In 1930, Mao Tsetung wrote a letter, aimed primarily at Lin Piao and others in the Chinese Communist Party who were putting forward a defeatist and pessimistic view of the class struggle in China, picturing the enemy as very strong and the revolutionary forces as very weak. Mao countered this viewpoint by arguing that it was important to see beyond the appearance of a situation and get to its essence by looking at things objectively and by using the science of Marxism-Leninism.
The essence of the situation at the time, as Mao scientifically analyzed it, was that although the revolutionary forces were small–due mainly to the severe setbacks in the cities in 1927–the counter-revolutionary forces were also relatively weak for various reasons, and the situation on the whole was excellent for making big advances.
As Mao put it, it is necessary to “apply the old Chinese saying, ’A single spark can start a prairie fire.’ In other words, our forces, although small at present, will grow very rapidly. In the conditions prevailing in China, their growth is not only possible but indeed inevitable ...” All of China, Mao pointed out, “is littered with dry faggots which will soon be aflame. The saying, ’A single spark can start a prairie fire,’ is an apt description of how the current situation will develop. We need only look at the strikes by the workers, the uprisings of the peasants, the mutinies of soldiers and the strikes of students which are developing in many places to see that it cannot be long before a ’spark’ kindles ’a prairie fire.’”
History has proven just how correct Mao’s analysis was–the Chinese people have achieved their liberation and are building socialism–and how important it is for communists to get past the mere appearance of a thing, get to its essence and then firmly grasp that essence. In the U.S. today, the revolutionary forces are relatively small and weak. But it is also true that the U.S. monopoly capitalist ruling class, our enemy, is no longer as strong as it once was, is in serious crisis and has become much more vulnerable to attack. That is why it can also be said that our forces, while presently small, will grow rapidly, and that given the conditions prevailing in the U.S. today, “their growth is not only possible but indeed inevitable.”
It can also be said, as Mao said of China in 1930, that the U.S. today is a tinder box. We, too, need only look at the workers’ strikes, the struggles of the nationally oppressed peoples of our country, the resurgence of the student movement, the rebellions of the soldiers and the growth of an anti-imperialist veteranís movement, etc., to understand that here, too, ”a single spark can start a prairie fire.”
But these sparks cannot be built into a flame, and this flame cannot be built into a mighty fire of revolution that will consume the enemy without the conscious and dedicated work of communists. One of the key tasks of communists is to fan the flames of these struggles that are breaking out everywhere in our country. It is our job to broaden and deepen these struggles as much as possible, by involving the largest numbers of workers, making the widest links with all other struggles, of workers and others, and helping the workers to draw political lessons from these struggles.
It is also essential for us to popularize some of the most important of these struggles throughout the country, to build support for them, and to encourage the workers to draw inspiration and lessons from these struggles and initiate struggles of their own on this basis. And it is also necessary for communists to make this “single spark method” not only a method used by ourselves, but also by the active and advanced workers and the broad masses of workers themselves.
A good example of how this “single spark method” was employed to a certain degree, and quite successfully, was around the recently ended Farah strike. The facts and the political significance of the Farah strike are now well known within the movement and among hundreds of thousands of workers and others, but that was not the case two years ago, when the strike began in May 1972.
The immediate cause of the strike was the question of union recognition. Since 1969, the nearly 4000 workers, mostly Chicano women, at the nine Farah Manufacturing Co. plants in Texas and New Mexico have been trying to get a union. For over 50 years, the Farah Co., largest maker of men’s and boys’ pants in the U.S., has exploited the hell out of its workers, with starting pay at $1.70 an hour and average weekly take home pay at $69. In addition, the workers were forced into a killing quota system, pitting worker against worker by offering “the fastest”, workers raises. And there was no job security, few benefits, and constant discrimination against the Chicano workers.
The Company tried to smash the union drive by firing workers active in pushing for’ the union (Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America), by preventing people from talking with each other inside the plants about unionizing, etc. But this intimidation and harassment only increased the Farah workers’ desire to get unionized. In the first week of May 1972, seven workers at one of Farah’s San Antonio plants were fired for attending a union rally held in El Paso the day before. Five hundred workers at the San Antonio plant walked out in anger, and that started things really going. When the word got to El Paso, hundreds of workers from the Farah plants there also walked out. El Paso is the heart of the Farah empire, with the Company employing one of every seven workers in the city. It is the site of the huge Gateway plant, which employs over 5000 Chicano workers. Soon thousands of others from Gateway and the other plants in El Paso and elsewhere joined those who already had walked out. The strike was on in earnest.
Owner Willie Farah and the local ruling class moved to try to break the strike. A court injunction was issued saying people had to picket 50 feet apart from each other,. Before this had even become known to most of the strikers, 1000 arrest warrants were issued in El Paso by the local Justice of the Peace for breaking the injunction, with the “local Justice” getting $4 for each warrant issued. The El Paso police arrested 800 workers, sometimes pulling off Gestapo-like raids on the workers’ homes in the middle of the night. And boss Farah also issued guns and dogs to the plant guards, telling the New York Times he had done so to deal with “boozed up Latin kids”–meaning the strikers.
But, again, every move by Farah to crush the strike only increased the strikers’ determination to continue the fight. The strikers set up a Strike Committee to coordinate things, and set up a Farah Distress Fund to get contributions from other El Paso workers and from other parts of the country.
The strike “settled in.” It was obvious that the Farah workers–who for years had to work for pennies in garment sweatshops and had been subjected to speed-up, no benefits worth a damn and discrimination-were not about to knuckle under to Farah’s injunctions, guns and dogs. And it was also obvious that this strike involved a lot more than the question of union recognition. This was a strike in the largely unorganized southwest, where strikes were largely unheard of. And this was a strike mainly of Chicano workers, a strike that reflected not only the developing struggle of the U.S. working class against the capitalist class, but also the developing struggle of the Chicano people against their oppression.
The roots of the Farah strike really go back to the time of the conquest of the Southwest in the mid-19th century. Since that time, the Chicano people have faced the armed theft of their land, the systematic attempt to destroy their history, culture, and language, and the brutality of being forced into miserable living conditions and the most dangerous, low-paying jobs.
But the history of the Chicano people is one of struggle as well as oppression. From the earliest days of the conquest until today, from the zinc mines in New Mexico to the fields of California, the Chicano people have fought back. Today, Chicano people are concentrated in basic industry in the urban areas of the Southwest. Their experience in socialized industrial production, as well as their key role in production in the Southwest, gives the Chicano people a more powerful basis for organizing, and a new wave of resistance, more widespread than before, has been launched. The Farah strike is one of the most significant struggles in this new wave.
In October 1972, two RU members from the San Francisco Bay Area were sent to El Paso to investigate the strike, about which little was known despite the fact that it had already been going on for nearly six months. Through talking with strikers, it became evident to the two that the Farah strike was of great importance to the entire working class–a key battle in the war to unionize the Southwest and to hit back at the ruling class and its strategy of closing down unionized shops in the North and running away to the South and Southwest where labor was so much cheaper because it was non-unionized–and that it was also an important struggle of the Chicano people against their oppression.
What it was necessary for communists to do, it was concluded, was to mobilize widespread and concrete support for the Farah strike within the entire U.S. working class and among others. And in the course of building this concrete support, communists must explain the vital role of the Chicano section of the working class within the Chicano liberation movement and mobilize the entire working class not just in trade union solidarity, not just around the question of union recognition, benefits, runaway shops, etc., but also in active struggle against the national oppression of the Chicano people.
The RU in the Bay Area decided to try to begin building support for the strike and issued a call for the creation of Farah Strike Support Committees (FSSCs). We initially approached the ACWA, but the union wanted no part of such support groups. We then decided to go ahead and build independent FSSCs. We sought to unite workers, Chicano movement forces, students, and other anti-imperialist and progressive forces, to work out some principles of unity and what the major practical focus of the FSSCs would be.
The Bay Area FSSCs decided on four basic principles of unity. One, that the Farah strike is an important battle in the overall struggle of the working class. Two, the strike also represented an important battle in the Chicano people’s struggle against national oppression. Three, the strike represented a key development in the struggle for real equality for women. Chicano women made up nearly 85% of the strikers and some were playing an active and leading role during the strike. Several of the strike’s demands were directed against the special oppression of women workers–such as the demand for paid maternity leave. Four, the strike was also important in the battle against runaway shops and for unionization of the Southwest.
And underlying all these principles was the idea of uniting all who can be united in support of the Farah strike. This idea and the four basic principles were not agreed upon without quite a bit of struggle. Initial discussions in the Bay Area FSSCs centered around whether members of the Committees had to have an anti-imperialist understanding of the significance of the strike. This line was pushed hardest by the Venceremos organization (which now is defunct). RU members and others argued against this line, pointing out that, if adopted, the FSSCs would be restricted to a coalition of movement forces and this would prevent the Committees from uniting all who could be united around the strike, and then trying to raise people’s political understanding in the course of doing concrete support work around, the strike. The “Venceremos line” was defeated.
At the same time, RU members and others tried to prevent the level of unity from being reduced to simple trade unionism. The question was posed: “Should we mainly build the boycott against Farah pants, or do education around the issues involved in the strike?” Some’ people felt that building the boycott was the most important task. But this could lead to contradictions in bringing out the key issues. For instance, when speaking to a largely white, all-male union, should the FSSCs have stuck to the issues of job conditions, the fight for a union, and runaway shops and not stress the significance of the strike in the struggle against national oppression and the oppression of women?
Or when leafleting a church, should the Committees have used the Archbishop of El Paso’s letter of support for the strike rather than FSSC literature, talking about the political questions involved, because the Archbishop’s letter would supposedly “sway” more people to support the strike? RU members argued that the’ only way to build a successful boycott–one that would contribute directly to the building of a powerful, political workers’ movement–was to raise the essential issues of the strike in a bold way and thoroughly explain them. It was pointed out that we had to heighten people’s understanding of the strike’s political significance and the workers’ interests as a class.
The FSSCs’ experience in the next few months–in conducting picket lines, speaking at union meetings, to community groups, etc.–proved conclusively that not only were working people, Chicanos and others more than willing to hear about the political issues involved in the strike, but that they wanted to hear them and, once understanding what was at stake, enthusiastically took up the job of building support for the strike themselves.
This was the real strength of the Bay Area FSSCs-they mobilized and relied on the strength of the working class and the Chicano people; not by appealing to their narrow interests, but by raising the broader political questions involved in the strike and by drawing on the strength and inspiration of the Farah strikers themselves. In fact, this was the only way consistent and sustained support could be generated and applied to other struggles as well.
The importance of relying on and releasing the initiative of working and Chicano people was reinforced through relations with the leadership of the ACWA. The FSSCs were gaining in strength. The Committees devoted a great deal of time to mobilizing people for weekly picketing and leafleting throughout the Bay Area. Picket lines at stores carrying scab pants were strong and spirited. Then in January, the FSSCs in the Bay Area, along with the Committees that also had been formed in Southern California, organized a speaking tour for two Farah strikers.
The two strikers were able to reach thousands of people in the Bay Area and Southern Calif., speaking to unions, community groups, rank and file caucuses, to students, at churches and on Spanish-speaking radio shows. Money was raised for the Farah Distress Fund and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for supporting the strike was generated, especially among workers. Workers in one Bay Area plant pledged to send a regular contribution to the strikers. An ILWU local started a “buck a month” club. The rank and file of a phone company local voted to have the union send a monthly donation.
Seeing all of this development, the ACWA leadership was forced to offer minimal support while doing little on its own to build the boycott. In March 1973, the ACWA and an ad hoc committee of union bureaucrats called for a mass demonstration in front of Mervyn’s department store in San Pablo, Calif, (a major retailer of scab Farah pants). The FSSCs, and the RU members in them, overestimated the strength of the union bureaucrats and their desire and ability to mobilize support for the strikers. So while the picket line was a success (over 300 people turned out to tell Mervyn’s to “take those damn slacks off the racks”), the FSSC relinquished the day’s program to the union bureaucrats. But this was totally unnecessary since it had been the FSSCs that had mobilized most of the people to come to the picket line, not these so-called union leaders. If the FSSCs had taken leadership of the rally, the important political lessons of the strike would have been made much clearer and stronger.
By the spring of ’73, with the strike ending its first year, support activities and committees had developed in several major cities around the country. The flames were being fanned, and a single spark, the Farah strike, was becoming a prairie fire, mobilizing and uniting people and, through the work of communists, helping to raise their political consciousness. The Farah strikers themselves were standing firm, despite the fact that Farah and the ruling class were doing everything they could to break them. The Farah strikers were inspired by the support that was building up for them across the country, and in turn, the supporters around the country were inspired by the strikers’ great determination to fight on until victory.
In June 1973, the RU initiated and helped organize a tour of two Bay Area FSSC members to several cities in the Midwest and East. The purpose was to develop more Support Committees, based on what had been learned in the Bay Area, and in that way to deepen and broaden support for the strike and further spread the political lessons of the strike. The tour was successful. New FSSCs were created in several more major cities, and picketing, fund-raising, etc. rapidly developed. In all, there were now some 20 FSSCs, and the boycott had truly become nationwide. And Farah definitely was hurting. He had lost millions of dollars, Farah stock had plunged on the market, and he had been forced to close several of his plants (the scabs couldn’t do the work).
Meanwhile, the unity and consciousness of the Farah strikers continued to grow. On July 15, the strikers organized and led a workers’ rally in support of the strike, the first workers’ rally in El Paso history. As one woman striker at the rally said, “We were told that Chicanos could never get together. But he (Willie Farah) was wrong because we are here. We are few but we represent many–and not only Chicanos. We now have many friends–Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, Chinese, Black and white.
“No matter what nationality, they are on our side ’til the end because we are going to win this strike. We were told if you go out on strike you’ll starve. We are going to teach him he was wrong.” In addition to workers, there were members of Chicano student and community organizations at the rally, which showed how the Chicano movement in El Paso and the Farah strikers began to link up their struggles and support one another, and the leading role the Farah workers were playing in making this possible. For example, on August 11, some Farah strikers marched in an El Paso demonstration protesting the police murder in Dallas of a young Chicano boy.
And just as the Farah strikers were linking up with the Chicano movement in El Paso and uniting all who could be united in support of the strike, so were the various Support Committees uniting workers and others both in support of the strike and in support of the Chicano people’s struggle against national oppression. Boycott and other support activities continued to pick up through the summer and into the fall of 1973.
In the last half of October, two of the women strikers visited about ten cities in the Midwest and East to further consolidate the work of the Support Committees. And at every meeting and rally they held, large numbers of people-workers, students, and community people, white, Black, and Latino-turned out to greet them and pledge their continued support. One of the strikers pointed out that the support was not only nationwide but also international, with money and messages of support coming in from places like Japan and Belgium. (Workers in a Farah plant in Belgium are also unionizing, and Farah workers in Hong Kong refused to finish partially completed slacks made by scabs in El Paso.)
In their speeches at the meetings and rallies, the two strikers emphasized the unity of their struggle with the struggles of other workers and oppressed people, especially the farmworkers, and that “we’re fighting with all strikes.” As reported in the November 1973 Revolution, “At many of the rallies, rank and file workers from caucuses in various industries–steel, electronics, farmworkers, and several others–expressed wholehearted support for the Farah strike and described how they were building buck-a-week or buck-a-month clubs, helping to picket stores, or raising the question of the strike in their unions. The spirit was strong and militant, with cries of ’huelga!’ and ’Boycott Farah!’ and sustained hand-clapping and foot-stomping.
“Quite a few workers talked at the rallies about how the Farah strike was hitting problems they felt, too–such as runaway shops and national discrimination-and that ’in unity there is strength’–unity between organized and unorganized workers, and unity of workers of all races and nationalities ...” And one of the touring strikers, when asked by Revolution whether there was anything special she wanted to say to the Support Committees, said, “It’s been great! It won’t be long before it’s victory, and we’re inviting each and every one of you to our victory dance, because it won’t be long!” She also said that “we, the hard-working people, made him (Willie Farah) a multi-millionaire . . . (but) what goes up must come down.”
And as also mentioned in the November Revolution, at the end of the story about the strikers’ tour: “The spirit of the Farah strike and the support it has sparked was brought home in a moving moment at the Chicago meeting, when a Latino worker, speaking for a Farah support group in his plant, called a Black worker, a white worker and a Chicano farmworker up to the stage, so they could stand together, arms linked and fists upraised. This truly symbolized the growing unity and consciousness that the Farah strike and many other struggles are helping to build.”
The Farah strikers did fight on until victory. Through the fall of ’73 and into this past winter, the strikers held firm, as’ did the Support Committees, some of which introduced secondary boycotts at key department stores around Christmas time, to increase the pressure. The Seattle FSSC started the secondary boycott, and from there it spread to the Bay Area and on to other cities.
Then at the end of February, Farah surrendered. The man who said that he’d recognize a union “over my dead body” was forced to let the Farah workers unionize. The new contract does not give the Farah workers everything they wanted, and the fight for better wages, better working conditions, against discrimination and ultimately for an end to all exploitation and oppression, is of course far from over. But nobody who really views the situation objectively can say that the nearly two year-long struggle of the Farah workers ended in defeat. As rank and file Farah workers said in a statement to the Farah Strike Support Committees, right after the strike had ended, Farah’s capitulation is “the first step in a significant victory for the workers of the Southwest . . . brought about by the militant unity of the strikers and the support of workers all over the country.”
And as we say in the April 1974 issue of Revolution, “The Farah strikers’ victory is an important victory for all workers and oppressed people in the U.S. The strike not only won some basic rights for the mostly Chicano women workers at Farah, it also directly inspired hundreds of thousands of workers and others, spreading sparks of political consciousness and providing concrete lessons.”
What made this important victory possible? First of all, the Farah strikers themselves, who held out against all intimidation, harassment and deprivation, and whose determination helped to inspire thousands upon thousands of workers and others throughout the country. Secondly, the support work and Support Committees that were developed around the country, taking and building on the inspiration created by the Farah workers and, in turn, further inspiring and lifting the hopes of the Farah strikers themselves.
Then there is the question of the leading role of communists in the strike and especially in the Support Committees. It was communists, in this case the RU, who initiated the support work in the S.F. Bay Area, and it was RU members, uniting with other revolutionary and progressive forces, who played a leading role in spreading the support work from there to many other cities around the country. It was communists who played a leading role in developing this support work in order to help the Farah strikers win their immediate demands, and especially union recognition, while at the same time helping to develop the political consciousness and unity of the Farah strikers and all the workers and others who became involved in the support work or in some way were touched by it, even if only through a leaflet or two outside a department store where there was a Farah picket line.
As in the case of the Bay Area FSSCs, RU members working in the Support Committees fought against any sectarian tendency to restrict participation of people because they didn’t have a fully developed anti-imperialist consciousness, didn’t consider themselves revolutionaries or communists, etc. The idea was to unite everybody who could be united to support the Farah strikers.
At the same time, RU members working in the Committees struggled to win the Committees over to the position that support work, to be truly successful, had to go beyond mere trade union work. They argued that the Committees, in their leaflets, in their chants on the picket lines, in their talks to workers, community people, students, etc., should boldly and consistently bring forward the major political significance of the Farah strike, and the major political lessons that were being learned as the strike progressed and the support work developed.
The key political points we felt should be brought out were: 1) that the Farah strike was an important battle in the overall class war between the working class and the monopoly capitalist ruling class and the state apparatus (armed forces, police, courts, bureaucracy, etc.) they control; that Farah was not some kind of particularly wicked and greedy man, but was a member of a whole class of parasites who live off the labor of the working class and who must be dealt with by a united working class; 2) that the Farah strike also represented an important battle in the overall struggle of the Chicano people against their national oppression at the hands of this same monopoly ruling class; and 3) that the entire U.S. working class must support the Farah strike because it is both an important battle in the overall class struggle and also an important struggle against national oppression which the entire multinational working class must take up. In fact, the working class must unite all who can be united and lead the struggle against all oppression.
To a large degree, the various Support Committees did put forward these key political lessons, although there was a lot of unevenness–some doing it more than others. RU members in the Seattle area summed up the work they were doing in the FSSC there–both the strengths and weaknesses of the work–by studying and applying what Lenin had written about strikes. This summation was written up as an article for the January 1974 Revolution, and was very popular because it helped RU members and others working in Support Committees around the country to get a better handle on what they should be doing.
Lenin said that a strike is “a school of war” where the workers do battle with their capitalist enemies and learn important lessons. Strikes show, first of all, the importance, the need and the power of workers uniting. Strikes show that, alone, individual workers have no chance to get what they need and deserve, but that in the strength of unity victories can be won. In times of strikes, workers gain more understanding that unity means workers of all nationalities, of both sexes and all ages, and that if you let the bosses break you up along these lines, you’ve had it.
Secondly, strikes raise the idea that workers are a class of people who have the same interests. Through the course of strikes, especially long and bitterly fought ones, the workers begin to see that the strike has implications beyond just one factory, company, industry or trade.
Third, strikes open the eyes of working people to the nature of the government and the system of “law and order.” Finally, as Lenin also said, every strike raises in the minds of workers ideas “of the struggle of the entire working class for emancipation from the oppression of capital.”
But Lenin also stressed that while strikes are “a school of war,” still “a school of war, is, however not war itself . . . Strikes are One of the ways in which the working class struggles for its emancipation, but they are not the only way; and if the workers do not turn their attention to other means of conducting the struggle, they will slow down the growth and successes of the working class . . . From individual strikes the workers can and must go over, as indeed they are actually doing in all countries, to a struggle of the entire working class for the emancipation of labor.”
The Seattle RU members working in the FSSC there then summed up the work according to these points of Lenin’s. The main strength, they said, has been in showing that the Farah strike shows the necessity and the power of workers’ unity. In many leaflets, oh the picket line, in discussions on the job, and in a recent pamphlet on the strike put out by the SSSC (Seattle Strike Support Committee), the slogan “In Unity There is Strength,” has been consistently put forward.
The propaganda and agitation has stressed that the Farah strike is a great blow against “right to work laws,” and rotten wages and working conditions, especially throughout the Southwest, which is a “right to work” area; and that the unity shown in the Farah strike is an important weapon for the working class. Further, it has stressed that the Farah strike is an important struggle against national oppression and discrimination, and that it shows how workers can overcome the racist and chauvinist propaganda of the capitalists that tries to divide working people from each other. The role of Chicanos and women in the strike, and how in this strike they are “holding high the banner of the working class,” has been brought out forcefully, by the SSSC as well as the RU.
But, the Seattle summation goes on, there have been weaknesses in the work of the communist forces in not clearly bringing out that the workers are a class with the same interests, fighting the whole capitalist class which has interests directly and antagonistically opposed to the workers.
There have been tendencies in the support work, the Seattle RU members point out, “to single out Willie Farah as a particularly reactionary capitalist, instead of thoroughly and consistently exposing the fact that Farah, though a man with his own quirks, is basically no different than the capitalist class as a whole, operates according to the same laws that determine the operation of all capitalists, and is in fact acting in the interests of the whole class of capitalists, not just conspiring with particular owners. His connection with other capitalists has been mentioned, but this is not a substitute for exposure of the entire capitalist class and the capitalist system.
“Similarly, the role of the capitalist state has not been exposed as sharply as possible. While it has been shown how the courts collude with Farah and his friends, it has not been clearly demonstrated that the state is the agent of the capitalist class for oppressing the working class.”
The Seattle summation then says that it of course is not the task of the Support Committees themselves to do all these things, because the Committees are formed of many different people with different viewpoints, whose basic principle of unity is to support the, Farah strike. But it is the duty of a communist organization like the RU to put forward its independent line to others in this struggle, and help them to learn through their own experience that the workers’ movement must be built into a revolutionary movement fighting for socialism and a government run by the working people.
It is the role of communists to show that while every effort must be extended to help win the Farah strike, and that this will be a great victory for the working class, any gains that are won through the strike can and will be snatched back by the capitalists so long as they hold state power and own the factories, land, machines, and control credit and trade.
More work of this kind must be done by communists, the summation concludes, so that the Farah strike and the work in support of it can truly be a “school of war,” to help prepare the working class for the real revolutionary war for state power and socialism.
This summation by the Seattle RU members also sums up, by and large, the strengths and weaknesses of the work of RU members in the other Support Committees. And our general conclusion is that despite some weaknesses and errors, the development of the support work and Support Committees represents an overwhelmingly positive development in our revolutionary movement. The Farah strikers have been a deep well of strength, inspiration and important political lessons for the Chicano people, the entire working class and also us communists.
And the work done around the Farah strike demonstrates very concretely that through the work of communists, uniting with other forces and uniting all who can be united, it is possible to take a single spark and turn it into a prairie fire, and that this is a very important part of the work that communists must do in the coming period. This “single spark method” involves building on the initiative of the workers, summing up and popularizing the political and ideological lessons of struggles such as the Farah strike, helping the workers to make ties not only with other economic struggles, but with broader political struggles, drawing political lessons and popularizing these in the class and among the masses, and, through all this, bringing forward propaganda and political education to explain the need for socialist revolution and train the advanced people as communists.
This “single spark method,” of course, is not the only method we communists must employ in building the revolutionary workers’ movement. It must be combined with concentration in key industries. This combination involves a kind of “walking on two legs,” as the Chinese say. It means digging in to do basic work, looking to the long haul and recognizing the importance of being rooted in key industries, where the industrial proletariat is concentrated–this is one leg.
Seizing on each struggle, spreading it and popularizing the lessons of it among the class, linking it with every other struggle against the system, and advancing popular consciousness to the greatest degree possible through all such struggles–this is walking on the other leg.
There is a dialectical relationship between these “two legs.” Only by basing ourselves in the industrial proletariat, and sinking roots there in preparation for protracted struggle, will our work prove successful in the long run. On the other hand, only by seizing on every spark of struggle, maximizing the political gains from it, and generally grasping and building on the understanding that “a single spark can start a prairie fire,” that workers especially learn from example and draw inspiration from it–only in this way will we avoid getting bogged down in digging roots, avoid sinking into the quicksand of economism and trade unionism and actually protracting the period of capitalist rule.