First Published: The Communist, Vol. II, No. 1, September 8, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This issue of THE COMMUNIST marks the beginning of our second year of publication. We’d like to take this time to trace the development of THE COMMUNIST, the attack by the petty bourgeois democrats within the Black Workers Congress on this development, and the direction of THE COMMUNIST in the coming year.
Issue No. l, vol. 1, introduced THE COMMUNIST, and explained the purpose for undertaking its publication and the type of newspaper we intended to build. We explained that we planned to make THE COMMUNIST a collective propagandist, agitator and organizer. We stood on the principle that “political newspapers and journals are absolutely necessary forging ideological, political and organizational unity among Marxist-Leninists and for building strong, disciplined, trained revolutionary cadres.”(COMMUNIST, vol.1, No. 1, p.4) We emphasized that the weaknesses of the BWC were directly tied to the absence of a political organ that stretched a line and fought for its implementation. We stood on the necessity to model our organ after Lenin’s ISKRA and stated:
ISKRA’s task was to ensure the defeat of the Economist line within the Russian workers movement–the main obstacle to the building of the party! It established the basic Party program, strategy and tactics of the Party and the methods of conducting its practical activities. It forged ideological unity of the Party and became the key instrument for uniting the local organizations, combating amateurishness, and fighting for an organization of professional revolutionaries. Around ISKKA was built a network of organizers and correspondents who supplied it with copy, distributed it, established contacts with the workers and generally laid the basis for the Second Party Congress of 1903.(ibid)
We also brought forward the need for polemics, topical exposures of political events, and reporting on the practical activity of communists. We concluded by stating that THE COMMUNIST was open to polemics and criticisms from our cadres as well as all other genuine revolutionary forces.
We of the Workers Congress (M-L) stand on the correctness of this basic position, and recognize that it provided us with a strong starting point which we have since developed and deepened. In particular, our understanding of the necessity to build THE COMMUNIST as an instrument for the Leninist trend, and as a means to aid in the struggle for a single common ISKRA-type organ has become much sharper. So too has our understanding of the ISKRA principle, and the necessity to make an ISKRA-type newspaper the main practical means by which we implement this principle(See Conference Resolutions) The development of our line can be seen by examining the issues of THE COMMUNIST.
First, the first four issues of THE COMMUNIST. Comrades can easily see the attempt to take up polemics with other Marxist-Leninists, to provide examples of practical work of BWC comrades, and self-criticism, and to take on political events in a topical manner. There was a consistent attempt not only to speak to issues and report on them, but to provide a communist analysis and understanding of these issues. Throughout the pages of THE COMMUNIST, our reliance on the classics of Marxism-Leninism and the international experience of the proletariat was evident. It was clear that the BWC was breaking with the idea that our organ should be a “mass” paper speaking mainly to the average and more backwards workers. Our attention was directed primarily to the advanced and winning the vanguard to communism, and we refused to speak to the workers as if they were children, unable to grasp the science of Marxism-Leninism.
These were the strengths of THE COMMUNIST. Its weaknesses were reflected in the narrowness of our scope and the lack of organizational consolidation around the need for an ISKRA-type newspaper. We did not see that a newspaper was essential to overcoming the local circle spirit. Our narrowness was reflected, for example, in the fact that very little was ever said of the struggles in Europe, and the work of communists in these countries; in focusing on the work of the BWC alone and not on Marxist-Leninists in general; in our failure to take up the struggle and activity of all the various classes and strata, and particularly the proletariat’s closest allies the semi-proletariat and national liberation movements. Our backwardness was reflected in our inability to respond to events occurring all around us, especially on an international level, but also domestically. Our inexperience was reflected in the lack of brief sharp exposures of particular events, and in our inability to connect such events to our general understanding of the world situation. Organizationally we did not do effective distribution nor develop a network. Some districts even refused to distribute certain issues.
However, with the basic understanding that we had, these weaknesses could be overcome and THE COMMUNIST developed into a strong organ. But this direction and development was undermined and halted by the petty bourgeois democrats of the BWC. The attacks came forward on four fronts: 1) on the importance of Marxist-Leninist theory and the necessity to confront theoretical questions and engage in polemics with other communists; 2) backing off the effort to do topical exposures and develop independent communist policy on questions facing the proletariat; 3) lowering the standards of THE COMMUNIST to the level of the average and more backward; 4) an attack on the need for centralized ideological and political leadership, and using the newspaper to provide Practical guidance. There was the general attitude among the democrats that an ISKRA type newspaper was not an essential weapon in the struggle for a new party. The last point was reflected most directly by the fact that the democrats halted regular and frequent publication(from November to March there were only two issues). One line even said it was necessary to liquidate the newspaper altogether.
Examine now the issues produced by the democrats, Nos. 5 and 6. On the question of topical exposures, there was no attempt to speak to the burning issues at that time. Both number 5 and 6 are lacking in any sort of polemics and the democrats specifically retreated on the question of busing. In their attempt at “practical guidance” these liberals provided an article on a housing struggle in New Orleans (no. 6) that did not go beyond the local confines of the struggle, and did not provide a Marxist-Leninist understanding of the housing question as it generally affects the proletariat and oppressed peoples. The Rights adopted the contemptuous “lively style” of the petty bourgeoisie talking down to the workers. This can be seen in articles like the one written on Black liberation (No. 5, p.3;, with language such as: “in explaining the difference between reform and revolution would be like stepping over a quarter to pick up a nickel”; to the extreme of MOVIN’ON where we have statements like “This would be like asking ’do cows have Afros’?”.
Throughout the struggle inside the BWC, the Rights said that they would continue publication, polemics, exposures, etc. But the period since the split has exposed the RWC, in a way that no polemic from us could do, that they stood directly opposed to an ISKRA-type newspaper, and all THE COMMUNIST stood for. Their phoney issue No. 7 of THE COMMUNIST and the two issues of MOVTN’ON show without a doubt that the petty bourgeois democrats could not produce a regular publication consistent in principle, and in fact proved themselves pretty backwards in the task of producing a “mass” paper. There is no longer even a semblance of Marxist-Leninist analysis in their pages. No polemics whatsoever–except the essentially unprincipled attacks and slander on the WC(M-L)– little analysis of topical events, and even less guidance on practical activities. The very fact that since April of this year, the RWC has produced only three issues of their newspaper shows that they do not recognize and use the newspaper as a collective organizer, propagandist and agitator. It is nothing but a mere appendage, and a weak one at that, to their work.
By comparison, the genuine lefts of the BWC have taken up the beginning steps made by THE COMMUNIST and continued publication of THE COMMUNIST in the spirit of Lenin’s ISKRA. Since the split, in April, the five issues of THE COMMUNIST and the special supplement on India prove the resolute dedication we have towards the task of developing THE COMMUNIST into an organ of the ISKRA–type. We have begun to confront the international situation, making it a regular part of our reporting, and paying particular attention to Soviet Social imperialism, superpower contention, and the danger of war. We have continued the effort to take up serious polemics, as evidenced in our article on the Revolutionary Union’s draft party program (COMMUNIST, No. 11, p.6) and the articles against the Economist trend of our movement. We have taken on such theoretical questions as the relationship between spontaneity and consciousness, as well as the importance of organization. More and more comrades can see the attempt to do brief political exposures, explaining our general line through particular analysis of various events.
While we have made some definite steps forward, we still confront some of the same weaknesses of narrowness and primitiveness. The breadth of our coverage of the international and domestic situation, as well as the depth of our analysis is still very weak. Our coverage of the workers movement, and particularly the struggle of the industrial proletariat is far too limited. Our ability to provide model examples of communist work and give concrete practical guidance is also at a low level. But again, these weaknesses can be overcome, based on what has been perhaps the most important development of our line–that is the understanding of THE COMMUNIST not primarily as an organ for the WC(M-L), but as something which must become an instrument of the Leninist trend. As we have stated, in order to build a party of the Bolshevik type, it is necessary for every Marxist-Leninist to take the ISKRA principle as the leading factor, and to unite on the principle that the primary practical means to implement this principle is an ISKRA-type newspaper. The Leninist trend must have a single organ that can represent its views on a nationwide level and draw lines of demarcation between Marxist-Leninists and opportunists. To build such an organ we must unite together to stretch a common line and develop common propaganda and activity. In this effort, the WC(M-L) has opened the columns of THE COMMUNIST and invite all Marxist-Leninists to take up THE COMMUNIST as an instrument of unity, as a concrete means to unify and consolidate the Leninist trend.
In this spirit we reaffirm the stand, taken in Vol. 1, No. l of THE COMMUNIST that we must build a nationwide newspaper which serves as a. collective propagandist, agitator and organizer. Such an organ, an organ of the ISKRA type, is an essential weapon in the struggle to win the vanguard to communism and build a new communist party of the Bolshevik type.