Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jerry Tung

The Socialist Road

Character of Revolution in the U.S. and Problems of Socialism in the Soviet Union and China

Jerry Tung

Presentation to the Central Committee, November 1980

In the country as a whole, workers are not fundamentally swinging to the right. They are disoriented now and will get more disoriented. Reagan’s election means streamlining, much more repression, and a great deal more hardship for the working class. But the reality will blow away the clouds in front of people’s eyes. Reagan will sober people up faster and clearer than Carter.

Liberalism, the illusory liberalism of the 60’s, is dead. It has no basis in the 80’s, in an economy pumped up by deficit financing and relative stabilization. It was more like a dream–people lived a little better and the standard of living stabilized a little. But it’s like a puff of air that just evaporates.

People are scared. They are lashing out against their neighbors, their wives, minorities, anyone within reach. A disoriented man, a wounded man, can hurt a lot of people, his own family included. At the same time, people are awakening and opening up. Their clouded vision is clearing, the unclarities resolving. That’s very significant. From our perspective, it’s an indispensable part of the long-term emancipation of the working class. In that sense, in the final analysis, these changes in the political scenery can help us. We cannot vacillate on this question, or we will not try to win them over, particularly white workers.

It is a critical time in which we have to push out boldly. There is a tremendous vacuum of leadership in the working class. The labor aristocrats are exposed and their credibility is gone. The grip of the labor aristocrats and misleaders has been decisively loosened. Their hold is very weak and we must replace them. This is the time to go in.

In the superstructure, the bourgeoisie is able to skillfully streamline their “hereditary domain” to generate a mood in their favor and swindle the masses.

Given what we’ve learned from the campaigns of the past year, given our boldness and confidence, we can make a big impact. People are looking for leadership. The Communist Workers Party will be known and solidly established not only as leaders in the Afro-American national movement, among minorities, but also as leaders in the trade unions and workers’ movement.

In terms of party-building, we want to grow very big very fast. We have to build a mass vanguard party. Recruiting one-by-one won’t make it. We have to recruit leaders who have whole circles. Lenin said that if there is “one Marxist among them all, you can recruit the whole group.” This kind of party-building requires building from above as well as below. Not only does the line have to be tight, but the prestige of the party leadership must be clearly established. People can’t relate to a faceless party and won’t join a party without concrete representatives. They will be won over and consolidated only if they can see a concrete representative of leadership from the beginning. They will follow based on our staunchness and general political line on fighting the bourgeoisie, without understanding all the ins and outs of lines and of Marxism. And their respect for a concrete representative will help in the initial year or two–like glue that helps them stick for a while until they get trained politically and trained on the Party’s line.


But the mass party can’t be built unless we solve the leadership problem. We set a guidepost for 1980 which we have not met.

We’re summing up why and re-evaluating our whole concept of a revolutionary core. The comrades who came out of the third period and the workers recruited since then who have been in the Party for the last few years are the core. If we compare ourselves to the level of the Bolsheviks, we’re close to it on a one-to-one basis in terms of consolidation on Marxism. But while we follow the principle of “Iskra core” under the U.S. conditions, we cannot conclude with those words and wage class struggle in the United States based on that premise. What does it take to build up the Party in the United States, an advanced capitalist country7 What are the objective criteria necessary for leadership to build up the Party to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish workers’ rule under U.S. conditions?

Temperament Not Enough

I always use this example: Lenin said that after seizing state power, the old Bolsheviks, with over 100 commissions and a cadre core of 4,000-5,000 old revolutionaries, couldn’t even import a can of meat. They got bogged down in bureaucracy and couldn’t make any decisions. They had to go through layer upon layer of red tape and still it rested on Lenin to personally decide such administrative matters. We face a similar situation. We have to look deeper and ask why.

Lenin said 99 out of 100 old Bolsheviks were good for nothing in terms of continuing the revolution in Russia. They had strong revolutionary temperament and fierce loyalty, but they just couldn’t lead. Lenin went through a lot of changes. Finally, as the war ended, he shifted gears to the New Economic Policy. He made concessions with the German Kaiser (the Brest-Litovsk Treaty) to buy time to deal with the problems crippling the dictatorship of the proletariat. Mass famine was tearing the workers and peasants away from the Soviets, breaking the worker-peasant alliance. Industries came to a standstill and the working class lost their only weapon–organization. Lenin wrote many articles, among them “Better Fewer, But Better” and articles on establishing worker-peasant inspection teams, control commissions, etc. to try to solve the enormous organizational problems after seizure of state power. He began to appreciate the fact that consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat was more difficult than seizure of state power in the Soviet Union. Mao programmatically summed up this problem at the Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China.

“Well-Shod on All Four Feet”

Lenin said that in advanced capitalist countries it’s harder to seize state power: problems that face the party only after seizing state power in underdeveloped countries exist before seizing state power in advanced capitalist countries. Lenin wrote in “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder,

To show how “revolutionary” one is solely by hurling abuse at parliamentary opportunism, solely by repudiating participation in parliaments, is very easy; but just because it is too easy, it is not the solution for a difficult, a very difficult problem. It is much more difficult to create a really revolutionary parliamentary group in a European parliament than it was in Russia. Of course. But that is only a particular expression of the general truth that it was easy for Russia, in the specific, historically very unique situation of 1917, to start the socialist revolution, but it will be more difficult for Russia than for the European countries to continue the revolution and bring it to its consummation. I had occasion to point this out already at the beginning of 1918, and our experience of the past two years has entirely confirmed the correctness of this view. (“left”-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder)

Many comrades still have no idea what the broadness of the preparatory activities of the Party must encompass. They don’t know what sacrifices comrades make. For example, the same people who don’t see the need for finance line and policy are those who think that all you need to be a revolutionary is temperament. They don’t understand why you have to worry about organization or anything else. We’ve been criticizing this tendency all along. Historical experience merits attention.

Our preparation now must include many things the Russian, Chinese and Zimbabwean revolutionaries dealt with only after seizure of state power. Most of the Bolsheviks’ later difficulties are problems we confront now. This is a question of the character of revolution in the United States. In the past, we have referred to “all-round preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat,” “universal preparation,” and being “well-shod on all four feet.” This is a consistent theme in our party-building line. There are two lines and a life-and-death struggle on this question in the Party.

The Zimbabwean revolution is going through tremendous difficulties right now. The Zimbabwean African National Union is going among Zimbabwean students overseas to recruit middle- and high-level officials. They have to lure capital into the country and hold onto what’s there. The British reneged on their promise of compensation for the white farms, some of the better land bought from the settler farmers. Some opportunists, along with the sinister British Economist, dismiss ZANU for restoring capitalism and say ZANU is not socialist, that it has betrayed the revolution because Mugabe is begging the imperialists for money. You have to spit right in these people’s faces, because either they don’t know a damn thing about revolution, or they’re downright sinister like the old British colonialists. The assorted Trotskyite elements don’t understand that revolution is a struggle with concrete necessities for freedom. Necessity takes different forms from country to country and armed struggle is only one form.

The Bolsheviks and Chinese communists faced problems identical to the Zimbabweans. After the October Revolution in Russia, the Bolsheviks had no money. They had state power, but no money and no division of labor on financial matters. Lenin sent two bodyguards to the bank and moved a quantity of gold to his office. He locked it up in his own drawer and that was the beginning of the Treasury Department of the Soviet Union. That’s how primitive the Bolsheviks were in the financial sphere as late as 1917. Before that they had to run around robbing banks to deal with the problem.

Smash Idealism

We must smash idealism on this question. Do you know how the CPC or ZANU maintained themselves? They took from the people. In the main, they used armed force to take grain from the people. Sure, they called mass meetings. That was the difference between the CPC and the Kuomintang–the KMT didn’t call mass meetings because the masses were not their kind. They just kicked down doors, took the supplies, and moved on. They also received aid from U.S. imperialism. The CPC utilized persuasion and reason was on their side. But in the final analysis, they still had to take from the people. This should smash any trace of romantic idealism. It is at best sheer romanticism and at worst reactionary idealism to think all problems are solved before revolution. Real revolution is not as easy-going and refined as you may think. It’s brutal. And sometimes you will do things which under other circumstances you wouldn’t conceive of doing.

The ranks of the Eighth Route Army of China were mostly children of peasants who were starving to death in rural China. Peasants gave their kids to the Red Army. The CPC didn’t recruit them from groups studying Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and New Democracy. That’s not how most of them joined the revolution. Some of them might have been in the army for 10 years without seeing a book by Marx or Lenin. Revolution in third world countries mainly requires having the armed forces on your side. It’s less a matter of organization and intrigue and political skill than in a country like the United States.

Romanticism Deadly

I exaggerate a little to draw out how romanticism about revolution can be deadly. Even the Bolsheviks’ preparation was not that thoroughgoing and they relied mainly on one form. Workers were concentrated in major industries and in a few big cities, mainly Moscow and St. Petersburg, cities numerically smaller than San Diego and Greensboro. It was a lot easier to create public opinion. Without TV bombarding people’s minds, it was the bourgeois press vs. the communist press, their “whisper in the ear” vs. the Bolsheviks. Winning over the majority of workers in the key industrial centers was not as difficult as winning over the majority of advanced workers in the United States.

Here the population is greater and spread over a much larger area. The U.S. bourgeoisie have at their disposal national TV, networks of papers, reformist misleaders, etc., to counter our postering, distribution of our papers, and our own struggles. So we have to overcome those problems with creativity. That’s why our preparation for the dictatorship of the proletariat has to be comprehensive and all-rounded.

Comprehensive in All Spheres

The character of our professional revolutionary core must flow from the very character of U.S. society and revolution. Knowing that the working class is the motive force is not enough. All revisionists and Trotskyites know that. We must know how to rally and uplift the American workers from their present state of wage slavery based on their present state of mind. In the coming period, the spontaneous objective and subjective conditions in the United States will be crucial. The task is to seek out and grasp the manifold and variegated paths to reach the working class, tap the masses’ creativity and initiative, and win them over. It is a trial of strength, between the bourgeoisie’s and petty bourgeoisie’s control of public-opinion making apparatus, and ours.

The character of U.S. revolution is mainly a manifold political struggle. Lenin shed some light on this after he seized state power and saw the difficulties of consolidating it in the Soviet Union. In a speech to the Third International of parties of advanced capitalist countries, he said that the more thoroughgoing the exploiters’ rule is, the harder the preparation to overthrow them. But after seizing state power, it will be relatively easier to consolidate than in peasant countries. All previously successful revolutions had the opposite problem. That’s the perspective on the problem of the character of revolution.

That’s why in the last two years, particularly in the last year after the Founding Congress, we’ve built up many more departments to comprehensively prepare for the upcoming struggle. To recruit broadly is a condition for that preparation. If we’re not able to recruit different kinds of people for different kinds of jobs and grow rapidly, it will block the Party. We will not be able to meet the needs of class struggle, to prepare and wage struggle on all fronts. And that’s why the comparable level of the Russian Iskra core is not good enough for the United States. The old Iskra core transplanted to the United States won’t make it. Our core has to be far more comprehensive and as a whole on a higher level than the old Russia Iskra core. This is a very important conclusion. From that perspective and in retrospect, the core we have now is far smaller than we need. That’s also the main reason why we cannot grow rapidly into a mass party. And if we grow numerically among the middle elements, we’ll collapse back again. It’s not that we don’t have friends and supporters. It’s the core that makes the difference.

Revolutionary tide ebbs and flows, even under socialism, and a core is necessary as a constant to orchestrate the fronts of struggle and win the masses. At revolutionary high tides, the masses are at their best and perform miracles. At low tides, they turn inward, just looking after themselves and becoming selfish and uncooperative. The core has to be able to weather those changes, sustain the work and prepare for high tide. Definition by the core of the tasks for the Party is critical. From the perspective of the character of U.S. revolution, our core is far, far smaller than we need.

Objective Criteria for Core

Chairman Mao once said that with 200 genuine Marxists in the country, the CPC’s problems would be solved. In the same spirit, we have to look critically at our core. We have to judge it by objective criteria – what must be done and what abilities are necessary to lead revolution in advanced capitalist countries. The core is very strong and we have a very dedicated, committed party. The composition is very proletarian. The political line is very strong. But don’t mistake a strong core with a comprehensive and professional core. To overthrow the bourgeoisie, we must accomplish definite tasks requiring definite abilities. In many areas we are close to acquiring those abilities, but we’re not meeting the objective demand. Therefore the forging of our core is not yet completed.

In third world countries, if they don’t establish socialist ownership after seizing state power, if the armed forces are not on the side of revolution, if they can’t consolidate, then there’s danger of restoration and going backwards. In an advanced capitalist country like the United States, we won’t even seize state power. We won’t even come close to it. That’s why the objective criteria for the U.S. Iskra core, the core of leaders, have to be built. There are certain jobs and responsibilities that we have to train people to take. There’s no other way out of it.

Now, there’s a danger of the “blaming line”–blaming middle-level leadership for not being good enough, as if that’s why we don’t grow rapidly. We held this line about a year before the Founding Congress. Yes, the danger of having the same line exists. But I don’t think it will prevail. The reason is that the resulting measure proposed is different. If it were the same “blaming line,” then we would just sort comrades out ideologically. That’s not the solution put forth. We propose a comprehensive and political solution. We have to define the necessary jobs and responsibilities, how to recruit for them and also to train for them politically.

That I have to intervene in small decisions shows that we don’t have the necessary leadership to lead different areas. It is in the administration, the experience of organizing that we have to be able to beat the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie. The proletariat needs very efficient organization to do that. The proletariat has the most powerful rudimentary organization but is not known for professionalism. If we can accomplish that, it means we’re solving the problems which the Bolsheviks and Chinese communists were not able to solve in their revolutions. There’s tremendous historic significance to that.

In terms of “cultural” background, the proletariat stands a better chance of success in this country than in any other country. The significance of gaining comparable experience and achieving efficient organization and professionalism in spheres such as finance, management and production is historic. In Russia, railroads were crippled and people starved; in Zimbabwe and Iran, plants have shut down for lack of management and people to organize the production. We must gain expertise now in those spheres. It will give us tremendous confidence, and seal the verdict that the CWP will seize state power. That’s why we have to imbue comrades with the perspective of the character of revolution in advanced capitalist countries, so the discipline will be forged.

We have to build up all the various areas in order to reach out to the majority. But leading them is a whole different question. Whether each area, both in the base and superstructure, will be able to make it is not solved. So ensuring the comprehensive leadership that can take the ball and run with it in the correct direction is key. That’s the question of cadre core.

Combination of Methods

Directives alone will not mobilize or consolidate people. This is not “war-time” communism. (The situation is moving that way, but “war time” has to be mainly defined by us.) We have to combine different methods–reward, ideological and political education, competition, organizational measures, and command. War-time communism is based on emergencies, like war conditions. In Russia, people made revolution based on the mass slogan, “Bread, Peace and Land,” because they were dying and couldn’t take it anymore. But following the revolution, war continued, famine spread, and imperialists were meddling. Commands could not organize economic life. In 1921, Lenin devised the New Economic Policy to develop state capitalism and made concessions to the German imperialists to buy time for Soviet reconstruction. The Russia Communist Party realized they could not mobilize people by command alone. They had to carry out political education, socialist competition, and emulation campaigns like the Subbotniks (free Saturday labor). A whole series of comprehensive measures had to be taken in all spheres, most important of which was use of bourgeois experts.


A consistent line struggle throughout our party’s history concerns integrating the organizational sphere with politics. At the end of 19781 wrote a resolution for a Party conference which addressed this question. It said that broad political sweep requires higher organization. Class struggle gets liquidated if we only stress political sweep, study, and theoretical campaigns. After a while, we can become uprooted. To forge tight organization, we systematized the Party policies. We stressed that lines without policies have only half a life and codified the policies.

Part of grasping policy is grasping the need for them, persevering at your post, and implementing the tasks assigned by the Party. Division of labor is intended to strengthen implementation of the line. Some comrades still do just what they spontaneously love to do and lack perseverance to stay at their posts. They can never develop any nuclei though they are revolutionary in temperament. They can’t professionalize in any area because the effort is not there to stick to the post and deepen the roots. If cadres move like nomads from post to post instead of persevering and fighting, it’s mass confusion. Comrades will burn out.

Besides these two main aspects of theory and policy, and the need to integrate them tightly, we also require boldness. If comrades don’t engage the enemy, dare to fight the bourgeoisie, and love to get involved in class struggle, they will certainly lose perspective. The training to integrate politics with organization must be in the course of class struggle. Boldness means active training through practice, to size up and implement, rather than talk, talk, talk.

The fourth criterion is mass line. Mass line helps us find dynamic, manifold paths to creatively unleash the workers around us. Mass line is absolutely necessary to do “live” and “breathing,” rather than stale, revolutionary work. The fifth criterion is a proletarian internationalist outlook to unite with the working class movement and the majority of people here and around the world. We have to respect their experiences and critically learn from their experiences to serve this revolution.

These five criteria are integral parts of a single entity–a materialist communist. The best way of putting it is still “a person able to find independent bearings,” as Dimitroff said. Independent bearings essentially come from studying Marxism and criticizing revisionism in the course of solving problems in the real class struggle.

We’re in an excellent situation. But it can turn into its opposite. We have many areas both in the base and superstructure in operation, but there is a weakness in political leadership. The development of political line falls too much on me, but political lines are too rich, manifold and all-dimensional for any one person. No individual can deal with all aspects of political lines well. Other comrades must shoulder some of the work of developing lines and come forth with proposals and more processed materials so I can synthesize them into more correct lines.

Gaps Between Our Line and Practice

There are several examples of summed-up incorrect lines in practice, where there is a difference between what the Party says and what the Party does. One is the line on base and superstructure work. In the May Day 1978 speech, I said that in the context of the character of revolution in an advanced capitalist country, Jim Haughton objectively had a better approach for minority construction workers than we did because of his superstructure work with minority contractors. But our practice didn’t change and the United Construction Workers just agitated against cops everywhere they went. They refused to work with minority contractors in principle because they’re non-proletarian elements. As a result, they remained a handful of people rather than broadening out. After a while, even the staunchest wanted to leave and get jobs through negotiations instead of confrontation in daily “shapes.” Finally the UCW disbanded.

Another example of the base/superstructure line is our National Coalition to Support African Liberation work. We did build it successfully. And we summed up that having award dinners, fund-raising luncheons, etc. was the best way to tap certain strata. Essentially we correctly utilized their networks. But then we reacted to a right line which wanted to cancel a demonstration because Congress was not in session. That reaction, together with our efforts soon after to build up the Party superstructure, resulted in our dropping the NCSAL ties. A couple of comrades struggled for us to maintain them but in practice we left them on the side.

A similar practice occurred in the Confucius Plaza struggle in New York Chinatown. We did the grassroots work well and it became the focus of the whole New York City struggle. Then some White House representatives came down. But we didn’t want to meet with them and just ignored them. We even cursed out a progressive assemblywoman, Friedlander. So we summed up there was an incorrect line.

Electoral Tactics

Again with electoral tactics. We successfully ran a comrade in a local election. So we have experience in electoral tactics and parliamentary work, though on a low level. It’s broad and highly charged emotionally. Everybody in the neighborhood knew our candidate and greeted her on the streets. One of the national newspapers even had to write an editorial about the election.

We have done successful superstructure work but overall in practice there has been a superficiality of line that’s based on empiricism, spontaneous experience. Verbal arguments dismiss everything: “Masses don’t relate to elections. They’re sick of politicians. That’s not where their temperament’s at... If you run, you’ll get discredited.”

First, an electoral campaign offers a platform. People distinguish what you say and it’s an occasion to rally public opinion. Second, it dispels fear and spontaneous reaction to communism. It opens doors and provides some access to bourgeois media–how many and how much, of course, depends on your skill. There’s something instinctively good even about the people who voted for Reagan and Carter–even though they’re being manipulated, they’re trying to weigh the two candidates and figure something out. The effort they make to register to vote and participate in a process they think will help is very valuable. That active involvement, organization and consciousness to get involved don’t exist in the Soviets of the Soviet Union or People’s Congress of China for historical reasons. In the Soviets, the vote is simply up or down, even though candidates have a correct line. There’s no mass discussion and no mobilization of masses on the correct line.

Fundamental to the proletariat in this country is that, first of all, they have the basic facts and are at the level to discuss the issues. Second, they have the necessary organization and desire to get involved. These things are very precious, relative to the proletariat’s condition in other societies, yet we dismiss them. Objectively we downgrade the proletariat, and white workers in particular. True, the consciousness of oppressed nationalities, particularly Afro-Americans, is generally higher. Some know elections are totally sham and won’t vote for that reason. But for some there’s not the necessary consciousness to get involved because of being declassed, unemployed, having irregular and destitute lives. So there are two sides to why people vote or don’t vote. We can’t just explain it away simplistically, because we are dealing with a highly organized stratum of workers. Even the bourgeoisie draws that conclusion.

The line that people who vote in elections are backward is an intellectual anarchist argument. Politically, the only alternatives presented are Carter and Reagan. TV and schools teach people imperialist reasoning on imports and a host of other issues, and it’s all people have to work with. Look deeper than that. We have to hate the manipulation but treasure their participation. It’s very precious.

Know All Classes

When our political line loses depth, our practice drifts spontaneously in whatever direction is easiest. This is linked to comrades’ inability to size up independently and an integral part of the same problem. There’s no way you can size up politically and find independent bearings if you don’t understand all classes. We must defeat metaphysics and one-sidedness in our thinking and adopt dialectical materialism, view things all-roundedly and comprehensively in all their interconnections.

United front work brings out a good example. Most areas cannot do united front work and base work simultaneously, so we created a division of labor for building united fronts and proceeded to analyze each area individually. Setting up divisions of labor was correct, but organizational measures are no substitute for solving problems of political line and organizational professionalism. A particular area may be unable to carry out united front work, but it is still necessary to struggle for understanding of the need for such work and of the relationships among classes. Otherwise an argument that the masses don’t relate to elections easily leads to the argument that communists shouldn’t use electoral tactics. One thing leads to another and soon to absurdity.

If the solution is for a national body to handle united fronts, the base leadership only has to size up the character of the proletariat, and never learns to gauge the state and consciousness of the petty bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie, all the other political forces at work, and how they will relate to the workers. If you only look at the sentiment of the masses, you miss the petty bourgeoisie’s objective problems and sentiments, as well as the bourgeoisie’s problems and irresoluble contradictions. The tendency not to size up all strata and classes is reinforced by taking organizational measures without struggling over the political line.

Size Up Politically

If you only look at the masses, all you can say is that the masses want revolution, the masses want to do this, the masses want to do that. But after a while such comrades can never independently size up the larger political situation, cannot develop factory nuclei, cannot even lead any community struggles. You cannot sustain any struggle.

For instance, in a union like 1199, you must understand the union’s political problems, the difficulties of the union bureaucrats (whom you don’t see every day), and the problems of the monopolies in the health industry and the so-called consumers, the patients. Otherwise, you will not understand and appreciate the work in the base and there is no way you can lead a struggle in the base. You may lead a one-shot action like a walkout, but you can’t shift gears. You must know that the masses’ tide will rise only so far and then, with certain concessions, you must work in the superstructure. The masses cannot come out to daily demonstrations, so the intensity subsides. Through the superstructure, in negotiations or whatever, you must rally them, focus their attention, do agitation and propaganda to maintain their interest. Then take advantage of the enemy’s mistakes to rally the masses and bring them out again for another high tide in the mass movement.

But you won’t succeed if you just repeat, “Mass sentiment is this, mass sentiment is that.” You cannot sustain the struggle wave upon wave. If comrades know the sentiments of the workers, but don’t assess the sentiments of the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie, there’s no way you can lead the proletariat politically.

As I said, organizational solutions just reinforce the one-sidedness. After a while, comrades in industrial concentrations will say, “What am I doing here, anyway?” Following up workers one by one, how long can you go on? You wonder because you don’t understand that by organizing a caucus or becoming a shop steward, you can take over the whole union. But if you don’t size up all strata, you don’t have perspective on the whole union–the labor aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, the state of the industry, the problems of the bosses–and you won’t know how to maneuver. You’ll burn out and won’t persevere–“I haven’t been recruiting workers, so forget it.” You don’t see that even though today not a single worker follows you, tomorrow you could be running the whole union or the whole country if you do your work right.

Independent political bearings and the ability to size up require training to gauge all classes and critically struggling over this political line. The example of the base and superstructure is one illustration. We hear about it and talk about it year after year. We have an incorrect line in practice because of one demagogic argument, a leap in logic, that replaces a scientific line with a sentiment. It hurts the whole Party seriously. No wonder Lenin said that sentiment under certain conditions is like cowardice in war time. The line determines the cadre core, whether an area will grow and grow without collapsing back or its development will be blocked.

Defeat Doctrinairism

Our line on the petty bourgeoisie has been incorrect mainly due to inexperience. We must adopt a scientific perspective on Marxist social categories as a guide to our practice. We must defeat doctrinairism, which is basically idealist determinism. The problem is categorization, due to comrades’ dogmatic frame of mind. This is particular to all young revolutionaries. The best example is the attitude toward a very able woman who was admitted to Harvard Law School but joined the Party instead and worked in the proletariat. She rose to a high position in the union and all her friends are local trade union presidents. Then she got stuck in economism, couldn’t cope, and dropped out of the Party. She remains loyal to the Party and brings her friends to Party events. You could call her friends labor aristocrats–they’re young presidents, in their 30’s or 40’s, and very capable.

But comrades in the area have a terrible attitude about her and her friends–that you don’t work with them because they’re bureaucrats. That’s totally incorrect. It’s really deadening, petrifying Marxism. It’s like your mind has become a stone instead of grasping living Marxism. Marxism is a social science. It doesn’t determine individuals. So you have to examine this group of trade union presidents more closely. They’re generally young, able and had to fight their way up to their positions. They’re genuine fighters, at least in the beginning, and they are broad-minded. They have to deal with different political groups like Trots and so on. But they have special ties to us because of our good trade union work.

Labor aristocrats form a stratum of people who are bribed, but the material basis for bribing them is crumbling. Even when the labor aristocracy was solid, some were real fighters and real leaders. Social science defines a class, a stratum, but not every single individual. What determines a stratum does not determine every member of it. One bribed labor aristocrat today, if his best friends are communists, can change. We believe in the dynamic role of the subjective factor, not determinism and predestination: you’re born, become a trade union president, and you’re a sellout. Life is not like that and that petrified thinking and dogmatism block us from reaching many people. It’s doctrinairism: proceeding from formulae instead of reality.

We polemicized against the old October League on this question. We said a stratum as a whole will not change as long as the material basis for it exists, but individuals can change, especially if you work at creating favorable conditions. Exactly how many change depends on how much pull you have and how much leadership you exercise. It also depends on whether the stratum is on the rise or decline, and in the case of the labor movement, whether it’s a generation of fossilized misleaders or new forces who want to fight. We’re using a living science–it shows us the historical direction and general category of things, but it’s not deterministic. We have to break through the young Marxists’ dogmatism. If they seriously think Marxism is categorizing people and think people cannot change, they’re useless as communists. Tell them: “You have to change. If you don’t, you’ll turn the Party into a sect.”

Beware of Campaigns

Another crucial point relates to swings and campaigns. Every time we do a Party campaign, there is a certain stress and certain other aspects of work are liquidated. Similarly, during the Cultural Revolution in China, for instance, the intensity of struggle in the ideological/political sphere stopped economic construction for two or three years. Recovery started in 1971.

In leading the CWP, we’ve learned that this problem of swings is due to lack of a comprehensive cadre core. Last year after the Founding Congress, the bourgeoisie attacked us and we had to counterattack. Before that we had done one or two campaigns a year. But last year we had four, and even though the Party’s influence swelled, the deepening aspect, the development of factory nuclei, suffered.

As we said in the theses of the Second Plenary (of the Central Committee), we want to broaden out and reach out to the majority in order to deepen. Actually the broadening should lay the basis to deepen. Objectively, comrades could not bring people out for campaigns when they lacked independent bearings and lacked established roots in factory nuclei. When they can’t bring people out, they do the campaign by themselves and leave the workers behind. Instead of deepening the ties, this isolates the Party. Stressing a campaign cause a one-sidedness that you pay for in a big way.

Is it correct to have campaigns at all? We still think the answer is “yes.” Most comrades and friends cannot see revolution on a day-to-day basis in their own workplaces unless there’s a big strike or struggle. They see the possibility of revolution when a lot of people are in motion. People who are at a relatively low level politically can begin to get involved through campaigns, and they give people the feel of revolution, a sense of its fervor and inspiration.

Orchestrate Like a Symphony

We must orchestrate our campaigns like a symphony orchestra. Every single piece has to play and play correctly. If you start playing, an area that has no nuclei will be isolated and left behind. A word of caution about initiating a campaign to promote national leadership, especially myself as General Secretary. Unless we orchestrate correctly and have overall strong leadership, the authority will become paternalistic. I have to be out there, relating to the masses, not just described or shown in pictures. Lenin, Stalin and Mao faced the same problem. For me to be in that sphere, directly relating to the masses, the political leadership in the Central Committee must be strong and political input guaranteed. Masses relate to authority with idealization. When people see Cesar Chavez, they see a halo around his head. We respect that basically good instinct to hold onto leadership, but for the Party to push out national leadership, development of the political line at the top must be assured. Then my leadership can be based on more highly synthesized and stronger political proposals. That’s one condition to counter the danger of paternalism. It will also create conditions for me to be more involved in front-line class struggle and meet the people face-to-face.

We must be very, very careful in calling for a Party campaign. A campaign on one issue or for rectification of a problem will necessarily weaken some other aspect of our work–until we understand more about how to do it correctly. During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, there were the same problems of one area suffering because of emphasis on another. Of all our campaigns, the campaign to serve notice to the politicians, culminating in the Democratic National Convention, was the best. All areas participated, doing their own mobilization, independently sizing up and making decisions. We got bolder and more confident.

But the campaign was so thoroughgoing that some areas were uprooted from the proletariat. Even though our influence and prestige are higher than ever before, our immediate ties with the masses are less than during the periods of “biting in” and concentric attack. The emphasis in the coming period will be to reestablish those immediate ties by picking up immediate struggles and to build or revive some mass organizations. The Party’s initiative and independence are higher than ever before.

Comrades in all areas have to be sharp on political line and do as Chairman Mao said: “Go all out to realize greater, faster and better results at lower costs.” The character of revolution in the United States dictates that we succeed in every sphere we’ve entered. We can’t wait until seizure of state power to worry about the many tasks we’ve defined. If we don’t succeed now, we won’t come close to state power. People in all spheres have to fight for the political line, implement it and exert leadership as applied to each particular area. If this is not done, we have to take organizational measures. We cannot afford to be tied down by one or two areas which are stuck and lose overall initiative. Right now the spirit of life-and-death struggle to guarantee the different spheres is weak or absent in some areas. Our positive solution is for the Party to grow in numbers as well as quality. We are stressing numerical growth in order to have a larger pool of people with varied talents and skills. We’re not going to grow in general–we have to grow into tasks. We recruit people into tasks. The key is still leadership.


I have touched on several points–the line is out, incorrect lines are beginning to be pointed out, and we really have to dig them out. If we don’t, the discrepancy between line and practice will kill us. I find that I’m repeating myself in doing sum-ups recently. Beyond these points and policies, there is something fundamentally not right, something we are not able to resolve. We can and have enumerated aspects, but we cannot look just at the individual aspects.

One example is the repeated struggle against the phenomenon of exaggeration. Comrades’ revolutionary spirit and motivation should definitely be commended and encouraged. But we have struggled against exaggeration of our own strength, not the strategic strength of the Party, but overblown estimates of how many people we have in a demonstration, how weak the enemy is, particularly the state and the opportunists. The Center must have accurate information to lead. I become subjective when comrades exaggerate because wrong information leads to wrong decisions.

Another repeated phenomenon which won’t go away is doctrinairism, proceeding from formulae and fixed concepts instead of concretes. Dialectical materialism means using the generalized lessons of class struggle and Marxism to understand and dissect reality. This is the only way to utilize the dynamic role of the subjective factor most effectively to change concrete conditions for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

A third phenomenon is comrades in the nuclei and areas being excessively bogged down in debates, unable to push out, engage the enemy full-tilt, and persevere to the end. Internal debates sap a great deal of energy. Instead of a continuous process of study and direct immediate class struggle, there is talk for a few months and then practice for a few weeks. Lack of continuity, because campaigns emphasized by the Central Committee swung work in the concentrations this way and that, negates work built up over a long period of time. Even after extensive discussion, comrades do not persevere. A lot of talk, a little practice.

The fourth repeated struggle concerns organizational looseness and the lack of a stable party system to resolve contradictions in the course of class struggle. Part of this is leadership’s avoiding strong organizational measures, failing to decisively sum up work, resolutely make decisions and changes, and stick by those decisions. This reflects lack of professionalism, lack of professional efficiency and definiteness. Part and parcel of this phenomenon has been the lack of a system of leadership to judge comrades that is not based on individual leadership. We are instituting a system whereby a panel will judge people with set criteria, communist “laws” which codify policies. We will assess fulfillment of guideposts, character of work and implementation of decisions. Lack of this system up to now has contributed to the amateurishness and inefficiency and increased the tendency to develop bureaucratism. There has also been insufficient division of labor in leadership between developing political line and the day-to-day supervision and implementation of decisions. We require an atmosphere of vigor, socialist competition and lively spirit, and a meticulous, prudent manner of work. When these are lacking, which has been often, bureaucracy threatens.

Spiritual Communism

The Party’s practice still reflects “spiritual communism” and idealist tendencies. The fact that these phenomena recur often is particularly disturbing and indicates a deeper problem. I’m not talking about young, inexperienced comrades or advanced individuals beginning to study the science of Marxism. I’m talking about experienced cadres, leading comrades, area leadership, the comrades who should be a highly professional core. Leadership guided by spiritual communism, rather than historical communism coupled with a staunch spirit, will cripple the Party. Spiritual communism is fighting in the general spirit, instead of understanding communism as an historical science and drawing inspiration, having deep-down confidence, from that.

How can we speed the development of our professional cadre core? What is the force retarding the development of the CWP core? This core must meet the demands not of conditions in Russia or China, but the challenge of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the United States. We must develop the CWP to the point where it is, in fact, a government in exile–the working class power and leadership in exile–so that we can rapidly seize state power for the proletariat as soon as an opportunity arises.

These phenomena recur for two reasons. The first is lack of experience. Historically, we have talked about how we have to try things out before we understand their meaning in relation to historical experience. Young communists have license to make mistakes one, two, or three times, but I won’t dwell on this.

Dismissing Historical Experience

More important, these phenomena are not isolated and there is line basis for the whole. We have suffered from a lack of understanding of Marxism, in terms of an integral teaching of Marxism, in particular the historical experiences of the proletariat worldwide, in the Soviet Union, China, Zimbabwe, Eastern Europe and the Communist Party, U.S.A. before its degeneration. An incorrect line has negated those experiences instead of critically examining them and putting our tasks here into perspective. Our line dismissed the historical experiences of both the Soviet Union and China, leading to doctrinairism and shallowness.

A line of just negating, criticizing and eliminating does not lead to larger scientific thinking and in fact, it backfires. Dismissing the historical experiences of the Soviet Union and China and taking the simple position that the bourgeoisie, bourgeois ideology, and bourgeois production relations should all be eliminated, without looking at the mechanics of how, we inevitably developed a very shallow line. That ideology-negation is very simplistic–“Down with everything!” With that outlook, we will be unable to use Marxism as a guide to really learn all the specific laws of how to overthrow the bourgeoisie in this country and how to build a socialist society. In an advanced capitalist country, this involves far more trials of strength in far more spheres than in a third world country and requires far more than the spirit of negation. Our line would become a nihilist line, if we were to block from our thinking the infinitely rich forms of class struggle. And we would certainly not solve in practice the question of how to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in the United States.

Reject Simplistic Answers

We have belittled the experience of other countries in the arenas of socialist construction–how to develop a superior organization that concretely solves problems area by area. How do you deal with the relationship between overall planning and self-sufficiency in light industries and agriculture? How do you create a sphere of proletarian culture, using all the knowledge and lessons of both foreign and domestic culture? How do you concentrate the fruits of the sweat and blood of the laboring masses to help build socialism? Only when we delve into the how of these questions will our line become richer, livelier, and more vigorous. Otherwise it’s zombie-like and one-dimensional. We have had two-line struggle on this since the Party’s inception. We have engaged seriously in class struggle in sphere after sphere and to that extent made historical accomplishments. The more our practice develops, the more we appreciate the difficulties involved in each sphere and we must reject simplistic answers to problems of class struggle in the Soviet Union and China and to the victory of the proletariat.

The one reason why a Bolshevik party’s influence far outweighs its numbers is that it is not a debating club but a highly centralized party. Its whole is larger than the sum of the parts. This applies to unleashing the power of the party as a whole because the parts are not mere numbers or isolated individuals. First the party must be organized sphere by sphere, area by area. We must learn the specific laws of each concentration and be able to influence our environment rather than the other way around. And at the same time we have to be able to orchestrate all these parts in powerful political campaigns. The main problem preventing us from successful orchestration is the tendency to absolutize individual ideology rather than understand the definition of tasks, identify the fronts to be opened, and find the right people to anchor those new fronts of struggle. The approach has been the path of least resistance–treating everybody in the same way, measuring people solely by a standard of “ideology” or abstract stand and defining tasks by the strength of comrades’ “ideology.” It follows the approach of simple negation, staying on the level of sheer desire to fight. The definition of political tasks is concretely undermined. The correct approach is to recruit people into concrete tasks, be able to sustain, amplify, and use as leverage our leadership on all fronts and concentrations, and still be able to orchestrate them as a whole.

Repudiate Incorrect Line

The CWP has a fundamental line deviation. If not corrected, that particular opportunist line can turn us into a reactionary organization. A fundamental political line deviation, negating all the historical experiences, has kept us from standing tall on the shoulders of giants, even though we constantly draw strength from the American people. We cannot pull our work to a higher level without repudiation of the line that the Soviet Union, and now China, are capitalist countries. If we don’t change this line, we will be only an unreliable friend of revolutionary peoples around the world–like the Russian people, Chinese people, and Zimbabwean people.

We must reexamine where we came from, what affected and limited our understanding of Marxism. Our practice has developed to the point where we can and must make a qualitative leap in order to lead the Party forward to overthrow the monopoly capitalists. The reason we have not been able to grow rapidly centers around the position on restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China.

Yes, this is a thoroughgoing and abrupt change in our line, but it is due to our effort to retrieve historical experience to further serve the class struggle we are already waging correctly. It is not a negation of our practice and the precious lessons we’ve learned in building the Party and a proletarian and oppressed people’s movement to effectively fight the U.S. bourgeoisie. This line change is just the opposite–a confident affirmation of our leadership in U.S. class struggle that leads us to renounce part of our “theory.” Correct application of aspects of Marxism and correct practice have brought us to where we are today. Those positive achievements made us sense the necessity to delve deeper into the science of Marxism, historical materialism, to serve the urgent tasks at hand.

Affirm Our History

This line change is consistent with the character and thoroughness of proletarian struggle: we seemingly succeed, but then regroup, arise once again, and mercilessly evaluate the whole process of our experience gained both in class struggle and the Party internal life and line struggle. We reexamined our line, reviewed all the past lines, noted all the recurring problems, and it led us to reexamine our fundamental political lines. I don’t propose any instant solution. It’s not instant coffee. Basically we have to continue what we’ve been doing, but also deepen our study, critically analyze and use the international proletariat’s experience to better understand the basis.

I want the Central Committee to lead the CWP to tackle new responsibilities of class struggle in this country. This is not a luxury, but a life-and-death struggle and an absolute necessity. I don’t think we can take on the heavy historical mission of the 80’s without repudiating our line on the restoration of capitalism in China and the Soviet Union. I take this position not out of consideration for the Party or for myself. It’s for the working class and the world proletarian struggle.

The achievements of the CWP are undeniable. That the Party is the sole effective vanguard, pacesetting the fight against the monopoly capitalists, is undeniable. The fact that we possess the core of some of the strongest comrades who will shoulder the leadership responsibility of overthrowing their criminal rule is undeniable. The CWP’s fighting character and militant tradition are undeniable. Comrades’ dedication and sacrifice are undeniable. However, as communists, as historical materialists we must at all times reevaluate our work. There are times for minor adjustment and times for major reorientation. As we make this major reorientation, the future is indeed bright.

The fact that the CWP has saved an entire generation of revolutionaries from being burnt out in the 70’s, forged them into a party and trained them so they are now the actual leaders in the class struggle, giving the U.S. people a real fighting chance in the 80’s against war and fascism and for peace and socialism, are accomplishments that cannot be arbitrarily denied in any evaluation, even in our own most critical self-dissection. The line change will only affirm the truly vanguard and advanced character of the CWP. As Lenin said, a hallmark of a great party is not that it doesn’t make any mistakes. This is impossible for a real party in a real world. The ability to make self-evaluation, self-criticism and sum up the basis the conditions for its mistakes is the sign of a great party. Only such a party is capable of shouldering our great historical responsibility.