First Published: Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 10, November 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The most fashionable word in our movement is “fusion”. But of course, communists can never be satisfied with catchwords and fads. We are realists, able to make a sober appraisal of things and to chart a direction for our work, and the concrete methods for organizing that work. A sober appraisal of our movement reveals the following:
1. The economic and political crisis of imperialism is rousing the masses to struggle on a growing scale. For example, we have the recent wildcat strike by 120,000 mineworkers; the growing organized rank and file resistance to the trade union bureaucrats among steelworkers, autoworkers, etc.; the spreading movement against police repression of the oppressed nationalities, (Joann Little, Gary Tyler, Coalition Against Police Abuse in Los Angeles, etc.). While these movements have not yet revealed the scope and intensity of the mass movements of the 1960’s, it is only a matter of time before they do. Communists are only providing leadership to these struggles to a small extent.
2. The opportunists are stronger in certain respects than the Marxist-Leninists. The CPUSA, PSP, CASA, the RCP and the OL undoubtedly have more mass influence than do Marxist-Leninists. They are also much bigger, much stronger financially and organizationally than “our side”. We are aware that this is a temporary phenomenon in an historical sense. Nevertheless we cannot let historical perspective blind us to contemporary realities. This would be like an adolescent boy trying to knock out Muhammed Ali because “historically speaking” he is on the “ascendant” while Ali is on the decline.
3. The Marxist-Leninist trend is growing but has some very serious weaknesses. Most serious is the lack of a real base in the working class movement. We have had occasion to observe the work of many comrades and to discuss this work with them, large organizations as well as collectives. Almost without exception they have only a minimal base, if that, among the industrial proletariat. The industrial midwest, the heartland of U.S. capitalism, for example, has very few Communists doing work there. Those that do are often young, inexperienced, untrained and with little influence. One small evidence of the truth of our assertion is provided by the communist forums. They are notable for the lack of calloused hands in the audience. Let’s not kid ourselves.
4. The level of actual fusion of Communism with the working class and national movements is low. Although the League for Proletarian Revolution correctly criticizes the movement for failing to analyze the extent of this fusion, they too fail to do so. They merely state that the lack of a party is evidence of a low level of fusion. This is not an ANALYSIS. One could have made the same statement in 1960. Are we to suppose therefore that no change has occurred in the past 16 years, and that no change will occur until the Party congress? We think it is better to judge the level of fusion also by the political demands and slogans raised by the working class. Where do we see the working class masses calling for socialism, or for the right of self-determination for the Afro-American or Chicano nations or for full democratic rights for all national minorities, and fighting for these things? The examples we do have are paltry and extremely limited in scope. This tells us that Communists are not winning over the advanced and training them to lead the masses to fight under such slogans. We must end the practice of just talking about fusion and start actually fusing. Otherwise we will end up with a “party” composed of a few propaganda circles instead of a live and vital vanguard which is rooted in the advanced class, which has proven worthy of leading that class, which has shown itself capable of training the advanced workers as communist cadres based on the ability to organize and lead the class struggle in all its manifestations. We want, we demand a party of action, and not a bloated circle of polemicists and windbags; a party born and bred and tempered by having led the struggles of the workers.
5. The Marxist-Leninists are beginning to carry out systematic political and organizational work among the industrial proletariat. Although some groups, like ourselves, have been there for a few years we cannot claim to have extensive influence as yet.
As we can see things are not all as we would like. We cannot sit back and congratulate ourselves for being Marxist-Leninists and not opportunists. Nor can we dismiss the mass influence of the revisionists and opportunists with infantile references to “quality not quantity”, or “they only have numbers”. This is like saying, forget about the trade union bureaucrats, they “only” have the trade unions. We Communists must intensify our work among the class, not fearing to lead their struggles just because someone might accuse us of “worshipping spontaneity”. In order to do this work, that is, to increase our political influence among the proletariat we must utilize all the tools at our disposal. And that is the purpose of this article, to discuss one of those tools the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE.
First of all we must make clear that a real Communist party is not only the political and organizational unity of Marxist-Leninists and the advanced workers they win over. A party is also judged by the political influence it has over the working class. To view it in any other way reveals a profound misunderstanding of our tasks. That is why we fight so hard against the line that party building is our ONLY task, and that “everything must be seen in the context of party building”. This latter position is often interpreted to mean that all of our tasks must serve to build, develop and strengthen the party. But when is this not true? Won’t we be trying to build, strengthen and expand the party even under socialism? What this line inevitably reduces itself to is this – in all of our work we must focus and pay attention only to uniting Marxist-Leninists and winning over the advanced, (precious few of whom are actually being won over; and with Marxist-Leninists our “work” usually consists of discourse and polemic). Is it not better to say that it is always the fundamental task of Communists to organize and lead the class struggle of the proletariat, in the course of which we must integrate Marxism-Leninism with our concrete conditions (program), develop the organization capable of such work, train the necessary cadres, unite with those Marxists serious about doing the work, isolate opportunism among the masses on the basis of our ability to lead, and win over the advanced workers by both our ideals and our example? In this way we build a REAL party, REAL fusion takes place.
We ourselves have made the errors that we refer to above, and in a very real sense these errors are the inevitable byproducts of our movement’s inexperience. But the time has passed when we can justify this narrow view of tasks by reference to inexperience. We must evaluate our past work, learn from it and move on.
In order for us to move on we must change the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE. When ATM began publication of its paper we stated that its purpose was to deal with questions of theory, questions of organization, and to shed the light of Communism on every important political, social and economic question facing our movement, (see REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE, vol. 1, #1). At the same time we recognized our obligation to the movement to make clear our theoretical views on party building, the October League, the Afro-American and Chicano national questions, work within the trade unions, the international situation, etc. Being unable at that time (November 1975) to produce a theoretical journal to carry our theoretical positions we decided to publish them in the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE, to combine as it were, the functions of a newspaper and a journal. Despite our intentions, however, the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE became more and more a journal and less and less a newspaper. The almost complete lack of topical agitation in our paper for a long time is striking evidence of this. While we believe that our original decision was correct and called for by the demands of the movement, the theoretical format of the paper fit in very neatly with the “left” deviation which had developed in ATM, which saw party building as mainly polemics and study circles with the “advanced” (very few of whom were workers recruited off the factory floor). These circles had no need of a communist newspaper since they were mainly concerned with getting “theoretical clarity”, and not with linking Marxism-Leninism with the working class movement. But once we identified and began to root out this deviation (and it is still being rooted out), we could not be satisfied with the old REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE. Increased contact with, and influence among the working class movement inevitably brings forward political activists thirsty for knowledge, desirous of being trained in class consciousness.
Working class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to ALL cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter WHAT CLASS is affected – unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a (Communist) point of view and no other. The consciousness of the working masses cannot be genuine class-consciousness, unless the workers learn, from concrete, and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe EVERY social class in ALL the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of ALL aspects of the life and activity of ALL classes, strata and groups of the population. (Lenin, WHAT IS TO BE DONE)
And of course it goes without saying that the capitalists and the opportunists are training the working class to view all important political and social questions from their (bourgeois) stand, viewpoint and method. So it is obvious that the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE was not capable, under its old format of mostly polemics and theoretical articles, of carrying out this task, which it set for itself in its first issue. No, with our increased involvement in the class struggle and our intensified efforts to “fuse” Communism with the working class movement, our old weapon was clearly insufficient. What we need is a paper which is mostly agitation, (in order to be able to cover ALL important social and political questions), which combines agitation and propaganda, which arms our cadres, the advanced workers and all those forces in our movement who see validity in our line, with topical political exposures in order to help train the proletariat in class consciousness. At the same time our newspaper will also contain polemics, concern itself with questions of organization, contain propaganda articles, training articles, etc. But the focus will be on topical, agitational political exposures.
Does this mean that we are abandoning propaganda, that it will no longer be in the forefront of our work? Quite the opposite. Our expanded influence can only call for more propaganda, more study to answer the ever-new questions posed by the struggle, more forums, but now they will also be addressed to workers, more call for Marxist-Leninist literature as the class comes forward in response to our work and seeks deeper answers to their questions. Cadre training too will become more intensive and all-sided as our work and influence expands, demanding more thorough and more qualitative propaganda work than we have been used to, At the same time ATM is developing a propaganda journal to help in this work; a journal which can take up the long, but necessary, theoretical articles.
The distribution of these themes and questions between the magazine and the newspaper will be determined exclusively by differences in the size and character of the two publications – the magazine should serve mainly for propaganda, the newspaper mainly for agitation. But all aspects of the movement should be reflected in both the magazine and the newspaper, ...” (DRAFT DECLARATION OF ISKHA AND ZARYA, LCW, vol. 4, p. 326)
Both our newspaper and our journal are aimed at the advanced workers. They determine the character of our movement and they most of all must learn the “materialist analysis” of all questions. The advanced will be able to understand the whole paper; the middle strata workers, who will constitute the bulk of our readership, will not understand everything in the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE; the lower strata workers will understand little of the paper. This only means that we will have to develop OTHER FORMS of propaganda and agitation for the less developed sections of the class, not that we must lower the level of the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE.
Our journal, the RED BANNER, which represents a further expansion of our propaganda work, will make its first appearance in December, and will be issued three times a year. The journal and the newspaper will supplement each other, but our newspaper is the pivot of our work, for if alone can fulfill the role of a collective agitator, propagandist and organizer (only stuffed-shirt intellectuals can imagine that a journal can become a sufficient collective organizer).
The change in our newspaper will also make it more ACCESSIBLE to the class, who should feel no compunction about writing for it, distributing it, contributing to it, criticising it, and so forth. This too is a part of “fusion”. But the journal is also intended for the class and we would be wrong to satisfy ourselves with bookstore distribution, or distribution only to Marxist-Leninists. We must strive actively to disseminate the journal to as many class-conscious workers as possible; to make it THEIR journal.
Some may accuse us of trying to be the party because we are putting out a paper and a journal. We are merely trying to carry out our tasks and to arm our movement with as many tools as possible. If our experience proves of some value to the building of the party, to the newspaper and journal of the new party, then we shall be satisfied that we have made a small but important contribution to the movement.
We are also bound to hear that we are becoming “just like the OL”. This knee-jerk response can only come from people who are confused or who do not think. Comrades, what distinguishes Communists from opportunists is riot whether their newspapers are mostly agitation or mostly propaganda, (REVOLUTION is mostly propaganda for instance). What distinguishes us is our LINE. What the OL and the ATM say about the Chicano national movement and the tasks of Communists will definitely not be the same. Likewise for the trade union question, the Afro-American question, the struggle for democracy, party building, etc. This is true although we may be writing about identical issues.
Comrades, let’s make fusion a reality. Let’s get serious about answering the questions posed by our movement. We dedicate the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE to this task and call upon all Communists and class conscious workers to make it your own – to write for it, to criticise it, to distribute it, and to use it as a tool to help you carry out the task which history has placed before us – to build the Marxist-Leninist party of the working class and to smash U.S. imperialism to atoms. We must caution comrades against seeing the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE as merely something to be studied; it is meant to be used in conjunction with our day to day work in order to train and organize the class. ONLY in this way does the REVOLUTIONARY CAUSE fulfill its purpose. ONLY in this way can we win those honest “numbers” under their influence away from the CPUSA, the RCP, and the OL. ONLY in this way will we drive the DAILY WORLD, REVOLUTION, and THE CALL out of the working class. And ONLY in this way will we be prepared to lead the growing upsurges of the class and the oppressed nationalities.