December 7, 2004

Comments on Articles on State Creation of Phony Marxist-Leninist Groups

Clearly the articles reprinted in this section from The New York Times are old, from almost 30 years ago. This writer has read and distributed them in photocopied form since they were published. Since their accessibility in electronic form, I am making them available here since they still have a certain relevance today.

For one, there has been substantial material on state infiltration and repression against both the revisionist Communist Party USA and against revolutionary national groups, such as the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. However, there has been relatively little material on the role of the state in attacking and disrupting genuine Marxist-Leninist forces, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, when there was a possibility of forming a revolutionary Communist Party with real roots in the working class and oppressed nations and nationalities in the U.S. Although the publication of these articles may help in some small way in discussion of that important question, this is not the main subject of this comment.

The particular interest of these articles is that they show an example of not just state infiltration, but the actual formation by state authorities of phony Marxist-Leninist groups in order to disrupt the formation of genuine Marxist-Leninist organizations, as well as to infiltrate agents into socialist countries such as the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.

The two organizations mentioned in these articles that were set up by F.B.I. agents were the Red Star Cadre of Tampa, Florida, and the Red Collective of New Orleans, Louisiana. These two groups later joined with other collectives to form the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists (COUSML), the predecessor of the Marxist-Leninist Party (MLP), USA. Both of these organizations were also known by the name of their newspaper, Workers’ Advocate.

COUSML and the MLP were always looked upon with suspicion by serious Marxist-Leninists in the U.S., and they had little influence on the U.S. communist movement as such. But they did have some effect in turning away people from Marxism-Leninism, particularly those from the revolutionary movement among white petty-bourgeois students that was quite active at that time. COUSML and the MLP did this mainly by acting as a caricature of the bourgeoisie’s portrayal of Marxist-Leninists as dogmatic, without any relevance to the struggles of the day.

I will provide a few examples of this caricature of Marxism-Leninism. For one, the newspaper Worker’s Advocate was mostly full of reprints without commentary of articles, first from the Chinese magazine Peking Review. After Albania’s criticism of China’s direction, Worker’s Advocate switched to reprinting articles from Albania, without any explanation or self-criticism on their part.

At Columbia University, after the anti-racist and anti-imperialist student and community revolt of 1968, a publication of a previously unknown local group of COUSML suddenly appeared on campus with the rather pompous title: The Columbia Student. None of the people involved in the publication had had any connection with the Columbia student movement of the preceding years. They all claimed to have transferred to Columbia from colleges in other cities, making it difficult to check on their genuineness. Of course, The Columbia Student had a masthead with a large picture of Chairman Mao. Its content, like that of Worker’s Advocate, was full of generalities that had no relation to the development of the student movement.

In this period, there were several discussions and debates organized in New York City on the need to build a genuine Marxist-Leninist party in the U.S. Although in general COUSML played little role in any of these discussions, there was one in which one of their leaders took part. This writer remembers the COUSML speaker only distinguishing himself by one thing, that he wore a Mao badge about 6" in diameter, far bigger than any Mao badge worn by anyone else at that time.

Finally, this writer remembers attending a forum organized by the MLP to celebrate the revolutionary movement in Eritrea when this movement was at its height. Each time a speaker finished talking, the audience, made up mainly of MLP members and supporters, applauded and finished applauding almost in unison, as if they were a group of robots.

All these incidents, while minor taken individually, gave the impression to revolutionary-minded people of "Marxist-Leninists" as dogmatic automatons who had little to contribute to the development of the revolutionary movement in the United States.

But there was another aspect of COUSML and MLP activity that was at least as important to the U.S. state authorities. This was COUSML and MLP’s relation to genuine Marxist-Leninists and sympathizers from other countries who were living in the U.S. In the 1960s and 1970s there were quite a number of active organizations among immigrants with ties to the revolutionary movements in their home countries. These organizations had meetings with representatives of COUSML/MLP and occasionally took part in joint activities with them. Probably mainly because of cultural differences, the style of work of COUSML and the MLP did not always seem as suspicious to the foreign comrades as they did to people from the United States.

Given the more advanced level of revolutionary struggle in the home countries of these revolutionaries from abroad, the information that the F.B.I. agents in COUSML/MLP could provide about the activities of these revolutionaries could definitely have had a seriously damaging effect on the work of these comrades. Further, this writer was told of several instances in which COUSML/MLP cadre tried to entice foreign comrades into adventurist activities that could have led to their arrest or worse.

The diversionary activity of the MLP continued on an international level. During the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, the MLP was a strong supporter of the Frente Obrero. The MLP organized several forums for this group, which were well-attended including by good numbers of revolutionary Latin-American immigrants. This group, while it may have been a serious revolutionary organization at one time, degenerated into an openly opportunist force, finally supporting Violeta Chamorro in her successful campaign for the presidency of Nicaragua, returning Nicaragua to the U.S. imperialist fold. The MLP’s support helped to spread confusion in the international revolutionary movement.

After the disintegration of the revisionist Soviet Union and the downfall of socialist Albania, the MLP began a period of theoretical "soul-searching." From being staunch "supporters" of Stalin, they decided that by the mid-1930s there were no genuine socialist leaders in the international communist movement, discarding Stalin without officially adopting Trotskyism. This final phase of diversionary activity demoralized most of what was left of any serious revolutionary-minded people among their cadres and supporters. Probably (though to this writer’s knowledge nothing has been admitted publicly about this), the F.B.I. pulled out of the MLP, deciding that it had served its purpose. The remaining MLP cadre broke up into several small local organizations, most of which have continued the MLP’s final anti-Stalin line.

These comments are not meant to accuse any particular individuals of police activity (other than those who have admitted to such activity). Certainly there were sincere revolutionary-minded people who joined COUSML and the MLP. There are also organizations, both in the U.S. and abroad, which broke away from the MLP or from working with it on an international level. These comments are not meant to disparage their activity. They are simply meant to make public and clarify the known activity of a phony organization that was created through the machinations of the U.S. political police and that worked within the U.S. and internationally.

Finally, this writer had no previous knowledge of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands whose activity has now been publicized in The Wall St. Journal. Nor do I know whether this group had any ties to COUSML/MLP here. Any reader who knows more about this, or about the work of COUSML/MLP in general, is encouraged to write to me at:

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