Published: The Communist, Vol. II, No. 5, January 15, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The San Diego Organizing Committee (Marxist-Leninist) is joining the effort to build THE COMMUNIST into an ISKRA-type newspaper – that is, a newspaper that can perform the same party-building functions in the United States that the original ISKRA performed in Tsarist Russia. The party-building functions of an ISKRA-type newspaper are to forge the ideological and organizational unity necessary to form a bolshevized party. It is a tool that Marxist-Leninists will use to develop correct political line, which is the application of the science of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions in the United States.
SDOC(M-L) is distributing THE COMMUNIST in San Diego and using it in our political work for both internal and external study. We will write articles for THE COMMUNIST, engage in polemics with other organizations through its pages, and also engage in polemics with the editors of THE COMMUNIST over our differences in line with them.
Our relationship with the workers Congress at this time is based on our agreement with their political line that a nationwide Iskra-type newspaper is an essential tool for party-building, and our unity with the Iskra principles. (See THE COMMUNIST, vol 1, #10) While relating to the Workers Congress in this way, SDOC(M-L) will maintain its organizational independence from the Workers Congress1 and other national groups at this time. We do this not because we_consider organisational independence to be a good thing in and of itself. But we do not see the new communist party necessarily arising out of the unification of national groups. It may well be formed, as the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party was formed, by national organizations , local organizations and independent Marxist-Leninists, coming together on the basis of line. Thus we see the concrete tasks of party-building, winning over the advanced, and uniting Marxist-Leninists, as higher priorities than building national pre-party organizations.
Writing at a stage in the development of the Social-Democratic Party that closely parallels our present stage of party-building, Lenin said:
We believe that the most urgent task of the moment consists in undertaking the solution of these questions (questions of how to build a democratic centralist party that openly proclaims its line), for which purposes we must have as our immediate aim the founding of a Party organ that will appear regularly and be closely connected with all the local groups.(Collected Works, Vol.4 p.218)
We in the SDOC(M-L) urge other organizations and collectives to help build the ISKRA-type newspaper we need. For only if large numbers of Marxist-Leninists see THE COMMUNIST as a potential party-building newspaper and help make it that, will the potential become a reality.
Right opportunism is a historically developed political trend in the United States, and San Diego has not been isolated from it. Over the last five years, communist organizing in San Diego has been marked by severe theoretical underdevelopment and small circle organizational forms. During these years, until 1974, current-day Marxist-Leninists who were doing local political work here were heavily influenced by the political line of the Revolutionary Union, by cultural nationalism, and by bourgeois feminism. The effect of all this was gross economism by most of those active in working class politics in San Diego, including people who are now in SDOC (M-L). Only in the last year, through the struggle against revisionism and economism, has the line on party building become strong.
Localism and small circle spirit complemented the theoretical shortcomings and were responsible for much bitter and destructive wrangling among developing communists locally. This slowed our progress, preventing us from establishing a division of labor or systematically summing up our practice on even a city-wide basis.
SDOC(M-L) was formed to overcome these handicaps, and to struggle against the right opportunism prevailing here. From the outset, we found that organization is key in the development of political line. The first task of internal political education we undertook was to study Lenin’s “Letter to a Comrade.”(Collected Works, Vol. 4)
SDOC(M-L) is determined to be a disciplined, democratic centralist organization of the Leninist type. Compared to the recent past in San Diego, we have already made significant progress in this direction, but we need, and we will continue, to push the organization question forward.
Some, of the people in SDOC(M-L) previously worked on one or both of two local newspapers that were distributed primarily at the entrances to factories and shipyards. We now understand that these papers (WILDCAT and WATERFRONT WORKER) were economist.
When SDOC(M-L) was first formed, we generally assumed that one of our major tasks would be publishing a newspaper that would be a successor to WILDCAT and WATERFRONT WORKER. We were agreed that our newspaper would be directed to advanced workers. We also agreed that the paper should be a tool to help us in the central task of party building. At that time we thought these characteristics would make it an “ISKRA-type” newspaper.
As we began preliminary work on issue #l of the new paper we also pushed forward our study of the theory of the ISKRA-type newspaper as it related to party-building. We studied WHAT IS TO BE DONE (Collected Works Vol.5) and various nationwide communist newspapers. The article, “The ISKRA Principle” in THE COMMUNIST (Vol.1 #10) helped clarify our line, as did discussions we had with Workers Congress (M-L) cadre. (Our ability to push this study forward quickly and to develop clarity on this important question, was one of the places where the truth of the position, “organization is key”, was driven home to us.)
One immediate result of SDOC(M-L) discussions with the Workers Congress (M-L) and our internal education was that we suspended work on our newspaper and took up the question of whether we should help build THE COMMUNIST as an ISKRA-type newspaper instead. Our final decision to try to build THE COMMUNIST into an ISKRA-type newspaper was based on the following points:
1) PARTY BUILDING
SDOC(M-L) holds that building the new communist party is the central task now facing Marxist-Leninists in the United States. Our evaluation of the conditions which now characterize the anti-revisionist communist movement in the US is that they approximate those conditions of the communist movement in Tsarist Russia which Lenin developed the original ISKRA to meet.
Both then and now, those conditions are, first, unity on the basic principles of scientific socialism – Marxism in Tsarist Russia and Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse Tung Thought in the present period. And, second, disagreements about how these basic principles should be applied to concrete conditions on a number of important questions, for example: organization, the national question and trade union work in both historical eras. In addition, both in Tsarist Russia and in the present day US, unity on political differences has been slowed down by the provincialism and localism which develops in part from lack of a common medium of information between the different industrial centers and localities.
2) COMMON WORK
SDOC(M-L)’s Study of Lenin’s writings on the ISKRA newspaper shows us that Lenin developed the original nationwide collective propagandist, agitator, and organizer in order to forge the ideological and organizational unity necessary for the social-democrats to have a revolutionary party, not only in name, but in practice. Lenin makes clear the critical importance of ISKRA in building unity through its role as the first practical common work (writing, polemicizing, distribution, and study) of all revolutionaries in the country. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE, section V, Collected Works, Vol.5)
3) DIVISION OF LABOR
Putting out a local paper on a regular basis would have absorbed most of the energy of the SDOC(M-L). It would be amateurishness and localism for us to put out our own newspaper, at the expense of other work, as long as a nationwide paper exists with which we have substantial agreement over line, and confidence that our differences will be the subject of principled struggle.
4) ACCESS TO INFORMATION
A local paper is necessarily limited in the original information that it has access to. For the rest, it can be little more than a clipping service, combing through out of town newspapers for items to reprint. WILDCAT and WATERFRONT tried to make a virtue of their local nature and their access to local information but, in fact, their primary aspect was localism and an inability to gather and sum up the experience of communists throughout the country and the rest of the world.
5) BROADNESS OF SCOPE
Closely related to the question of access to information on a broad basis is the question of summing-up that information on a broad basis. Even if our local newspapers had access to all the information from around the country, we could only sum it up in light of our own limited, local experience. But the editorial board of a nationwide newspaper is in a position to “summarize the results of the most diverse forms of activity and thereby stimulate people to march forward untiringly along all the innumerable paths leading to revolution...”(Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.5 p.506) A nationwide newspaper can secure the “exchange of experience, of material, of forces, and of resources... Organizational work would immediately acquire much greater scope, and the success of one locality would serve as a standing encouragement to further perfection; it would arouse the desire to utilize the experience gained by comrades working in other parts of the country. Local work would become far richer and more varied than it is at present.”(ibid, p.507)
For all these reasons, SDOC(M-L) decided that a genuine ISKRA-type newspaper is the only kind of newspaper that it is correct for Marxist-Leninists to build at this time, and that no local paper can even approximate the ISKRA model. So because of our commitment to building a genuine ISKRA-type newspaper, and because of our unity with the ISKRA principles, we have linked with THE COMMUNIST. Although we have disagreements with the Workers Congress (M-L) over certain questions, we feel we can have principled struggle over those disagreements within the framework of the ISKRA-type newspaper.
As with all important questions in the communist movement, determined two-line struggle has developed over the question of whether an ISKRA-type newspaper is correct and applicable in the US. This article is SDOC(M-L)’s first statement in this struggle. We welcome this struggle. Only through struggle will the plan for an ISKRA-type newspaper – a plan for uniting all genuine revolutionaries around a common line into a new communist party – transform itself from revolutionary theory into a material revolutionary force.
We urge those who agree and those who disagree to also write their views for publication in THE COMMUNIST, so that the struggle may progress and move us all closer to the realization of the new communist party in the United States.
Submitted by the San Diego Organizing Committee (Marxist-Leninist)