionism On Line. http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/erol.htm
Dialectics of development of the Communist League:
Formed during the era of the NCM, but distinct from it, was the Communist League (CL) and later the Communist Labor Party (CLP), whose “Veteran Communist” series verify its roots in the Third Communist International, Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the old socialist movement of the populist era.
Elbaum’s “Revolution in the Air,” pages 103 and 104 attributes the difference between Communist League and the “new communists” to the CL’s allegiance to “pre-1956 Stalin,” its rejection of the idea of a “new communist movement” and finally:
The fact that a veteran of the ‘Old’ communist movement led CL, while the top leaders of the other formations were from the 1968 generation, crystallized these differences. For all these reasons there was a certain distance between CL and the other groups, individuals and informal circles that made up the emerging new Leninists trend.
Most new generation communists shared the perspective of Red Papers 1, which placed Lenin and Mao in the top rank of revolutionary leaders and accepted Stalin mainly because he was seen as a linking the two.
There is much truth in Elbaum’s observation. “Old” communist movement means the one founded by Marx and Engel and continued by Lenin and the Comintern. What in fact does Red Papers 1 say concerning its own evolution?
Our own history is worth telling. About 10 months ago, a handful of us got together on the following basis: we were activists and having read some of Mao’s works considered ourselves to be generally in that camp. A few of us had experience in the communist movement, but, in the main, we were products of the recent mass upsurges in the country. As a group our understanding was not high, but our determination was. We consciously stressed the activist side of struggle. We believed, and experience has shown, that, given a desire to “serve the people”, and a revolutionary spirit and daring, cadre will emerge in the course of the struggle, and theory will be more intimately connected with practice. We began with sharp differences, and we still are not completely united. But we have made progress, have expanded our struggles, and have tried to sum up our experiences: what you are reading is a beginning in that direction. http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/red-papers-1/against.htm
Red Paper 1 was issued in the spring of 1969, which would indicate that ten months earlier when “a handful of us got together” was spring of 1968. The difference between the CL and the new communists groups was not the pantheon of Marxism with its deity like figures, where one prefers Lenin over Marx and Stalin over Mao or Mao over Lenin and Stalin. These figures represent distinct historical periods, as does the new communist movement. The American new communist movement grew out of the “Old Left” as this old left became the “New Left” under the impact of the Students for a Democratic society (SDS) and its rightwing ideological parents in the League for Industrial Democracy (LID). SDS is appropriately named as a student movement on college campuses, rather than a general proletarian youth movement consisting of the 1968 generation. Many of these students would be drawn to the orbit of Marxism based on the last stage of the anti-colonial revolutions, Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism, rather than the history of American Marxism.
Organized and inspired by the 1965 Watts Rebellion, the Communist League was founded as the California Communist League (CCL) with roots in the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC). Watts was a turning point, a new stage in the social struggle with the black masses entering into combat with the state power.
Relying on the institutionalized white chauvinism of the Party, the new set of liquidators and revisionists attacked the Party at its weakest link. The Party in the South and in Puerto Rico were illegally dissolved in 1949. The broadly based and militant Negro Labor Councils were dissolved and a real purge was launched against the Negro members and workers in general. The Party’s roles fell drastically. In the confused situation, a number of groupings came together. Factionalism again broke out as a legal style of work in the Party. Foster again emerged as the leader of the biggest group that had the gall to call themselves the consistent Left caucus, as against the openly liquidationist groupings around Gates, Dennis, etc. After the formation of the various groupings, a core of Marxists-Leninists arose that was quickly dubbed the ultra-left. This caucus had members from across the country and had a relatively firm grasp on Marxism.
At the 16th Convention of the CP.U.S.A. in 1954, it was obvious that the Party was fractured beyond repair, but the politicking inside the Party continued. The 17th convention in 1958 came out fully for revisionism. Also by that time it was apparent that the revisionism of the CPUSA was an adjunct of the Khrushchev revisionists in the U.S.S.R. Overwhelmed by national and international revisionism, the Marxists left the Party in droves. The organized caucuses disbanded or were expelled. The ultra-left caucus withdrew from the Party under its policy of disengagement and on Labor Day 1958 formed the Provisional Organizing Committee to reconstitute a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in the United States. They issued a paper named the Vanguard which contained a statement of principles and set about organizing themselves. With the formation of the POC, the development of the revolutionary movement within the United States of North America reached a new qualitative level. Whereas the POC began as a Marxist caucus within the Party, the normal course of developments soon placed it in a position as opposing the revisionism of the Party – from the outside of the Party. Thus the struggle against revisionism ceased to be an internal phenomenon and became external, thus allowing for a further development of the movement.
A few other groupings sprang up after the 17th Convention of the Party. Amongst these were “Hammer and Steel” and the phony movement, the Progressive Labor Movement. Both of these groups moved quickly to the right and took a Trotskyite position.
The POC started out with about 400 members, the majority of these being professionals who were out of the Party apparatus and wanted back in. Mickey Lima and the whole West Coast organization quickly deserted the POC. The sailors and the East Coast Waterfront section soon followed. Left-wing errors in dealing with the struggle against revisionism reduced the Cleveland organization from 45 to 2 in a period of several months. By the summer of 1959, The POC was reduced to a hard core grouping of Puerto Rican and Negro Communists and a handful of Anglo-American Communists. http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/ccl-dialectics.htm
Marxism shows us how, in the development of thought, as well as in reality in the struggle that produces a synthesis, the negative is negated, it is not abolished. Thus it is impossible for anything to develop without bringing with it the legacy of its birth. Thus it was with the POC.
. . . . During the historic uprising in Watts, Laski and Hoffman were thoroughly exposed as agents of intrigue and were expelled from the POC. Laski was able to pull the Frisco section out with him. This group under a Negro adventurer named Sherman, soon disappeared from view. Laski joined up with first one and then another group of adventurers of black nationalists, but was increasingly isolated from the movement. By 1969, he retired from politics, opened up a trucking firm and two apartment buildings in the Vermont area of Los Angeles.
By 1967, it was apparent, that the POC while appearing to take a turn to the left, was taking a serious turn to the right. They began a policy of searching for the roots of revisionism and like the PLP found these roots to be with Stalin, Dimitrov, the 7th World Congress of the CI, and then took steps to throw Mao in for good measure. These steps were resisted on the West Coast.
Contact between the POC and San Pedro group of Marxists was made. This group had a small but solid base among the militant and radicals in the San Pedro Area.
The Labor day 1968 POC Conference in New York, spelt the end of a period. By that time, the POC was narrowed down to a clique of ex-Puerto Rican nationalists, small groupings of Negro comrades and the immediate family ties of the comrades. By that time, the POC had completed the turn and now it was thoroughly disgusted with the Anglo-American working class; it held the Trotskyite position on the Soviet Revolution and it was increasingly steeped with hatred for the leadership of the Revolution, especially Mao, whom they labeled as the chief revisionist.
The California delegation could not resist, but did not join in the denunciation of Stalin and Mao. Armando Roman had completed the transformation into an outright scab. The New York Times gleefully reprinted pages from the Vanguard where Roman exposed the confidential discussions that had been held with certain U.N. delegations. The social degeneracy at the top of the organization was open and defended.
Registering some 42 members some ten years after disengagement from the Party, and clearly seeing that they were hopelessly isolated from the working class, the POC declared itself a Party and took the name, American Workers Communist Party. Armando Roman, as General Secretary and Harold Allen, who was now suffering from alcoholism was named Chairman.
Shortly after the California delegation returned to Los Angeles, Roman secretly withdrew the Puerto Rican comrades and without charges or a trial expelled the California group.
The small collective in Los Angeles struggled hard to hold itself together and to strike out on its own, dumping the Trotskyite and petite bourgeois nationalist orientation that had been imposed on it. The collective called a small conference to evaluate the situation and to form the California Communist League. This basic collective was joined by the San Pedro grouping.
The CCL was thrown into immediate conflict with certain groups, especially the Bay Area Revolutionary Union. Out of these beginning struggles the line began to emerge. The basic question of building the mass movement or building a core of communist cadre was settled; the line on the Negro and National Question emerged with some difficult struggle within and around the organization.
Contact was made with a large grouping of mainly ex-SDS militants who were studying the Thought of Mao Tse Tung. Their leading group was recruited into the CCL. With this expanded base, May Day 1969 was held in conjunction with this grouping which called itself the Marxist-Leninist Workers Association. Out of the highly enthusiastic meeting came plans to merge the two groups. This merger took place in Feb. 1970. Now the CCL had the necessary base to start an aggressive program of expansion. As the financial and cadre demands have grown, the Communist League has sent organizers to the San Francisco Bay area, the Chicago area and New York where collectives are stabilizing themselves.
The CCL grew out of the history of American Marxism, in its struggle for a revolutionary line of march and to discover the form of the American Revolution.
The Communist League was built from the revolutionary and socialist processes in the USNA, as pointed out in the pamphlet, Dialectics of the Development of the Communist League, reprinted in the “North American News Service,” Dec. 15, 1972. The CL has developed from the struggle against revisionism in this country from many different angles. First, of all, many of the leaders of the CL at the present time were previously members of the CPUSA. After the Party was liquidated in 1944, they struggled against the revisionism of the CPUSA and for the reconstitution of the Party. But the Marxists were not successful because the 16th convention of the Communist Party showed that it had reached a stage of no return where the party itself could not be reconstituted. It was the struggle of the Communist caucus in the Communist Party at that time that lead to the development of the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC) when the revisionists kicked out the Marxists in 1959. As of today, the CL has followed through with this struggle against revisionism and we are developing and bringing into the organization real dedicated young communists. The party that we are going to build in the USNA will be a multi-national communist party and it will be a young party.
It has to be a young party because nearly 80% of the USNA working class right now is young. That is precisely where the communist party will be getting most of its forces from, not from the campus ground. We know many students will leave the campuses; many students on the campuses are workers and will become dedicated communists. These working class students will get jobs and later become members of the multi-national communist party and they are absolutely welcome. But we are not going to try to confuse the youth or confuse the students on the campus ground and tell them that they are capable of leading the working class. Emphasis added.
(The People’s Tribune, in two parts, Vol. 6, No. 3, March 1974 and Vol. 6, No. 4, April 1974). http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-2/acwm-ugly.htm
(See “The Dialectics of the Development of the Communist League” 1972 at: http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1/ccl-dialectics.htm)
Peery’s summation builds upon, actually sublates rather than rejects William Z. Foster’s “History of the Communist Party of the United States New York” International Publishers, 1952, and “History of the Three Internationals; the world socialist and communist movements from 1848 to the present,” New York : International Publishers 1955. Peery departs from Foster’s summations providing critical insight into the populist and anarcho-syndicalist trend within American communism, and offered a richer and deeper understanding of the proletarian revolution and African American Question and social revolution in the United States.
Deploying Marx approach and method and presenting “Dialectics of Development” as a public document was met with the scorn and contempt from the new communist movement as a whole, although the records of this period (1971 – 1976) reveal that every single fundamental projection of the Communist League and Communist Labor Party was eventually accepted by the new communist movement as a whole, five to ten years later.
(See Red Banner (Marxist-Leninist) “The Dialectics of the Communist League: Double-Dealing, Intrigue and Conspiracy – An Attempt to Liquidate the American Communist Movement”)
(Also See: National Executive Committee of the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists “Dialectics of the Development of Nelson Perry’s Head. A Refutation of the Counter-Revolutionary Line of the So-called ‘Communist League’.”)
Watts, Detroit and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers: With the reissuing of “Detroit, I Do Mind Dying” August 2012, a new generation can read an account of the struggle of Detroit’s industrial workers of the late 1960’s and 1970’s. In December 2011, General Baker Jr., founder of DRUM and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, took part in a presentation held at Central Methodist Church featuring Marvin Surkin, one of the writers of the book. Baker and other founders of the LRBW were asked to contribute a comment or introduction to a new printing of “Detroit, I Do Mind Dying” and declined.
“Detroit, I Do Mind Dying” is an excellent historical recollection worthy of reading and owning as a historical text, but it conveys the perspective of what “we – the Baker group if you will – called the petty bourgeois section of the LRBW.
What follows is a summation of our story.
After Watts 1965, the Newark and Detroit Rebellions of July 1967 shook American society to its foundations. These were the greatest uprising against the state since the Civil War. Detroit surpassed Newark in scale, with at least 43 deaths and 7,000 arrested.
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW) was formed in the wake of Detroit 1967 and the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The LRBW was formed based on the DRUM organization – Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement – that grew out of the Mary 1968 Dodge Main strike in Detroit. This strike took place during the period of formation of SDS, it’s splitting and formation of various petty bourgeois support groups attached to the worldwide national-colonial revolts and revolutions.
The revolutionary movement worldwide reached a crescendo, its last stage of development based on the national-colonial revolution between the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China and the 1976 victory and unification of Vietnam. In America this stage runs from the December 4, 1955 Montgomery Alabama Boycott and the National “Black Political Convention,” held March 10–12, 1972, Gary, Indiana. The revolutionaries at the core founding of LRBW were profoundly affected by the brilliance of the Cuban Revolution, the militancy of Fidel and passion of Che. A group of four Detroiter’s (General Baker Jr., Charles Simmons, Luke Tripp and Charles “Mao” Johnson) had spent two months in Cuba, in which their ideology and political outlook were fused with concepts of class. This militancy and passion were fused in the early organizing campaigns at Chrysler’s Dodge Main (Hamtramck Assembly) plant.
Returning from Cuba, General Baker Jr., who shared an apartment with John Watson, was hired in 1964 at Chrysler’s Dodge Main. Both young men took part in publishing a theoretical journal “The Black Vanguard” for the black workers of the plant ant a student newsletter, “the Razor.” The Black Vanguard was ideologically “thick,” uninteresting to the workers but taught the young revolutionaries a lesson in propaganda, which would later define “league type” factory publications.
The LRBW expressed the historic struggle of “labor in the black,” as this struggle passed through all stages of development of the industrial system. In broad strokes this struggle began under slavery in the South and development of Jim Crow in the North, then Emancipation and the founding of the Negro People’s Convention in the post-Civil War era. The defeat of Reconstruction set the condition for “equal rights organizations” based on the color factor and finally the various forms of Negro Labor Councils, spanning from the 1920s to the opening era of “Black Power.” Specifically, the DRUM movement and the LRBW were immediately thrown into a struggle over political and ideological hegemony of “labor in the black.” The LRBW found itself in contention with TULC – Trade Union Leadership Council. TULC was formed by black trade unionists in the wake of the House Un-American Activity Committee attack against Detroit’s Negro Labor Council.
The National Negro Labor Council (1950 – 1955) was a labor union dedicated to serving the needs and civil rights of black workers. In 1951, black workers formed the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC), which was brought about to serving the needs and civil rights of black workers. This organization was there to do certain tasks that the National Negro Congress could not do since its failed return after the war. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Negro_Labor_Council
“Black Power” was an electoral movement demanding inclusion of blacks into the political superstructure. Black Power was the final stage of the fight against Jim Crow and last stage of an all class movement of the “black community” based on the color factor.
More often than not, “the League” is confused with the union caucus formed as the Revolutionary Union Movement. DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) and ELRUM (Eldon Revolutionary Union Movement) were not the LRBW or reducible to the league. The reason RUM groups were formed primarily at Chrysler and not at Ford are bound up with the mass hiring of blacks by the Ford Motor company in the 1920s and the Communist Party led organizing of Local 600, winning the critical battle for unity. Thus, the purpose of the RUM was the battle for equality on the job; for blacks to be treated as equals by the company and within the union, rather than an abstract “class struggle” or anarcho-syndicalist vision of “workers against bosses.” Specifically, the reason RUM’s formed at Chrysler rather than Ford was because of the early communist organizing at Ford Rouge and the role of black communists in winning the battle for unity amongst blacks and whites. Thus, the RUMs organizations and the LRBW existed on a continuum whose immediate predecessors were Trade Union Unity League, National Negro Labor Council, and League of Struggle for Negro Rights, National Negro Council.
The LRBW was a federation of diverse organizations rather than a “big” RUM caucus. This federation shared resources to aid its organization in mobilizing and fighting on various “fronts of struggle.” For instance “Parents and Students for Community Control” was formed as a league component to battle in the electoral arena to elect local black school board members, expressing the concerns of their neighborhood. United Community (UNICOM) and West Central Organization (WCO) and International Black Appeal (IPA) were incorporated into the league. The Black Student Voice and later Black Student United Front were high school students, many who would distribute literature at plants. There was a period when the Southend newspaper came under the direction of the League members. The Inner City Voice became the official paper of the LRBW.
A complex of issues is attributed to the split and disintegration of the LRBW. The LRBW was formed during the final stage of American Revolution 2.5 – the Civil Rights Movement and in a larger historical sense expressed the last phase of organizational unity between Marxism and anarcho-syndicalism. This last stage of American communist organizations housing Marxism and anarcho-syndicalism under one roof is the reason a new generation finds inspiration in the history of the LRWB and books such as “Detroit, I Do Mind Dying.”
The LRBW faced profound objective and subjective factors defining the environment of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With the shattering of the wall of de jure – legal – segregation, the LRBW could no longer evolve as an organization based on Civil Rights and the second class citizen status of minorities and national minorities. The Civil Rights movement had reached a boiling point with 1963 being a big year, opening a new era of victory, with new Civil Rights legislation promised. Malcolm X delivered his famous “Message to the Grass Roots” and the year ended with President Kennedy assassination. Then came the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voters Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act and sweeping laws and ordinances effectively destroying legal segregation. The Watts rebellion of 1965 was followed by Detroit and Newark 1968, then Dr. King’s assassination.
In a country such as America, with its huge multinational majority white working class, an organization based on the “national factor” seeking to be based in a Marxist approach is an impossible contradiction.
The LRBW was not a Marxist or Marxist-Leninist organization, although Marxist and Marxist-Leninist were members of the league. The league would later declare itself in favor of forming a Black Marxist Leninist party. Due to the principled stand of the Communist League demanding a multinational Communist Party, all sections of the old LRBW were won over to the Communist League line of march.
Every single revolutionary group in American “courted” the LRBW and all of their material was read critically. One should ask why the largest grouping of the LRBW rejected the outlook of the Revolutionary Union and its Red Papers along with the October League, which grew out of the Revolution Youth Movement II. Revolutionary Youth Movement II was evidently one of the main “bedrocks” of the new communist movement. (See Revolution in the Air pages, 70, 71, 72.) The Black Workers Congress would attempt a principle unity with the new communists and fail.
The League could not evolve as an organization expressing all classes amongst blacks and develop its proletarian core without deeper connection with “the revolutionary and socialist processes in the USNA.”
The “People’s Tribune” article ‘Take Negro Nation Day to the People” (1971/72) caused a stir in the LRBW, and sent its members to scout out the CPUSA bookstore seeking its historical literature on the so-called Negro National Colonial Question.
The reason the LRBW was won over to the CCL and then the Communist League is their theory basis in Marxism and living connection in the long struggle for an American Marxist narrative. Without question the character of the literature of the CL was well in advance of all the so-called new communist groups in 1971, 72 and 1973 and through the 80’s and 90s and into the new century. One could read CL’s literature and feel a connection in American history. Even today – 40 years later – one can read this period literature at the Encyclopedia of Anti Revisionism and compare the theoretical depth of CLs writings with those of the entire NCM. The single greatest practical difference between CL and the NCM was over building a party of the proletariat. From the viewpoint and experience of the LRBW, CL approach was correct.
The LRBW spent an inordinate amount of its time and money on education as its primary task, rather than building a mass base and so-called mass movement. Activism brought the revolutionaries together as leaders in a particular front of struggle and these real leaders craved education. This remains true to this day and is apparent in the Occupy Movement.
The historic criticism leveled by the new communists against CL (recorded and preserve for all to see at “Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism on Line”), is that the Communist League erred by building a so-called “cadre organization” at the expense of trying to build a revolutionary party “rooted in” and based on building a revolutionary mass movement. According to the literature of the NCM, a revolutionary mass movement in 1968, 89, 70, 71 and 1972 meant the Negro Peoples movements as the cutting edge of all social movements.
Movements, most certainly mass movements are not built as such but develop as spontaneous strivings created by the contradictions of capital. At each stage of development of industrialism a corresponding spontaneous movement evolves expressing that stage of development. The historic approach to the spontaneous movement, was to recruit the leaders of various fronts of struggle in the spontaneous movement to the cause and line of march – of communism and the social revolution. This approach was pioneered by Marx and Engels and converted into a doctrine of proletarian revolution by Lenin between 1903 and founding of the Third Communist International.
Although the historians of the NCM agree that the League of Revolutionary Black Workers was the most significant proletarian-revolutionary organization expressing the spontaneous movement of the black masses, and the struggle of these masses within the trade union movement, when the CL recruited them to its political projections, the NCM as a whole descended into white chauvinism, declaring the CL was reactionary and counter revolutionary.
Every generation of Marxists must become an organization dedicated to preserving and transmitting the history of American Marxism, defining the line of march of a revolutionary organization and educate activists it encounters by recruiting them and training them in the science of social revolution rather than trying to educate them to do what they are already doing. It is precisely because the NCM tried to build a mass movement that all of its organizations have died with hardly a trace and without contributing to the development of American Marxism or unraveling the form of the American proletarian revolution.
Black Workers Congress:
Using the League of Revolutionary Black Workers as a platform, the Black Workers Congress (BWC) was formed in 1971 to unite “black workers nationally.” “Black workers power” contained the striving of various classes among blacks along with a healthy dose of old fashioned anarcho-syndicalism. The revolutionaries pushing for creation of the Black Workers Congress faced varying degrees of resistance from the “workers and student component” of the LRBW.
With the split, the section of the LRBW retreating into the Black Workers Congress (BWC) carried out a mass purge of the “workers and student components” of the League from the BWC at the Baltimore Convention (“workers and students component” is euphemism for the 99% of the local workers and young in the Detroit organization, who would later join the Communist League). Chapter seven and eight of “Detroit, I Do Mind Dying” describes the formation of the Black Workers Congress and breakup of the LRBW and the conversion of activity into what the “workers and students component” called an electoral apparatus. The work of the LRBW created the condition for the election of Marxists to public office, alongside the entry of blacks into the electoral arena. The “electoral group” organized into DARE (Detroit Activist for a Rational Economy) scored major success in electing Marxists to political office in 1970s Detroit.
Enlarging its core of revolutionaries, based on the Watts Rebellion and the Chicano Moratorium, the Communist League recruited the “workers and student components” of the LRBW in mass, along with the core of the Motor City Labor League. The Communist League began their Marxist education on a new foundation, combating anarcho-syndicalism, various racial ideologies and rooting the revolutionaries in the continuity of American Marxism.
The Detroit League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Motor City Labor League as well as a number of local and regional Black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican revolutionary groups joined the Communist League. A conference was called to found a new Communist party, and in 1974, the Communist Labor Party was formed. http://www.lrna.org/2-pt/articles/v17ed2art2.html
In the struggle to form a Communist Party the Communist League would present its first draft of “Regional Autonomy for the Indian Peoples!” to the National Continuations Committee to Call a Congress for a Multinational, Marxist-Leninist Party” and publish “Regional Autonomy for the Southwest” in 1974.
The Communist Labor Party would carry out two “Vote Communist” campaigns in 1976 and 1978. As the decade of the 1990s approached, the CLP shed the old reform character of its organization, build on the basis of the national-colonial struggle as the salient feature of the revolutionary movement and formed the League of Revolutionaries for a New America.
Communist Labor Party:
Proceeding from a materialist conception of history, the Communist League and later the Communist Labor Party (CLP) grasped on one level and then another, the shift from mechanics to electronics, and why it constituted a social revolution with all its implications for the coming class struggle. In its founding documents in September 1974 the CLP stated:
The trend toward shifting the economic base from mechanics to electronics has not only increased the reserve army of unemployed but also created a huge qualitatively new army of the permanently unemployed, especially amongst national minority proletarians. Every technical advance makes the position of the proletarians more untenable.
The CLP has left a verifiable history changing legacy in the quest for revolutionary Marxism in America. Forty years publication of the People’s Tribune and thirty years publication of “Rally Comrades!” documents the evolution of their line of march and narrative on the form of the American Revolution.
Despite some admitted theoretical errors, Nelson Peery’s “Negro National Colonial Question,” remains a bookmark and bench mark in the struggle to maintain a revolutionary position on African American liberation and social revolution in America. All the polemics on African American liberation of the NCM era are written as a response to Peery’s book. This can be verified at the “Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line.”
Elbaum’s “Revolution in the Air” notes another Communist Labor Party contribution and legacy: “Socialism in the Soviet Union”. This text singlehandedly destroyed the neo-Trotskian thesis that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union during the late 1950s and early 1960s by Khrushchev. During the late 1970s the CLP theoretical journal “Proletariat” also published an article about contradiction and antagonism as used in the writings of Chairman Mao Zedong, reaffirming Lenin’s statement that contradiction and antagonism are not the same. (See Textbook of Marxist Philosophy 1937, page 174). The CLP proposition would later appear as a contribution to developing applied materialist dialectics. (See Antagonism and Stage).
Out of another ideological direction – the anarcho-syndicalist League for Industrial Democracy – the so-called “new left” was formed. A struggle over principles immediately between those groupings that were formed from the Comintern parties and those formed from the anarcho-syndicalist and neo-Trotskyite groupings.
The basis of the struggle was the disagreement over tactics against war and imperialism. Either the national liberation movements and the various social movements would be the vehicle to socialism, with a bribed working class playing little or no role, or the revolutionary activity would have to be tailored to the temporary class relationships until the imperialist expansion ended and the class struggle reasserted.
The victories of the nationalists and thus the imposition of their philosophy on the national liberation movements were having their effect on the communist movement and vice versa. In China and the Soviet Union the nationalists had gained control of the party and were following policies that could not help but strengthen the hand of the nationalists in the embattled colonial world. The nationalists did not hesitate to utilize the struggle against revisionism in an attempt to legitimize and strengthen and then control in their respective countries. There was indeed a continuing struggle for Marxism-Leninism but it was carried out under adverse circumstances. Everywhere modern revisionism wore the mantel of petit-bourgeoisie nationalism and insured that the struggle – even in the colonial world – was between the left-wing and right-wing nationalism.
By early 1973, it became apparent that one process was reaching the limits of the growth and another was taking its place. With very few exceptions such as South Africa, Puerto Rico, Palestine, and the Negro Nation, the vast majority of the oppressed nations had freed themselves of the direct colonial yoke and erected a national state. Few if any of the new states had taken any steps to socialize their economies even though they called themselves socialist.
The difference between the economic goals of the contradictory wings of the national bourgeoisie (its comprador and national wings) began to disappear with formal independence. There’s differences were being eliminated by the imperialist market. The growing unity of the bourgeoisie was pushing their newly formed states to the right.
The unwillingness or inability of the national movement – led by the right wing of the nationalist bourgeoisie or by the right wing revisionists – to build socialism laid the groundwork for further splitting amongst the “new left”. Coincidental to this splitting, the extreme right wing grouping within the CP of China consolidated its grip and turned to imperialism for protection and stability.
This grouping was becoming more and more exposed as a nationalist bourgeoisie. The totality of this international motion in the revolutionary movement began wrecking the new left which based itself on the concept that the national movement and especially the great Chinese Revolution would lead the world to socialism.
Taking advantage of the extreme instability of the left in the USNA and the almost total isolation of the CPUSA a number of organizations met and held discussions with the intent of calling a congress to form a new communist party in this country. ….By the time the Congress was called to order nine organizations agreed to disband and form the new party. Given the various levels of development and the fact the moment was fast slipping away, the major concentration was given to the task of forming the Party on a democratically centralized basis.
The first task was to centralize the Party around a common understanding of Marxism – the science of society. This struggle to master Marxism involved not only cadre schools and study circles but also an internal fight against anarcho-syndicalist tendencies of the “new left”, and hangovers of nationalism and white chauvinism. A major effort was made to place the struggle on a political and scientific basis. In this way the rules of the inner-party struggle were developed and anti-party tendencies were contained.
…The purpose of the Second Congress was to centralize the Party around the emerging economic and political situation. The organizational structure of the Party was refined and tightened. The Party was further consolidated around the struggle to not only criticize, but continue to disengage from the left and ground itself deeper in the working class it was drawn into political life.
The Third congress was a break in continuity of the Party’s life. For the first time the basic strategy of the Party was spelled out. There was a sharp struggle against FBI penetration into the Party. A successful, if limited fight was carried out against the hangovers of bourgeoisie ideology, especially white chauvinism and male supremacy. The organizational structure of the Party was further spelled out. …The Congress spelled the defeat of the groupie mentality, the do-gooders and the hangers-on that had hampered the development of the Party.
The Congress rejected the concept of an itemized list of demands for the working class as a program and adopted the slogan “Victory for the working class in its current struggles with the bourgeoisie.” This step greatly facilitated the struggle against the ideologues and those who still clung to sectarian outlooks. Such a policy demanded that comrades proceed from an analysis of the objective situation rather than from ideology or abstract theory.
(“Radical Social Change Demands Radical Break with Past” 10th Anniversary of the CLP, August 1984)
During the mid to late 1980s, the CLP declared its previous outlook bankrupt and obsolete. The CLP conclusion was based on the proposition that the communist movement must adjust its policy and doctrine to conform to the line of march of the social revolution; that all revolutionary groupings change and shift from one quantitative stage to another and most certainly must change under the impact of qualitative new means of production, shifts in class relations and changes in the salient feature of the social revolution. Today the core of the CLP exists as the League of Revolutionaries for a New America.
This Glossary’s exposition on “contradiction and antagonism” is based on a “Draft Report from the Standing Committee of the Communist Labor Party June 1989.” The entry on “Process,” “Quantity and Quality” is also based on “Draft Report” which was slightly edited as Nelson Peery’s 1993 “Entering an Epoch of Social Revolution.”
Glossary exposition on causality was suggested by Beth Gonzalez, one of three editors of “Marxist Philosophy: A Study Guide for Revolutionaries in the age of Electronics.” https://web.archive.org/web/20160128171702/http://www.scienceofsociety.org/
“Reform to Revolution” and the definition of “reform” were hammered out in the CLP, as well as the concept “line of march.” Glossary presentation of “polarity” and “polarization” are an American interpretation, describing the movement of contradiction and antagonism. A clear exposition of polarity and polarization as applied dialectics appeared in Vol. 19, No. 4 of the LRNA Newsletter page 5, “Report of the LRNA Standing Committee, July 2012.” An edited version appeared as “Solving the Riddle of History” in Rally Comrades! September-October 2012. http://rallycomrades.lrna.org/2012/09/solving-the-riddle-of-history/
“Electronics” and “electronics revolution” is understood as defined in Nelson Peery’s “Revolutionary Change in America” 1997.
The presentation of the issue of “abundance” is bound to raise eyebrows, as does the question of the “division of labor” and its destruction and the “destruction of value.”
Socialism is defined as a transition economy between capitalism and communism rather than the first stage of communism. Soviet socialism and economic socialism of the past century is called “industrial socialism.” The theory problem Glossary addressed is the question of “quality” and the “dialectic of the leap.” One cannot build socialism up quantitatively and on the basis of this quantitative enhancements leap to communism. Society cannot leap to communist economy from industrial socialism based on quantitative development of industrialism, even under condition of a world dictatorship of the proletariat. Proletarian rule is necessary for the revolutionary advance to communism but is not sufficient to realize communist economy.
Industrial socialism is a different quality from communist economy and a communist mode of production. To achieve the first stage of the quality that is communist economy (communist mode of production) a revolution in the means of production is required or what is the same, a qualitative change in the productive forces; robotics.
In the meaning and context of qualitative change in the means of production, the new communist movement of the 1970’s (no matter what its perceived and real strengths and weaknesses) would still have “gone out of business” and been compelled to reorganize itself based on a new doctrine of social revolution due to robotics and the electronic revolution.
In reviewing the literature of the new communist movement, the Communist League was singled out for the most vicious kinds of attacks, insults and name calling owing to the color factor. This name calling smacks of the manipulation of the political police. Revolutionaries should learn from this history and temper their polemics so as not to open the door to police manipulation.