Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Union

Red Papers 6: Build the Leadership of the Proletariat and its Party

Build the New Party To Lead the Masses! (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of articles on why it is essential now to create the new Communist Party in the US –Ed.

It is important for all of us to recognize that both the communist movement and the mass movement in the U.S. have now come to an end of a period in their development, and both now stand at a crucial crossroads. The mass rebellions and struggles of the 60s–especially those in the ghettos and on the campuses–propelled many people forward toward Marxism-Leninism-Mao TseTung Thought, as they sought a deeper understanding of the nature of imperialism {monopoly capitalism) and how to mobilize and organize the masses to overthrow the monopolist class and build a new society.

Across the country, scores of independent Marxist-Leninist collectives {and other forms) sprung up, with their members seriously studying the basic works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, and trying to apply what they understood to the concrete situation and struggles in the U.S.

Some of these collectives floundered, developed many internal difficulties and either split apart or simply ceased to exist. Some have continued and are continuing to do work in the working class or among other sections of the people. Still others united on the basis of a common outlook and line to form larger organizations, including national organizations, such as the RU.

All in all, these collectives and organizations have accumulated a great deal of important experience, especially in the working class, and there have been important advances and victories in the mass work. At the same time, it must be stated frankly that at this point in the development of our movement, there is a certain amount of pessimism and demoralization.

This seems to stem primarily from the fact that many of us have learned through experience that it is easier to read Marxism-Leninism than it is to apply it to developing the revolutionary movement. Reality is more complicated than a book, class struggle does not develop in a straight line or as quickly as ail of us would like. Revolution, it turns out, will not be made in a day.

But a careful, objective look at the present situation shows that this pessimism and demoralization are unfounded. Have all of us made many mistakes, some of them pretty serious? We certainly have. Have we been plagued by a tremendous amount of sectarianism in our ranks that has made unity a hard thing to achieve? We certainly have. Have we also been plagued by opportunism of all stripes that has succeeded somewhat in confusing some people and also made unity hard to achieve? Yes, we have.

But the really encouraging thing is that despite all the difficulties and the roadblocks, many of which the enemy sets in our path, our movement continues to surge forward, linking up more closely with the masses and scoring significant victories and advances. And when all is said and done, it is not us, but the imperialists who are really in trouble. It is their system that is in rapid decay, while the people’s forces are young and growing. It is their economic crisis, not ours; it is their political crisis, not ours.

It is wrong to underestimate the strength of the enemy, who is dying but is certainly not dead yet. Revolution is a protracted struggle. But under the present circumstances, it is even more wrong to overestimate the strength of the enemy while underestimating our own strength. Revolution is a protracted struggle, but it doeğ not take forever.

The point, of course, is not to speculate on how long it will take to achieve emancipation. Scientific socialism has nothing in common with gazing into crystal balls or reading Tarot cards.

But we must analyze things scientifically, clearly grasp the nature, the present severity, and long run irreversibility of the imperialist crisis, and clearly see that whatever difficulties we have in our movement are precisely the result of the advances we have made.

For example, if we had been content simply to shut ourselves away in little rooms somewhere and study Marxism-Leninism in isolation from the mass struggle, then we obviously wouldn’t be running into the difficulties and obstacles we are running into today. But we also wouldn’t be learning from being in the class struggle itself, from applying Marxism-Leninism in practice, we wouldn’t be learning from the masses, and many of the advances of our struggle would not have happened.

Excellent Situation

The fact is that conditions on the whole are excellent for making important breakthroughs in our mass work, and building the ideological, political and organizational unity of our movement to a much higher level than it has so far attained. That is why we say our movement is coming to the end of one period–one characterized by the development of separate collectives and organizations working in relative isolation from one another–and entering a new period, a period in which the various revolutionary forces and individuals must come together to form a single vanguard Communist Party that can lead the working class and the masses of people in general.

A Communist Party is the proletariat’s own Party. It is the proletariat’s revolutionary headquarters, its general staff in the war against the enemy. It is a vanguard organization, leading the workers and the masses in day to day struggle, and always pointing the way toward the final goal of socialism, and eventually communism.

The Party is tightly disciplined and highly organized, so that it can lead the struggle and carry it through to its conclusion. Its members are the best sons and daughters of the working class and other sections of the people, fearless fighters who have a good grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Mao TseTung Thought and a demonstrated ability to apply it to making revolution in the U.S. And the Party is closely linked with the masses, developing their consciousness in the course of struggle, and constantly expanding by bringing in new blood from the ranks of the masses.

The lack of such a Party for many years has been a serious obstacle to the development of the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and the overall revolutionary movement. In our first major document, Red Papers 1, our organization stressed the need for establishing the Party as soon as possible, and we have continued to do so, although certainly unevenly and not as well as we should have.

At the same time, we did not consider building the Party the central task at that time, and that has been the case until now. A primary reason for this is that the Communist Party, USA deserted to the camp of revisionism and imperialism, depriving the mass struggle of the leadership of a genuine Communist Party, a single general staff capable of uniting these struggles, systematizing the revolutionary ideas among the people and basing struggle firmly on the working class.

Different Ideas

Under these conditions, different ideas of what revolution meant in the U.S. developed in the course of struggle, and there was no single organization or line that could clearly point the way forward. Since no communist organization existed which upheld a revolutionary line that had withstood some test of practice, the process of unifying the revolutionary forces around a Marxist-Leninist line and its concrete application to the U.S. has not been as simple as getting a few people into a room to hammer out a statement of unity to serve as the basis for the Party.

The point is that different forces have come to Marxism-Leninism from different directions, and have gone to the working class and masses on that basis. In the course of this, practice has been accumulated, ideological struggle has been carried on, and different tendencies have developed. So now it has become possible–in fact, it has become crucial–for the revolutionary forces to sum up these developments more systematically, conduct ideological struggle on that basis on a higher level and in a more concentrated way, and unite all who can be united around a Marxist-Leninist line and Programme, and in this way form the Party.

There is only one correct line, and it is possible at this time–through summing up the mass work and conducting ideological struggle on the basis of that summation–to determine what it is and how it must be applied–as expressed in a Programme. To move the mass struggle to a higher level, we must unite all who can be united around this line and Programme to form a single Party to carry it out. We must not allow the genuine vanguard forces of the class to remain scattered, working at cross purposes and duplicating efforts, for lack of a single unifying center, a Party.

End of A Period

This relates to why we say that we are coming to the end of a period in the mass movement as well. Among the masses, experience has been accumulated through struggle pointing to the fact that only so much can be gained through spontaneous struggle, isolated from other struggles, and without a unified center to lead, unite and advance them. This does not mean that, spontaneously, the masses have come to an understanding of who is their enemy and what must be done to defeat him. That is the understanding that we communists must bring to them.

But objectively the mass movement has come up against the lack of a genuine communist vanguard to lead the struggle and build a united front under proletarian leadership to overthrow the enemy. The ruling class tries to give the masses a defeatist summation of this objective fact, tries to convince the masses that struggle is pointless, and that the masses should make peace with the system.

While this ruling class propaganda does hold back the struggle somewhat, the mass struggle continues to grow because wherever there is oppression, there is resistance. And consciousness of the need to unite, along with a growing awareness that something is rotten with the whole system, is developing among all sections of the working class and masses. What is still missing, what the masses are in fact demanding, is for someone to show them how to build unity, how to identify the enemy and how to fight him.

That is why it is essential to establish the vanguard Party as soon as possible, and to do it on the basis of formulating a concrete Programme for the struggle of the class and the masses.

Need for Programme

A Programme is a statement of what the Party stands for, what its objectives are, and what its strategy and line are for achieving these objectives. It is not only a basis for unifying the Party itself, but for making clear to the class and the masses “where the organization is coming from.” In addition, the Programme also answers the slanders of the enemy about what the Party stands for.

This Programme should include several parts: 1) an analysis of the current situation in the world and in the U.S.; 2) A statement of the long range and ultimate goals, and the strategy and line for achieving them; 3) A statement of immediate goals and some indication of tactics–“fleshing out” the united front strategy, indicating key focuses of struggle and where we must concentrate our forces in order to make breakthroughs in the mass work, the different kinds of organizations that must be created and how to build them, etc.; 4) A summation of the communist movement in this country and the role of the CPUSA historically and today, as well as some analysis of the ther main tendencies in the revolutionary movement.

The development of this Programme will lay down a systematic guideline for our work in the working class, including specific focuses of struggle and demands of the workers’ movement. It will help to build our united front work by indicating key demands and focuses of struggle of other sections of the people. This Programme will make clear the stand of communists on the national question, including specific demands and focuses of struggle of the oppressed nations and national minorities in the U.S. And this Programme will indicate how ail these struggles can and will be united under the leadership of the working class and its Party to build a revolutionary movement to overthrow imperialism and build socialism.

And finally, the development of the Programme will be a key step in creating the Party. In formulating a draft Programme (or Programmes), it will be necessary for the various revolutionary forces and individuals to sum up work together, hold discussions, and conduct tough, principled struggle with each other. And once we have formulated a draft Programme, it will serve as a basis for further discussion and struggle, around a systematic statement of line, strategy and key demands.

Central Task

The creation of the Party on this basis, then, has become the central task of U.S. communists for a brief period ahead. But this does not mean a retreat from mass struggle. To the contrary, it must be done by building on the advances that have been made, including the advances in linking up with and leading struggle of the class and the masses. And even while recognizing the key link as establishing the Party by summing up work, engaging in struggle on the basis of that work, formulating the Programme, etc., we must not fall into a single-minded concentration on this task, or downgrade the importance of the other major tasks.

In the past, when it was correct, as it will be again, to formulate the central task as building the struggle, consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and developing its leadership in the anti-imperialist struggle, there was the tendency to downplay importance of the other major tasks, and the importance of building toward the Party, in particular.

In recognizing that we have come to a situation of moving from the end of one period to the threshold of a new and higher stage, and that the bridge from one period to the next is the establishment of the Party based on a concrete Programme, we must not forget that this bridge must have a solid foundation and this foundation is our roots in the mass struggle. In other words, we must continue and step up our work to build the revolutionary movement of the working class and a united front under its leadership, and do this in a more concentrated and systematic way.

This in turn will help in the development of the Programme and in uniting Marxist-Leninist forces to form the Party.

Relation Between Party, Masses

We stress the point of building the Party on the advances and what has been learned from the mass struggle because there has been a wrong line in this, country for several years that building the Party can and should be done in isolation from mass struggle, that in fact mass struggle is useless and “economist”–no advances can be made–until the Party is created. And we know these “left” dogmatists–who are isolated from the masses and the mass movement to this day, and who still think that a Party can be formed in a study–will probably smirk and say that the RU has finally seen the error of its ways, etc., etc.

But this only reminds us of Trotsky in the 20s, insisting that agriculture in the Soviet Union be collectivized before the necessary conditions for this had been created. Stalin led the Soviet people in preparing the conditions for collectivization and then in collectivizing agriculture in the late 20s, not in the early 20s as Trotsky insisted.

Then, when collectivization was carried out, Trotsky proclaimed that he had been right all along, and that the only mistake was not to collectivize when he insisted. But the fact is that if Trotsky’s line had been followed and his method adopted of forcing collectivization on the peasants before the conditions had been prepared for it, this would have led to a disaster.

The basis of Trotsky’s error–rooted in thoroughgoing opportunism–was failure to rely on the masses, in this case the peasantry in particular. And this is also the basis for the erroneous line of the “left” Party-builders, who have no understanding at all of building the Party closely linked with the mass movement and what has been learned there, not in isolation from it.

The point is that it is now possible to go forward rapidly to create the Party exactly because communists have put their lines into practice in the mass movement, and it is now possible to conduct ideological struggle to sum this up and to create the Party not as a mere abstraction that has no relevance to the mass movement, but based on a concrete Programme that can lead that movement forward. In the next article in this series, we will take up how we think we must begin the process of developing that Programme, and related questions.