Published: The Communist, Vol. II, No. 1, September 8, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On August 8, 1975 the Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist) held its first Unity Conference. The Conference was in fact a founding Conference for our organization. It is only in this meeting that the loose grouping of districts which had stood for the Leninist trend within the former Black Workers Congress, and the individuals who had joined us in struggle, formally constituted themselves into a national communist organization. That organization is national in scope, multinational in character and resolutely dedicated to building a new Communist Party of the Bolshevik type.
The Unity Conference of the Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist), held August 8-10, reflected a tremendous spirit of enthusiasm and vigor that came from a unity that had been fought for. Comrades gathered from the Atlantic and Pacific coast and from around the country, staunch in their stand and firm in their grasp of the struggle between Leninism and petty bourgeois democracy.
The goal of the Conference was to consolidate our ideological and organizational unity as a Marxist-Leninist organization and that goal was achieved. We moved forward to consolidate our unity around the following major issues:
1) A Leninist stand on the question of imperialism and the split in socialism. This question is systematically neglected by the petty bourgeois democratic trend of our movement.
2) A Leninist stand against modern revisionism. We affirm the full restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and underscore the character of the USSR as a social imperialist and social fascist power.
3) A Leninist position on the question of strategy and tactics. Proletarian revolution in the U.S. is a component part of the world wide Revolutionary United Front against imperialism and social imperialism. However we oppose a petty bourgeois democratic line on the united front which blurs the question of basic strategic allies of the proletariat.
4) A Leninist position on party building as our central task. We emphasize the ISKRA principle, the ISKRA plan, factory nuclei and democratic centralism as essential to our struggle to win the vanguard to communism.
5) A Leninist position on the workers movement, including trade union work and the military question.
6) A Leninist position on the national question in the U.S. We stand on the resolutions of the Communist International and support the right to self determination for the oppressed Black nation in the Black Belt south. We call for independence for Puerto Rico.
7) A Leninist position on the women’s question. We adopt a firm and disciplined communist stand on questions of proletarian morality and determine to make a resolute break with the petty-bourgeois radical and liberal habits of the past.
8) A Leninist position on the main danger in the Communist movement. We hold that right opportunism is the main danger internationally and in our own movement. We consider the split in the former Black Workers Congress to be the result of a struggle between a genuine left or Leninist trend and a right opportunist petty-bourgeois democratic trend in our movement.
9) A Leninist position on the ideological leadership of the Communist Party of China in the international communist movement and of fraternal unity with Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations throughout the world.
Finally, on the basis of democratic consultation, the full conference elected a Central Committee for the Workers Congress (M-L).
The Conference opened with a political report that affirmed the victory we had achieved over the petty bourgeois democratic trend in the former BWC. This was primarily due to the strength of our commitment to the role of an ISKRA type newspaper in the task of party building. By taking up republication of THE COMMUNIST in the spirit of Lenin’s ISKRA we were able to defend the proletarian trend emerging in the former BWC and take up the defense of Leninism against the petty bourgeois democratic forces which bureaucratically dominated the old organization until the split. With THE COMMUNIST as a weapon, we established our legitimacy as the genuine left trend of the BWC and then the victory of our line on party building against the call by the petty bourgeois democrats for retreat. In the four months since the split in April we have been able to establish THE COMMUNIST as a weapon in the struggle for a new Bolshevik type Communist party, while the Revolutionary Workers Congress has been exposed as a backwards and opportunist force.
The report spoke to the developing international situation and the danger of imperialist war. Either revolution will prevent World War or World War will bring revolution. The people of the world must get prepared. Increasing turmoil is the result of the intensified contention of the two superpowers. Because of imperialist crisis and the danger of war, the imperialists are forced to greater fascisization at home in order to go to war abroad. Heightened economic struggle of the working class is thus met by more and more repression. While both the factors for war and revolution are on the rise, the situation continues to develop in a direction favorable to the people of the world.
The report particularly stressed the importance of proletarian internationalism. The Third World is the main force in the struggle against imperialism and social imperialism. Here in the U.S. we must develop the firmest unity and alliance with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples of the world. Without this alliance, proletarian revolution is impossible.
The report concluded by driving home the lesson we had learned through the two line struggle and the split in the former BWC, the lesson of WHAT IS TO BE DONE, and the lesson of the struggle against modern revisionism in the international communist movement: PUT POLITICS IN COMMAND! The victory over opportunism, the building of the party, the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for political power and to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat – all must be waged consciously, with proletarian politics in command. For us, in the WC(ML), moving from a loose federation of collectives largely dominated by the local circle spirit to a small but firmly united and disciplined organization, the injunction is particularly important: we must never forget the necessity to unite on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and place politics in command of our every action!
In reprinting the Conference Resolutions on Party Building, we would like to highlight a little of the debate at the Conference. Struggle was careful and thorough. Comrades all took to heart our duty to wage active ideological struggle. As a result every comrade was able to deepen his understanding and unity of the major questions discussed.
On the question of Party Building an important struggle unfolded around the meaning of the term “advanced”. First comrades emphasized that the advanced in any situation is a relative term. When we speak of advanced workers we speak of them in relation to the class as a whole – they represent the foremost representatives of the class. Then in the course of struggle differences arose over the understanding of Lenin’s statement that advanced workers accept communism consciously. One line came forward suggesting that this meant that an advanced worker would necessarily have a scientific understanding of Marxism-Leninism. But this idea was sharply criticized since it leads to the position that our task is simply to unite communists and not to fuse communism with the workers movement. Comrades fought for the understanding that an advanced worker was someone open to communism, who would consciously accept it, and be willing, in Lenin’s words to “study, study, study,” to turn themselves into communists. But comrades agreed that it was incorrect to characterize an advanced worker as exclusively someone who had a scientific understanding of Marxism-Leninism. As one comrade put it: “To expect to find advanced workers who already understand Marxism-Leninism would be like asking to have roast duck fly into our mouths.”
In the discussion of the ISKRA principle comrades brought forward the importance of understanding the Iskra principle as a summary of the essential principles of WHAT IS TO BE DONE. It is WITBD that gives us the basis for an ideological understanding of the errors that we have made and of the obstacles to party building.
The discussion around the ISKRA Plan deepened our understanding of four things: (1) First comrades came to a clear understanding of the need to struggle for a single, common ISKRA type newspaper for the Leninist trend that would gather the best ideological and political leadership our movement can provide. (2) Second, we understood clearly the necessity to build THE COMMUNIST on the model of Lenin’s ISKRA and as a voice of the Leninist trend. (3) Third, through struggle we came to understand much more clearly the necessity to link the development of THE COMMUNIST to the struggle for a single, common organ. Comrades stressed the role the THE COMMUNIST can play as an instrument to begin to gather the resources of the trend. (4) Four, comrades emphasized the importance of calling on Marxist-Leninists to join with us in building THE COMMUNIST as an instrument of the Leninist trend.
At several points comrades took up the importance of THE COMMUNIST to overcoming the tendencies, toward the local circle spirit that still exist within the WC (ML). Instead of districts working solely on a local basis, unconnected to a national plan and activities, it was necessary to center the work around our common national task: building THE COMMUNIST. Only by developing the method and habit of consolidating on the basis of the common line and work of THE COMMUNIST would the organization become consolidated nationally.
This point was further developed. National consolidation of this sort could only occur if leadership unfolded not only ideological but also practical guidance around the newspaper. In turn the districts recognized that it was essential to overcome the habit of relying on local cohesiveness and then taking up the national newspaper. All recognized that local consolidation had to be actually forged around common national work.
One other point came forward in relation to THE COMMUNIST. Comrades stressed that the newspaper was to use. One of the agents for the original ISKRA referred to that newspaper as Lenin’s “plow”. This idea makes clear the importance of developing this tool and making it genuinely capable of laying a common line around which we can unfold our work. It also makes clear that the newspaper is not an end in itself, but the instrument we need to win the advanced to communism.
The discussion of Factory nuclei emphasized the essential relation between the ISKRA principle and Factory Nuclei. Without the ISKFA principle and an ISKRA type newspaper we could not stretch a common line and would be unable to build factory nuclei as the basic unit of organizational life. But without factory nuclei we could not turn the ISKRA principle into a material force in the working class.
A constant theme of the conference was our practical need for greater centralism at this time. As one experienced comrade enthusiastically put it: “the more we get the more we want.” It is only with greater centralized guidance that we can establish the conditions for genuine proletarian democracy in our organizational life. One point was particularly stressed: for the proletariat the purpose of democracy is to achieve still greater centralization – greater and greater unity of thinking, plan, policy and action.
These were some of the points raised around the Party Building Resolutions, we were small, but the energetic dedication to forging a professional organization of Marxist-Leninists was evident. The conference was conducted with a spirit of discipline, focus and purpose that measured our seriousness. There was no appeal to “creative” Marxism. There was no single example of petty bourgeois democratic resistance to organizational discipline. We opened the Conference with the Internationale, and we closed it with the Internationale – more sure in our unity, more firm in our commitment to struggle, pledged to the slogan: CAST AWAY ILLUSIONS, PREPARE TO STRUGGLE, BOLSHEVIZE THE RANKS!
The Workers Congress (M-L) goes forward sobered by the ideological struggle around party building that took place over the last year. We go forward with much greater understanding, prepared to dig in, confident of the road ahead. We feel how badly our movement is crippled without a party. We intend to do our part to build that party, we call on all Marxist-Leninists to join with us. We must struggle in a principled way for ideological unity and step by step find the forms to transform that ideological unity into the material unity of organization. We are anxious to move forward.