T. A. Jackson

A Mass Party

Source: The Workers’ Weekly, February 13, 1925.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

To understand the Communist Party it is necessary to grasp firmly the fact that it has no aim and no object separate or distinct from the interests of the working class as a whole. When it is remembered that the nature of capitalism is such that every worker is driven to struggle against its consequences, the place and function of the Communist Party is marked out clearly.

The Communist sees in the history of the workers struggles (as well as in their present plight) the proof that sooner or later the workers will be bound to mass their forces for a combined assault upon capitalism itself. The problem is how to get the mass of the workers to realise this; and how best to bring about this massing of their forces.

* * *

Theoretically it might be done if somebody big enough and impressive enough (an archangel, for instance, with a big trumpet) could get them to listen long enough to become filled with a conviction that capitalism must be overthrown. Even this, however, would leave the problem of detail direction unsolved.

Practically (as archangels are not likely to be forthcoming) the problem becomes one of developing the workers’ struggles from within to such a pitch that the need to mass forces for a common assault arises as a practical and obvious necessity before the minds of every worker.

Factory Agitation

An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory. A successful stand of the workers in any given factory will prepare them more for a united stand of all the factories in an industry than years of theoretical preaching.

Much good work has been (and is being) done in the trade-unions to urge on forward policies and encourage the unification of the working-class forces. In this work the Communists are prominent; naturally and rightly so. Much good will in time come from their efforts. But in an enormous majority of cases the trade union branch meeting is attended by such a small proportion of its members that this work only reaches the knowledge of the mass of the workers in a roundabout and vague form.

Essentially the need is to carry the incentive to action among the masses themselves, to encourage them to struggle against the enemy nearest to hand and therein and thereby to acquire an appetite for the culminating assault of the whole working class upon the system which enslaves them.

For this reason the Communist Party has resolved to build itself upon a basis of factory groups. This does not mean that it has abandoned political action. It means exactly the reverse.

It means that the Communist Party, realising that the victory of the working class is more a matter of the courage and steadfastness of the mass, than of the “cleverness” or “statesmanship” of a few leaders, goes right to the heart of the matter and seeks to reinvigorate the workers’ struggle commencing with its roots in the factory, workshop, mill, or mine. The end remains the same—the victory of the working class as a class all along the line.

Not only is the factory a fruitful field for propaganda—for discussion, not only of trade union politics, but of world affairs—it is even more a fruitful field for initiating action.

Workers’ Control

It is agreed on every hand that any sort of programme for the workers must aim at the nationalization of industry with workers’ control. The Right wing leaders will wish it to be later, the Left wing will wish it to be sooner, but only the Communist Party will act in the spirit of wanting it now.

Without waiting for nationalisation (and as a means of advocating it, and hastening it) shop committees can be formed to lead the factory in fighting the hundred and one incidentals of capitalist coercion that arise from day to day.

An agitation for a factory committee might well be a means of bringing the workers of a given factory into a compact and enthusiastic struggle, which will, more than anything else, create the atmosphere in which the workers themselves will see the justification and need for the building up of a strong and well-knit Communist Party.

There are two characteristics of a mass party. It is either a party which the workers join en masse because they have come to regard it as essential for their social well-being and advancement; or it is a party, small, but so composed that it exercises a profound and constant influence over the minds and actions of the whole working class.

These are not alternatives to choose from. A small party will, from necessity, begin with the endeavour to fill the latter of these two rôles. But it will, if successful, increasingly develop into the former.

To secure, by constant attention to the detail grievances and struggles of the workers (factory by factory, locality by locality, and industry by industry), the attention and esteem of the workers, by being always on hand to set an example as well as give good advice, is the foundation duty of every individual member of the Party. If that task is performed properly our factory groups will not only attract a larger and larger share of admiration and consideration wherever they operate, but will become rallying force from which will radiate an influence which will transform the whole quality and character of the workers’ class struggle.

In that way we shall become the Party of the British masses.