First Published: January 1965
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The launching of a revolutionary party in the U.S. is a most serious undertaking. In the first place, it is attempting a difficult but possible task of defeating U.S. imperialism on its own territory. Secondly, because it is a party unlike other political parties–a party of the U.S. working class built upon the theoretical foundation of Marxism-Leninism–it has the sacred responsibility of whole-heartedly serving the U.S. working class. Finally, because we are revolutionaries we have the duty of supporting fellow workers and oppressed people all over the world who are engaged in sharp battle with the U.S. ruling class.
Obviously, such a party must bring together the most loyal, most courageous, most conscious, best disciplined forces in order to wage irreconcilable struggles against all enemies of the U.S. working class, and against enemies of people fighting for freedom and socialism all over the world. This party must eventually be capable of applying Marxism-Leninism to our own conditions, and be able to defeat or correct, within our own ranks, various errors that will arise.
If our party can do these things it will take deep roots among the working people of our country, as well as other groups necessary to achieve workers’ political power in the U.S.
In order to carry forward the political line of the party and to defend ourselves from the state machinery of oppression, it is important that the party’s organization be built along revolutionary lines, and that the party’s activities be carried out in a militant disciplined manner. The organizational theory of the party is democratic centralism. The scientific method of evaluating and learning from all experiences, good and bad, is criticism an self-criticism.
Our party is being formed in a period in which revolution is the dominant political trend all over the world. It comes into being at a time when Marxism-Leninism is being affirmed and reaffirmed time and time again. This has been demonstrate through the debate in the international movement, a debate concerning two lines: one for revolutionary socialism, the other for surrender and retrogression to capitalism. Revolutionaries all over the world are uniting under the banner of Marxism-Leninism, because they see in life the true unchanged character of imperialism. Most important they see that through militant battle they can defeat U.S. imperialism! In our own country workers, students, black people and intellectuals are in ever-sharpening struggle with the U.S. rulers. They are learning, slowly but surely, that their security and freedom cannot be won under capitalism. We have seen through our own limited experience that some of the best forces in these movements can be and are being brought to see the necessity for applying the science of Marxism-Leninism in our country. They see, too, that the science of the class struggle must be mastered and is entirely applicable to our own conditions.
We can take great pride in the small forward steps of our young movement. In three years we have emerged as a national movement. We have openly carried forward the banners of revolution. We have established some important ties to the key political movements in the country. As a result of our limited work we have incurred the wrath of the ruling class, which is good, and have already received many blows. In the face of these attacks our members and leaders have stood fast, have answered tit for tat, and have grown politically as well as numerically despite the assault. It is in the course of all these various battles that we will achieve the testing that is necessary to call ourselves with full confidence revolutionaries worthy of serving the U.S. workers. In the course of our activities we will learn how to develop and apply revolutionary theory to our country’s problems.
The U.S. ruling class has its state apparatus, which not only serves as the instrument of repression against the workers, but also acts as the general staff for the ruling clique. U.S. workers need their own general staff. The party can serve this function if it is capable, and wins the confidence of the broad masses of workers. The party must be in a position to evaluate every facet of the class struggle in every area. It must review all the parts and Piece together the whole, in order to develop the strategy and tactics for revolution. It must be able to see the inter-relation of the class struggle in our country to the global class war that rages continuously. It must provide our working class with the strategy of victory, a strategy based upon the scientific evaluation of all the political phenomena.
In order to do this the party must be able to recognize all contradictions in the class struggle, and see how to utilize them or overcome them in the interest of the workers. The fundamental contradiction in our country today is between the workers and the owners of production. It is becoming clearer to many of our people that their problems will never be solved by this system It is becoming clearer to others that their problems will get worse under this system. And it is becoming clearer to some that the system must be changed. Conditions of most workers in the country are worsening. Intellectuals are being straight-jacketed to the military industrial complex. Students are recognizing the factory environment of the educational system. Many in all categories are beginning to link the subjugation at home to the oppression abroad. So deep is this contradiction, that the U.S. rulers are afraid to commit U.S. workers and students to fight in their armies. These contradictions can be harnessed to step up the class struggle in favor of the workers.
Within the people’s movements negative contradictions arise and must be overcome. Antagonisms have been created between workers and student-intellectuals; contradictions between black and white workers; between old and young workers; between organized and unorganized workers; contradictions between farmers and workers; between the petit-bourgeoisie and all workers. These contradictions must be solved so that the class struggle can move along more dynamically. Can anyone, scientifically, deal with these questions other than a revolutionary party? Can anyone advance the strategy and tactics for workers’ power? Can these things be accomplished on an individual basis? Can you defeat U.S. imperialism by yourself? Only a well developed, theoretical, disciplined organization with class ties of trust and confidence with the entire working class could accomplish this; an organization which is committed collectively and individually to defeating the U.S. ruling class; an organization that can learn how to withstand not only the attacks of the moment, but the attacks to come over a long period of time.
The struggle in this country will be of a long range character. As was said, we are dealing with the strongest ruling class in history. Only the most careful organizational and ideological preparation, leading to unbreakable ties with the masses will sustain us through many dark nights. Despite this difficult long range outlook, we can have great confidence in the final outcome. The U.S. working class, despite defeatist conceptions by self-professed “Marxists” and “radicals”, abounds in revolutionary heritage and potential. We revolutionaries cannot see things statically. We cannot fix on things as they are at the moment. Young lovers can afford this luxury. Not us. Every day shows the growing militancy in all sections of the working class arena. Strikes and turmoil in almost all industries, and other key sectors, are a fearsome thing to the bosses. They recognize the potential of all workers to rebel, and act accordingly. This is not to see things only through rose colored glasses. We must recognize the low level of class-consciousness that exists. But, that is precisely our job–to bring class-consciousness into the workers’ movements; to win political leadership of the working people.
If we have no confidence in the working class, let’s not even try. Because only the working class, due to its relationship to the means of production, and because of its strength, can be the leading class in the revolutionary development.
We don’t have to stand in awe of the profit-princes. Their world is rapidly crumbling under hammer blows from revolutionary forces all over the world. Revolutionary socialism is triumphing everywhere. We can learn from all genuine revolutionaries. Our science is far stronger and more durable than the bourgeois ”ideology.” We are on the side of the great majority. Our enemy is small in number, has few real friends, and can depend only on what it can buy–sometimes. We will win if we learn how to develop ourselves into bona-fide revolutionaries, and our party into the party of the working class.
Most of the members in our movement have never been in the organized left before. This is good! It is good because we do not have to defeat years of incorrect ideology and wrong methods of work of the old movement. Most of our people are young, many do not come from working class backgrounds. These members however, bring to the movement not only their enthusiasm, militancy, and courage–but their ignorance of revolutionary theory and their petit-bourgeois tendencies.
We are all surrounded by bourgeois ideology. The pressure exerted against us, as against all the people, is enormous. There is not a clear cut revolutionary situation in our country, therefore functioning is not so simple. Many of our people are still committed to their own self-advancement. They can still exist within the system. Middle-class forces can still “escape,” at some point from the class struggle. As a result illusions still persist about the capitalist system. Tremendous ideological work must be done among our people to burn out all vestiges of bourgeois thought. This must be a collective process, requiring intensive, systematic criticism and self-criticism, based on study and practice. Because of petit-bourgeois influence, individualism is a dominant tendency among some of our forces. They are not used to solving problems together. In this society you solve your problems on your own–if you can. The strong survive. The collective process is still foreign. Individual evaluations are made about things and people. If one decides someone or something is wrong–that’s it. He simply goes around and acts on his own assumption. He has no concern for whom or what he undermines. He knows he is “correct,” so why talk it over.
Many of us would rather consult our friends than the collective. If we like someone he must be good, and everything he says must be so. This breeds elitism, and of course, he who has the most friends will have the most “influence.”
Many of us still have a short range approach to our lives. Therefore if things do not go as well or as fast as we think they should we get easily discouraged. We do not embark on our work in a scientific manner. We make false estimates of what we think can be accomplished. We are subjective in our set-backs, instead of being analytical. This happens because we are not yet sure of the need for a life-long commitment to socialism–to revolution. Not enough of us are ready to give our very lives if need be. These are attributes that must be pursued, and won’t be achieved by saying it’s so, or in a short period of time. Naturally, objective conditions could change things drastically, but given the present period these are things we will have to grow into.
Only in a party apparatus, where people are serious and disciplined, can we begin the necessary cadre development–the winning of people at various political levels to a total revolutionary perspective. People may join the party for various reasons, but the party has the responsibility to train its cadre into revolutionary forces. The party and its work becomes the center of our lives, the most important thing in our lives, the thing that we hold closest and value the most in our lives. This is why in other countries revolutionary parties have triumphed over apparently superior forces. This is why the ruling class fears communists. The morality of a real communist is unconquerable because of a class outlook, and total devotion to the ideas to which he is committed. This is what the ruling class cannot buy, cannot destroy. We will develop these cadres in our country. Only a revolutionary party can and will do it.
The purpose of self-criticism and criticism is to strengthen the individual communist, and of course, the party. We have to learn from our experiences, and be able to appraise positive and negative developments objectively. If we do not strengthen ourselves in this process we will not have practiced this method correctly. The results will be destructive. This is a real danger, because capitalism–the U.S. version is the worst–produces the “dog eat dog” mentality. People who are in error are to be scorned and cast aside. People with whom we disagree must be put down in bitter debate in order to demonstrate our “correctness.” And, if you can’t win a debate on its merits, scheme a little, get off in the corner with your friends, talk the “adversary” into the ground, finish him off.
We have to understand that in this particular period, due to our general inexperience, low level of political development, no great amount of U.S. revolutionary theory to draw from, tremendous pressures of coercion and repression from the enemy, and no brilliant leaders to emulate, we will make mistakes. This will happen collectively and individually. If we understand some of our weaknesses, and develop a patient scientific attitude in dealing with them, in time we will be able to overcome most of them. If we develop a working class attitude in dealing with errors, then the proper atmosphere will exist for criticism and self-criticism. Our members will welcome this vital aspect of party building as much as other work. We will not get upset and bristle at such exchanges, but have the attitude of thanks that the criticisms came out. For in this process the party will be strengthened, and, after all, this is the thing nearest and dearest to us. However, it would be incorrect if we view this process of strengthening our work in formalistic way. Criticism cannot be done by appointment or command. It must become an integral part of party life. If We spent as much time evaluating our work and the party’s work as we do debating other matters we would be better off. Criticism must be developed in a consistent-systematic way, involving all leaders and members.
We must develop an attitude of mutual respect for one another. The party’s members are its most important asset. Why should we trifle with them? Some people feel that because someone is in the movement, he can be taken for granted. They do not understand the need for warm political and personal relations. A member in error is considered an enemy. People who have no consideration for party members, in all probability, have no consideration for anyone. You can’t be a “Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde”–tough on the inside, sweet on the outside. Train yourself to be a sincere person in the party, one who can work collectively, and these traits will carry into your mass work.
In the course of practice of criticism and self-criticism problems develop that must be dealt with in a more flexible manner. Some forces get into a bad state because of many blows from the enemy, and tremendous internal pressures from the party. It can lead to the inability to practice criticism and self-criticism in the ”normal” way. Such people are in no position to accept formal collective criticism at this moment. They have to be restored by various methods: by extra efforts to be closer on a personal and political basis; by more individual gentle criticism; sometimes rest is needed, as in the case of any battle fatigue. In any event every cadre must be assessed on an individual basis. We are not all the same. We all suffer ups and downs. We must never become hardened to one another. Great care is needed in developing durable comradely relations.
At other times, some of our cadre receive criticism, accept it in words, and don’t change one iota. They continue their wrong harmful ways. They in fact act in such a way as to undermine the movement, unintentionally. No matter how persuasive, patient, or correct the criticism is, the comrade shows no change; perhaps he gets sicker. This requires a different approach. One must become a little rougher. Actually, the patient is not sick enough to recognize his illness. Make him “sicker”. Yell at him, “knock” him in the head. When he is sick enough maybe he will respond to loving care. If not he needs a leave of absence to reflect more on his attitudes, his political development. Remove him from the scene, temporarily, before more damage is done.
Many of us come from the middle class. Those of us who do not, suffer enormous middle-class pressure. Only through the development of the party and its scientific processes can we defeat these influences and become real people. Then we can break the ruling class hold over our lives, and make the recruiting of petit-bourgeois forces into the party a most positive development. Through practice these forces can overcome the contradiction between workers and themselves and develop full working class relations with many potential revolutionary workers.
As we have noted–we are taking on a powerful adversary. He can be defeated, because he faces a whole series of insoluble contradictions. One of the key contradictions is between the U.S. ruling class and its workers, students, intellectuals, and certain sections of the petit-bourgeoisie. If we learn how to deal with these contradictions we can win. But this implies that we must have real ties to these groupings of people. We must win their confidence, and eventually be the vanguard of the people’s movements. Democratic Centralism, then, is not a series of arbitrary organizational rules. Democratic Centralism enables us to gather the ideas from the people, fashion them into programmatic and strategic positions, and then go back to the people with our plans. It is, in fact, the scientific organizational theory that enables us to draw closer to the masses, enabling us to develop our theory, strategy, tactics, while preserving the movement from the blows of the enemy.
Democratic Centralism enables the party to act as a united solid phalanx against the enemy, making the effect of a smaller force far greater than usual. Democratic Centralism unites leaders and members, develops mutual confidence, develops iron discipline based on voluntary association. This discipline is higher than military discipline, because it is based on understanding not command, on voluntary association rather than enforced relations These kinds of organizational concepts are foreign, and feared by the ruling class. Essentially, they hold their cadre through buying them, and by fear.
These are three concepts to be fought for to make Democratic Centralism work. First, the ability to engage in full frank discussions from top to bottom on basic political questions. Second ties to the people, to prevent the discussions from becoming academic personal exercises in rhetoric. Third, the willingness to subordinate your individual desires and thoughts to the will of the majority.
By utilizing these three concepts we can accomplish the following: arrive democratically at decisions; be able to carry them out among the masses, and at a later date re-evaluate experiences democratically, based on serving and learning from the people; by being able to curb or destroy bourgeois individualism, we can act unitedly in all situations, giving us our maximum strength and strength beyond that.
To fully develop this method it is important to achieve the following. The party needs a core of tested, devoted, competent leaders. Leaders who can earn the hatred of the enemy, the respect and devotion of the party’s members and the masses. If this is achieved it is more likely that the members will react more quickly to the decisions of the leaders once the general line is hammered out at conventions, plenums, etc.
Of course, we have not as yet achieved this situation in our movement. Some of our leaders have various portions of these qualifications. None comes close to having all. One could say that our leadership is thoroughly committed, but not fully developed. Therefore, our leaders need a lot of help from the members. The democratic aspect must be developed with a capital D. In time, our working class will produce leaders that approach some of the other great revolutionary leaders in other countries. Fortunately, these other great leaders and movements existed and exist, and we can learn from them. Naturally, we are independent and cannot simply ape other experiences, and try to fit them into our situation. But, we can always learn from others. All fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism are applicable in our situation. And some of the particular experiences of others can be utilized in our own country.
Another key aspect to develop is the fullest participation possible of our members in the work. Naturally, everyone isn’t the same. Some members have different situations than others, but all should be encouraged to carry forward the work of the party. In this way greater experience is gathered by leaders and rank-and-filers, making criticisms and decisions more meaningful. Too many of our people still take a casual attitude to party decisions. All too many cannot work in a sustained way. Many of us are simply lazy. This is because many of our people have never had work experience. Many are from school. Others shun work like the plague. Others have the mistaken notion that being a revolutionary means working full time for the organization. Some won’t give the organization a lot of their time unless they are paid. All of these faults indicate low political level and poor leadership. Democratic Centralism can become an abstraction (this rule to fight over, or that rule to fight for . . .). Our members and leaders must be vigorous, conscientious, responsible–all adding up to doing real political work on the job or in the community.
Factionalism or “tendencies” or groupings or cliques based on personal relations cannot be tolerated in our movement. No revolutionary movement triumphed over a powerful enemy divided into such formations. Debate, and criticism, when open, constructive are the life blood of the movement. When conducted surreptitiously, outside the body of the party, not in front of the group or individual concerned, they become the death of the party.
Many high sounding notes are put forward to justify factionalism. “Tendencies are the history of movements.” This Trotskyite notion is one of the reasons these counter-revolutionaries never led a revolution anywhere, and why they never will. This notion, in fact, expresses bourgeois concepts in the revolutionary movement. It breeds mistrust in one another, and in the masses. If you have criticisms raise them openly, constructively. If you are unsure how to pursue this method discuss it with the leadership. No one need fear the raising of criticism. No one should fear the collective disposition of the criticism. Cliques dissipate the energies of the movement. People’s time is taken up not with planning or carrying out the line of the party and collectively evaluating its results, but with preparing schemes against one another. Meetings are held to prepare for meetings. Splits within splits. Meetings within meetings–within meetings. This is at best trade-union mentality, at worst the mentality of the enemy. Nothing can dress this nonsense up–nothing can justify it. Our movement, if it is serious can tolerate almost anything but this.
Of course, one should take into account the intensity applied in pursuing criticism, or differences. Not every matter is a question of life or death. A member should always be prepared to compromise on matters of secondary importance. Not every difference is a matter of principle. On matters of fundamental questions one should pursue things to the end so to speak. For example, if the party or a member was opposed to the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, this a fundamental proposition. Fight for it all the way. Whether to have this picket line or that one, would not be a question to go all out on. Don’t turn the party into a perpetual battle field over every question. In many cases the other fellow’s judgment is as valid as yours. If, in the event, things prove you right, the party will have another chance to do it that way.
We have been a flexible movement till now. This has been good. We still must be flexible, but we must tighten up. We must demand more from one another. We are under attack. People face long jail sentences. Can we continue to accept slovenly political work or attitudes? Can we slide over or shy away from criticisms? Do we not have to be more disciplined; spread our influence among the masses; raise, through consistent study, our ideological level? Can anyone of us be satisfied with ourselves or with one another? This is not the signal for a ruthless purge, etc. But it is a call to put into practice a rational, scientific method of work; to do in a healthy way what most of us already believe.
In our short existence we have had virtually no organizational expulsions or punitive actions. This is good! Our people in general have grown, but not enough. We will be ruthless with agents within our ranks. We will save our ruthlessness for them. With one another, we will, in a patient, constructive way, demand higher and higher levels of participation and devotion, until we justify the term “vanguard.” We will not become automatons, unable to consider personal problems, etc., but we will try and give every consideration to the party. The party is and must become first and foremost in our lives.
We have picked up the banner of patriotism and revolution. It is we who are acting in accordance with the desires of the U.S. workers. But we have no allegiance to a corrupt dying system, led by a ruthless, vicious class.