Published: The Communist, Vol. 1, No. 11, August 6, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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COMRADE WORKERS AND MARXIST-LENINISTS OF THE COMMUNIST MOVEMENT:
The young communist movement today is faced with the difficult task of fusing communism with the workers movement, welding the Bolshevik core, and forging anew a vanguard party of the proletariat. But in confronting our task, we find not a united and consolidated communist movement, but a fragmented and scattered one. Our movement today is characterised by its DISUNITY and its amateur character. We find circles and organizations characterised by narrow localism, a blind worship of the spontaneous movement, and propaganda and agitation that is inconsistent in principle.
But there is also a great striving among Marxist-Leninists to overcome this backwardness, to struggle for unity on the basis of line, and to rise to meet the growing upsurge of the masses. There is growing recognition that we must do away with all those who justify our disunity and amateurishness – the Economist trend in our movement must be defeated if we are to move forward!
The question arises, just how are we to unite Marxist-Leninists? To this we respond that we can unite the communist movement only in the course of uniting this movement with the workers movement, only in the struggle to win the vanguard to communism. We say that it is incorrect, and one-sided to see the task of party building as SOLELY a matter of uniting Marxist-Leninists. This is certainly on important part of our task – but only a part. And this part can only be accomplished by that trend which proves itself capable of winning the class conscious vanguard –winning both the advanced among the proletariat and among communists. In this way we will be able to take that first step in forging the unity of communism and the workers movement – a new communist party.
The Workers Congress (M-L) has stated that in order to accomplish the difficult task of party building, we must make the ISKRA principle the leading factor in all our theoretical, political, and organizational work. That is, we must base ourselves on Marxism-Leninism, placing politics in command; strive constantly to work out an independent communist policy for every practical problem facing the US proletariat; consolidate line in the material unity of organization, strengthening the leadership of the vanguard in everything; and utilize Leninist methods of leadership” which unite with the advanced. Making the ISKRA principle the leading factor – will allow us to build factory nuclei, which must become the basic unit of organization for all Leninist organizations. With this weapon we can develop and strengthen democratic centralism, both within our ranks, and in the organizations of the proletariat.
We do not feel there will be too many among us who disagree that party building is our central task. And we hope that most will unite with Stalin in saying that this task is essentially winning the class conscious vanguard to communism. The question which does arise among us, and which must be answered, is HOW do we build the party; what practical steps must be taken to fuse communism with the workers movement?
To this question comrades, we respond as Lenin did, and say that in the first place we must develop common propaganda:
To establish and consolidate the Party means to establish and consolidate unity among all Russian Social-Democrats; such unity cannot be decreed...it must be fought for. In the first place it is necessary to develop a common Party literature–common not only in the sense that it must serve the whole of the Russian movement rather than separate districts, that it must discuss the questions of the movement as a whole and assist the class conscious proletarians in their struggle instead of dealing merely with local questions, but common also in the sense that it must unite all the available literary forces, that it must express all shades of opinion and views prevailing among Russian Social-Democrats, not as isolated workers, but as comrades united in the ranks of a single organization by a common programme and a common struggle. (DRAFT DECLARATION OF “ISKRA” AND “ZARYA”, CW, V.4 p.323)
We too comrades have the task of developing common propaganda, of gathering all the available literary forces, of laying down a common line around which all comrades of the Marxist-Leninist trend may unite. To establish this “common Party literature”, it is necessary for our trend to unite on the principle that we must have a single organ to represent the views of Leninists. In an effort to aid in this task, the WC (M-L) has dedicated its energies and efforts towards building an ISKRA-type newspaper.
Why do we choose this weapon? First, through the pages of a nationwide newspaper, which takes up the task of developing comprehensive political exposures, we can train ourselves and the masses to respond to political activities of all classes and strata from a communist point of view. This weapon will give us no choice but to make propaganda our CHIEF form of activity, and force us to struggle to provide the class with agitation and propaganda that is consistent in principle. This is true because as we take on the task of political exposures and developing a newspaper modeled after Lenin’s ISKRA, we of necessity must begin to train a core of propagandists who observe the objective situation and are capable of responding to it in a Leninist fashion. Secondly, building an ISKRA-type newspaper will aid in bringing together the now scattered and isolated forces, by providing common practical work –distribution of the paper, correspondence, contributions, etc. Marxist-Leninists across the country will be able to unite in a common effort to build an organ which represents the Leninist TREND of our movement.
Towards this end, we launched THE COMMUNIST. And to accomplish our task to set about building an organ for the Marxist-Leninist trend, we offer the columns of THE COMMUNIST as an instrument for that trend, and all the resources at our disposal to honest Marxist-Leninists through-out the communist movement. For those confined to a particular locality or region, for those who are not part of a centralised national organization but part of the scattered and isolated circles across the country, for those whose material ability to produce regular propaganda is limited – we ask you to join with us in building an ISKRA-type newspaper. We invite too, those comrades of national organizations who have contributions, polemics, criticisms, etc., our columns are open to you! Through joining together to build an organ that takes its stand against the Economist trend of our movement, that focuses its attention on winning the vanguard, that unites us all in taking up what must be our chief form of activity – propaganda – we can lay a firm basis for UNITING MARXIST-LENINISTS IN ONE COMMON ORGANIZATION, A NEW COMMUNIST PARTY.
We know well comrades that there are many who disagree with this practical plan, and we take this time to respond to some of these arguments, and to bring forward why we believe there is no other path to unity.
First, there are those who say that the time is not yet ripe for a common organ, and that we must first draw lines of demarcation. This argument says that there are still too many differences among us and that it would be wrong to unite in a common effort at this time. These comrades often criticise us for putting “organizational unity” ahead of ideological unity. Their practical plan is more forums, private discussions, etc. to engage in ideological struggle.
We believe this view reflects a lack of understanding of what an ISKRA-type newspaper is and why it can serve as a means to draw lines of demarcation. There is no doubt that among the various forces of the Marxist-Leninist trend, there are still many questions around which we would have differing shades of opinion. But there are also a number of questions a-round which we have unity. Most fundamentally, we unite on the science of Marxism-Leninism Mao TseTung Thought and take our stand against modern revisionism and the hegemonic strivings of both US and Soviet social imperialism. In addition there are MANY who would stand in defense of orthodox Leninism against petty bourgeois democracy; who would unite that propaganda must be our chief form of activity and that we must direct our work to the advanced; that bowing to the spontaneity of the mass movement, tailism, amateurishness, liberalism, and other forms of Right opportunism are the main obstacles we face at this time. We feel that unity on these fundamental questions provides a firm basis for gathering together around the common activity of building a strong organ for the Leninist trend. At the same time, such unity would by no means prevent open polemics among comrades on any given question.
To some this may appear confusing. “How can you allow everyone to write what they want, and still have a newspaper with a common line?” Lenin is quite clear on this question. An organ must reflect the views of a definite TREND, it cannot be a jumble of all sorts of views. On the other hand, while a definite view is brought forward, this is not in contradiction to open polemics on different questions–such an open exchange on a nationwide level would be a healthy thing that could only help build unity among Marxists. Here is how:
Lenin explains it:
Before we can unite and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise our unity will be purely ficticious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and hinder its radical elimination. It is understandable therefore that we do not intend to make our publication a mere storehouse of various views. On the contrary, we shall conduct it in the spirit of a strictly defined tendency. This tendency can be expressed by the word Marxism, and there is hardly need to add that we stand for the consistent development of the ideas of Marx and En-gels and emphatically reject equivocating, vague, and opportunist “corrections” for which Eduard Bernstein, P. Struve, and many others have set the fashion. But although we shall discuss all questions from our own’ definite point of view, we shall give space in our columns to polemics between comrades. Open polemics, conducted in full view of all Russian Social-Democrats and class conscious workers, are necessary and desirable in order to clarify the depth of existing differences, in order to combat the extremes into which representatives, not only of various views, but even various localities, or various “specialities” of the revolutionary movement, inevitably fall. Indeed, as noted above, we regard one of the drawbacks of the present-day movement to be the absence of open polemics between avowedly differing views, the effort to conceal differences on fundamental questions. (DECLARATION OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD OF “ISKRA”, CW, V.4 p.355)
Comrades it is in this spirit that we bring forward this practical plan. We must struggle to unite against the bourgeois distortions of the revisionists and democrats among us – that is the first line of demarcation which must be drawn. A common effort to build an ISKRA-type newspaper is in fact the best means to clarify differences and draw lines of demarcation, while at the same time providing the basis to forge the ideological unity necessary to unite organizationally.
There are others who say we are “trying to be Lenin” and that we already consider THE COMMUNIST to be the ISKRA. This is not true. We in the Workers Congress (M-L) have no pretensions to having established ourselves as the vanguard, and nor do we consider THE COMMUNIST to be the ISKRA – far from it. Comrades the WC (M-L) is only one small organization. Our resources are tiny, there are no developed propagandists among us; we do not even exist in every major city across the country. We recognize well that our efforts to build an ISKRA-type newspaper are necessarily limited. Comrades, no one organization or circle, by its own efforts, can successfully build an ISKRA-type newspaper. Only with the united effort of our trend can we truly fashion the mighty weapon of an ISKRA-type newspaper! Only the united force of the Leninist trend is capable of crushing the petty bourgeois democrats and forging the ideological foundations necessary for the Party. It is for this purpose that we ask comrades to join together and collaborate with us in building an ISKRA-type newspaper.
Finally, there are those who consider an ISKRA-type newspaper the idle work of armchair “literaries” who are isolated from the masses. To them an ISKRA-type organ is mere “paper” work, and not a weapon in battle. We are “dogmatists” for thinking that such an organ can help forge the unity of Marxist-Leninists and help fuse communism with the workers movement. To this we respond that these comrades have yet to recognize a newspaper as a collective propagandist, agitator and organizer. We ask you comrades, what is dogmatic in taking up the task of political exposures – a fundamental task of communism at all times?? What is dogmatic in directing cur work primarily towards the advanced, when our task is to win the advanced to communism? How is it dogmatic to stretch a common line, to bring forward correspondence on factory conditions, on topical events? And if these tasks are not dogmatic, how are we to fully carry them out without a nation-wide, regularly published newspaper of the ISKRA type?
Secondly, an ISKRA-type newspaper can definitely serve as a collective organizer. Let us give comrades some examples. Perhaps there is a group of workers in a given factory. They are engaged in a struggle against the company’s harassment and oppression, or maybe the sellout role of the union bureaucrats. No doubt these workers would have a good idea of conditions in the plant, resistance by the workers, and some lessons learned in the course of the struggle. But as an isolated group in one factory this wealth of information goes untouched. Connected to a nation-wide newspaper, such correspondence could be invaluable to workers across the country. Or take a study group of workers and intellectuals. Maybe they are studying the struggles in Africa, or Latin America. They have done research, gathered much information, and made an analysis of a particular struggle. Yet as one study group, this information would be limited to themselves, or at best the people around them in a given locality.
But by collaborating with an ISKRA-type organ, such a group could aid the movement as a whole. There could be regular coverage of the different struggles the group has taken up, each helping to broaden the scope of our vision. Still another means to unite people would be united action around a particular event. Maybe in a given city there is a study group, two or three correspondents and perhaps a factory group all contributing to the newspaper. Say a strike breaks out, or there is resistance to police repression, or demonstrations against budget cuts. These forces, united around a common line stretched through the pages of the newspaper, could come together in united action to lead and organize such struggles. Without the common line stretched through the pages of the newspaper, these people would no doubt remain isolated and unable to influence the situation.
All of these examples comrades are ways that different groups could aid in building a common organ, and at the same time strengthen themselves and the work they are doing. Uniting in a common effort would undoubtedly help to break down the narrowness and local circle spirit which exists among many of us. It would aid tremendously in giving the organ a scope and breadth that stretches across the country, into every factory and mill, every community and town. Comrades, the point is, it is important to recognize that fragmented and scattered, as we are today, the Leninist trend is weak–it remains dominated by the Economists. If we are to succeed in defeating this opportunism in our midsts, if we are to succeed in uniting communists and class conscious workers into one party, we must forge the unity of the Leninist trend. An ISKRA-type newspaper provides us the means to do this. It gives the many individuals, circles and organizations a common tribune from which to speak.
Comrades, we have taken what we believe are the first small but necessary steps – we have launched THE COMMUNIST as an instrument of the Marxist-Leninist trend. We open our pages to study groups, circles, individuals – all the scattered forces – and encourage their participation. We ask for correspondence from workers on factory conditions, struggles, organizing in the plants. We’d like to receive criticism of THE COMMUNIST, contributions on topical events, polemics on the burning questions of our day. We ask comrades across the country to distribute THE COMMUNIST on a regular basis.
Comrades, we have taken these steps and brought forward a practical plan. Now we raise the call to each of you – JOIN WITH US IN BUILDING AN ISKRA-TYPE ORGAN FOR THE LENINIST TREND!
BUILD AN ORGAN OF THE ISKRA TYPE!