Progressive Labor Party
|Join the party!|
|Opiates for the masses|
The Progressive Labor Party, often abbreviated PL, is a small United States political party currently espousing a form of left communism. Still, during its 1960s heyday, it was made up of Maoist elements expelled from the Communist Party USA at the time of the Sino-Soviet split. They had abandoned Maoism by the early 1970s due to Communist China's rapprochement with the Richard Nixon administration in the U.S., which PL viewed as a capitulation to imperialism (by contrast, of the other two major Maoist U.S. political parties, the Revolutionary Communist Party did not turn against China until 1978 after Mao's death in 1976, and the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) remained supportive of China even after the rise of Deng Xiaoping, though not for long as the CP(ML) collapsed in 1981).
Role in the U.S. New Left
PL played a significant role in the history of the New Left, particularly Students for a Democratic Society, yet was actually a remnant of the Old Left and alienated many younger New Leftists with its reputation for extreme sectarianism and its opposition to the counterculture, long hair, marijuana, and rock music. PL adopted those positions because it viewed the youth counterculture as alienating to the industrial proletariat. Further, PL's sectarianism was such that it opposed the Black Panther Party because all nationalism was reactionary. PL refused to endorse the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War for the same reason (they were "nationalist") and because they were following Soviet-line rather than Peking-line communism.
Needless to say, even as young New Leftists were increasingly moving to the hard left in 1968-1969 and embracing Maoism, PL turned off most of them with its sectarianism, its opposition to groups like the Black Panthers, which young radicals idolized, and most of all its puritanical morality. They instead formed movements that simultaneously embraced Maoism, Black Power, and the counterculture, such as the Yippies and the Weather Underground. After several years of dealing with "entryism" from PL and its front group, the May 2nd Movement, SDS and PL mutually expelled each other at the 1969 SDS convention.
PL took a hard-line position on the Chinese Cultural Revolution and found itself in a doctrinal crisis when Chinese leadership started to purge some of its instigators, such as Lin Biao, and withdraw its support from the Red Guard. To PL, that was a sign of "revisionism," and some of its members more unwavering in their loyalty to the authority of Mao broke away to form the Revolutionary Union, the ur-Revolutionary Communist Party, in early 1971. Much of Lyndon LaRouche's initial following came when he managed to convert young Marxists in New York en masse from PL to his own National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). PL's anti-revisionism kick included violent attacks on those they deemed less than pure, including on meetings organizing protests against the war in Vietnam. That same tendency would manifest in NCLC's "operation mop-up" campaign against the Communist Party USA in 1973.
After its expulsion from SDS and rejecting Maoism, PL faded off into the netherworld of tiny left-communist sects. Today's position is that Marx was wrong about the multiple stages (first bourgeois-democratic revolution - or "New Democracy" in Maoist terminology - then socialism, then communism) and that the goal should be to fight directly for communism. They define communism as a moneyless, classless society, which they think the entire world must immediately change to after the revolution. They have come to reject the idea of a vanguard party and of individual communist parties in one country. In short, their ultra-sectarianism led them further and further left, each time criticizing their own previous positions from the left, and finally landing in the "impossibilist" camp.
- Chronology of Political Events, 1954-1992 (Part Five, 1981-1992), Revolution in the Air