Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Michael Klonsky, October League

“What Road to Building a New Communist Party?”

First Published: The Guardian, May 2, 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following is the slightly condensed text of the speech on “What Road to Building a New Communist Party?” given by Mike Klonsky, chairman of the October League (Marxist-Leninist). Klonsky’s speech was delivered at the Guardian’s March 23 forum on party building held in New York City.

Friends and comrades, first I would like to thank the Guardian for the important role it has played in bringing all of these revolutionary and progressive forces together to discuss such an important question, such a basic question as “What road to the building of a Communist party in the U.S.”

I think that it has become clear to us that this kind of get-together could not have taken place without the role that has been played by the Guardian. The fact that this is being done in the spirit of working-class unity as it is, is a tribute to the growing maturity of this young communist movement. As it deepens its ties with working people the question of unity becomes a material necessity and not just a question of abstract rhetoric.

The degree of unity that this forum reflects is a very good sign and we welcome it. However, we have seen attacks made on the forces that are represented here. We see that there are forces that don’t welcome this get- together, aside from Nixon and the imperialists and the right-wingers. The Daily World has unleashed a very timely attack on “Maoism” in general and on the forces of revolution.

The Communist party has criticized this forum and has attacked the idea of us even talking about building a new communist party. They say that “there already is a party,” that we’re being “divisive” by talking like this, and they also throw in the charge of “anti-Sovietism” to boot. So I think we should examine these charges and examine who the real splitters and dividers are and in fact who is really anti-Soviet.

If we take a look around us, I think we can plainly see that the forces represented here today are not a bunch of armchair revolutionaries–librarian-type revolutionaries–but rather the core of revolutionary activists, fighters in the cause of Afro-American people, other minority peoples, the working class in general, the student movement, the movement for women’s rights and the various progressive movements throughout the country.

The people here represent everything healthy and young in this country and not what is old and dying away. What we have to understand is why so many hundreds of these people want to come and discuss this vital question and why they look with disdain when someone tells them there “already is a communist party in this country. There already is a vanguard leadership of the struggle.”

It is not us who have alienated and driven the most honest and dedicated people from the ranks of the CPUSA. We’re not the ones who took the Communist party’s constitution and outlawed any talk of “revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system” in its pages. We’re not the ones who have abandoned the Afro-American people’s struggle, especially in the South, where it’s growing sharpest today as it has historically.


We aren’t the ones who have stricken the words “dictatorship of the proletariat” from the program of Marxism-Leninism. This crime hasn’t been done by us. In the program of the CPUSA, the revisionists tell us in their own words, “Of course we advocate social change by peaceful means, through political institutions and people’s organizations within the American constitutional framework.”

This is nothing but a rehashed version of Earl Browder’s line of the early 1940’s–the line, as Irwin Silber clearly exposed, of “American exceptionalism, peaceful transition” and “revolution through the ballot box.” This is another version of Kautsky’s line of “progressive imperialism” where the need for revolution has disappeared and the imperialists and the people can work things out through the pressure system, or by lobbying or electing “more sensitive” representatives to the Congress, to make capitalism more “sensitive” to the needs of working people.

In his article, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” V.I. Lenin shows the basis for this kind of opportunism. He explained how imperialism, through its bleeding and profiteering of the oppressed nations, is able to buy off certain sections of the working class in its own country, how through these bribed leaders it is able to poison the revolutionary movement with reformism, economism and chauvinism.

Isn’t this the basis for statements such as this in the CPUSA’s program? Isn’t this why they attack the revolutionaries here and around the world? Isn’t this why they fear revolution, fear that it will knock them down from their comfortable positions in the ranks of the labor aristocracy and the small-business owning class?

Isn’t this why they side with Lon Nol in Cambodia? Isn’t this why they encourage the crushing of the Polish workers and encouraged the reactionary Indian government to invade Pakistan?


This split in socialism is not just a national phenomenon but an international one. Lenin was the first to use the term “social-imperialism” to describe the opportunists like the ones, who during World War I sided with their own imperialists against the working people of the world.

This is the basis of the split in the communist movement, today and we cannot be blamed for this. We’re not anti-Soviet. The Soviet people haven’t risen up to defend the policies of Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Kosygin. They haven’t enshrined these revisionists. When we oppose their policies, we’re not opposing the Soviet people.

We know that the Soviet people are a good revolutionary people and that in time they will take the situation into their own hands like they have always done.

We’ve got to expose opportunism! We’ve got to expose the revisionists! If we don’t fight the revisionists, we’ll never be able to defeat imperialism. And we cannot defeat these opportunists, whether they be the revisionists, Trotskyists or the trade union sell-outs, with words alone. We can’t stand on the sidelines of the mass struggle and attack them. That’s why it’s so important that this new rising communist movement is beginning to sink its roots in the mass struggle of the people; beginning to take leadership in the many labor struggles, strikes and the movement of the Afro-American, Puerto Rican, Chicano and other oppressed peoples. This is essential. We cannot wait until after there’s a party to do this work. Or what kind of party are we going to build?

We will end up building a little clique, that’s isolated from the masses, that doesn’t understand the sentiments and the aspirations of the people. That’s not the way we intend to do things. This is the ultra-“leftist” view, that abandons the mass struggle today for some high ideals–idealism–some ideals about a communist party.


We in the October League feel that while revisionism is the main ideological enemy we face, within our own ranks–the ranks of the young communist movement–it is ultra-leftism. That’s the main danger here. That’s what we’ve got to guard against.

It’s very understandable that every single split-off, up until the present time, from the revisionist CPUSA, has degenerated into Trotskyite little sects. Here I’m referring to groups like the Provisional Organizing Committee (POC) and the Progressive Labor party (PL). There’s a good reason for this.

Our forces are very young. They haven’t got the experience. They haven’t got the stabilizing effects of mass struggle among the workers. They haven’t got deep enough ties to the workers yet. And so they are very susceptible to these kinds of vacillations, in reaction to the CPUSA, towards ultra-leftism.

Probably a more important way to understand ultra-leftism is on the basis of a class analysis. Comrade Stalin wrote an article called “Sources of Contradictions Within our Party.” In this article he made a class analysis of the various forms of opportunism. He says in effect that the different forms of opportunism arise because the working class is not a monolith but is divided into different strata.

He said, “One stratum is the main mass of the proletariat, its core, its permanent part, the mass of ’pure-blooded’ proletarians, who have long broken off connection with the capitalist class. This stratum of the proletariat is the most reliable bulwark of Marxism.

“The second stratum consists of newcomers from non-proletarian masses–from the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie or the intelligentsia. These are former members of other classes who have only recently merged with the proletariat and have brought with them into the working class their customs, their habits, their waverings and their vacillations. This stratum constitutes the most favorable soil for all sorts of anarchist, semi-anarchist and ’ultra-left’ groups.”

The third stratum is the labor aristocracy, which I have already mentioned as the class base for right opportunism or revisionism.


So the question for us is, how can we fight against this ultra-leftism, which has a fertile soil to grow in among these newcomers to the working class who have come largely from the intellectuals? Well, the main thing at this time is not to abandon the mass struggle to build the anti-imperialist united front and to develop those close ties with the masses, to integrate ourselves in mass struggle.

Secondly, in relations with other groups, we’ve got to combat the notion that any one of our groups is the vanguard or that they only represent the “true” communist forces at this time. We’ve got to unite the communist forces and we’ve got to combat everything that stands in the way of unity, whether it be on the level of divisive rumor-spreading and gossip which the police and revisionists use to their advantage–to the approach of always putting differences first or looking for differences as the main thing. We have to see that within every Communist party there is sharp struggle. We’ve got to build unity and we’ve got to fight for unity.

We ourselves are very optimistic. We’ve seen some very rapid steps toward unity lately which have come mainly through testing the line of these organizations in practice. Because, you see, the working people get Marxism, sometimes, in very distorted forms, especially at this stage. But the working class itself, it has an anvil on which to hammer out and test these theories and shape them to meet its needs. This anvil is its experience in social production, and class struggle. It’s here that the real answers to these problems will be worked out.

In China, we heard about their fight against “leftism.” At one point they had a fellow named Wang Ming. Wang Ming knew everything there was to know about the Soviet Union but he didn’t know a damn thing about China. Like the Communist party of China, we have to base our theoretical understanding, our programs, our view of the national question, on practice–and not just going in a back room somewhere and typing out a program based upon book learning only.

So we’re very confident that unity can be built. We’ve seen a spirit among all the groups represented here today. This has encouraged us a great deal. If we all stick together and take a principled stand, in a very short time, we’ll be able to forge a communist party.

This will be a great step forward for the people of the whole world to have a party that’s revolutionary in its character right here in the heartland of imperialism.