Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Philadelphia Workers’ Organizing Committee

A Party of A New Type

First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 1, No. 2, March-April 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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What Is A Political Party of the “Old Type”?

Most workers would answer this question with something like “A bunch of windbags trying to steal as much of our tax money as they can get away with.” And they would not be far off the mark, since this is a pretty accurate description of the two major political parties in our country, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. But if we really want to understand the question, we have to go a little deeper – we have to ask ourselves, “Who do these parties represent?”

According to official mythology, we live in a “democracy” because we get to choose whether the Democrats or Republicans are going to run the government; but what this really boils down to is that we get to choose which section of the ruling class is going to run the government and exploit the working people.

The Democratic Party is more “liberal” – they believe in throwing the working class a few crumbs every now and then to keep them quiet; the Republican Party is more conservative – they’d rather use the stick than the carrot. But both Parties represent the interests of the “super-rich,” the small group of people like the Rockefellers, the Duponts, the Morgans, etc., that own and control most of the wealth the working people produce in their mines, factories, etc. – and they own and control the Democratic and Republican Parties, too.

It’s a pretty good system: a small group of immensely wealthy men convince the vast majority of the population – who all work their lives away making them rich – that they have the right to decide how the country will be run when in reality the only right they have is to continue to be exploited.

Communists call this system “bourgeois democracy” (bourgeois meaning capitalist) because it’s democracy for the capitalist ruling class, but dictatorship for the working class – under our “two party” system, the working class is left out of politics altogether.

So the real answer to our question “What is a political party?” is that a political party is the representative of an economic class in the political arena. The Democratic and Republican Parties both represent the monopoly-capitalist economic class, and are the main tool by which that class maintains its domination and exploitation of the vast majority of the people. They have a number of characteristics in common: they are both made up of professional “politicians,” most of whom choose that profession because they don’t want to work for a living.

They’re structured entirely around winning elections, or in other words, doing a better job at fooling the people than the other party. The masses of people have no say whatsoever in the policies of either party; they may be “registered” as Democrats or Republicans, but this is a mere formality. They are both financed directly by the monopoly capitalists they represent.


The working people are told “If you don’t like the Republicans, vote for the Democrats. If you don’t like the ruling class they represent, shut up!”

Communists think differently: communists believe the Working class can and must have its own political party, a party that will serve its own interests, not those of the exploiting class. Basing themselves on the Marxist theory of society, communists understand that politics is essentially a war between the two main classes in modern capitalist society: those that work (the working class or proletariat) and those that exploit those who work (the capitalist class or bourgeoisie).

Just as the bourgeois parties (the Democrats and the Republicans) strive to defend and maintain capitalism and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a working class party would strive for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie – which is to say, the dictatorship of the vast majority of the population over the tiny handful of exploiters.

The factories, the cities, the farms that the working class has built for these “robber barons” will be taken away from them and they’ll have to work for a living like everyone else. The fruits of our labor, the immense social wealth we create each and every day, will be shared equally through a planned economy based on the needs of people rather than profit.

And for the first time in the history of civilization, we will have a society where the majority of ordinary people govern themselves rather than serve a small ruling class sitting pretty on top of the rest of society; in other words, we will have a society where democracy is a reality for the many and not a privilege of the few.

But knowing where we’re going and knowing how to get there are two different things; how is our political party going to enable us to win the struggle for socialism?


In the article “Why the Working Class Needs Its Own Party” that appeared in the last issue of the Organizer, we discussed at length the fact that while the working class fights back against the exploitation and oppression it suffers under capitalism, whether it has a political party of its own or not, (proved by the great number of often very militant strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, marches, and so on occurring right now, even though there is no working class party in existence), it cannot win in the long run without its own political party.

At best, the “spontaneous” struggles we are forced to wage each and every day just to survive can only lead to trying to cure a cancer with a band-aid. This is because these “spontaneous”, everyday struggles only attack part of the problem (a particular corporation, a particular city administration, etc.), not the problem itself – which is the capitalist system; and because they only attack with a small part of the working class’ forces: the “spontaneous” everyday struggles are like an “open hand,” not a “clenched fist” – and so it is not that difficult for the capitalists and their politicians to “break our fingers” one by one.

So in order to deal with the roots of our exploitation, we must have an understanding of our whole social system – we must have a theory of society to guide our actions and our strategy. You can’t build an airplane that will fly if you don’t know the laws of aerodynamics, and you can’t build a revolutionary movement if you don’t know the laws of society. And this theory must be combined with a powerful organization that will group the most advanced and militant fighters from all the different “spontaneous” struggles into one disciplined organization.

So this is the most important of the features that make the working class’ party a “party of the new type” – it is a party that has the theoretical understanding of capitalist society and the disciplined organization of all the best working class fighters to lead the way to socialism. It is this leadership or vanguard role that is the most distinctive feature of the workers’ party.


There are a number of features of the party that enable it to be a vanguard and that serve to further set it apart from the bourgeois parties.

First of all, a party cannot be a vanguard if it is made up of just anyone who wants to be in it. The party aims at recruiting to it the most politically advanced and dedicated fighters and it has no room for careerists who want to latch onto the revolutionary movement to serve their own selfish ends. Party membership is not a hobby or part time pursuit, but a serious responsibility.

Besides being in agreement with the Party’s program and outlook, party members must accept the discipline of the Party, that is, they must do day to day work with a party organization, i ne party constantly works to build its membership into stronger, more effective revolutionaries. It seeks to strengthen its members understanding of Marxism-Leninism and better develop their practical, organizing skills.

In short, the workers’ vanguard party aims at being a party of professional revolutionaries. Without these high standards and expectations of its members, the party’s claim to leadership would be laughable. These standards are in sharp contrast to the bourgeois parties where anyone can join and the real work is left to a handful of full-time party hacks or “professional” politicians. In a Communist party every member is a full-timer and aspires to be a professional.

Secondly, if a party is to be able to lead it must have unity of action. It must speak with a single voice. If it speaks with many voices, it cannot focus the energy of the mass movement in a single direction and will dissipate its forces. Naturally, even if the party membership is united in terms of its general political outlook, disagreements still occur. To assure unity of action and to prevent disagreement from undermining it, the party operates according to the principle of democratic centralism.

With democratic centralism, everyone has both the opportunity and responsibility to voice their opinion in determining policy. Policy is determined by the democratic will of the majority of the party. But once the policy is set every member must carry it out even if they disagree.

This way unity of action is assured. When the party again reconsiders its policy, which it does at regular Congresses, the member may again voice his disagreement and try to win over a majority to his way of thinking. Thus while a Communist party is a democratic organization it is also a highly disciplined one. It is not a debating society but a party capable of firm decisive action, because of the way it is organized.

Thirdly, the party is a combat party – a fighting unit. Its purpose is to stand at the head of ail the struggles of the working class and the oppressed people. The party is in the factories, mines and mills, in the neighborhoods and communities, and in the mass organizations like the trade unions, tenants groups, and students associations. It involves itself in all the struggles of the people, always seeking to strengthen and advance these struggles.

The bourgeois party, again by way of contrast, limits its activities to trying to get people to vote for its candidates on election day. It bases its organization on the electoral system with its units corresponding to precincts, divisions, and wards. The workers’ vanguard party bases its organization on the factories and neighborhoods in which the working class works and lives and takes up every struggle within the limits of its capacity.

In the fourth place, a working class party would be a multi-national (white, Black, Latin, Asian, and Indian) and mixed (both men and women) party. Because the working class party represents a multi-national and mixed working class, and because a socialist revolution is impossible unless racial and sexual divisions within the working class are overcome – a working class party would set an example of mutual respect, equality, and unity among the nationalities and the sexes for the rest of the working class and for the society as a whole.

It would stand out in sharp contrast to the bourgeois Democratic and Republican parties, which, while mouthing empty phrases about the “melting pot of democracy” are both dominated by white men and which, not surprisingly, both pursue policies that keep the working class divided against itself.


In this article, we’ve tried to explain the features of the working class party that make it a completely new type of political party. In the next issue of the Organizer, we will discuss the many so-called “communist” and “socialist” parties in the United States, today and in history, that claim to represent the working class, and try to show why none of them “fit the bill” and why we must build a real revolutionary communist party that does.