Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

Develop Party Type Units and Nuclear Style of Work

Comments on Part 1 of the RWC’s Sum-Up


First Published: The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 17, July 31, 1978.
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.

This is the first of three part series which presents a sum up of factory work by the Revolutionary Workers Collective (RWC). We will also include in the series comments on the sum up made by the Pacific Collective (M-L). Our commentary will appear with each part. It will focus on some, but by no means all, of the issues raised by these organizations, and we encourage readers to submit their own views of the debate.

We have a number of significant disagreements with the positions brought forward in the sum up. However, that does not diminish our view of its value. It is an effort to seek truth from facts. As we pointed out in our series on Revolutionary Training:

Especially at this time we need to pay attention to the struggle to build party organizations on the plant floor (revolutionary cores and nuclei) which lay the basis for giving leadership to the economic and political agitation of the working class.

Sum ups of these struggles must also have a high priority in our work if the party we strive to create is to be ’trained and taught correct revolutionary tactics on the basis of its own mistakes.’ (THE COMMUNIST, v. IV no. 14.)

That kind of effort is still the exception in our movement. For that reason, the initiative of the RWC evaluating their work and in testing that evaluation in the pages of a national newspaper is an example to be followed. We encourage other comrades to use THE COMMUNIST in the same way.


In the first part of their sum-up, the RWC criticizes errors made in the strike work by the August Twentyninth Movement and the Bay Are Communist Union. These criticisms are open and above board and our columns are open to these organizations for response.

The right opportunist errors identified are cannon to the trade union work of communists. For example, is a hard task, not an easy one, to connect economic agitation over day to day demands of the working class with political agitation for our revolutionary goals. If we are to became skilled in this there must be a definite struggle to break with spontaneous tendency of inexperienced comrades to tail trade union politics. We need economic agitation on strike demands, negotiation procedures, conditions for contract settlement, etc – as Lenin says, these remain an important lever in the economic struggle.” (WITBD?, p. 68). But he also warns that “this, taken by itself, in essence still not Social Democratic (communist) work, but merely trade union work.” (Ibid., p. 69).

Other errors identified by the RWC also show the failure of communists to fight for political influence at the workplace. Lying low, being friendly but apolitical, thinking only of coffee and donuts on the picket line, shying away from struggle, conciliating with redbaiting, and failing to take up criticism of the trade union officials – without a doubt these errors raise the basic issue for every comrade engaged in trade union work: whether we will function as communists or trade union militants.


Did RWC function as communists or as trade union militants in developing the work of their core? Certainly they were open as Marxist-Leninists to workers who joined their core but our job would be easy if this/ were enough to characterize communist work. In fact, we think the RWC failed to create the core as a party type organization, but instead adopted a narrow, economist approach to the work of their core which prevented them from consolidating advanced workers.

We would define a factory core as a party type organization at the workplace made up of communists and advanced workers and modeled after the factory nucleus. Factory nuclei, of course, are the basic units of a communist organization at the-workplace. By modeling a core after a factory nucleus and calling it a party type organization, we mean to emphasize that it should act as much like the primary unit of a communist party as possible. It should be small, there should be agreement on adhering to security measures, there should be voluntary agreement to discipline and the core should function in a conspiratorial manner. It should include within its scope all matters which would fall within the scope of a basic party unit – political education and the study of Marxism-Leninism, all aspects of the class struggle nationally and internationally, matters concerning the collective life of core members, work in the workplace and in the unions, criticism, self-criticism, etc.

Of course, unity around these points starts at a lower level and is developed to a higher level through struggle. Nonetheless, overall a core prepares advanced workers for membership in a democratic centralist organization. It is an opportunity to test them, train them and consolidate them, and it is political consolidation which must be our primary goal. Unlike a caucus, for example, a core does not exist primarily to serve plant work.

In order to make a core a party type organization in the workplace, we must adopt a nuclear style of work What we mean by this is a style of work that gives priority to establishing a leading group which will function in a disciplined, conspiratorial manner in carrying out a definite political line under definite leadership. Mao says:

a leading group should be formed in each unit in the course of the movement. ... In every organization, school, army unity, factory or village, whether large or small, we should give effect to the ninth of Stalin’s twelve conditions for the bolshevization of the Party, namely, that on the establishment of a nucleus of leadership. (CONCERNING METHODS OF LEADERSHIP)

What is necessary is the kind of work that can lay the basis for building a core. This does not mean that there must first be a core before any other work can unfold. It may be that to establish contacts in a workplace by building a caucus or a safety committee or election activity will be the first step. It does mean that, whatever the tactics, we adopt a nuclear style and give priority to establishing a leading group as soon as conditions permit.

We don’t think the RWC grasped either the necessity to make the core a party type organization or based its core activity firmly on a nuclear style of work. Instead, because of inexperience, comrades approached the task of building a core in a narrow and economist way.

For example, while it is clear that comrades of the RWC were open with core members about being communists, it is also clear that the focus of their activity was economic, not political work. The goals which defined the core, even the motivation for it, were exclusively devoted to the strike and to work in the plant. None of the goals put forward were wrong in themselves, but they lacked breadth of scope. They did not approach the core as a party type organization in embryo taking up all problems falling within the scope of a primary party unit. Instead they tended to narrow the work of communists and to turn the core into a tool of economic struggle. RWC’s conditions for the formation of a core and criteria for core membership reflect the same narrow focus. In this perspective, it is not surprising that as the struggle in the plant cooled down, comrades were not able to sustain the work of the core.

We would emphasize that without regular use of a nationwide newspaper devoted to comprehensive political exposure, it is virtually impossible to avoid such narrowness in core work. This is a lesson of WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Topical political exposures, Lenin wrote, are the chief means of training leaders in revolutionary activity. (See “The Chief Means of Revolutionary Training,” THE COMMUNIST, v. IV, no. 12.) In this respect we encourage all local collectives such as the RWC to make systematic use of THE COMMUNIST in their work and to work with us to make THE COMMUNIST a better tool for their work.

The tendency of the RWC to belittle the significance of Marxist-Leninist leadership and collective discipline in the activity of the core reflects the same narrowness. RWC says it is incorrect to demand that core members follow the leadership of one particular organization. This is incorrect. How can a party organization modeled after a factory nucleus function without a single, leading line? Differences will certainly arise in a core, but they should be resolved according to the model of democratic centralism. Where the leadership or line leading the work has been incorrect it can be corrected in the course of struggle by criticism, self criticism.

Similarly, it is significant that the RWC does not make a willingness to function in a disciplined manner a criteria for core membership. In our view core members must be (1) active in the struggle of the class (not only the plant), (2) open and willing to study Marxism-Leninism, (3) willing to act in a disciplined, collective manner, and (4) willing to adhere to security measures and function in a secret manner. Attention to leadership and discipline is essential to creating a party type unit which can provide a good framework for politically consolidating advanced workers.

In fact, it seems clear to us from the facts reported that RWC’s major error was in lagging behind the needs of core members for Marxist-Leninist ideology, politics and organization. In spite of workers (not necessarily all) who took up the study of Marxism-Leninism in the course of the strike, and in particular who took up the successful study of Kota’s TWO OPPOSING LINES IN THE WORLD TRADE UNION MOVEMENT, which is not an easy book, RWC pretends that they “jumped too far ahead of individuals that composed our core” and that they “overestimated the level of the subjective factor”. We were not there, but to us this sounds too much like the refrain of the economists exposed by Lenin in WHAT IS TO BE DONE? For example: “the mass of workers themselves have not yet advanced the broad and militant political tasks that revolutionaries are attempting to ’impose’ upon them.” (WITBD?, p. 129)

Why did this economist trend that was lagging behind pretend to be too far ahead? Lenin pointed out that it was essentially a theoretical justification for avoiding the imperative task of creating a strong, disciplined organization of professional revolutionaries.

The pieces fit the puzzle. Inattention to discipline and leadership complements a narrow focus on plant work. The core becomes a means to develop “intermediate and active lower strata workers into advanced and thus deepening fusion.” The essential task of party building – taking Marxism-Leninism to the best representatives of the working class and training them as real political leaders, that is, ’“winning the vanguard to communism” – is abandoned.

Incidentally, we are not convinced that jumping “too far ahead of individuals that composed our core” was a ’left’ error as RWC suggests. In our own experience when someone who has read some Marxist-Leninist books takes up study with someone who has not, if the person familiar with the material does not pay close attention to preparing his material for presentation in a measured, step by step, ordered way, it has often looked like he was very learned and very advanced and that he could not explain things because they were too complicated. Then it looks like the person unfamiliar with Marxism is backward and. that the Marxist-Leninist has lept too far ahead in failing to recognize how backward the student is. But on closer examination we have always found that the real problem is lack of preparation by the Marxist-Leninist, not ignorance of the student, and that the main thing was that the Marxist Leninist was lagging behind in his tasks, not that he had lept ahead. In plain English he was not prepared. That is the main problem in bringing Marxism-Leninism to the advanced. Not that the advanced are too backward.


We have serious differences with the RWC over their characterization of advanced workers. For now we can only briefly identify our differences rather than argue them, but we will return to the question in the third article of the series. Comrades should recognize, however, that RWC’s line on the question is much the same as the line of the Marxist-Leninist Unity League which appeared in CLASS STRUGGLE, #4,5, and which we analyzed and exposed in “Win the Vanguard,” THE COMMUNIST, v. II, no. 11.

Briefly: RWC incorrectly narrows Lenin’s view of the advanced worker and incorrectly criticizes the concept of the “relatively advanced”. We hold that an advanced worker must be open to communism and accept it consciously, but we do not find that a willingness to “study, study, study” occurs spontaneously. In our view, Lenin is also referring to working class leaders who are just being drawn to Marxism.

Second, RWC replaces the task of winning the advanced with the task of winning the intermediate to the level of the advanced. But this is inconsistent with making party building the central task. Party building means winning the vanguard to communism and at this time, contrary to the position of the RWC, the key to fusing communism with the workers movement is just that – taking Marxism-Leninism to the best representatives of the working class and transforming them into real political, leaders.

Third, we doubt RWC’s assertion that, “we had not seen (or have we seen) any advanced workers in this plant.” Our own experience in similar workplaces shows that this particular form of blindness is due to our own, errors of line or methods of work, not the absence of advanced workers. This is particularly true in basic industry. Our ability to penetrate this sector, which is decisive, depends on our ability to win over the advanced in those situations.