First Published: The Communist, Vol. II, No. 3, November 8, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Revolutionary Union (RU) recently proclaimed themselves the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and declared that their Party was “the Party of the working class in this country”(REVOLUTION, Oct. 1975, p.3). What is the significance of this event, and does the RCP actually represent the vanguard Party of the US proletariat? To answer this it is necessary to trace the stages of development of RU’s line and practice on the question of Party building; to examine the Program and character of the RCP; and to place this event in the context of the communist movement as a whole.
For the majority of RU’s history as a revolutionary organization, their line stated that Party building was not the central task, but rather it was first necessary to build the “struggle, class consciousness and revolutionary leadership of the working class and develop its leadership in a broad united front against the US imperialists.” As they stated in defending this position, “communists had to sink some roots in the working class and gain some experience in applying communism to the mass movement before forming the Party could be the central task.”(REVOLUTION May 1974 P.8)
Why is RU’s position incorrect? It fails to grasp that with the revisionist betrayal of the CPUSA, the proletariat was left without a vanguard. In order to unite the class and. build political consciousness it is necessary FIRST to overcome the opportunism and chauvinism in its ranks. Without concentrating on achieving a decisive victory IDEOLOGICALLY, and transforming that victory into the material organization of a Party, it is impossible to lead the proletariat in a revolutionary way. The first task of all Marxist-Leninists is winning the vanguard to communism, by making propaganda the chief form of activity.
RU’s incorrect line on this question led to opportunist forms of activity. Rather than taking up the struggle to produce regular and frequent propaganda, through the use of an ISKRA-type newspaper, RU’s press, until January 1973, consisted of small, isolated, local newspapers. When REVOLUTION, RU’s national newspaper did begin publication it was characterised by: few polemics; articles limited to reporting on events and not analysing them from a communist viewpoint; and little self-criticism of their work. By not focusing on welding a core of proletarians from the factories and mills they inevitably concentrated on the petty bourgeoisie.
What work was done among the class was characterised by economism and chauvinism. RU found themselves immersed in the practice of bowing to spontaneity because they belittled the struggle against opportunism and the necessity to bring propaganda to the forefront. Their underestimation of the need to weld a core that could act as one isolated them from the vanguard and led to the domination of petty bourgeois democratic tendencies.
RU did not completely ignore the task of Party building. They did attempt, in an opportunist fashion, to unite RU, BWC, PRRWO and IWK. This was to be done by a Liaison Committee of the leadership. The unity was not based on principles of any sort and the struggle was not open and aboveboard. The result was that there was no political unity and the organizations quickly split. RU’s attempt here simply to form the Party, without really taking on the tasks to build the ideological foundations for it and root it in the class reflected their incorrect line towards Party building.
In May of 1974 RU stated that Party building had become the central task. This was true, they said, because communists had gained enough experience in the mass movement and could now sum-up and develop a concrete program.
This is a view which is empiricist. RU, based on THEIR practice and THEIR experience, was now going to turn “briefly” to the task of Party building. They insisted that only their own subjective experience could teach them what the international proletariat and Marxism-Leninism had long ago established–the proletariat needed a vanguard Party as the FIRST STEP towards victory.
Although RU now agreed that Party building was the central task their line did not fundamentally change. The difference now would be a show of polemics to prove that RU was “serious” about ideological struggle, and the development of a draft program. Thus RU produced their polemics on CL, OL and the GUARDIAN. In April of 1975 they published their DRAFT PROGRAMME to serve as a basis to unite communists and workers.
Party building is the task of winning the advanced to communism. To do this it is necessary to win the hegemony of the Leninist trend.
By hegemony of the Leninist trend we mean that all the advanced forces in the workers and communist movement rally behind a single banner and carry forward common activity with a common line and policy. This hegemony is gained by showing the concrete ability of the trend to correctly apply Marxism-Leninism to conditions in the US. The Workers Congress (M-L) believes that the essential weapon in this fight is an ISKRA-type newspaper. As well other organizational forms–such as an organizing committee–are necessary to serve the various organizations and circles and aid all comrades in making preparations, holding debates, electing delegates, etc.
RU had neither. REVOLUTION did not serve as a collective agitator or organizer. It was not a forum for debate and struggle; nor was it used to unite the TREND and win over the advanced through common activity and organization. RU did not develop any other organizational forms where ideological struggle could be waged, substantial differences overcome and unity achieved.
A correct step RU did take was their effort to formulate a Party program. Their DRAFT however reflected their refusal to abandon opportunist positions. And too, though they publically circulated their PROGRAMME, they provided no forum for discussion and struggle around it.
RU’s efforts basically remained in the dark, hidden from communists and workers alike.
Comrades, the building of a new Communist Party is a serious and difficult task. We must build a vital force which serves first of all, as Stalin teaches us, as the advanced detachment of the working class (see FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM p.103)
It must serve to advance and lead the struggles of the class, and not drag it backwards into reformism and revisionism The most important means to judge a Party is its political line–is its program firmly based on the orthodox science of Marxism-Leninism. Some other important aspects are its history of struggle against opportunism; its class and national composition; its hegemony in the movement and ability to unite the best among the communists and workers.
Taking these points as our basis, let us examine the program and character of the RCP. MOST IMPORTANTLY, its program reflects the opportunist waverings of petty bourgeois democrats and thus fails to establish the Party on Marxist-Leninist principles. This is the main reason we can say that the RCP does not represent the vanguard–without a revolutionary program there can be no revolutionary Party.
RU’s history has been characterised by a conciliation to right opportunism rather than a hard struggle against it. Their authority and hegemony, both among advanced workers and in the communist movement, has not been established. RU did not succeed in winning over the best of the practical workers and Marxist-Leninists of our movement, and this is reflected both in the petty bourgeois character of their ranks and the small percentage of minority cadres.
Comrades, it is necessary to view the formation of the RCP in the context of the development of the communist movement as a whole. In the period from around 1970 to the present our movement overall has made important advances and developments in all spheres. The ideological struggle is far more developed and advanced, and opportunist theories and revisions no longer go forward unchallenged. The organization of communists reflects a greater degree of discipline and generally the growth of centralism, which has aided in strengthening the leadership of the proletariat. The movement is leaving behind the more liberal and social-democratic forces and consolidating the more advanced and proletarian elements. The very fact that all Marxist-Leninists unite on the task of Party building is an important achievement.
However, the actual organizational formation of Parties like the RCP reflect a greater degree of consolidation and organization around opportunism, which is a negative thing and a setback in the struggle to forge unity among Marxist-Leninists. Thus they help to belittle the importance of a communist party, to spread confusion among the proletariat and make it harder to struggle for Marxist-Leninist unity. While opposing RCP it is important not to dismiss or ignore them, but to continue to wage struggle to defeat their opportunist views.
What are the tasks of Marxist-Leninists in this period, in the face of these organizations? It is necessary to persevere in the ISKRA plan–focusing on the development of an ISKRA type newspaper of the Leninist trend. Strong patient work among the proletariat is necessary to accomplish this task, and build the factory nuclei so necessary to the Party.
In addition to an ISKRA type newspaper, a party program must be developed to serve as the basis for unity. It is also essential to provide an organizing committee to help comrades prepare for a Party Congress, and other organizational means to confront the differences now dividing our movement and provide a forum for struggle.
In this spirit we encourage other circles and organizations to join with us in developing such forums.