First Published: Red Flag Vol. I, Nos. 4-5, July-August & September-October, 1966
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(The following item consists of excerpts from the Report of the General Secretary, M. I. Laski, to the First National Party Congress of the Communist Party of the United States of America (Marxist-Leninist), delivered on September 4, 1966. This item should clarify the mistakes and the misquotes that might have appeared in the PEOPLE’S VOICE report of the speech.)
In September, 1965, we met and determined that it was not only possible but highly desirable to fill the void which had existed in this country since 1944, a void which had existed in the leadership of the proletariat. It was the decision at the founding conference to accept, the challenge of building a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in this country. We had no illusions at that time that our mere presence in that room meant nothing in itself except for what the future held and what the conditions at the present would enable us to do. Based on the conditions and circumstances developing in this country we had an unlimited potential, in terms of revolutionary development and building the Party.
We could have called ourselves a Committee, a Provisional Committee, or an Organizing Committee, but we called ourselves a Party, because we accepted the challenge. For we realized at than time that to build an organization and not view ourselves as the formative elements of the Party would enable us to conveniently draw on a number of excuses why we could not or should not undertake certain activities and functions, precisely because we would claim we were not a Party. We understand, as we did then, that our tasks had to be centralized and could not be too diffuse, because we would accomplish relatively little if they were too diffuse: that we had to set ourselves concentrated tasks to be fulfilled in order to facilitate our development and our progress as the vanguard of the working class; that to accomplish this required that we understand the central task at any given moment and in any given circumstance, and that we grasp hold of the central task, as Comrade Stalin said, seize in every situation the key to that situation, grasp onto it, and utilize it as a key to hurl forward the efforts of the Party. And this has been the precise approach we have taken. In taking the step of reorganizing the Party we grabbed hold of one of those key and central points; that is, to dare to struggle, to dare to tackle imperialism, to dare to give leadership and direction to the working class, to dare lo overcome the obstacles and problems that face us, to dare to study, to dare to improve ourselves, to dare to live and to fight imperialism.
...On the National-Colonial question, we set about to form a Negro National Liberation Front, utilizing the publication BLACK FLAG and the organization COESTAB to further the activity of the Negro Nation and the Negro national minority in the direction of anti-imperialist struggle on this particular question.
...The main agitational efforts of the Party were in the Watts district. We determined to launch a program on the organization of the district, and the main emphasis of the program was based on the question of self-defense units and the organization of the people.
...It became apparent after the first three months of the Party’s existence that it was difficult just to maintain the newspaper. We realized that without a centralized point of direction highly developed that the Party would become a loose, federated organization. It became apparent that decisive to the question of the center was the question of leadership, and that essential to the work of the center was the newspaper. We came to the decision that our main propaganda tool is the PEOPLE’S VOICE, and that our main effort must be in the PEOPLE’S VOICE. The newspaper must come first in our political responsibilities, and we must criticize the newspaper where it merits criticism.
...We determined to build a core of professional revolutionaries – full-time comrades who devote their every moment to the cause of the a Party and the proletarian revolution.
We found we were continuously being attacked by the revisionists. If the revisionists attacked us we know that we must have really hurt the ruling class as well as the revisionists for why would the revisionists attack us if it did not hurt the ruling class?
We found that in the course of the struggle our position became consolidated and crystallized. We found that we had to correct our policies. These struggles gave us a consolidated core. From the consolidation followed the expansion.
... We found that there are a number of people who view us as such a threat that they have to try physical annihilation and bomb our bookstore and this showed us that we are on the correct path.
Comrade Mao Tse-tung says: to be attacked by the enemy is not a bad thing but a good thing. We grew and learned from the situation. We suffered tactical defeats at some points, but out of the situation we were greatly strengthened.
We expanded our national contacts. We utilized the press. The bourgeoisie thought they would frighten us to death with exposure and that they could bring shame to us. But we let them expose us, and rather than frighten us we have forthrightly stated our views and became known nationally and internationally. We utilized the bourgeois freedoms to the advantage of the proletariat.
...We are not fooled by the present legality. We made preparations for operating on both a legal and an illegal footing.
...We exposed the revisionist convention in New York City in June of this year. We have cut the revisionists at every opportunity. First, the revisionists tried to dismiss us through personal attack and abuse. Now they have been forced to deal with us as a real political threat.
...We are the Communist Party, but at the U.C.L.A. Teach-In on March 25, 1966, the revisionists controlled the event. Dorothy Healey would not let us speak and she had us arrested, but the result was that instead of talking to 2,000 students, we were able to speak for weeks after to several million people through the press because of the interest generated by the incident.
...The fact that in less than six months time of our founding we could recruit and build members across the country without having to send direct representatives to other sections of the country proves the correctness and vitality of our stance.
... We dropped some members in the process of expansion, and the concrete lessons gained have been in the area of communist ethics and morality. We must eliminate bourgeois ideology from Party members, and if we cannot rid the member of the bourgeois ideology, we must sever our ties with that comrade.
We have reached the point now where we can expand the open operation of our Party to New York City. Plans have been made for this and will be executed in the month of September 1966, to open up a branch of the party in New York City, along with a bookstore in Harlem. Our presence in New York City will be a most unsettling thing, especially with the Trotskyite and revisionist groups. New York City is a focal point in this country. It is the political center for revisionism and Trotskyites in this country. We will send our most decisive elements to New York City to set up a unified, centralized section of this Party, not a federated circle in New York City, but one under the central direction of the leading comrades of the Party, integrated completely in a uniform wry with the activity of the Party. The center remains in Los Angeles, but the General Secretary will operate out of New York City for a period of three months. We will absorb the best elements of the proletariat and the working class and of the other scattered political groups, and we will incorporate them into a unified, monolithic Party.
...If Mayor Yorty had to go to speak with Governor-Brown and President Johnson in order to get legislation directed specifically against our activities in Los Angeles at this stage, the ruling class is surely in trouble. We must proceed full speed ahead with our preparations for illegal work. As long as the ruling class, the revisionists, and the Trotskyites attack us, you can know we are carrying out our tasks correctly, But the moment they begin to praise us and play us up, beware, for then you knew you have done something wrong.
...We have the correct theory; it is the concretization of the theory that is the source of the difficulty.
We must prepare for the attacks of the ruling class, to know how to deal with them, to preserve our forces so we can destroy the enemy. Our forces – meager in their numbers – alone are insignificant opposed to the enemy’s forces. Our strength stems from the correct application of the small forces we have now, to pinpoint them at the enemy’s weak point, to destroy the enemy decisively wherever we attack him, and to gather strength from the enemy’s defeats. In doing that our forces will increase and his forces will diminish. Every loss he incurs will be one he cannot replenish; every gain we make will be one the enemy cannot take from us. That must be the approach we take, bearing in mind Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s adage, “to be attacked by the enemy is not a bad thing, it is a good thing”. Labor under that, and labor under the additional adage of Comrade Mao Tse-tung, “The enemy advances, we retreat. The enemy camps, we harass. The enemy tires, we attack. The enemy retreats, we pursue.” You cannot expect to be able to win all your battles, but you must be able to preserve your forces in order to do battle with your enemy. It is; our obligation to stay alive so that we can fight and kill the enemy. If we stay alive and do not kill the enemy, we are not fulfilling our function and we might as well be dead. With these points in mind, we proceed to the future.