Proposal for Workers Vanguard
[The following piece of fusion correspondence between the Communist Working Collective and the Spartacist League was reprinted in Marxist Bulletin #10 "From Maoism to Trotskyism: Documents on the Development of the Communist Working Collective of Los Angelos"]
May 14, 1971
Dear comrades Jim and Helene,
We were very enthused over our discussions of last week. It is clear to us that the Spartacist League is approaching a new period in its existence. This new period is a reflection of the ferment within the proletariat which in turn is a result of the growing political and economic crisis faced by imperialism. We were particularly encouraged by the decision to publish a national newspaper. Such a newspaper is critical if we are to accomplish our tasks of collective organizing and collective propagandizing. We believe that this step will significantly transform the Spartacist League into a force within the working class and will therefore greatly contribute to the formation of a vanguard party within the U.S. and to the rebirth of the 4th International.
We have long upheld the view that the role of a central organ is an indispensable component of the Leninist theory of party building. Naturally we consider this a generally valid proposition which must be assessed anew in the concrete circumstances of present-day party building. Prior to your visit we suspended judgement with regard to the tactical advisability of the Spartacist League launching such an organ at the present time. We were not sure whether there were sufficient forces, whether finances could be met (a not unimportant consideration), etc. We were sure it was necessary; our discussion with you convinced us it was both possible and timely.
We believe the discussion held in L.A. around the paper was a poor one. We feel many of the key issues were clouded over and that we must take up the. question again upon your return trip. Permit me to elaborate.
The conception you put forward of a central organ dangerously veers toward a half-way house between a genuine party organ and an arena paper. What leads us to this conclusion? During the discussion we suggested that the Bulletin provided a model from the standpoint of form and organizational origins. You countered that the Lambertist paper. (Trade Union oriented I believe) provided a better model and that you wouldn't even want to be in an organization that only put out a paper as is the tendency of the Workers League. Perhaps our example was a poor one and we should have suggested Iskra as a model for then we could have zeroed in on the key issue: Will the paper reflect more truly than before the party's line in an arena, or, will the paper be a central party organ reflecting all phases of the party's work? We completely agree that the Workers League tends to narrowly stand outside the class struggle with its "paper," but that is first and foremost a problem of their line and not that they have a national organ. The approach taken by the Lambertists appears to us as an incorrect one, one that minimizes the significance of the relative weight given to the independent standpoint of the party.
The dilemma is concentrated most acutely in the decision to retain the name Workers Action. Unfortunately I stressed aesthetic objections to the title and format and therefore clouded over what was most germane. The real argument for changing the name is to make crystal clear the NEW CHARACTER OF THE NEW ORGAN in such a way that there can be no question of confusion with the old, arena organ. When we place the question in this way, we will be able to avoid tendencies (which are bound to arise) to transform the new organ into one that is partially an arena organ for labor and partially a central organ for the party. It is not enough to say it will be a party organ; we must take steps to ensure it. In this way we will also be able to face clearly and directly the absence of an arena organ for labor while there are such organs for women and youth. We must uphold the idea that we do not need a new "transitional. organ" of a hybrid type, but a party organ which fights for the full transitional program and educates the class around the socialist goal.
Last night the CWC voted unanimously to propose to the Spartacist League that the new paper in order to distinguish itself from arenaism and break a fresh path abandon the name Workers Action.
We should mention in passing that the continuation of Spartacist as a theoretical journal, or its merger with the new paper into a single organ are both viable alternatives within the framework of this plan. It may also, for legal and/or diplomatic purposes, prove advisable to state "sponsored or endorsed by SL" or some such thing, but this will not affect the questions of substance. Furthermore, it should be stated that these brief remarks hardly exhaust our thinking on the subject and we are prepared if necessary to write a more lengthy paper justifying our position. It is not in our nature to suggest these steps without considering our responsibilities with regard to them. Assuming that all goes well in connection with our joint discussions, our comrades are fully prepared to assist such a paper (and whatever other work is necessary) in every possible way.
We have also discussed and have proposals regarding steps toward an early fusion, perhaps September 1, as a realistic date. We should include this topic on our agenda of next week. Let us know when you will arrive.
We hope we are beating a dead horse... but then the L.A. discussion did seem inconclusive.
On behalf of the CWC [Communist Working Collective]
with comradely greetings,
P.S. You may show this to whomever you please.