Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Philadelphia Workers’ Organizing Committee

Building the Workers’ Party

First Published: The Organizer, Vol. 1, No. 1, January-February 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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There is general agreement in the Marxist movement that our central task is the building of a revolutionary working class party. If the working class is to be successful in its struggles with monopoly capitalism, it must be united and organized. Whereas the monopolists are welded together by their economic power and financial interdependence, the workers must be welded together by a common political outlook and program.

Only by all the workers acting together as if they were one person can the proletariat equal the power of capitalism. And the working class can not be welded together without a strong political party to lead it.

In our view, the real question facing the revolutionary movement is not whether or not we need a party. We think that the need for a party is obvious and therefore widely felt. The real question that has to be answered is how to go about building this party. We need to know how to get from our present disorganized and disunited state to the point where we can form the party on a sound basis. How should we build the party – this is the critical question facing our movement.

There is considerable disagreement in the movement on the correct answer to this question. Basically, the various answers can be grouped around two contradictory positions. The first maintains that we have, at this time, all the forces necessary to form a party. All we need to do, those that argue this position assert, is to unite all the revolutionaries possible around a common program which speaks to the needs of the working class movement in the United States.

The second position argues that our movement has not yet reached sufficient maturity in order to make the immediate formation of a party possible. Those who hold this position argue that we must first lay the proper foundations for the party.

We believe the second position is the correct one. We will discuss in this article how to lay the foundations for the party, how we can know when those foundations have been layed properly and then demonstrate that we have not yet reached that stage.


The central characteristic of the Marxist-Leninist movement is that it is the conscious agent of the proletariat’s struggle for socialism. It recognizes that the root causes of the oppression of the working people in the US are bound up with the existence of monopoly capitalism.

Monopoly capitalism is an economic system which is based on the exploitation of the broad masses of the working people by a handful of extremely wealthy monopolists. The exploitation of the workers by capitalism causes their oppression. As long as this basic system continues to exist, so will the misery of the working class. Recognizing this, the Marxist movement seeks to organize the entire working class into a powerful movement to overthrow the power of the monopolists.

The basic task of the Marxist-Leninist movement, then, is to organize the revolution. To organize the revolutionary overthrow of monopoly capitalism, two different elements must be welded together – revolutionary theory and the working class movement. Communist politics and the working class movement must be welded together because each is powerless without the other.

On the one hand, the idea of socialism is powerless without a social force powerful enough to see to its implementation. There is but one such force in modern society – the proletariat. On the other hand, the working class cannot escape its exploitation by capitalism without socialism. Without socialism the working class is reduced to a constant struggle against the effects of monopoly capitalism because without socialism the system of monopoly capitalism remains intact.

Socialism is powerless without the working class and the working class cannot advance without socialism. It is only be welding together the ideas of revolutionary socialism and the working class movement that Marxist-Leninists can lead the proletariat in organizing the revolution.

The founding of a revolutionary party is the first stage in the development of the revolution^ It also marks a stage in the development of the union of socialism with the class struggle of the proletariat. It becomes possible only upon the welding of socialist consciousness with the most advanced elements in the working-class movement.


In general, the working class can be divided into three groups corresponding to levels of political understanding. At the lowest level are the most backward workers, those that have the least understanding of the source of their oppression and their real enemies. This segment of the workers is most likely to be influenced by “me-firstism” and racism. They are also the least likely to be willing to struggle against capitalism.

The overwhelming majority of the working class makes up the middle level. They are not as politically backward as the lowest level and have a better understanding of their situation and their enemies. While they are influenced by the capitalist ideas (such as the ones mentioned above), they are also strongly influenced by the more advanced ideas of the third group.

The third group of workers is the most advanced of, the three politically. These workers understand that the capitalists are their enemies and that there can be no lasting peace between the workers and the bosses. They understand that they are being exploited by the monopolists and desire to end that exploitation. While they may not be socialists, they are interested in ending their exploitation and so are open to socialist ideas.

At any given point in history, the levels of understanding of the various groups may vary considerably. It is possible that the middle level could in a certain period rise up to the position of the most advanced, or fall to the level of the most backward. However, in general, the middle level vacillates between the two smaller sections.

In times of extremely sharp struggle against their exploitation, the middle level generally takes the leadership of the most advanced sector, recognizing that this section will provide the best leadership in a period of struggle. In other times, the middle level can fall away from the most advanced, adopting many of the ideas of the most backward elements. However, in order for the workers to defeat the capitalists the middle section must follow the most advanced.

In the present period, the most advanced workers can be found in the forefront of the rank and file movement. Tired of years of steady declines in their standard of living and sell-put leadership in their trade unions, these workers have taken the initiative to organize their fellow workers into rank and file organizations.

These various rank and file organizations fight on two fronts. First and foremost, they attempt to mobilize the rank and file workers to wage a militant battle for better working and living conditions. Secondly, they are fighting to regain control of the trade unions which are presently run by bureaucrats who are more interested in lining their pockets than representing the workers. These workers who are leading the rank and file movement are objectively leading a fight against capitalism.

However, the advanced elements are not having the maximum possible effect. There are literally thousands of these workers all across the United States, but they are isolated and alone. Various individuals attempt to lead their fellow workers in isolated struggles against capitalism.

Because each struggle is isolated from the others which are basically the same in content, it is easier for the capitalists and the sell-out trade union leaders to turn these struggles aside. This, in turn, encourages frustration in the ranks of the workers and can lead to demoralization and defeatism.

In order to maximize their effectiveness all the various individuals in the most advanced section of the working class must link up together on a national basis. By organizing themselves and developing a common program they can develop a co-ordinated attack on their common enemy. Such an attack would be much more difficult for the capitalists to defeat.

Therefore, these advanced workers must be organized into one national political organization. At present, this takes the form of struggling to unite these advanced workers with socialism. The Marxist-Leninist movement must seek out the most advanced workers, draw close to them in their practical struggles, and win them over to socialism. It is by doing this that we can lay the foundation for a Communist Party.


In order to bring about the most rapid possible union of socialism with the advanced workers, we need to do two things. First, we must create a workers’ communism. By workers’ communism we mean the development of the Marxist theory applied to the United States which can point out the road to socialism.

In addition, this theory must be capable of solving the real and pressing problems the class struggle inevitably poses. We must be able to show the workers how to consolidate and organize themselves, how to best prepare themselves for their struggle against capitalism. Further, we must be able to show how to pick the most favorable time to join the battle and how to win.

If we are to develop a workers’ communism, we must make a thorough study of the lessons of the class struggle in the United States, and in other countries as it has been summed up in Marxist literature. We must also make a study of the specific concrete conditions of the working class in the US today. By combining properly the knowledge gained from each area and testing it in the practical struggle, we can build a workers’ communism which will be capable of pointing the way forward for the proletariat.

Secondly, we must concentrate our energies in the industrial proletariat among the advanced workers. There are more advanced workers concentrated among industrial workers than in any other sector of the proletariat. The advanced workers are concentrated in the industrial proletariat because it is the most highly socialized sector of the proletariat.

The very nature of industrial work teaches the workers the benefits of social production. By combining their efforts and working in concert with one another workers learn that they can produce much more rapidly and efficiently. In addition, the workers are taught that they must struggle together if they are to win anything from the boss; one worker struggling alone can easily be replaced.

The advanced workers concentrated in the industrial proletariat are not yet socialists but they are open to socialism. By joining with them in their practical struggles and putting forward workers’ communism, Marxists can win these workers over to socialism. For the very nature of their exploitation by modern industry has prepared the way for socialism.

Thus, by merging workers’ communism with the advanced workers we can lay the foundations for a real revolutionary party. We will have a tried and tested theory (workers’ communism) which has proven itself directly in the class struggle. The advanced workers will have been won over to socialism and thus socialism will have roots in the working class movement. And finally, our years of struggle to bring about the union of communism with the workers movement will have provided us with experienced and hardened revolutionaries to make up the party.


How can we know when we have reached the stage of development of our movement when it will become correct to call for the formation of the party? In the first place, our theory will not be hanging in thin air. It will have clearly demonstrated its ability to meet the needs of the working class movement. In the hands of the advanced workers, it will have been proven to be an effective instrument of the class struggle by pointing out the path to victory. The workers will have used it to win some battles.

Secondly, significant numbers of advanced workers will have been won over to communism. They will have joined the Marxist-Leninist movement. They will still be leading their fellow workers in the struggle against capitalism. However, their leadership will be different than it is today; they will be open communists and will be accepted as communists. The advanced workers will everywhere and always be determining the character of the rank and file movement as socialists. Thus the working class movement will have acquired profound political significance.

It should not be difficult to see that we have not yet reached this stage of development. Examining the state of the Marxist movement it is easy to see that for the most part it remains separated from the workers’ movement.

This is clearly exhibited in the theoretical content of the Marxist movement. Many of those in our movement have not really begun to really develop revolutionary theory. They are all too content with the mere repetition of tired old phrases and revolutionary rhetoric. Much of what is being passed off for revolutionary theory in our movement is really just dogma which is of no use to anyone, especially the working class.

In addition, the class composition of our movement is insufficiently proletarian. The numbers of advanced workers are all too small and the numbers of intellectuals and students are much too large in proportion to them. Furthermore, the level of unity between whites and the national minorities (Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, etc.) is very low. This can be seen in the fact that the explicitly Marxist-Leninist organizations are often either predominantly white or predominantly Black, Puerto Rican, or Chicano.

All of these weaknesses in our movement reflect the fact that we have not yet succeeded in creating an adequate union of the working class movement and socialism. In the case of the last two weaknesses – the insufficient numbers of advanced workers and the low level of Black-white (and other minorities) unity – it is immediately clear how these weaknesses reflect that fact.

The insufficient proletarian character of the movement quite obviously reflects our failure to win over the thousands of advanced workers to socialism. The same is true of the level of Black-white unity. This should be especially clear when it is remembered that the national minorities are overwhelmingly workers and are also heavily concentrated in the industrial sector of the proletariat.

As for our weak theory, it too shows the separation. For the workers have no need of theory which is made up of rhetoric and abstract, overworn phrases. They have no need for theory which is incapable of truly pointing out the path ahead and showing them how to win. The truth is that we have not yet learned how to use our theory as a lever in the working class movement.


We are not trying to belittle the growing strength of the Marxist-Leninist movement. Our movement has made tremendous strides in every way in the last year. There are more people involved than ever before. There are better and stronger organizations than ever before. And our theory is more concrete than ever before. We are, indeed, better prepared to meet our tasks than ever before.

However, this does not mean that we have advanced to the point where we can call for the formation of the party. A party formed on the basis of the present level of development of our movement would be worth very little. It could not be based on an adequate foundation of either theory or in the working class. It would inevitably degenerate into just another sect of priest-like individuals shouting pompous phrases to the workers from the side lines.

Instead of getting caught up in the party fad, with those who would have us rush with our eyes closed to build the party, we must continue our work in trying to bring about the union of socialism and the working class movement. We must continue our efforts at developing a revolutionary theory which can meet the needs of the workers’ movement and continue our efforts at drawing close to the advanced workers.

Moreover, we must struggle sharply with those who would have us forget these critical tasks. We must fight against the influence of those who would have us forget these critical tasks. We must fight against the influence of those who would have us close our eyes to the weaknesses in our movement and pretend that we do indeed have all the forces necessary to form the party. We must expose their shabby thinking which is based more on childish desires than scientific analysis. For we must not allow our desires to run away with our heads.

If we succeed in preventing these influences from seizing hold of our movement and diverting it from its proper path, we will truly be providing our party with a firm foundation so that when it is built it will really be a revolutionary, working class party.