Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ann Arbor Collective (Marxist-Leninist)

On Party Building

ACC Cover

First Published: April 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.


The question of building a genuine communist party in the United States cannot be raised in the abstract. On the contrary, such a question can only be handled in the context of a larger question, that of the particular stage at which communist forces find themselves.

The Ann Arbor Collective (M-L) is convinced that the period we are now in is new, that it is a different period than the one which faced us a year ago, a difference which was not sufficiently clear to us when we wrote our first pamphlet, Toward a Genuine Communist Party. We think that the new period is characterized by the fundamental separation which has developed between two sections of what was formerly a unified movement. These two sections, hitherto united under the umbrella “the new communist movement,” have divided over the question of proletarian internationalism; specifically, the attitude of US communists to Chinese foreign policy in general, and to the struggle in Angola in particular.

This division has crystallized in recent months with the de facto development of two separate movements, each going in its own direction and operating independently of the other. On the one side, there exists the shambles of the former revolutionary wing, the remnants of the former Black Workers’ Congress, the October League and its forces, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and others. On the other side, there has emerged what has come to be called the anti-dogmatist/anti-revisionist communist movement, which includes the “trend” (Philadelphia Workers’ Organizing Committee.[PWOC], Detroit Marxist-Leninist Organization [DMLO], Potomac Socialist Organization [PSO], El Comité/MINP, and Socialist Union of Baltimore [SUB]); the Guardian, the Tucson M-L Collective, and many small collectives and groups around the country, including ourselves.

That the “new communist movement” as a more or less unified totality no longer exists, and that a new totality, the anti-dogmatist/anti-revisionist communist movement, has consolidated itself is the major factor indicating the advent of a new period. This proposition has profound implications for all our work, calling for a fundamental reorientation of our forces.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the question of what constitutes the main danger for our movement (the anti-dogmatist/anti-revisionist movement) at the present time, given the new period. We would put forward the formulation that if it were correct to insist in the previous period that dogmatism was the main danger in our movement (the new communist movement) it is correct in the present period to insist that economism is the main danger in our movement (the antidogmatist/anti-revisionist communist movement). What this means in terms of our orientation, we hope to make clear in this pamphlet.

Many comrades and friends who have read Against Dogmatism and Revisionism: Toward A Genuine Communist Party have pointed out that insufficient attention was devoted in it to the question of party-building, or where do we go from here. Consequently, we produced this pamphlet which will go into our views on this subject in greater detail, as well as our views and response to the party building proposals of the “trend”. While when we wrote our first pamphlet, we attempted to rely as little as possible on quotes from the classics, we have found that a number of general criticisms of the pamphlet have been nothing more than criticisms of what we paraphrased from Lenin and others. By relying more heavily on quotes from the classics in this pamphlet, we hope to force such critics into an open discussion of what are in reality anti-Leninist approaches to the most fundamental problems of party building.


The US communist movement today is still in a position similar to the one which brought this characterization from Lenin: “a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism is combined with absorption in the narrowest forms of practical activity.” (What Is To Be Done?) Our forces remain scattered, disoriented, almost totally involved with local mass work, and with no clear conception of a national perspective for our movement. There appears to be a total lack of comprehension of the paths taken by US communist groups in the past, as well as a deficiency of a thorough understanding of the party building motions of our immediate predecessors (OL, RU, CL). This ahistoric view can only result in our committing similar errors.

Everyone is now agreed that party building is the central task. What is lacking is clarity on what this means and how we are to go about it. In these matters as others, amateurishness and primitivism are dominant. While many forces are praising their local involvement in narrow practical activity to the skies as the “fusion of communism with the workers’ movement”, Lenin’s response remains valid: “narrow practical work carried on without a theoretical conception of the movement as a whole threatens to divert the movements onto a false path,” toward economism. (Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, hereafter DEBI)

In the past, being diverted onto the wrong path meant following the ultra-leftism characteristic of the dogmatist organizations which exercised hegemony in the “new communist movement”. Today it means following the blind reaction against these errors. A blind reaction on the part of some in the anti-dogmatist/anti-revisionist movement which is the failure to formulate and implement genuine communist policies and is instead a resort to a solution which is no solution at all, namely economism.

In the “new communist movement” the characteristic form which dogmatism has assumed has been “ultra-leftism”, and the characteristic form which revisionism has taken has been economism. Both revisionism and dogmatism and their current forms are situated within a common problematic which determines each of them.

The error of economism is so prevalent today precisely because it is a reaction against the long hegemony of the dogmatists by those forces which have at last broken free of the dogmatist aspect of the problematic, in its particular form of “ultra-leftism”, but have not broken with the problematic itself.

Can economism defeat dogmatism? We don’t think so and history tells us that the two are in fact quite compatible. Hasn’t the RCP been practicing both economism and ultra-leftism for some time now? Some in the anti-dogmatist/anti-revisionist movement want to maintain continuity with the RCP’s (or, more specifically, the RU’s) economism, while disposing of its ultra-leftism. We insist that the battle must be waged against both of them.

We see the battleground where this issue will be decided as three key two-line struggles. These struggles encapsulate the lines of demarcation between the correct approach to party building and the erroneous path now being trod by many, and the one which the “trend” appears about to embark upon.

Three Key Two-Line Struggles

1) A fundamental distinction exists between those who approach Party building from the memorization and direct application of the conclusions of the classics of Marxism-Leninism, and those who approach Party building from the application of the Marxist-Leninist science, contained in the classics, and more recent works, to the concrete conditions and problems of today. The methods of Party building applicable to the United States today cannot be learned from the simple “reading” of Lenin’s writings on this subject and their direct application to the conditions in the United States. On the contrary, what is needed is the mastery of the Leninist methodology and its use with a critical examination of the present stage. These two approaches are not simply different, they are diametrically opposed.

We feel that at this moment an important aspect of the correct application of the science is the definition of the words “dogmatism” and “revisionism”. Dogmatism and revisionism are both deviations from Marxist methodology. These deviations derive from a lack of a clear conception of Marxism-Leninism which in turn results from a failure to grasp Marxism Leninism as a science. As Engels said, ”Socialism, having become a science, demands the same treatment as every other science, – it must be studied.” (Peasant War in Germany)

A science is studied and is further developed by means of knowledge of its laws. Mathematics, for example, develops through the application and extension of mathematical laws. Like mathematics, historical materialism is understood and develops on the basis of its own laws. Dogmatism and revisionism are both linked together in that they both deny or ignore the scientificity of Marxism-Leninism, and instead rely on various ideological precepts or concepts instead of its laws. Dogmatism does so by either ignoring the dialectical laws of change and insisting on the immutable nature of things, or by refusing to recognize the contradiction between the general and the particular, and directly applying knowledge of one to the other. Revisionism denies the scientificity of Marxism-Leninism by ignoring its laws and by attempting to develop the science on another basis under bourgeois ideological pressures or on the basis of bourgeois concepts.

Historically these two errors have gone hand in hand, united in their denial of the science. Thus it is possible to be both a dogmatist and a revisionist, as the CPUSA so well illustrates.

2) Another fundamental division separates those who see theoretical work as the primary task at present in Party building, and those who see mass economic work and activity as primary.

We think that Lenin’s words about the Russian Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) apply equally well to our own situation: “To establish and consolidate the Party means establishing and consolidating unity among all Russian Social Democrats... In the first place it is necessary to bring about unity of ideas which will remove the difference of opinion and confusion that... reigns among many Russian Social Democrats at this time.” (DEBI, our emphasis)

This “unity of ideas” can only be brought about by engaging in the theoretical production necessary to conduct ideological struggle, among party building forces. Marxist-Leninist theory strives to be exact; scientific. While we do not, and in the case of raising the consciousness of the masses, cannot always speak in scientific terms, it is necessary to have the scientific basis beforehand, from which the popularization (the ideological explanation) is derived. If the need for ideological struggle is continually raised without recognition of its theoretical basis the only result can be the lapsing, at crucial moments, those when exact understanding is critical, into bourgeois ideology – economism, pragmatism, and empiricism.

In Towards a Genuine Communist Party, we discussed the four practices: political, economic, ideological, and theoretical. We feel that it is worth re-emphasizing the importance of theoretical practice, not because it is always primary (which it is not), but because it has traditionally been liquidated by US communists in favor of “real” practices, and because it is primary in the present period.

Theory is not developed spontaneously; as such it is not spontaneously derived from engaging in the working class movement. It is the result of the conscious practice of communists, theoretical practice. If we agree with Lenin that revolutionary theory is necessary to guide the revolutionary movement, then consequently, we must break with narrow “practicism” and actually devote time and energy to that theory.

What is mass work, taken as primary at this time, but an obstacle to finally applying ourselves to the development of the theory that can guide our practice.

This certainly is not to say that every theoretical detail must be worked out prior to reaching a general level of unity, nor is it to say that we should avoid engaging in mass work; however, we must reach a consensus by defining the general theoretical foundation upon which to unite and move forward. Our own approach to the development of this foundation is contained in Towards a Genuine Communist Party.

3) The third two-line struggle demarcates those forces which understand theory as only the technical knowledge required in day to day practice, from those who understand theory as both the technical knowledge, and more importantly, the knowledge and methodology required for the solution of the long term and broader problems of our movement as a whole, and of a party which must embody the future as well as the present interests of the working class.

Lenin is absolutely clear on this point when he states: “the most serious sin we commit is that we degrade our political and organizational tasks to the level of the immediate, “palpable”, “concrete”, interests of the every day economic struggle.” (What Is To Be Done?, Lenin’s emphasis)

Such day to day economic struggles cannot of themselves develop the necessary theory with which to guide the movement. This is because the present day practice of communists in the factories is so embryonic that the theory which guides it and develops from it is (necessarily) specific and relevant only to this immediate practice and not the wider demands of the class struggle as a whole. Louis Althusser is particularly clear on this point when he states “Left to itself, a spontaneous (technical) practice produces only the theory it needs as a means to produce the ends assigned to it”, (i.e., a specific technical task)(For Marx, p.171)

A break with the purely technical realm of theory is thus necessary. It implies a corresponding break with narrow political and economic practice. It requires a full comprehension of the fact that while theory is based on practice, it is based on the complex social Practices of the entire society, not just on the restricted practice of communists themselves. While, again we ate not advocating liquidating mass work, we do believe that theory gleaned only from practice in the plants and shops can only serve to reinforce the economism so prevalent in our movement. When we can enter a plant with a concrete orientation that can be translated into a definite program, instead of simply repeating the hack phrases of “bosses versus workers”, only then can we engage in thoroughly communist practice.

We consider theoretical work to be primary at this point; we insist that party building is the creative application of the Marxist-Leninist science to our current tasks, and we demand theory which is both technical and advanced for as Lenin phrased it, “the role of the vanguard can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by an advanced theory.” (What Is To Be Done?)

We consider that only a resolute and principled defense of this position can constitute the basis for beginning party building and the unification of the genuine communist trend. Ignoring these fundamental differences will not make them go away, they have to be faced up to and lines of demarcation must be drawn accordingly.

The Nature of the Party Building Process

We define the party building process as the consolidation of a national organization of communists on the basis of common theoretical and programmatic principles and their corresponding application to local conditions. This organization would then proceed with the task of transforming itself into a party, through preparation for a founding congress.

The key organizational task in the present period is therefore not the concentration of local organizations on their localized activity, but on the consolidation of our forces on a national scale. The first step in this process should be the development of close comradely relations among the various groups which adhere to the common position outlined by the three two-line struggles, and polemics with groups which have not yet consolidated their positions.

The next step should be the organization of regional and, ultimately, a national conference to develop 1) a national center, 2) a national theoretical and discussion journal, and 3) a minimum program of unity. A national center to first coordinate and strengthen the links between local collectives and to eventually begin to function as a genuine national center, initiating and directing work on a national scale; a national theoretical and discussion journal to concretize theoretical practice and to facilitate a national discussion of various positions in order to reach unity on a higher level; a minimum program of unity a) to demarcate our trend, b) to form the basis for participation in the center and the journal, and c) to provide a basis for the future development of a full party program.

Participation of an organization in the party building process cannot be determined by the counting of heads, nor by a workerist notion which evaluates communist organizations on the basis of their degree of participation in workplace organizing. Rather participation must be linked to the willingness of organizations to honestly engage in comradely polemics and joint activities, and to give primary attention to the main task – the development of both general and technical theory for the movement as a whole.

Main Tasks in the Immediate Period

It is not enough to put forward the preceding remarks without further explanation; such a general discussion must be made concrete. Small communist collectives around the country can begin to clarify their positions on and develop their practices flowing from the three two-line struggles, in the following areas:

A. Theory. We recognize three aspects to theory, all of which communists must grasp and develop harmoniously if we are to successfully guide our practice.

The first is the basic laws of dialectical and historical materialism and of the Marxist methodology. Knowledge of this aspect of theory in the USA is least understood of all three; being almost entirely restricted to familiarity with a few Soviet and Chinese works of the 1930’s. We need this knowledge, however, as a basis for developing the other aspects.

Primary to this task is the development of a new manner of reading which emphasizes the examination of the theoretical field and its methodology which the classics brought, to the problems they studied. It is absolutely necessary for collectives to engage in ongoing study of contemporary works, as well as the classics, with an eye to producing cadre trained in the knowledge and application of this reading. We further explain this concept of reading in our first pamphlet.

The second aspect is strategic theory, or the application of basic laws to trends in world, US, and regional capitalist development, and the structure of class contradiction in the present conjuncture. A national analysis of US capitalism as a whole may perhaps not be produced until we have built the party. Nonetheless, communist collectives spread geographically throughout the nation have to begin to analyze the local/regional political and economic trends within capitalism, and the histories, traditions, consciousness, and character of the working class of the area. Of course these analyses will be rudimentary in the beginning, however it is only in the process of such practice that we will learn the necessary skills to do them with increasing success in the future.

The final aspect is technical knowledge or theory, which guides communist intervention in economic, political, and ideological practice directly and dictates tactical considerations. Many will say here that this aspect of theory is being developed quite well by communist groups and collectives who are striving to fuse with the workingclass. This is a very dangerous view; for the majority of communist tactics in day to day practice often economist in character (see below). Technical theory can be developed in either a communist or bourgeois manner and it is incumbent upon all collectives to critically examine their mass work, given the condition that we do not have the sufficient theoretical basis from which to immediately recognize and repel economism, and that economism is so pervasive at the present time. We must continually insure that our work does not tend in an economist direction.

B. Economism. What does it mean to assert that economism is the main danger at the present time? It means that the following characteristics typify communist mass activity in the workingclass.

1) A definite trend toward restricting all communist work to the spontaneous economic struggle of the working class. As Lenin stated, “We shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers (to the degree of Social-Democratic consciousness) by confining ourselves to the economic struggle, for the limits of this task are too narrow.” (What Is To Be Done?, emphasis Lenin’s)

2) The failure to inject communist politics and ideology into mass struggles in which communists are involved. Again Lenin is clear on this point: “...all belittling of the role of the ’conscious element’, of the role of Social-Democracy [i.e. communism, the Ann Arbor Collective] means, whether one likes it or not, the growth of influence of bourgeois ideology among the workers. (What Is To Be Done?, emphasis Lenin’s)

3) The trend towards tailing after the spontaneous development of the economic struggle versus the need to give that struggle a conscious character.

We realize that given the size and inexperience of communist collectives, the attempt to avoid these errors is not always easy. We are presently at a primitive stage in all our work; the development of truly communist work will not come for quite a while. However, to the degree that it is possible, collectives must attempt to structure their mass work along these Leninist lines; given the economist danger, the temptations to fall into such practice are often very great indeed.

To clarify and define economism is a prerequisite to combatting this tendency.

C. Localism. Localism has resulted form communist collectives springing up all over the country, independent of one another; a healthy response to the bureaucratic centralism of the national dogmatist groups. The result of this healthy response, however, has been its opposite, namely a great deal of decentralization and autonomy, and the consequent isolation of the various collectives. This has manifested itself in one of two ways:

1) Through the type of particularism which exaggerates the specific aspects of one’s own area and avoids recognizing the common national features of our struggle, or

2) By the attempt to disregard real local differences and to develop a national plan based solely on one’s own local activity.

However, we must move forward toward a democratic centralist party which, while allowing for local initiative in interpretation and application, produces a plan in accordance with national developments as a whole. To overcome localism, groups must begin to develop principled relations based on mutually agreed upon points, as for example, those laid out by the Tucson Marxist-Leninist Collective:

1) the principle of unity-struggle-unity, which states that we engage in struggle only to build stronger unity;

2) the principle of equality between communist organizations;

3) the principle of criticism/self-criticism which serves as a basis for resolving the contradictions between communist organizations; and;

4) the principle of independence which recognizes the importance of independent organizations in the present period but also recognizes that these independent organizations must consciously struggle together in order to build a new communist party.

Our Position and that of “the Trend”

It is inevitable that, given our position, questions will arise as to our relationship with “the trend’s” party building motion. We would therefore like to clarify what we see as their direction of development, the main weaknesses of their effort, and the differences between our conception of party building and theirs.

In our estimation, the main errors which “the trend” is now making, errors which repeat the practices of the old RU, OL, and others, and which were proven long ago to be incapable of serving a genuine communist movement, can be summarized as follows;

First, they have made an incorrect assessment of the current stage of the party building process. Their sneers about “endless polemics which are only of interest to other dogmatists,” in contrast to their own “sinking deep roots in the working class,” can only bring the reply which Lenin gave to similar remarks in 1902: ”To repeat these words in an epoch of theoretical chaos is like wishing mourners at a funeral ’many happy returns of the day.’” (What Is To Be Done?)

That we are indeed living in an “epoch of theoretical chaos” is admitted by PWOC itself when it says, “The anti-revisionist movement, while full of good intentions and revolutionary spirit, has failed to meet its theoretical tasks.” (Organizer, Aug-Sept, ’76)

How then is it possible for PWOC to define the essence of the party building process as “the struggle to join communism with the most advanced fighters from the movement of the working class and the oppressed nationalities?” (Organizer, Oct-Nov,’76) The posing of this question leads us to “the trend’s” second major error; for, clearly, it is not possible to reconcile these two statements. Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement, and without theory we cannot have a “communism” to fuse with the advanced fighters.

What then does “the trend” have to fuse with the workers’ movement and oppressed peoples? Marxism-Leninism teaches us that there are not a multiplicity of choices and, as Lenin put it, “Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology being developed by the masses of workers in the process of their movement, the only choice is either bourgeois or socialist ideology. (What Is To Be Done?, Lenin’s emphasis)

PWOC has stated that “none of the organizations that have organized “parties” or are now calling for their immediate formation have developed a thorough-going critique of their predecessors in failure... Not one recognized that there was a fundamental flaw in their fore-runners’ basic approach to laying the foundation for a Party.”(Organizer, Oct-Nov,’76) While no one can disagree with this, the sad fact is that these words apply equally to PWOC itself. For, not only has it failed to make the necessary critique, but it has followed the identical method of party building on the basis of narrow mass work as its predecessors.

Take the following quote; “Where does the Party come from? Like correct ideas, it does not drop from the sky. It must be built, forged from the mass struggles,... We believe that unless we can get proletarian forces together, unless we can build mass struggles of the workers’ movement, we cannot build a Party.” Although this line is identical with PWOC’s (and others in “the trend”), it is, in fact, a direct quote from the RU in 1973! (RU quoted in the Guardian, 4/25/73)

It is incumbent upon “the trend” to frankly and openly explain to the communist movement, if they admit the theoretical poverty of today, what ideology they are bringing to the workers in their mass activity in the working class, and, moreover, how this ideology radically differs from economism.

We must admit, after having read the Potomac Socialist Organization’s On the Party Building Question and their article in the Guardian, it appears that not only is their ideology not radically different from economism, but in fact, they have elevated economism to the level of theory. PSO, for instance, states that strategy and theory can “best” develop through sustained application of these ideas in daily local workingclass situations.”

The errors of this position should be obvious: first that the narrow practice of local struggles is far too limited to test anything but the most simple and basic “theory” and “strategy”. Secondly, it denies the fundamental Leninist truth that “socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge.”(Kautsky, as quoted in What Is To Be Done?)

Although PSO talks about “what should be done” to build a party, an examination of their position shows they have no plan at all. They insist we must “first deepen our ties with the working class;” they also say that “theoretical development is central;” and they conclude by stating that “the need for a national organization imperative.” (Our emphasis) This is all fine but it does not explain what is decisive at this moment for accomplishing these tasks.

Which brings us back to the three two-line struggles with which we began this pamphlet. On only one, namely that of defending the creative application of Marxism-Leninism, has “the trend” taken a correct stand; and their failure to adequately define dogmatism and revisionism, as a prerequisite to struggling against them, has seriously weakened even this one.

“The Trend’s” 18 Points

In January “the trend” drew up a draft proposal of 18 points of unity for an eventual national conference. While a full discussion would require an examination of each point, for the moment certain facts stand out when we take the document as a whole. The points emphasize all the most general Marxist-Leninist principles, the nature of imperialism, the need for a multi-national vanguard party, the necessity of armed struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. In fact, these principles are so general in their phrasing, only two really distinguish “the trend” from other sections of the “new communist movement”: that at the present moment in the party building movement, dogmatism is the main danger, and that US imperialism is our main enemy.

What stands out, however, is not so much what they say, but what they omit. Lenin insisted, “Before we can unite and in order that we may unite, we must first of all firmly and definitely draw the lines of demarcation. Otherwise our unity will be merely a fictitious unity which will conceal the prevailing confusion and prevent its complete elimination.” (DEBI)

The 18 points do not draw such lines of demarcation because they do not take a position or even raise the key question which are at the heart of the “prevailing confusion” of much of the communist movement. Questions such as the nature and role of theory in the present period, the nature of the present period itself, the question of economism and how to fight it, the question of localism, etc. Any party which “the trend” may develop, or even a national conference, will not have a solid foundation so long as such problems are ignored or not understood.

These remarks are not meant as an attempt to cut ourselves off from “the trend” or to condemn them from afar (as some will charge us with doing). On the contrary, we see them as an effort to engage these comrades in a fraternal discussion on questions which are of concern to all of us. If we succeed in accomplishing only this goal, we will consider this worth the effort.

The Guardian

Many Guardian readers, particularly those close to “the trend”, may have been surprised by the recent exchange between the PSO and Irwin Silber for the Guardian, which recently appeared in “Radical Forum”.(2/23/77 and 3/2/77) People who have read the Guardian for a long time and who may remember the position of the Guardian at its party building forum in 1973, may have been even more surprised at the direction the Guardian has been taking in recent months on the party building question. Indeed, it has come a long way since that time, and today the Guardian is undeniably playing the leading role in the US communist movement’s party building process, for a number of reasons.

First, because on all three key two-line struggles, the Guardian has taken a correct stand. Second, because the Guardian has a national presence and thus a national effect which is countering the localism of much of our movement’s work. And third, because the Guardian has taken up comradely polemics with other communist organizations, including members of “the trend”, and is thus beginning to draw clear lines of demarcation for our path forward. The Guardian, however, needs to deepen and clarify its position on party building, especially with regard to the third two line struggle where their emphasis on “practicality” could tend to lead them to over-emphasize the technical aspect of theory.

Yet, the fact that the Guardian is a weekly newspaper means they are able to devote only limited attention to the question. Communist collectives must not simply sit back and wait for an independent newspaper to carry forward the struggle for a correct position; instead, they must advance on their own and begin to create a national party building network.


The responsibility of communist collectives and organizations around the country should now be clear. It is absolutely essential that they begin to take a firm position on the nature of our period and its tasks, and on this basis transform all their current practices. We must move forward to begin the unification of our movement on fundamental principles; a course which is not easy but which is necessary if we are to build the Party and win the working class to communism.

Appendix: How PWOC Quotes Lenin

Of late the PWOC has made much of a certain quotation which they have taken from Lenin’s 1899 article “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social Democracy.” A PWOC leader has even gone so far as to declare: “this quote...is an important one because it does differentiate in a most general sense our position on party building from the position of the dogmatists.” (Transcript of Statement on Party Building in the Trade Unions)

Although some might ask why this all important statement by Lenin appears only in this early article and is not repeated elsewhere, let us turn, for the moment, to the quote itself. The heart of PWOC’s excerpt is as follows. Concerning the fusion of the working class struggles with socialism, Lenin says:

when this fusion takes place, the class struggle of the workers becomes the conscious struggle of the proletariat to emancipate itself from the exploitation of the propertied classes...It has evolved into a higher form of the socialist workers movement, the independent working class social democratic party.” (Lenin’s emphasis)

In the Organizer PWOC has published this quotation under the title, “Lenin on Party Building.” An examination of Lenin’s entire article, however, shows that it is nothing of the kind. In fact, Lenin’s discussion of party building in this article is a direct refutation of PWOC’s line.

The excerpt PWOC has taken is not about party building at all but what he calls “the general question of the relation of socialism to the workingclass movement.” Lenin is discussing how each one (socialism, the workingclass movement) changes under the influence of the other. It is clear from the article that the section PWOC quotes refers to the development of the one aspect, the workers movement, and not to the development of the other, socialism. The point Lenin is making here is about how the working class movement rises to fuse with the socialist movement, not about party building.

But immediately after this section which PWOC has seized upon, is Lenin’s discussion of party building itself, which PWOC has ignored. Here Lenin says two things which run directly counter to the PWOC line on party building. First Lenin states that fusion was possible only when Russian socialists had “accepted Marx’s teaching and evolved a theory of workers socialism applicable to Russia.” Second Lenin unequivocally insists that fusion was not preliminary to party building; on the contrary, the creation of the party was an important step toward that fusion. To quote Lenin directly: “The founding of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (in the spring of 1898) marked the biggest step forward toward this fusion.”(Collected Works, vol. 4, p. 258. our emphasis)

PWOC, grasping at straws to shore up its own position on party building, has mis-read and mis-quoted Lenin. In an effort to “differentiate its position” from that of the dogmatists, PWOC had only ended up differentiating its position from Lenin himself.