During the months of December 2013 and January 2014, it became apparent that a contradiction internal to our group between, on the one hand, our pre-party formation—the New Communist Party (Organizing Committee) (NCP(OC))—and other hand, NCP(OC) affiliates leading our (former) mass organization—the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC)—tendentially began to take on the contours of a division of the organization. Indeed, the contradiction soon led to a split.
The faction that split ascribed the contradiction principally to authoritarian control of RSCC by the NCP(OC). This summation of past errors is incorrect. Rather, the basis of the contradiction that led to the split was a bureaucratic-technical separation between the pre-party formation and the mass organization, dogmatically produced by the organization itself. In this way, the split only formalized a separation that already existed in reality.
NCP(OC) affiliates in RSCC leadership and the NCP(OC) have manifested symmetrical deviations:
(1) ‘left’ opportunist deviation on part of NCP(OC) (=petty bourgeois adventurism): no directives, secrecy, leadership divorced from the masses. This left opportunist line has (i) not regarded the leading body of the party-formation as the concentrator of the will of the whole organization and (ii) has not regarded the party-formation as concentrator of the will of the masses. The ‘left’-opportunist line rejects the thesis that it is the masses that make history, and in this way rejects the Mass Line.
(2) right opportunist deviation (=bourgeois revisionism) on part of NCP(OC) affiliates in the leadership of RSCC: unwillingness to disseminate the political line of NCP(OC) in the mass organization, a ‘big tent’ politics of pluralism-cum-activism, spontaneist interpretation of political directives as ‘militarism.’ The ultra-democratic right-opportunist line rejects the thesis that the class struggle is the motor of history, and in this way rejects the Mass Line.
This might seem like a case of theoreticism versus practicalism, but to characterize it this way would be too hasty. Why?
(internal reversal 1) The NCP(OC) has not engaged in genuine theoretical practice: so the ‘left’-opportunism of the NCP(OC) is at the same time revisionist spontaneism.
(internal reversal 2) RSCC has not effectively engaged the broad masses: so the right-opportunism of NCP(OC) affiliates in the leadership of RSCC is at the same time ‘left’-opportunist adventurism.
These internal reversals indicate that the symmetrical deviations of the NCP(OC) and RSCC have a common basis. Indeed, as we know from Lenin, in general we can say that economism and voluntarism are twin expressions of a profound economism. The fundamental form of opportunism in the history of Marxism is neither ‘left’-opportunism nor right-opportunism (=revisionism), but an ‘opportunism of the center,’ whose extreme deviations only represent so many effects and variations. The theoretical foundation of opportunism resides in economism itself—that is to say: in the mechanist-evolutionist (=non-dialectical) interpretation of historical materialism. ‘Left’- and right- opportunisms are reversals internal to this economist kernel, the one seeking to think class struggle without mass participation (‘left’-opportunism), the other seeking to think the existence of classes without the political class struggle that produces them (revisionism).
To paraphrase Mao: both lines have divided the universality of MLM from the concrete practice of the mass movement—that is, the specificity of the political conjuncture; both have violated dialectical and historical materialism and have expanded partial-relative truths into universal-absolute truths; and the thinking of neither line corresponds to the actual, objective situation as a whole.
The resolution of this problem would have had to begin with sincere efforts to implement the dialectic between the mass organization and the party formation that Maoists call the ‘Mass Line.’ This would have entailed the following:
(1) within RSCC: a partial systematization of the mass ideas of the general body through ideological struggle among the masses themselves;
(2) the NCP(OC) recollects and systematizes the correct ideas of the masses in light of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist class analysis;
(3) the NCP(OC) formulates a central political directive with a revolutionary orientation that aims to transform the concrete situation in light of the class analysis carried out by the NCP(OC);
(4) the NCP(OC), as vanguard of the mass movement, leads the application of the directive by the entire body of the group;
(5) RSCC assesses the correctness of the directive through the results effectively obtained in their application. This summation produces new correct, but dispersed, ideas;
(7) we thus begin a new cycle that transforms the directive (self-criticism and rectification).
The role of the pre-party formation is to formulate slogans and directives that the masses can seize themselves, in elaborating an adequate tactics and strategy that will help the masses organize. The organized proletariat must lead the masses without commanding them—i.e., centralize mass initiatives in order to help the masses bring unified political battles.
This resolution of the contradiction would have necessarily involved drawing the NCP(OC) and RSCC closer together. However, we must not replace the dogmatism of bureaucratic-technical separation with a dogmatism of proximity. The sole guarantee of avoiding economism is to conduct a concrete analysis in each new situation, always different from all others. We must let the conjunctural analysis determine our organizational structure at each moment, rather than engaging in a sterile repetition of rote formulas.
In sum: the problem of our lack of effectiveness was referable to a bureaucratic-technical separation rather than so-called ‘militarization’ or ‘authoritarian control.’ And this bureaucratic-technical separation is in turn a product of a profound economism against which we must struggle. How, then, do we resolve the split that has broken the unity of Maoist forces in New York City? How, in other words, do we achieve a genuine principled unity?
The resolution of a contradiction is never simply an inversion. To resolve a contradiction in the manner of an inversion is to see the contradiction simply as an external relation between two terms. In fact, Mao argues in On Contradiction, it is the internal nature of the terms of the contradiction that must be taken as primary: only then can we begin to address what must be born and what must disappear in resolving the contradiction. The faction that split, prior to the split itself, proposed liquidating the organizing committee into a liaison committee. This is a resolution of the inversion-type, and (if adopted) would only have reinforced their right-opportunist line. Thus we would leave the shining path only to find ourselves marching along the freedom road. Only a genuine effort to implement the Mass Line will allow us to begin the long and difficult march towards communism.
NEW YORK CITY BRANCH, NCP(OC)