First Published as a pamphlet: October 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Revolutionary history has shown the truth of V.I. Lenin’s statement that “. . . the proletariat has no other weapon in its struggle for power except organization.” But what kind of organization? The experience of every successful revolution has proven that only a communist party that is based upon the theory of Marxism-Leninism as applied to the concrete conditions of its country and that practices democratic centralism as its organizational principle can successfully withstand the repressive blows of the ruling class and lead the proletariat to victory.
In the present period of forming a new communist party in the United States, it is necessary to lay out not only the ideological line of such a party but also the organizational foundations upon which it will be built.
How will the new party function? How will it resolve differences in its ranks? Choose its leaders? Avoid unnecessary splits? What safeguards can it take to keep its working-class base firm and its leadership accountable to the rank and file? How will the line be determined? What sort of people can be in it? These are only a few of the questions which must be taken into consideration in building a new party which can, on the one hand, maintain the necessary iron discipline of a revolutionary party, while at the same time have enough internal democracy to ensure active ideological struggle at all levels.
For a negative example of organization we need look no further than the revisionist Communist Party USA, whose abandonment of revolutionary struggle and Marxist-Leninist ideology was accompanied by a liquidation of democratic centralism inside its ranks. Adopting the strategy of “peaceful transition to socialism,” the CP deteriorated into a bankrupt parliamentary party, dropping its roots in the industrial working class and its factory-based cells or nuclei. It became a reformist party based on bourgeois electoral districts. Instead of a leadership drawn from the best sons and daughters of the proletariat and revolutionary intellectuals, the CPUSA is led by an entrenched, self-perpetuating clique of petit-bourgeois bureaucrats.
A farcical “People’s Bicentennial Celebration” complete with straw hats and streamers was their substitute for a genuine communist congress. The CPUSA Convention held in Summer 1975 was a rubber stamp for the class collaborationist leadership which, rather than discussing matters of revolutionary strategy, debated only which bureaucrat ought to run for president in 1976. The CP’s abandonment of democratic centralism was the result of the take-over of the party by a revisionist clique with a vested class interest of their own, as loyal servants of imperialism and social imperialism. In the struggle to build a new revolutionary communist party, it is necessary to break cleanly with the revisionists, both ideologically and organizationally, exposing their treachery in every sphere.
The following Constitution was adopted by the Third Congress of the October League, Marxist-Leninist, in July 1975. It outlines the basic principles of our organization as well as the fundamental duties and criteria for membership. Our guiding organizational principle is democratic centralism, the only method which can allow for full discussion of political line leading to unity of will, as well as the iron discipline, expressed in centralization, which allows for complete unity of action in carrying out that will. The organizational counter-currents of amateurishness, ultra-democracy, bureaucracy and factionalism must all be fought consistently in order to make democratic centralism a reality. Based on this principle, a communist organization is able to root itself firmly among the masses, rid itself of all opportunists, careerist elements and agents, and successfully lead the working class in revolutionary struggle against the ruling class.
The OL Constitution, in our view, outlines the main organizational principles and policies for a new communist party, striking a sharp blow against the primitiveness that has characterized the young communist movement in the U.S.– the legacy left by the revisionists when they turned their backs on the working class. It also refutes the petit-bourgeois trend in our movement which glorifies rather than combats the primitive state of the present communist movement.
The closer we come to bringing a new communist party into existence the more this backward tendency intensifies its call for all-around abandonment of democratic-centralist principles. It seeks to transform the developing communist movement into a hodge-podge of local circles vulnerable to the slightest attack at the hands of the ruling circles.
The October League Constitution is more than a description of the internal life and responsibilities of membership in our organization. The question of organization and democratic centralism is an integral question in party-building and, we believe, a highly immediate one on which every communist group and individual must take a stand. We have entered a decisive phase of party formation. The basic ideological foundations for the new party have been laid. But the organizational question remains and has now become the principal one awaiting resolution before a new party can be founded. We hope that our Constitution can serve as the basis for widespread discussion on the structure and organizational principles for the new party.
CENTRAL COMMITTEE, OCTOBER LEAGUE (MARXIST-LENINIST)
The October League is a multinational, political organization of the U.S. working class, a vanguard of the proletariat.
The October League takes Marxism-Leninism as the theoretical basis guiding its thinking.
The basic program of the October League is the complete overthrow of the monopoly capitalist class, the replacement of the dictatorship of the imperialists with the dictatorship of the working class, and the victory of socialism over capitalism. Our ultimate aim is the realization of communism, a classless society.
Today, the people of the United States live under the dictatorship of the tiny monopoly capitalist class. The ruling class propagates many ideas about “democracy” and “freedom,” but in reality the only freedom which exists is their freedom to oppress and exploit people here and around the world for profits. The U.S. government is the armed apparatus of the ruling class for protecting their ownership of the means of producing wealth and their system of vicious exploitation. It is the imperialist system that causes impoverishment, national oppression, discrimination, war and death for millions of working and oppressed peoples here and around the world.
These imperialists will never step down from the stage of history on their own. Only through armed struggle and smashing the bourgeois state can the working class establish its own dictatorship over these exploiters. With the seizure of state power, the working class will expropriate the private property of the ruling class and develop it for the use of the broad masses of people, not just a few.
The working class is the only class that stands diametrically opposed to the imperialists. It is a thoroughly revolutionary class and the only one that can lead the struggle against the imperialists through to the end.
The working class stands at the head and unites all those exploited by the imperialist system and has as its goal the emancipation of all humanity from imperialist slavery.
The strategy for revolution in the United States is the united front against imperialism, that is, uniting all whose interests stand against the monopoly capitalists – their common enemy.
At the core of this broad united front is the revolutionary alliance of the general workers movement, which is multinational, and the oppressed nationalities, their most reliable ally. The revolutionary upsurge of these two movements will accomplish, in one sweep, the liberation of the oppressed nationalities and the emancipation of the working class. The OL resolutely upholds the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination and resolutely struggles for the liberation and democratic rights of all oppressed nationalities.
Women’s liberation is a component part of proletarian revolution, and the OL firmly upholds the revolutionary struggle for the full equality and the emancipation of women. Unless the broad masses of toiling women are brought into the revolutionary struggle we will have only half of the working class army and be unable to win final victory.
The working class can make no revolution without its own political party. The party is the vanguard of the proletariat, its most organized, advanced detachment. The party maintains iron discipline, unity of will and action, and has the closest ties with the working class as a whole. The party must be guided by Marxism-Leninism applied to the concrete conditions of the United States and practice the mass line. The party leads the people in the struggle for its final aims, fights for every reform that will strengthen the fighting capacity of the working class and demonstrates to the masses through their own experiences that this system must be overthrown.
The central task of the October League and all genuine communists in the U.S. is to build a new Marxist-Leninist party diametrically opposed to all imperialist and revisionist parties. The betrayal of the CPUSA and the failure of past attempts to build a new communist party has left the working class without the organized leadership necessary for making revolution. The CPUSA, once the great leader of the working people, has degenerated into a revisionist organization representing imperialism and social-imperialism. The OL stands opposed to revisionism, whether it be from the ”left” or the right. Only through relentless struggle against opportunism can the working class win its struggle against the imperialist system.
The October League upholds proletarian internationalism and recognizes that the struggle in this country is part of the world-wide revolutionary movement. At present, the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and Soviet Union, are striving to re-divide the world and are preparing for a new world war at a feverish pace.
The October League fights against these phony “detente” schemes and unites with the world’s people in struggle against the two superpowers. We resolutely fight the imperialist oppression of nations and countries, fighting great nation chauvinism and giving concrete material aid to anti-imperialist struggles around the world. We support the just struggles of the Soviet people against the fascist, new czars who have turned the Soviet people into wage slaves and have fully restored capitalism.
The history of the communist movement including the October League shows that the struggle between two class lines, between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism, is the lifeblood of any communist organization. We wage struggle against all manifestations of bourgeois ideology and practice in our ranks in order to strengthen our fighting ability. The OL becomes stronger by purging itself of opportunist elements. In maintaining a working class stand, ideology is the key link, coupled with maintaining close ties with the masses.
Comrades in the October League must have a revolutionary spirit of going against the tide, adhere to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, work for unity and against splits, be open and above board, be firmly rooted among the masses, show love for the masses and pay attention to their needs, be good at practicing criticism and self-criticism, and be vanguard fighters against all oppression.
The future is bright, the road is tortuous. Members of the OL, dedicating their lives to the struggle for communism, will fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win final victory.
ARTICLE 1: Any person eighteen years of age or older, who accepts the program and constitution of the OL, joins and works actively in a unit of the organization, observes organizational discipline and pays membership dues, may become a member of the October League.
ARTICLE 2: People who wish to join must complete a brief application and be recommended by two members of the organization. Admission is based on the acceptance of the applicant by the unit involved, through a process of secret ballot vote, and is subject to the approval of the next highest body.
Those accepted for membership must undergo a new member probation period of not less than 3 months during which they cannot vote or be elected to any leadership positions. The purpose of such a probationary period is to enable the unit and organization to evaluate the new member in light of concrete practice, as well as for the new member to become familiar with the organization and receive training in Marxism-Leninism. At the end of the probationary period, the unit will make an evaluation and may decide to fully admit the member, extend probation, or not accept the new member. Whatever action is taken, it is subject to the approval of the next higher body.
ARTICLE 3: The duties of October League members include:
1. Conscientiously study and apply Marxism-Leninism and propagate it among the masses. Carry out the line, policies, and decisions of the October League and criticize revisionism.
2. Build strong ties with the masses and vigorously fight for their interests.
3. Work for unity, do not cause splits and be able to unite with the vast majority, including those who differ with them. Be sincere in correcting their mistakes and maintain vigilance against opportunist, splittist and police elements.
4. Practice proletarian internationalism, oppose great nation chauvinism and narrow nationalism, oppose male chauvinism and bourgeois feminism.
5. Be bold in making criticism and self-criticism.
6. Sell The Call/El Clarin and Class Struggle, and actively recruit new members to the October League.
7. Make regular reports on their work to their cell leader.
ARTICLE 4: A member of the October League who violates organizational discipline, whose practice is inconsistent with Marxism-Leninism, or in general does not carry out his/ her duties as a member of the organization may be disciplined by either a warning, probation or expulsion. If necessary, cadre can be removed from commissions, leading bodies, or have other responsibilities taken away. Disciplinary action is subject to the approval of the next highest body. Cadres have the right to appeal the decision to higher bodies, up to and including the Central Committee and National Congress.
Proven opportunists, enemy agents and degenerates must be cleared out of the organization and not re-admitted.
A member whose revolutionary will has degenerated and who does not change despite repeated education may be asked to resign from the October League.
ARTICLE 5: The October League is based on the organizational principle of democratic centralism. Strengthening democratic Centralism is essential for consolidating the organization, preventing revisionism, and implementing a proletarian revolutionary line.
It is essential to create a political situation in which there is both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and the greatest possible initiative. Democratic centralism means unity of will and action based on a relentless struggle for the line and ideology of the working class and iron discipline based on this unity.
Whenever possible, leading bodies of the October League at all levels shall be elected by the membership through the process of free nomination and secret ballot vote. Comrades have the right, after making their views known, to appeal disagreements on important matters to higher bodies. Comrades have the right to criticize leadership and to make such criticisms known to leadership. It is absolutely impermissible to suppress criticism or retaliate against it.
The whole organization must adhere to unified discipline. The individual is subordinate to the organization, the minority is subordinate to the majority, the lower levels are subordinate to the higher levels and the entire organization is subordinate to the Central Committee.
The principles of democratic centralism do not tolerate factionalism, either within the organization or with people outside the organization. Factionalism is the method of bourgeois opportunists and police who wish to split and wreck. Disregard for the democratic-centralist life of the organization, the formation of blocks or groups outside the structure of the organization, unprincipled attacks on the organization, its members and leaders all are included as factional activity.
ARTICLE 6: The October League is a multi-national, cadre organization, including men and women. Members of the October League are trained in Marxism-Leninism to become professional revolutionaries, dedicating their entire lives to the establishment of socialism.
ARTICLE 7: The October League is a basically secret organization established to function even under the most repressive conditions of the bourgeois state. However, the OL will take advantage of every opportunity to combine secret methods with open and legal ones.
ARTICLE 8: The October League, a working class organization, is built on the firmest ties with the proletariat. It bases itself at the point of production, through the factory cell. These cells make up the majority of units of the organization.
ARTICLE 9: The following criteria should be used in selecting and judging leadership:
1. Leadership should show absolute devotion to the cause of the working class and loyalty to the organization in the face of the enemy. They should be disciplined and steeled in the struggle against the class enemy. Even facing death, they must never renounce their beliefs.
2. They should have the closest possible contact with the masses, be absorbed in the life of the masses who should view our leadership as their own, convinced through their own experience.
3. Based on persistent study of Marxism-Leninism, they should have the ability to “find their own bearings” and not be afraid of assuming responsibility. They should be good at translating decisions into concrete guidance and theory into action.
4. Leading comrades must practice Marxism-Leninism, not revisionism, they should stick to principle and not be afraid of going against the tide. They should listen attentively to criticisms from the masses and submit to their supervision.
ARTICLE 10: The highest body of the October League is the National Congress, which is convened by the Central Committee when needed and when conditions permit. The Congress establishes the general political line for the entire organization and elects the Central Committee. Whenever possible, delegates to the Congress are democratically elected. The number of delegates is determined by the Central Committee prior to the Congress. Once elected, delegates are free to vote at the Congress according to their understanding of Marxism-Leninism. They are not bound by any previous discussions in their units or districts.
ARTICLE 11: When the Congress is not in session, the Central Committee is the highest leading body. The Central Committee leads the organization between Congresses. It is responsible for implementing the political line established at the Congress, including the development of policy. The Central Committee has the power to coopt new members to its ranks, secretly or otherwise, so long as they never constitute the majority. The Central Committee elects a standing Committee which shall meet and make decisions between full Central Committee meetings. It shall also elect a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, General Secretary and Organization Secretary who will organize an Executive Committee. The CC is responsible for making regular reports to the membership.
ARTICLE 12: The Executive Committee shall exercise the functions and powers of the Central Committee when it is not in session and is responsible for the day-to-day leadership of the organization. The Executive Committee is composed of the Political Bureau and the Organizational Bureau.
Under the leadership of the Central Committee, working bodies and commissions may be established to assist in their work.
ARTICLE 13: The highest leading body of the district is a District Convention, which is convened both before and after the National Congress. The purpose of the Convention before is to reach clarity on the political line for the Congress and to elect delegates. The purpose afterwards is to implement the political line of the Congress in that district and elect a District Committee on that basis. The election of the District Committee is subject to the approval of the next highest body.
ARTICLE 14: The District Committee is responsible for leading the day-to-day work of the district. All decisions of political line or policy established by the District Committee are subject to the approval of the next highest body. The District Committee shall elect a District Organizer, who shall carry out the functions and powers of the District Committee when it is not in session and shall be responsible for the work of the district. The District Committee is responsible for making regular reports to the CC and the district membership.
ARTICLE 15: The basic unit of the October League is the factory or community cell. The cell is the lifeblood link between the organization and the masses. It develops strong ties with the masses, leading the immediate struggle against the imperialists and most importantly the fight for final emancipation. The cell elects a cell leader who is responsible for leading the day-to-day work of the cell and is responsible to the next highest body. The cell is responsible for making regular reports to the local District Committee.
The main tasks of the cells are:
1. Propagate and carry out the policies of the October League among the masses, implement its decisions and campaigns and fulfill every assigned task.
2. To lead members and the masses in studying Marxism-Leninism and criticizing revisionism.
3. To train new members, taking in new blood and getting rid of the stale. It is in the basic units that new members receive their basic revolutionary education. Special attention must be given to improving the cell’s class composition and training new worker, minority and women comrades.
4. Maintain and build strong ties with the masses, develop a network of sympathizers, recruit new members to our ranks and educate people in our revolutionary aims through struggle against the imperialist system.
5. Financially support the October League, relying on the masses as our most reliable friends, and be financially self-sufficient.
ARTICLE 16: When necessary, the central or local leading bodies may establish commissions for the purpose of assisting leadership in a particular area of work. The commissions are subordinate to the leading bodies and are not substitutes for the basic units. Commissions do not make policy but rather assist in its development and aid in its implementation.
ARTICLE 17: A fraction is a special working body established to aid work in a specifically designated mass organization or campaign. The work of the fraction is subordinate to the leading bodies and is not a substitute for the basic units.
ARTICLE 18: The Call/El Clarin is the central political newspaper of the October League, a collective organizer and propagandist. Through the Call our organization applies Marxism-Leninism in a living and concrete way to the development of the people’s struggle against imperialism in the U.S. and around the world. The Call addresses the urgent demands of the people and raises their fighting capacity through constant education in our revolutionary aims. It is a collective organizer, a scaffolding for building a communist party deeply rooted in the working class and is aimed primarily at the revolutionary-minded workers and intellectuals. It is an indispensable tool for building the broad united front.
ARTICLE 19: It is the duty of every member of the October League to read, study, sell and establish correspondents for The Call/El Clarin and Class Struggle. This must be an integral part of all work.
ARTICLE 20: Class Struggle is the central theoretical journal of the October League. Its purpose is to apply Marxism-Leninism for the more thorough study of concrete conditions in the U.S. and around the world.
ARTICLE 21: All Central Organs are under the direct editorial control of the Central Committee, who shall appoint their editorial staffs.