Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

WC Commentary on Pacific Collective Views: Take Marxism-Leninism to the Working Class


First Published: The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 19, August 28, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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We ended our commentary last time stressing the need for local collectives to overcome narrowness, to broaden their view of the tasks of communists. But the line of the Pacific Collective does just the opposite. Their commentary consistently belittles the transforming role of Marxist-Leninist theory in the working class movement. It narrows the tasks of communists in the trade unions and clears the path for militant trade unionism. This is the essence of the right opportunist tendency of economism in our movement.

But forces like the Pacific Collective cannot come out openly as economists. Instead they use the works of Marxism-Leninism, like Lenin’s polemic “Retrograde Trend in Russian Social Democracy”, to attack the very foundations of orthodox Marxism-Leninism on party building and communist work in the trade unions. The Pacific Collective revises Lenin and Stalin on the task of party building. They ignore the rich experience of the international proletariat in the trade unions, summed up by the Communist International or COMINTERN. We will focus on these basic elements of line to expose the right opportunism of the Pacific Collective.

This struggle is not new to our movement. For our part the Party Building Resolutions adopted by the Workers Congress M-L in 1975 have consistently defended the line that the basic task of party building is to win the vanguard, the advanced, to communism. Furthermore, we have upheld the 1930 COMINTERN Resolution on Factory Nuclei in building communist influence in the industrial proletariat.

There is a trend in our movement which attacks any reliance on orthodox Marxism-Leninism as dogmatism. But the principles of Marx-ism-Leninism represent the roost scientific summing up of the rich practical history of the international proletariat over the last 125 years. As Mao says,

Marxism-Leninism is held to be true not only because it was so considered when it was scientifically formulated by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, but because it has been verified in the subsequent practice of revolutionary class struggle and revolutionary national struggle. (On Practice, MSW v.I p.304-5)


The line of “win the advanced” was not concocted by US Marxist-Leninists in 1974, but put forward by Lenin and Stalin long ago. Speaking about the international significance of the Russian revolution, Lenin said in LEFT WING COMMUNISM, AN INFANTILE DISORDER, that the first stage of communist work was to win the proletarian vanguard to communism.

Stalin summarized this same lesson in preparing a pamphlet on strategy and tactics for the international communist movement. He sums up the task of party-building as “to win the Vanguard of the proletariat to the side of communism (is build up cadres, create a Communist Party, work out the program, the principles of tactics). Propaganda as the chief form of activity”. (Stalin, COLLECTED WORKS, v.5, p.82 The Pacific Collective attacks this line directly. “The Pacific Collective does not describe our party building task in the workers movement as “winning over the advanced” since that expression erroneously implies the existence of a significant stratum of advanced workers.” Or again, “The Pacific Collective did not consider ’winning over the advanced’ one of our goals in the mass work. We believed from the beginning that it is necessary to use Lenin’s definitions of strata among the workers and by these definitions there were no advanced workers in the plant... most core members – were among the most progressive of backward (i.e., non-socialist) workers.”

One thing or the other – either party building is not the central task or winning the vanguard is not party building. In either case the Pacific Collective is wrong.

The Pacific Collective (P.C.) justifies its attack by revising Lenin s definitions in the polemic “Retrograde Trend”. They limit advanced workers to “socialists”. However, Lenin’s definition of the advanced is broader than they make it to be. No doubt he is describing the theoreticians like Bebel, who did elaborate independent socialist theories. Also he is describing the rank and file communists who do not elaborate socialist theories, but who do ”devote themselves entirely to the education and organization of the proletariat.”

But in addition, Lenin is describing advanced workers who are coming forward, responding to the ideas of socialism, who must “study, study, study” to become fully class conscious communists. These workers come from what Lenin called the “better situated strata”, that is, the industrial proletariat in the large factories, mines and mills. They are better situated from a cartnunist point of view because of their large numbers and concentration, broad outlook and influence, strategic position and fighting capacity to overthrow monopoly capitalism.

In sun, Marxist-Leninists are among the vanguard, but so are those workers coming out of the plants and democratic movements who are open to the science of Marxism-Leninism. The task is to pursue Marxism-Leninism aggressively, to transform these comrades into class conscious revolutionaries, to win them to communism.

Furthermore, the P.C. reasons that since we don’t yet have the kind of influence in our working class movement that the advanced had in Russia in 1899, then there must be an insignificant number of advanced workers here today. They say, “there are very few advanced workers in the US today, nor even enough intermediates (the active socialists Lenin described) to significantly affect the direction of the workers’ movement at present. .. You cannot substitute workers with different characteristics and yet expect them to function in the same way...Lenin’s advanced workers did.”

But the spontaneous character of the workers’ movement is really due to the low level of communist influence in that movement. It is the basic logic of economism to blame the workers’ movement for our own failures. As we said in our first commentary, “it is a hard task, not an easy one, to connect economic agitation over the day to day demands of the working class with political agitation for our revolutionary goals. If we are to become skilled at this there nust be a definite struggle to break with the opportunist tendency of inexperienced comrades to tail trade union politics” (TC v.4#17).

Even our limited experience in the workers movement tells us that there are thousands of advanced workers, ready to resist, willing to make sacrifices, open to a revolutionary science that points the way forward. Just as today, it was the economists in Lenin’s time who could only see “an extremely small number of persons fit for revolutionary work” (WITBD p.157, FLP). It is the arrogance of the petty-bourgeoisie that blames the backwardness of workers rather than the current “backwardness” of the communists. What we lack is trained communist leaders who can win the advanced and develop communist leadership in the proletarian and democratic movements.

Why is it the P.C. puts forward their backward view of the advanced? The answer is clear. If their work is directed to the “progressive of the backward” they are relieved of the task of taking Marxism-Leninism to the working class. They are relieved of the necessity to put forward an independent communist policy. But if Marxist-Leninists are not going to take Marxism-Leninism to the class, what is their purpose for being in the plants at all? Since they have abandoned these communist tasks, the way forward is clear for primarily trade union agitation. In other words, their views on the advanced are a theoretical justification of economist!.


The P.C. claims that winning the advanced “belittles the broad mass agitating and organizing that communists since Lenin have believed is essential” What kind of communist work are they talking about? Why, the kind of agitating and organizing “needed to produce advanced workers”. In other words, the P.C., like the RWC, replaces winning the advanced to communism with winning the lower strata to the level of advanced workers.

In fact, is this what Lenin believed? It is ironic that the P.C. uses Lenin’s “Retrograde Trend” to justify their line of agitation to the lower strata. For in that polemic Lenin is criticising those, like the P.C. who exaggerated the role of agitation to the “lower, less developed strata of the proletariat”. (Lenin) In fact, Lenin states:

It is in this extreme exaggeration of one aspect of Social-Democratic work that we see the chief cause of the sad retreat from the ideals of Russian , Social Democracy.” He goes on to show how this is part of the economist “retrograde trend” itself!

Lenin goes on to argue against the fear that the formation of a revolutionary party conducting a political struggle will interfere with agitation. But the P.C. fears that our party building task of winning the advanced “belittles” or interferes with broad mass agitation. Their solution is to liquidate the correct line on party-building.

The fact is if you really want to talk about widespread agitation, the priority goes to party-building work. Lenin shows that by struggling to build the party we build at the same time the best means by which to unfold widespread agitation on a national level based on a common line on all economic and political questions. Through a national network we use every local success to train all agitators. We develop the ability to send agitators to situations that reflect our national priorities. And in building the party Lenin always stresses our work with the advanced.


We consolidate the advanced in cores and nuclei. In our first commentary we defined a factory core as a “party type organization at the workplace made up of communists and advanced workers and modeled after the factory nuclei”. (TC,vol.4, no.17)

Cores are not just another form for mass work, as the P.C. defines them, but are a party type form for communist work that can lead the trade unions in a revolutionary way. They should strive to take up every issue which would fall within the scope of a primary unit of a communist organization. They are a tool for building factory nuclei, our basic communist units in the plants.

The 1930 COMINTERN Resolution on Factory Nuclei described factory nuclei as “the forms and methods of work in accordance with the tasks connected with the leadership of the mass demonstrations of the proletariat – of the agricultural laborers and the poorest sections of the peasantry... and with carrying out the necessary preparations of these mass demonstrations.”

Furthermore, looking at our tasks in the industrial proletariat, the COMINTERN Resolution speaks directly to them:

One of the most difficult points in the organization of Party on a factory basis is the creation of factory nuclei in factories where there are no Party members or where there are only one or two. As the matter stands today when as a rule, the Communist Parties have no, or very small nuclei in the big factories, as a result of which they can play no important role in the development of the Communist movement in the factory, they are confronted with the essential and urgent task of immediately setting up strong factory nuclei in all big factories.” But the P.C. says “sometimes cores are appropriate and sometimes they are not, depending on the development of the subjective factor. The matter of forms of organization for mass work is a tactical question, which means that we need to combine the lessons of past experiences with the greatest creativity and flexibility in solving practical problems. The concept of what form in which to work with the most progressive workers at a plant should never be cast in iron...

In the name of “greatest creativity and flexibility” the P.C. has thrown basic principles and line of Marxism-Leninism out the window. We should not form a core without preparing the conditions, and this takes longer in some situations than in others. Our tactics must always remain flexible.

But revolutionary tactics are part of a revolutionary strategy, “subordinate to it and serving it”. (Stalin, FOUNDATIONS OF LENINISM, p.86 FLP) Our strategy is proletarian revolution in which factories become “fortresses”. Thus our tactics must conform to a Marxist-Leninist line which can guide the building of those fortresses. The question of a form for a particular mass organization is a matter of tactics. But the question of a party style of work, which is the issue in building cores and nuclei, is a question of principle.

The P.C. also claims that to have to study Marxism-Leninism in a core is “mechanical”. But how can a core help build factory nuclei without the study and application of Marxism-Leninism? We win contacts in the plants to our leadership in cores through aggressively pursuing verbal agitation and propaganda, the use of THE COMMUNIST and joint work in the day to day struggles in the plants. The core further tests and consolidates our unity. Its members test us and we test them. In the course of our work in the core we also begin to defeat reformist tendencies of looseness towards discipline, carelessness towards security and vacillation in political line.

Throughout its history the COMINTERN had to fight for its line against the reformist tendencies from the old socialist parties. Today, due to the powerful and longstanding influence of bourgeois reformism and revisionism, economist tendencies in our movement resist the line of the CI Resolution. In capitulation to reformism the P.C. has ignored it. They abandon the very means by which communists will divert the working class from the path of trade unionism, and instead take a step down that very path.


In “Retrograde Trend” Lenin showed how the fragmentation and amateurishness of the Russian Social Democratic movement, and its failure to uphold orthodox Marxism inevitably led to the opportunist trend of economism. Our recent series on revolutionary training shows how similar conditions in our own movement provide fertile soil for economist tendencies today. These tendencies “feed on the conditions of fragmentation and inexperience, promoting ideological confusion, political narrowness, and organizational amateurishness.” (TC, vol.IV,no.13)

These are the main barriers to fusing communism with the working class movement and as such must be purged from our ranks. The Iskra Plan of the Workers Congress addresses this task and puts forward an Iskra-type paper as the link to defeating the tendency to bow to spontaneity and follow the line of least resistance in our work. It is in this struggle that we build a network capable of forming a genuine communist party.