We organize ourselves so as to carry out the tasks necessitated by the current situation. Our way of organizing and our functioning are therefore not eternal; they have to be transformed to suit the requirements of a given situation in the masses or in our own ranks.
Looked at in this way, the organizational problems facing is require a thorough reexamination of the way we have applied our Constitution and democratic centralism, as well as a specific examination of some of the rules in the Constitution. This might result in changes in one or another points of the Constitution at a Congress.
Over the last period, we have seen that the way we organized and worked caused several problems.
More specifically, we applied democratic centralism in a rigid way; our organizational forms at the base unit level were uniform and complicated; and this in practice gave rise to establishing idealistic and egalitarian (treating everybody as the same in interests and abilities) requirements for people to meet.
This way of working and organizing did not encourage the most effective deployment and use of our forces in the class struggle, in terms of carrying out our tasks. Nor did it result in favourable conditions for raising the political level and improving the over-all capacities of our members. Lastly, our organizational methods have to a certain extent become a hindrance to the development of our political line.
We have to aim at operating more flexibly, more efficiently and in more varied ways. At the base unit level, this should mean the creation of smaller, simpler cells with diversified mandates. It should enable us to deploy our forces more efficiently in the class struggle.
There are two things we have to consider in looking at the demands imposed by the way we work. First, the determinant factors are the tasks the Organization sets for itself at any given time. Second, we must also take into account the reality of our membership and existing inequalities in society so as to avoid acting in idealistic ways.
The way we now practice criticism-self-criticism puts too much emphasis on members’ errors and weaknesses; it thus has a demobilizing effect that does not encourage genuine democracy. We must adopt an attitude of listening to and educating others and struggle against the authoritarianism that is still present in our ranks.
Since the Third Congress, the Political Bureau (PB) and the Central Committee (CC) have advanced a number of policies aimed at improving democracy, education and the pace of work and respecting what our Constitution says about conditions for recruitment and the probationary period. The decisions of the June 1980 CC meeting are one of the places where these policies can be found.
However, we have to recognize that idealistic, bureaucratic and unnecessary requirements have persisted in practice. In a desire to improve democracy and our members’ capacities, we had a tendency to apply one standard measure after the other and established requirements that were too demanding; we consequently ended up with results that were the opposite of what we were trying to achieve.
Our Organization has adopted a Constitution based on the principle of\ democratic centralism to govern the way it should work. Basically, this principle means that unity of action and leadership is founded on decisions made democratically. The Constitution is also very unambiguous about the fact that ours is a centralized organization with a hierarchy, a line of authority.
In this respect, the way we work is different from that of political organizations that function by consensus on the basis of what is known as direct democracy. However, our unified leadership, with its various levels is not exercized by individuals: it is the result of decisions reached after collective study of the various questions.
This way of working has nothing to do with a federation or an organization based on independent sections or groups. The strength of an organization based on democratic centralism lies in its unity of action and leadership in the struggle, a unity which is all the stronger because it is based on decisions made democratically.
Democracy and centralism are interdependent and at the same time in contradiction with each other. Ultimately, the correct application of democratic centralism is a matter of concrete analysis. In each given situation, we have to try for the greatest possible democracy compatible with the unity of action needed to accomplish our tasks.
In the long run, the sole guarantee of greater democracy is to raise the level of political consciousness of our entire membership. The comparison and confrontation of points of view is the best way of stimulating the development of consciousness.
Ever since it was founded, our Organization has constantly tried to apply democratic centralism in a living way. The attention we have given to the Constitution at each of our three congresses is proof of this. Our Organization has always been concerned with ensuring unified leadership while at the same time encouraging as much democracy as possible.
However, because of the Organization’s rapid development at a certain period; because of the youth and lack of experience of the vast majority of its cadre, especially in the early years; and because of the weaknesses in political education within its ranks and a mechanical application of organizational rules that were sometimes poorly understood: for all these reasons, our application of democratic centralism today is somewhat unwieldy and tends to be bureaucratic. etc. This is a hindrance to the development of dynamic political life in our ranks.
This must be corrected, for it reduces our capacities to intervene correctly and on a broad basis in a general situation in which our work could have considerable effects.
To do so, what is needed is not so much a revision of the Constitution; rather, we must apply it in a living way, purged of all simplistic or static interpretations. Our Constitution assigns the various levels of leadership and the members themselves very broad responsibilities that allow any and all initiatives insofar as they are consistent with the Programme and the decisions of higher levels (see articles 3.1, 5.1 and 5.2, 6.2 and 6.3, 6.8, 7.1 to 7.8).
The Constitution authorizes the cells to debate all questions (7.3); it says that members have the duty to express their points of view frankly (2.3 (b)). Our Constitution is not an obstacle to democracy; the obstacles stem from the wrong ways we apply it. This same remark applies to our relations with the masses – article 3.1 (f) says we have a duty to listen to the masses.
This is the point of view that should guide us in the current situation, one that is favourable to debate in our ranks and with people’s organizations and movements; we should encourage the expression of points of view and debates, both within our ranks and among the masses, keeping in mind the size of our country and the degree of development of the Organization. The only restriction should be that members are bound to apply the line of the Organization and to work to have it applied through agitation and propaganda. We must work to develop the democratic life of the Organization as a whole with the goal of applying and further developing our line, not one of provoking the expression of disagreements.
When we are confronted with new or particular situations, when we do not clearly grasp a given situation or when there are historical or theoretical issues that we do not understand very well, the application of our line will inevitably give rise to different points of view and even major disagreements. Such situations must not be used as pretexts for hasty or arbitrary solutions that would be based on the sole authority of the leadership bodies deciding them. When confronted with differing points of view, we must permit the debate necessary to identify what is at stake and to make an enlightened decision.
This is what should guide our members, cells and leadership bodies and our press in the public expression of their points of view and the identification of our agitators, propagandists and authors.
We must understand that democratic centralism is a living process and not just a set of ideal rules. In the next period we must have a more flexible way of working. Our goals are to have greater autonomy and initiative at all levels of leadership, and to promote more debate and discussion both within the masses and for the members of the Organization.
The autonomy and initiative of different levels of leadership should be developed according to their mandates as defined by article 3.1 (e) of the Constitution. There should also be a greater attitude of experimentation at different levels, particularly to test different possible solutions to problems which come up, instead of thinking that all problems must first be solved by internal debate and decision-making. But of course the development of autonomy, initiative and experimentation has nothing to do with gestures and actions which go against the decisions of the majority and the leadership.
This means that the various levels of leadership should put less time and effort into the production of plans and guides of all sorts; to do otherwise would be to act as if it were necessary to foresee how lower bodies should try do things.
Leadership should spend more time sharing its analyses of the situation and tasks that flow from it. This involves sharing the history and lessons learned by the Orgnization, summing up experiences and encouraging direct verification of the work.
The basis of our unity of action remains our Programme, Constitution and political line. We will also be building our unity through debates on the analysis of our situation and the tasks that we face, leading to a Congress that will resolve these questions. As in the past, we must make sure that the most important decisions we make are taken collectively after sufficient debate, so that the stakes are clear for all of those concerned.
Right now we should be careful in our interventions to take our limits into account, to not pretend that the Organization can take positions immediately either on all the tactical questions posed by our mass work or on all the general questions raised by our historical study of the struggle for socialism.
In the different movements in which we are active, we have to recognize that the Organization cannot take stands on all the particular questions of analysis and tactics that are posed, because we do not always have the means or knowledge to do so. Nor should we want to, because it is not our task to substitute ourselves for the advanced elements and the mass organizations themselves in relation to immediate questions and tactics. But this also means that it is normal and correct for our militants to develop and put forward their own views where the Organization does not have a position, even if this leads to public differences among our mititants on these specific questions.
Right now we need to develop more debate, especially public debate. We must stimulate interest in study and theoretical work, we must stimulate debate among members and within the masses, and we must clarify the issues at stake in the main political questions. We must also speed up our process of making decisions and taking stands on political questions. As well, it is important to educate our supporters and revolutionaries by showing them how democratic centralism works in a creative way.
We must organize debates not only on the fundamental questions posed by the study of the history of socialism, but also on the many other important questions that are raised by our members and supporters, such as the situation of women cadre, our style of work in the masses, our tactics, our methods of organization. etc.
It is up to the leadership at different levels to organize these debates and determine the objectives and procedures. Our militants must be able to debate not only within the organization but also publicly, along with our contacts, in public forums. This means that the leaderhsip must plan and organize these debates, both internally and publicly, based on an examination of the priorities for these debates according to the situation at different levels and in different places.
Public debates should be organized both to permit the defence of our positions and to allow a productive exchange of views. In these debates, members who are not spokespersons should be encouraged to express their opinions, including their differences with our established positions. Individual militants should also be able to continue to express their opinions, including their differences, in letters to our press.
The democratic life of the cells must also include free discussion on any political question that the members consider important to discuss. This is what it means to apply articles 7.2 (e) and 7.3 of the Constitution in a lively way.
The Organization has spokespersons at all levels – as representatives in a struggle or coalition, in conferences, in debates, seminars, circles, as journalists, etc. The main duty of these spokespersons is the defence and application of our Programme and line. On the other hand, depending on the situation and the decisions of the level of leadership they are responsible to, they can take initiative in developing our positions on new questions or organizing debates on specific questions. Organizing debates means explaining the different viewpoints, Mentioning the debates within the Organization or the criticisms of other organizations, and explaining the stakes involved in these debates to raise the understanding of our Programme and to open up the discussion.
We should allow the public identification of certain persons such as journalists or spokespersons when this is useful to our work. However, there is no need for a general policy of personal signatures of all articles that appear in our press. Nor would it be useful to promote the personal signatures of the letters sent to our press by individual members and probationers.