Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

The Path from Fragmentation to Party Unity

First Published: The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 13, May 22, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The diagram on this page is a way of talking about the disunity of the Marxist-Leninist movement in the United States and the steps necessary to transform it into party unity.

For example, fragmentation, which has a material basis in the conditions of struggle under capitalism, and the lack of revolutionary training of the majority of young revolutionaries are objective characteristics of our struggle. These are our starting point – the circumstances which must be transformed.


Amateurishness, on the other hand, is something more than lack of revolutionary training. In the same way, the small circle spirit connected with it is more than fragmentation. In both cases we deal with opportunist tendencies which hold back our struggle. Amateurishness, Lenin writes:

denotes a narrow scope of revolutionary work generally, failure to understand that a good organization of revolutionaries cannot be built up on the basis of such narrow activity, and lastly–and most important–it denotes attempts to justify this narrowness and to elevate it to a special ’theory’, i.e., bowing in worship to spontaneity on this question too. (WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Peking Edition, p. 128)

Lenin goes on to add that a young revolutionary movement can never eliminate narrowness associated with amateurishness without eliminating narrowness overall in the conception of Marxist theory as well as of the communist movement and its tasks.

Today, modern revisionism is the most consolidated form of narrowness in relation to the views and tasks of communists. Obviously, we can never defeat amateurish tendencies in our midst without defeating the influence of this form of opportunism which comes from outside our ranks. But even within the Marxist-Leninist movement there are narrow economist tendencies which feed on the conditions of fragmentation and inexperience, promoting ideological confusion, political narrowness and organizational amateurishness. Where Marxism-Leninism calls on us to transform our consciousness and activity through revolutionary training, amateurish and economist trends call on us to accept the narrow framework of circle activity. Where Marxism-Leninism calls on us to transform conditions of fragmentation and disunity, amateurish and economist trends call on us to perpetuate circle forms of organization that stand as a barrier to party unity.

It is also true that we shall never succeed in forging a new vanguard party according to the revolutionary theory and revolutionary style of Marxism-Leninism, nor in fact effectively battle modern revisionism, unless we purge our ranks of these opportunist tendencies.


In order to fight opportunist tendencies in our midst we want to know their source. To deepen our grasp of this question we can turn to a party building campaign very different from the campaign of Lenin set out in WHAT IS TO BE DONE?. In 1941, Mao Tsetung made a report to a cadres’ meeting in Yenan. In that report he identified shortcomings which hindered the struggle for unity in the Chinese Communist Party and which stood as an obstacle to its ability to provide vanguard leadership for the Chinese revolution. The report, REFORM OUR STUDY, carries general lessons applicable to the task of reconstructing a Marxist-Leninist party. They are particularly important for our own movement.

Mao pointed out that neglect of the study of current conditions, of history, of international revolutionary experience and of the application of the truths of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete tasks of revolution stems from a subjective style of work. He writes:

First, take the study of current conditions. We have achieved some success in our study of present domestic and international conditions, but for such a large political party as ours, the material we have collected is fragmentary and our research work unsystematic on each and every aspect of these subjects, whether it be the political, military, economic or cultural aspect.

Generally speaking, in the last twenty years we have not done systematic and thorough work in collecting and studying material on these aspects, and we are lacking in a climate of investigation and study of objective reality. To behave like “a blindfolded man catching sparrows”, or “a blind man groping for fish”, to be crude and careless, to indulge in verbiage, to rest content with a smattering of knowledge–such is the extremely bad style of work that still exists among many comrades in our Party, a style utterly opposed to the fundamental spirit of Marxism-Leninism. Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin have taught us that it is necessary to study conditions conscientiously and to proceed from objective reality and not from subjective wishes; but many of our comrades act in direct violation of this truth.

Can we identify similar shortcomings in our movement?

Certainly we can. For every shortcoming Mao identifies we have examples 100 times over. The collection of data on domestic and international conditions is restricted, and fragmentary and unsystematic; study is often crude and careless; and comrades and organizations do indulge in verbiage or formulate policy on only a smattering of knowledge. Similarly, other examples Mao gives in his report also characterize our movement. Inexperience leaves many comrades “in a fog about US history” and there is also a neglect of international revolutionary experience.

The connection between the shortcomings analyzed by Mao and the shortcomings of the US Marxist-Leninist movement concern the inexperience of the majority of revolutionaries and our lack of mutual connections. Because of the revisionist betrayal of the CPUSA, young revolutionaries come forward without training or ties with other Marxist-Leninists. Inevitably, the grasp of Marxism-Leninism in this situation is somewhat superficial and the experience in the application of it to the concrete conditions of US revolution is meager.

In this situation, comrades can be led astray by a partial and one-sided style of work that exaggerates their own experience:

Unwilling to carry on systematic and thorough investigation and study of the specific conditions inside and outside the country, the province, county or district, they issue orders on no other basis than their scanty knowledge and ’It must be so because it seems so to me’. (REFORM OUR STUDY)

That is, in our conditions, subjectivism is a style of work that bows to the shortcomings of a young revolutionary movement. The results of these shortcomings are not original. Some comrades are proud of knowing nothing or very little of current conditions, international revolutionary experience or their own history. Others are chauvinist in their application of a “smattering of knowledge” and think that Marxism-Leninism applies everywhere else, but that US capitalism can only be understood on the basis of their “creative” theory. Some insist on practice without theory and think they’ll make a revolution if they shout loud. Others insist on theory without practice (and narrow theory at that) and think they can guide revolution without studying objective conditions and appropriating material in detail. When science counts for nothing and personal feelings measure revolutionary credentials, then “it must be so because it seems so to me” tests policy.

The willingness to declare one’s circle a “party” without having prepared the conditions or welded the unity of the vanguard of the class is the worst example reflected in our movement of this partial or one-sided view.


Fragmentation and lack of revolutionary experience provide the fertile ground for the growth of subjectivism, but they do not inevitably mean that comrades must develop a partial and one-sided style.

Then what is it that waters this soil, so that it is subjectivism that flourishes rather than Marxism-Leninism?

The answer, as the diagram suggests, is the tendency to seek the line of least resistance or to bow to spontaneity in our work.

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. Nationwide policy is announced on the basis of what seems to be true in this or that city or region where local work is carried on. If the grasp of Marxism is spotty, then the easier path is to use a smattering knowledge to formulate policy and to issue orders. If ties with the masses are weak, then the easier path is to narrow the scope of work and forget about uniting all who can be united. Or if there is an effort to develop ties, it is easier to develop them by narrowing our political tasks to what is immediately acceptable. Integration with the masses then takes place not on the basis of bringing Marxism-Leninism from the outside, but on the basis of what is generated by the movement itself.

Most important, within the Marxist-Leninist movement, if there are no ties with other Marxist-Leninists, it is easier to ignore other groups or to label them opportunist. That is, a subjective style of study means subjectivism in organizational relations, or sectarianism, which reinforces the conditions of fragmentation and disunity. It also accounts for splits in young Marxist-Leninist organizations. Other groups maintain cohesion because unprincipled peace is easier than principled struggle. In any event, the easier path is to place the part above the whole, whether it is placing the individual above the organization, or the interests of a local collective above the national movement, or the interests of any Marxist-Leninist organization, including those who call themselves parties, above the demands of the movement as a whole.

In sum, it is the opportunist tendency to bow to spontaneity which transforms fragmentation and inexperience into subjectivism in learning and subjectivism in organizational relations.

In turn, as a subjective style of learning and of organizational relations becomes consolidated, it gives rise to opportunist trends of amateurishness and economism. Our party building efforts, therefore, must include the struggle to purge our ranks of every such tendency.

That is why Lenin’s WHAT IS TO BE DONE?, which attacks the tendency to bow to spontaneity, is the ideological foundation of any genuine revolutionary party, and the foundation of every party building effort.


The lesson of REFORM OUR STUDY is that we fight subjectivism by applying a Marxist-Leninist attitude to the study of the concrete problems of the revolution. Mao continues:

To take such an attitude is to seek truth from facts. ’Facts’ are all things that exist objectively, ’truth’ means their internal relations, that is, the laws governing them, and ’to seek’ means to study. We should proceed from the actual conditions inside and outside the country, the province, county or district: r and derive from them, as our guide to action, laws which are inherent in them and not imaginary, that is, we should find the internal relations of events occurring around us. And in order to do that we must rely not on subjective imagination, not on momentary enthusiasm, not on lifeless books, but on facts that exist objectively; we must appropriate the material in detail and, guided by the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, draw correct conclusions from it.


What Mao calls for above is no different than Lenin’s call to make political exposures the chief means of revolutionary training. Mao calls for reforming the method and system of study within the party on the basis of applying the Marxist-Leninist attitude of seeking truth from facts as a guide to action and asks that we find the internal relations of events occurring around us. Lenin calls on class conscious revolutionaries to learn

to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata and groups of the population and adds that the worker must have a “clear picture” of “what is going on around us” (WITBD?, p. 86-87).

We can conclude that Leninist political exposures are a weapon to reform our method and system of study and to overcome subjectivism. An exposure which evaluates events from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism, which applies in practice the method of dialectical and historical materialism, which is comprehensive in its gathering of facts, topical in its focus and which lays the foundation for political agitation, leaves little room for subjectivism or bowing to spontaneity.

For example, an exposure which evaluates events from a Marxist-Leninist point of view is incompatible with a view which narrows the tasks of revolutionaries. Similarly, an exposure which applies a materialist analysis and materialist estimate of events is incompatible with policy formulated on the basis of personal feelings, subjective imaginings or without regard, to objective conditions. An exposure which is comprehensive must investigate facts thoroughly and systematically and is incompatible with investigation which is unsystematic or superficial or with orders given on the basis of scanty knowledge or a smattering of facts. Also an exposure which is topical is incompatible with a style of work and study which ignores current conditions and the concrete problems of the US revolution. Finally, an exposure which formulates policy and guides practice unites rather than separates theory and practice. In fact, political exposure promotes the unity of theory and practice in two ways: (1) by summing up practice and submitting it to the test of theory, and (2) by formulating policy and submitting that to the test of practice.

Practically, through training by means of political exposure, Marxist-Leninist individuals, local collectives, and larger circles combat subjectivism and break down the fragmentation of our movement by submitting their views, their grasp of the science, their gathering and analysis of facts to the test of the national movement. In the same way, their exposures combat subjectivism and contribute to breaking down our fragmentation when the lessons gained by local activity are not allowed to become an end in themselves but are generalized and summed up to meet the needs of a nationwide revolutionary movement. Finally, they combat subjective tendencies and break down fragmentation when it is the generalized knowledge and experience of the movement as a whole which guides their political activity, rather than conclusions based solely on their own limited experience.

The general lesions of REFORM OUR STUDY is that party building depends on reforming the method and system of study of cadres throughout the party in order to overcome subjectivism and apply Marxism-Leninism. “Only when subjectivism is overthrown,” Mao writes, “can the truth of Marxism-Leninism prevail, can the Party spirit be strengthened, can the revolution be victorious.”

If this applied to the powerful Chinese Communist Party which at the time already had a rich 20 year history, so much the more so does it apply to our own movement which has suffered without a vanguard party for more than 20 years. Reforming the method and system of our study is a condition for party building.

Since they are a vehicle for applying the scientific method of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete problems of US revolution, political exposures are an essential tool for reforming the method and system of our study. They are a means to take up the study of current conditions, to take up the application of history to current conditions, to take up the application of international revolutionary experience to US conditions and to take up the application generally of the universal truths of Marxism-Leninism to the needs of the US revolution.

The vehicle of political exposure to reform the method and system of study must be a nationwide newspaper of the ISKRA type. For one thing, we need a tool which can reach every comrade and every collective in the movement as well as established organizations, so work reports, party schools and other forms of internal organizational study won’t do. We need a tool that can establish ideological authority throughout the movement, lay a line for broadening the scope of our political agitation and establish mutual connections among Marxist-Leninists. The best vehicle at our disposal to accomplish these tasks is still a nationwide newspaper devoted to comprehensive political exposure.