Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

RWC Strike Sum-Up: Develop Leadership in Mass Work

Comments on Part 2 of the RWC’s Sum-Up


First Published: The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 18, August 14, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This is the second of a three part series which presents a sum-up of factory work submitted by the Revolutionary Workers’ Collective (RWC). This part concludes RWC’s own views; the third part will present the views of the Pacific Collective (M-L) relating to the same strike.

In our first commentary we focused on RWC’s work with the advanced in building a core. This time we focus on their leadership in the mass work of the strike. Overall RWC’s initiative, tactical flexibility, and persistent struggle against the opportunism of the trade union bureaucrats is good. Their evaluation of the strike was concrete and more thorough than most.

Moreover, they showed a basic grasp of the economist tendencies that came forward during the strike. These are the kinds of errors we have had to fight in our own organization. RWC’s sum-up is an encouragement to all of us to take a more critical view of our work.


A vanguard cannot be forged in isolation from the everyday struggles of the proletariat. Communists must take initiative in situations like this strike to play a leading role. RWC saw “a real vacuum of leadership” from the trade union bureaucrats and seized the opportunity well. They fought for leadership in all aspects of strike work, and they have carried the struggle forward after the strike.

Guiding their initiative was the correct long-term goal of “transforming the union into a mass revolutionary organization”. (RWC – see first part of series) As communists we intend to be more than an opposition group in the unions. We plan to become the leaders of the trade unions and make them into powerful weapons of the revolution in the hands of the working class.

The vacuum of leadership is present in unions and non-union plants throughout the country. Comrades need to overcome any passivity towards taking advantage of every opportunity to build leadership which can challenge that of the trade union bureaucrats. The same initiative that is required to build cores and nuclei is required to lead legal strike work, health and safety protests, recall campaigns, etc.


Passivity is only one weakness of our movement. Another is the tendency to be very active in the every day struggles without doing the kind of work that increases communist influence in the unions. Both weaknesses represent right opportunist tendencies that fail to transform objective conditions in a revolutionary way.

Communists work in strikes as in any reform struggle, “combining legal work with illegal work...to intensify, under its cover, the illegal work for the revolutionary preparation of the masses for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.” (Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, FLP, p.97)

But what often happens is that communists get caught up by the intense legal activity of a strike situation and let their independent communist work slide and disappear. For example, while not one communist leaflet came out and F5C made inadequate preparations for their core work, they ware still able to be working on the fifteen or so strike bulletins, caucus leaflets, court injunction hearings, picket lines, rallies, union meetings, “volunteer committee” meetings, caucus meetings, etc. Anyone who has done strike work knows the story well.

RWC correctly sums up these errors as “a spontaneous style of work” and “economism”. These were the basic type of errors in the strike. If left unchecked they lead toward the path of reformism, where, as Stalin says, “reforms are everything, while revolutionary work is something incidental”. (ibid, p. 97).


Stalin says that correct tactics are “methods of struggle and forms of organization (that) make it easier for the masses to realize from experience the correctness of the revolutionary slogans”, (ibid, p. 94).

While there was the lack of “revolutionary slogans” through communist literature, RWC correctly worked through several different forms of mass organization – “volunteers committee”, caucus – to carry out different aspects of strike work. In applying tactics they were flexible – and not mechanical.

In fact RWC’s tactics responded to basic features of the strike which are cannon to strikes all across the country. First, the ruling class is on the offensive and trying to take away concessions from past contracts. They are using every tool of state power – court injunctions, federal mediators, police, federal troops, acts of Congress, the media, etc. Second, the working class is resisting but needs to organize its power to actually win strikes. Strikers must not only stop production but also get broad support among the working masses. Third, while the corporations represent the main enemies in strikes, the opportunism of the trade union bureaucrats is the main obstacle to powerful rank and file resistance.

It is these common features that determined the need for the different organizational forms used by RWC. Each form corresponded to major tasks in the strike. In spite of weaknesses (see our commentary in the last issue), RWC sought to lay a foundation for its mass work and to build its long term influence in the plant by consolidating a Marxist-Leninist core. The “volunteers committee” served to keep the rank and file informed on negotiations through ties with the official strike committee and organize mass activity such as rallies, pickets, fund-raisers, etc. The caucus focused on the opportunist trade union bureaucrats and the need to build leadership in the rank and file which was independent of the union bureaucracy.

Based on the common features of strikes we can predict similar tasks in any strike. How we actually develop our tactics will depend on the particular situation and our own strength. The essential thing is to make good use of the whole variety of organizational forms available to push the struggle forward.


Perhaps RWC’s best tactical contribution to the strike was to use the caucus in persistent struggle against the trade union bureaucrats, who “worked to sabotage the strike from the beginning”. (RWC). RWC also correctly saw the caucus as a “basis for future internal union struggle and an organization through which progressive forces could content for power in the union.” (RWC)

The fact is that caucuses are formed time and again in unions all over the country. They are essentially mass organizations within the unions that seek to mobilize the rank and file against the existing union leadership. Sometimes caucuses are merely tools for the trade unionist opposition which is out of office and building their forces for the next elections. At other times they are a means to emphasize special issues such as women’s issues or issues of special concern to oppressed nationalities. Most of the time they have their source in the need for the rank and file to develop an organizational form within the trade union to combat the opportunism of the official trade union leadership.

This is our purpose as communists – to build caucuses which will mobilize mass opposition to the opportunism of the trade union bureaucrats. In a particular situation this may mean joining an existing caucus or organizing a new one. Whichever the case, caucuses should be mass organizations in which we can develop our own independent leadership in the rank and file. Our goal is to oust the trade union bureaucrats and win union leadership positions. These positions will allow us to broaden communist activity in developing the revolutionary work of the trade unions.

Lenin has called the struggle against opportunism the “pivot of our tactics” in the trade unions (Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, LCW, vol.23,p.ll4). In struggling for a caucus before, during and after the strike, RWC snowed a grasp of this line. According to their sum-up, the August Twentyninth Movement (ATM) and the Bay Area Communist Union (BACU), in originally pushing for work only within the existing strike committee did not. This is a crucial line, for the most dangerous opportunists, says Lenin, “are those who do not wish to understand that the fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.” (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, FLP, p.156)

As for economism in the caucus, RWC states that the “caucus’s weaknesses reflected economism”. We should be clear that it was not the caucus that was economist, but the communists in it. Economism narrows the scope and activity of Marxist-Leninists and we won’t fault the caucus, which should be a militant mass organization, as a whole for that. Furthermore, while communists should influence caucus literature, our view there should reflect the broad democratic aims of the working class. Caucus literature is no substitute for independent communist literature, which can best link the immediate issues to “an overall understanding of capitalism”.


Communists cannot initiate struggles, carry out work and then not be able to evaluate what was won and what was lost. To be able to sum-up work is an essential task of leadership. The evaluation of a strike is important for communists because we aim to become class-conscious leaders of strikes.

Our leadership may be as caucus leaders, members of a negotiating committee, business representative, etc. Whatever the form, we will always have to grapple with the question of what constitutes a victory or loss from a Marxist-Leninist point of view.

Kota says,

“The value of strikes does not lie in certain immediate economic advantages alone, as the reformists and revisionists claim, but above all, in the moral and political consequences they bring about, because it is only through these actions and the class struggle that the proletariat can strengthen its revolutionary spirit and raise its consciousness.” (Two Opposing Lines in the World Trade Union Movement, p. 156). In other words, we must examine both aspects, economic and political.

In the communist press there has been a tendency to be very superficial in strike evaluation. Political gains are usually confined to generalities and economic analysis is seldom even done at all. This reflects a narrowness in our work and shallow penetration of the working class movement.

RWC’s evaluation, on the other hand, represents a good start towards more thorough sum-ups. They explain how “rightism” resulted in opportunities “lost to consolidate workers around an overall understanding of capitalism and to win people to a higher level of commitment to struggle.” (RWC) They begin to show what the economic package looked like in practice. This kind of evaluation is not easy and demands that more of the work appear in the communist press so that we all learn from it.


In discussing the district union structure RWC poses two alternatives for future work in that district. “...Either disassociate the local from the district structure so that they can control their funds and the business agents who are supposed to represent them, or work with members in other locals to take over the district structure.”

There is no real choice here. We must take over the district. While that structure is used to abuse the rank and file now, in our hands the district will serve them. But even more, RWC should not limit its view to that district alone. It’s not merely “work with members in other locals” but work with comrades throughout the country. RWC is part of a movement whose program seeks not only district but international leadership in all the unions.

But RWC’s statement shows the tendency to define their tasks according to local activity only. This is a good example of subjectivity or a one-sided view, which comes from the fragmentation of our movement. In our recent series on revolutionary training we showed how this subjectivism is connected to bowing to spontaneity:

If the conditions of a revolutionary’s work are narrow and restricted, then the easier path is to formulate policy on the basis of the restricted framework that exists, rather than to act in terms of the broad and militant goals of communist work. THE COMMUNIST, v. IV, no. 13)

What is necessary for RWC and other local collectives is the struggle for a broader view of their work. Even now local collectives need to adopt more of a party style of work, to think and act as a party organization in a locality. This in turn requires a conscious struggle to overcome their fragmented ties to the national movement. Otherwise they are bound to continue to operate in a one-sided subjective way. Their work will continue to reflect local priorities rather than those of the national movement as a whole.

We welcome RWC’s strike sum-up as a step forward away from narrow circle activity. We encourage others to respond to RWC’s views and our own commentaries. We hope this stimulates other comrades to make contributions from their own practice.

Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. Such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing. (Mao Tsetung, On Practice, MSW, v. 1, p. 308).