Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Detroit Collective

Uniting Theory and Practice

First Published: Guardian, July 17, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following contribution to the Radical Forum is from the Detroit Collective, which describes itself as “an anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist organization based in Detroit.” It has recently been “expelled” from the Detroit local of the Communist League-sponsored “Continuations Committee.” The line opposed here is the “trend among communists that separates theory and practice.”

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Within the anti-revisionist movement, a two-line struggle has emerged on the question of party building. This ideological struggle is focusing on the relationship of political agitation (mass work) to the building of a genuine communist party. The differences over this issue have developed into two dominant trends. One trend maintains that the study of Marxism-Leninism is the exclusive preparatory task of party building, while the opposing view rejects this notion and proposes that theoretical work combined with political agitation are the inseparable components of pre-party work.

Honest and sincere revolutionaries throughout the country are closely examining the two sides of this debate, seeking clarity as to the correct political line and method for founding a Marxist-Leninist party.

The Detroit Collective, as an active participant in the struggle for the party, unites with the position that the combination of theoretical training and political agitation is the only correct Marxist-Leninist approach to party building. Given the historical experiences of party building, particularly in Russia and China, it has been scientifically proven that the party of a new type can only be built when proper theoretical and practical training are unified.

Lenin summed up this task during the pre-party period of Russian Social Democracy in his work, “What the ’Friends of the People’ are:”

In thus emphasizing the necessity, importance and immensity of the theoretical work of the Social Democrats, I by no means want to say that this work should take precedence over practical work, (footnote: On the contrary the practical work of propaganda and agitation must always take precedence, because, firstly, theoretical work only supplies answers to the problems raised by practical work, and, secondly, the Social-Democrats, for reasons over which they have no control, are so often compelled to confine themselves to theoretical work that they value highly every moment when practical work is possible.)–still less the latter (practical work) should be postponed until the former (theoretical work) is completed. Only the admirers of the subjective method in sociology, or the followers of Utopian socialism, could arrive at such a conclusion.


The history of the international communist movement has consistently documented the fact that those forces who attempt to build a party by separating theory from practice and engaging in the self-cultivating deviation of pure study (i.e. the “theory of cadres” which was defeated during the pre-party period in Albania), eventually fall prey to Trotskyism, ultra-leftism or some other counter-revolutionary tendency. The rightful builders of the party have always been those communists who utilized theory and practice as the means to integrate Marxism-Leninism into the concrete conditions of their country.

Today, genuine communists must recognize that the foundation of the party must be built through leading and uniting both the political struggle for socialism and the immediate struggles of the masses against the onslaught of capital. In this period when the crisis of capitalism has brought on increased attacks on the living standards of working people, it is incorrect for the anti-revisionist forces to become isolated in small study or propaganda circles. As the class-conscious leaders of the proletariat, we must fuse the movement for socialism and the mass struggle by explaining the ultimate solution and by building and working inside organizational forms that defend the interests of the working class. The political agitational activities of anti-revisionist forces must encompass both of these responsibilities, building a viable presence and base among the masses. Unlike the “mystical” builders of the party, the Detroit Collective rejects the notion that political relations with the masses must be postponed until after the founding of the party.

Instead we must actively seek the fusion of these two movements both in the pre-party period and at a higher stage during the struggles of the party for hegemony over the mass movement. The absurd notion of separating the two movements was clearly rejected by Lenin in his article, “The Urgent Tasks of Our Movement:”

From this condition emerges the tasks which the Russian Social Democracy is called upon to fulfill-to imbue the masses of the proletariat with the ideas oF socialism and political consciousness, and to organize a revolutionary party inseparably connected with the spontaneous working class movement.

In accords with the 10th Party Congress Report of the Communist party of China, the main trend in the world is revolution, which means that communists in this country are in an excellent position to build a party by spreading the doctrine of scientific socialism and raising the political consciousness of the masses through their concrete struggles against the state. Any organization or trend that affords the luxury of separating these two movements by abstaining from political agitation is not serious about building a party, but objectively is aiding the interests of the bourgeoisie.

The movement to build a genuinely Marxist-Leninist party in this country is still very young. Following the lead of the communist parties of China and Albania in the struggle against modern revisionism, the American communist movement has recognized the need to unite with Marxism-Leninism and fulfill our historic task of forging a fighting organization of revolutionaries. At this time, pre-party forces consist in the main of ex-members of the revisionist CPUSA, honest revolutionaries who have developed out of the Black liberation struggle and the struggles of national minorities, advanced workers spawned from militant rank-and-file movements, and developing communists formerly associated with the student movement. Given this historical basis, the anti-revisionist movement is confronted with a situation wherein the majority of these subjective forces lack the skills and knowledge (theoretical and practical) that are essential to an organization of professional revolutionaries. In the pre-party period, it is important that these forces receive the proper professional revolutionary training.

We differ with the erroneous view that revolutionary training consists of “studying in close proximity to the working class,” and we reaffirm the Marxist-Leninist position that revolutionary cadres are trained in the course of struggle, using theory as a guide to action. It is our contention that revolutionary communists will be molded through the experience of organizing comprehensive political exposures for the masses, raising the levels of advanced workers to that of class consciousness, and leading the struggles of the national minorities. The backbone of a genuine communist party must consist of professionally trained fighters who have proven their grasp of Marxism-Leninism through consistent and productive political practice and who are skillful at the art of evading the intelligence apparatus of the bourgeois state. Only the petty-bourgeois defenders of a priorism (knowledge independent of experience) will maintain that these necessary attributes of professionalism are already characteristic of the anti-revisionist movement in this country, and arrogantly issue the “call” for the immediate founding of the party.


Party-building is without a doubt the central task for communists at this time. The political struggles of the working class require communist leadership, and as we strive to build the party of a new type, we must never forsake our responsibility to deepen, expand and intensify political agitation. The founding of our party must signify the emergence of unified proletarian leadership intrinsically bound up with the class struggles of the working class for full emancipation and political liberty. In this period of imperialist decline, the threat of fascism coupled with the growing impoverishment of the working class has heightened the spontaneous awakening of mass consciousness and political activity. If we recognize our task to combat spontaneity and unite the working class movement with the fight for socialism, then we must recognize that a concentric attack against the onslaught of capital embracing all aspects (theoretical, practical-economic and political) of our objective struggle in harmony, in their interconnections, and in a systematic way is of primary importance at all times, and particularly in the pre-party period. History has proven and our collective practice will once again confirm that along with ideological clarity, political agitation is the cornerstone of a party that leads the masses to the ultimate victory of socialism.