Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Revolutionary Strategy in the U.S.

Communists Build Mass Organizations

Many groups on the left are confused about how communists participate in the workers’ movement. Honest persons, looking for an organization which will lead workers in a socialist revolution, falter and stumble in their mass work. They see organizations like the October League (OL) and the self-proclaimed Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) worshipping the reform movement, but bringing no communist ideas to workers. Partly as a reaction to the OL and RCP reformists, sectarian slogans are raised for the mass movement that narrow the basis of activity and drive many workers out. Instead of bringing communist ideas to workers, they end up pushing potential communists aside and blunting militant struggle.


In the early part of 1974, for example, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization (VVAW/WSO) Was a vigorous group. Chapter meetings in the San Francisco-East Bay Area were lively and well-attended. However, the Revolutionary Union (RU, now RCP) had gained control of the national newspaper and, by manipulating and splitting, tried to force VVAW/WSO into becoming one of its “intermediate organizations.” Although the RU called for a veterans and GI focus, it raised sectarian demands for the mass organization, making a desire to smash U.S. imperialism a condition for membership.

Only one or two persons in the East Bay chapter of VVAW/WSO followed the RU. However, the bulk of the chapter then split into two factions. One, calling itself the Anti-Imperialist Caucus, opposed the veteran and GI focus and tried to maneuver the organization into becoming a weatherperson support group (like Prairie Fire Organizing Committee). The progressive faction saw the need for a mass movement of veterans and GI’s. They fought the wrecking of RU and Prairie Fire, but were confused about how to organize GI’s and veterans. They would not put forward slogans that would form the basis of such a movement! that is, the struggle for reforms, for better benefits. They looked on any economic demand as “economist.” The RU and the Anti-Imperialist Caucus had succeeded in wrecking the chapter and confusing honest persons about the difference between mass organizations and revolutionary organizations. As a result, the work of the chapter narrowed, and the membership fell; the veteran and GI movement in the area waned.

Mass Organizations and Revolutionary Organizations

Both the OL and the RCP have muddied the distinction between mass organizations and revolutionary organizations. The OL created “Fight-Back” with “an anti-capitalist orientation,” an orientation that excludes workers who may want to fight for jobs and higher benefits but who do not see themselves as against capitalism. The RCP pushes its “intermediate organizations,” which claim to be both mass and revolutionary organizations at the same time–mass organizations that ask of their members only that they fight to overthrow imperialism.

A real mass organization, like a trade union, is as broad as possible within its focus. A trade union unites all workers in a particular industry or occupation. Any workers in that industry who want to bargain collectively can join. Similarly, a veterans’ organization calls on all veterans and GI’s to fight for their needs. In an unemployment council, unemployed workers unite with their brothers and sisters on the job to fight against layoffs and for higher unemployment benefits. These organizations are as open as conditions allow, holding public meetings in which militant reform demands are decided and tactics worked out. These mass organizations respond to aspects of oppression and exploitation under capitalism, but they do not go beyond the limits of capitalism.

On the other hand, proletarian revolutionary organizations aim to lead the working class in ending monopoly capitalism. They fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat. A Marxist-Leninist Communist Party prepares the working class for revolution by explaining the nature of monopoly capitalism and organizing workers to smash its state machinery at the decisive moment. The revolutionary party educates workers to end exploitation, not just to fight for a better deal under capitalism.

Since it aims at the heart of the imperialist system, the Communist Party, unlike mass organizations, must be as secret as possible and composed of highly-trained, class-conscious revolutionaries. In contrast to the trade unions, there are no occupational or trade distinctions within the Marxist-Leninist Party, but unity built on an understanding of the need for the dictatorship of the working class coupled with practice directed to this end.

Why the Difference?

The differences between the work of-mass organizations and proletarian revolutionary organizations are based on the conditions of life under capitalism. Workers see the need to fight back against their employers and engage in political struggles against the capitalist state, but the monopoly businessmen use every device to blockade workers from finding out about the nature of society. It is not only necessary for communists to break through this blockade of fraud, by bringing workers class consciousness, but also to provide workers’ with correct leadership in the tactics of their day-to-day battles.

Workers create and flock to organizations of class struggle like trade unions. However, even though they are angry at their conditions of existence, they do not agree yet on the need to smash monopoly capitalism. Any organization that styles itself a mass organization and, at the same time, calls on workers to smash the capitalist state will keep most workers away from action and narrow the basis of struggle. As a mass organization, it would be sectarian.

In 1920, Lenin pointed this out to the ultra-leftists in Germany:

Millions of workers in Great Britain, France and Germany are for the first time passing from a complete lack of organization to the elementary, lowest, most simple, and (for those still thoroughly imbued with bourgeois-democratic prejudices) most easily comprehensible form of organization, namely, the trade unions; yet the revolutionary, but imprudent, Left Communists stand by, shouting ’the masses, the masses!’–and refuse to work within the trade unions!! refuse on the pretext that they are ’reactionary’!! and invent a brand-new, immaculate little ’Workers’ Union,’ which is guiltless of bourgeois-democratic prejudices and innocent of craft or narrow craft-union sins, which, they claim, will be (will be!) a broad organization, and the only (only!) condition of membership of which will be ’recognition’ of the Soviet system and the dictatorship”!!. ..

Greater foolishness and greater damage to the revolution than that caused by the ’Left’ revolutionaries cannot be imagined!....For the whole task of the Communists is to be able to convince the backward elements, to work among them, and not to fence themselves off from them by artificial and childishly ’Left’ slogans. (“Left-wing” Communism. An Infantile Disorder, Peking, pp. 45-46)

Communists work within workers’ mass organizations; they do not set up sectarian organizations alongside them to detract from and narrow the basis of struggle. When they work in union caucuses, communists help the rank and file to regain leadership of the union and turn it away from class collaboration and toward class struggle.

Workers’ mass organizations exist because workers spontaneously organize to fight back against the oppression and exploitation of the capitalist system. The communist does not turn workers away from this spontaneous movement. On the contrary, the job of communists is to bring socialist ideas to the workers’ spontaneous movement and, in order to reach the widest possible circle of workers, fight to make workers’ organizations as broad and representative as possible.

This is one of the reasons why communists often lead the drive to organize the unorganized, why they fight for industrial unions as opposed to craft unions and why they battle against “business unionism.”

Communists develop militant reform campaigns against racism and sexism to fight unequal conditions and expose the nature of monopoly capitalism; they also take on these struggles to broaden the base of trade unions and other workers’ mass organizations.

Revolutionary Situation or Fan the Flames?

The OL and the RCP mislead and confuse others on the left about the differences between mass and revolutionary organizations, because they present a false picture of how a socialist revolution occurs. They believe that the job of communists is to enflame spontaneous struggles and link them up. Their picture is that reform movements will build into one mighty wave that will engulf the capitalist class.

Given this anti-Leninist point of view, there is no need to explain the essence of the capitalist state. It is only necessary to create organizations to cheer on and whip up the mass movement and to have these organizations take on the ideology of spontaneous revolution. The party becomes a clearing house for the mass movement, linking up the Fight-Backs or Unemployed Workers Organizing Committees (UWOC) and hiding behind them. Persons who push this line naturally confuse mass organizations and revolutionary organizations because they see no need to do real communist work.

Opposed to this is the Marxist-Leninist strategy of the revolutionary situation. From time to time, crises wrack the capitalist system. Wars and depressions, sometimes both, occur and lead to a revolutionary situation. The capitalist class can no longer continue in the old way and is at a loss about how to rule.

The working class, through the work of the Marxist-Leninist party, comes to question the entire capitalist system. At this time the party must have overcome one main weapon of the capitalists, fraud, by educating advanced workers about the nature of the capitalist state. Having exposed capitalist fraud and won the leadership of the working class, the party leads workers in smashing the force of the capitalist state.

A real communist party plays the key role in overcoming the lies of capitalists that tie workers to the system. The party rips away the veil of deceit behind which the capitalists rule. Clearly, spreading class consciousness is the central task. This is the basis of The New Voice slogan: Make the Party’s Outlook the Workers’ Outlook.

Make the Workers’ Struggles the Party’s Struggles

How do communists work in mass organizations? They provide consistent leadership, always pushing class struggle rather than class collaboration. When the trade union or other mass organization is corrupted by misleaders who sell out the rank and file, communists initiate caucuses to build a militant, democratic organization. In analyzing the company and union bureaucrat proposals, in planning a fighting program for their trade union and organizing strike committees, and in shaping strategy and tactics, communists bring their Marxist-Leninist training to the aid of the developing workers’ movement.

No wall separates communists from other workers. On the contrary, communists analyse the situation that they, like all workers, are going through. Communists find themselves facing the same problems as their fellow workers. Immersed in the class struggle, they can learn from the experiences that they and others have.

At every turn in the struggle, communists bring forth the correct tactics, educating by pointing to past errors and overcoming illusions that businessmen and misleaders create. When union officials push binding arbitration, communists point out that no one in this society is neutral; they point to the nature of the businessmen’s state and what happened in the past when workers relied on arbitration. They advance programs calling for slowdowns and strikes when workers are organized and ready to fight. Communists do not call for wildcats just to stir things up and pin “super-revolutionary” badges on their chests like the RCP often does. The communist worker has a plan to advance the workers’ movement at every stage. It is the communists’ consistent, correct leadership in trade union and other mass struggles that shows workers the importance of Marxist-Leninist analysis.

In trade unions or unemployed workers’ organizations, communists talk to individuals about society, explaining things with a Marxist-Leninist analysis. Questions arises Should we accept binding arbitration? Why do the union officials sell us out? What are we doing in Vietnam or Angola? The Marxist-Leninist points out the nature of capitalism, gives answers to the questions that fellow workers raise. Every few weeks or months some workers show a real interest in these discussions and are invited to participate in study groups. Here they learn basic works of Marxism-Leninism like State and Revolution and some join the Marxist-Leninist organization, taking up communist work themselves. Communists in a single factory form a center of communist work, recruiting others and building the workers’ movement.

The organization itself, like The New Voice, puts out a newspaper that analyzes the burning issues of the day, exposing the imperialist system, and showing the necessity for proletarian revolution. The newspaper is passed out at factory gates and discussed with fellow workers. Special leaflets may be issued to explain particular issues and call for demonstrations at which more communist organizing is done.

The communist must use any opportunity that presents itself to raise the question of the state. From the mass movement, communists will win recruits to Marxist-Leninist study groups and the party. Their newspaper, their organization will put forward a correct analysis, exposing the pseudo-militants and opportunists in the workers’ movement and eventually uniting workers as a class to attack the capitalist state and win the dictatorship of the proletariat.