Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

What Is the Way Forward? Opinions from the Ranks

Sink roots, build bases

First Published: The Call, Vol. 10, No. 4, June 1981.
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.

Call Note: As most of our readers already know, the CPML is going through a period of debate and rectification. Wide-ranging democratic discussions are taking place around questions of strategy for making revolution in the U.S. We on The Call staff are trying to give our readers some idea of the currents of debate around certain important questions. The two opinions we are including below were chosen because they reflect some of the discussion within the CPML. In future issues we will include one or two opinion articles to reflect some of the continuing debate.

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From San Diego

We are in the embryonic stages of building a revolutionary movement in this country. If we work patiently and well, as the contradictions of capitalism develop, we will be in a position to contribute to a revolutionary bid for power.

Our work over the next period should be at the grass roots level, where we will earn the respect of the masses through our day-today practice. This work, integrated in a community, on a job or campus, is “basebuilding.”

Basebuilding is the day-to-day work of building up the organization, mobilization and education of the masses in order to struggle against the system of capitalist exploitation. Basebuilding means a lifelong commitment by cadre to live in a community or work in a factory; to share the life of the people, to join their organizations or build new ones, to learn from them and to struggle side by side with them. Our social and family life must develop so that it is linked with the work, not separate from it and seen as an additional burden.

Basebuilding means working on the basis of equality with others to take up the issues that are on the minds of the people. It does not mean imposing our ideas of what “revolutionary” issues are. When we first began work in our community, we thought La Migra must really be a problem because of the high concentration of undocumented Mexicanos in the community. We kept asking about “raids.” No one responded.

But “gangs” and the high crime rate weighed heavily on people’s minds. This led to focusing on the need for jobs and recreation for youth, and as a means of addressing this issue, our youth organization was started.

We have organized primarily around the social, cultural and recreational needs of Chicano youth in this community. Our experience has shown us that organizing around a “simple” issue such as a mural has quickly let to taking up the more traditional “political” issues as well-ending barrio warfare, police harassment and discrimination in the schools. We were able to take up these issues in a popular way because of the organization we had built around the more basic needs of the youth.

We must focus our work and concentrate our forces. The kind of bases we are talking about are not built in “movements.” Instead these bases are built where people collectively focus on their vital interests–in the workplaces, communities and campuses. In each of these places we can strengthen the alliance between the multi-national working class and the movements for national liberation, the core of the forces that will lead our revolution.

We must be specific in an area of basebuilding concentration based on an analysis of local conditions in light of national priorities. In our city, given our limited numbers, we have only two primary areas of work–one community and one factory. We have structured our units around each of these areas. The unit is composed of people who work in the factory or live in the community and others who support that work.

The unit takes up work that is directly or indirectly related to that area and that area only. We don’t feel that one unit can take up several different areas of work and really give the kind of direction that is necessary to build a solid base.

One member in our community unit works in a factory but is not active in the union struggle. It is often a sore temptation to be drawn into a contract struggle, for example, but the nationality organizing is a more important priority for this organizer. A key project would suffer if the member got involved in whatever came along.

The majority of the resources of each of our party’s districts should be focused in relatively few areas, especially now when our districts are skeletons of what they once were. Even after allocating a high proportion of our resources to these two areas, we have made gains, but our influence is still relatively limited. We are certainly not ready to expand into new areas of work.

Nationally we will not be able to continue having one cadre working with the anti-nuke forces, another with the anti-draft movement and another with the Chicano movement, etc. We have to sacrifice contact and involvement with some of these forces.

We are not saying that people should disappear into basebuilding. In fact our participation in some coalitions has been meaningful because we entered from bases. We have seen this begin to occur in the Chicano movement. Through our community work we have built stronger ties with other organizations and have participated in the August 29th Coalition and End Barrio Warfare Struggle, laying a real foundation for the united front.

Our work in these broader spheres has at the same time strengthened our basebuilding work. The youth group gained inspiration, a sense of commitment and unity from their participation in the August 29th and End Barrio Warfare struggles. We have been able to utilize these experiences to engage in various forms of revolutionary education.

Ultimately from consistent work, a base in a factory, community or school will result in organized support for the revolutionary work we are doing. We will build a stable circle of people actively taking up the work, including a core of people who learn to exercise leadership. From among these people will come a section of leadership that views its responsibility to build the struggle and is interested in the cause of oppression.

Some will look at socialism as a solution. As a result of these accomplishments, more established leaders will meet with us, not because they like us but because we are entrenched in the struggle and because we have shown mutual respect for them, their work and their organizations.

Communists in general, and our organization in particular, will play an important role in an American revolution because we have won support from people over the years. During this period of little activity and low level of consciousness and skepticism of Marxism-Leninism, we need to develop that support in specific places in order to be in a position to take advantage of upheavals when they occur.

While an emphasis on base-building does not answer some of the “big questions” about what socialism will look like, etc., we feel that we should admit our relative ignorance and be willing to develop our future tactics and visions of socialism based on our work amongst the people over a long term.

This has not been the orientation of our party in practice in the past. Today some arguments seem to be one big scheme for electoral work versus another big scheme to build a new anti-Reagan coalition. We need to address important questions like the meaning of Reagan’s election and the growth of the New Right.

But we don’t need to draw from our bases into some nationwide campaign in an attempt to catapult our tiny party into nationwide significance. To the extent we can, we should participate; and when we have built healthy organizations in our bases we can further concentrate on these larger efforts and use one to build the other.