Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Firmly Establish the Factory Cells!

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 3, August 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The leading force and the main force in the socialist revolution in Britain is the working class, particularly the industrial working class. Capitalism brings into being and unites the working class in the factories, and has taught them to fight in a disciplined and united way.

The bourgeoisie, by creating capitalism, has brought into being the class which will finally end its system of exploitation and oppression, the modern working class -the grave diggers of the bourgeoisie.

The revolutionary Communist Party must be a party of the working class. This means that Communists must sink deep roots in the class and throw themselves heart and soul into the struggles of the working class. At this stage, when resources are scarce and the class conscious vanguard has not been won to Communism, it is essential to devote all resources to mass work with the working class, particularly with the industrial working class.

The basic unit of organisation of the party must be the factory cell. Communists must be organised and firmly based within the working class at the point of production. But at this stage we are at the very beginning of this work. The league is armed with Marxist-Leninist theory as its guideline, but as yet has little direct experience. Because of this it is necessary to sum up our advanced experience in this work, to learn from this, and so deepen our understanding and carry forward the work.

We must start from a recognition that building Communist bases will be a protracted struggle. We must understand this to avoid rashness in work, and to avoid demoralisation when swift results do not follow. The mass of workers will be won over to support the ideas and policies of the Communists, but this requires hard work, and good methods of work.

What are the difficulties we face? Britain is the oldest imperialist country in the world, and imperialist ideology is very strong. This means that anti-working class ideas find their way into the working class – ideas based on reformism, racism, and great nation chauvinism. Imperialism has provided the basis for these ideas, particularly for opportunism. The grip of the opportunists, like the trade union bosses and the social democrats is relatively strong. These elements have always encouraged a faith in “saviours from on high” and in the “British” way of doing things.

Since the degeneration of the “C”PGB into revisionism there has been no working class Party in Britain. This means there has been no vanguard with Communist consciousness capable of uniting and leading the struggles of the working class. Opportunism therefore has had the field clear for itself. Within the working class, unorganised opportunism, spontaneous trade union politics, means that many good middle elements come forward only to be sucked into one of the opportunist organisations. Some see through these and remain as individual activists. But workers will not spontaneously develop a Marxist-Leninist world outlook without leadership from a vanguard organisation. Communists must recognise these difficulties while retaining revolutionary optimism and the certainty that the party will be rebuilt, and will be deeply rooted in the masses. The road is tortuous but the future is bright. The Communists are the more conscious elements of the working class, but they do not have sectarian principles which have to be imposed on the masses. We can be optimistic because our policies are based on the tried and tested universal truths of Marxism-Leninism, and they conform to the correct ideas of the masses.

The working class is the revolutionary class. We can have confidence that if we have faith in the masses, and in the party, grasp the mass line and do our work well, we will succeed.


This article sums up the experience of two comrades working at different factories. Factory X is one plant in a complex of modern plants (totalling 12,000 workers) that produces car bodies. The great majority of workers are line workers, working on a moving track, doing the same small spot welding operation repeatedly on each car body section. The work is often noisy, dirty and always boring. Because of the working conditions most line workers are relatively young, mostly in their 20’s. Most arrive having experienced a variety of unskilled badly paid jobs. National minority workers are a small percentage of the workforce. No women are employed at the plant.

Factory Y is part of the electrical engineering industry. It is also part of a complex of sites, which totals 3,000 workers. Two-thirds of the work force are women. Although small, it is a monopoly capitalist company, with some factories in third world countries. The work is mainly unskilled light assembly. Factory Y has a majority of national minority workers, mainly West Indian, with some African and Asian workers. This factory has the worst conditions of the complex.

On entering the factories the first task was to integrate with the workers. Communists should get to know the level of consciousness of the workers, the conditions of work, the advanced elements, and the enemy. As Mao says:

Communists should set an example in study; at all times they should be pupils of the masses as well as their teachers” (Quotations, p272).

Both comrades integrated with the workers at first on a friendly basis, getting acquainted with as wide a number as possible and avoiding getting caught up with a small circle. In general comrades did not “push” their politics, or preach to the workers, but waited until workers themselves raised political points, and then built on this. By listening first to what workers had to day, comrades could find out their views, their grievances, their correct and incorrect ideas and who among them were relatively advanced. Mainly the comrades were getting to know the ideas of the workers.


This article has already pointed out that class consciousness of workers in Britain has two aspects. On the one hand there is the collective, proletarian aspect bred by a life of oppression and exploitation. Capitalism teaches the workers to fight in a disciplined and organised way against this. This can be seen in the day to day class struggle, which is sometimes “simmering” under the surface, and at other times flares up into class confrontations. This struggle is the motor of history. It will propel the class forward, under Communist leadership, to make the socialist revolution.

The other side of the coin is the bourgeois ideology which is to be found among the workers as in all classes and strata. This is also apparent in every factory. Experience also shows that class consciousness varies from factory to factory according to the nature and type of production the tradition of the city or region and the quality of shop floor leadership. To bring this out it is necessary to compare and contrast the two factories and to generalise the particular experiences taught by class struggle.

Factory X has a relatively high class consciousness and is well organised from the trade union point of view. Factory X is in an area of traditional militancy and is in a key sector of the monopoly capitalist economy. This means that the management is constantly pressing for more production, to increase the rate of exploitation. One series of incidents brings out this point.

Management began to run a sustained campaign to tighten up discipline but also to cut down on manning levels and speedups. Disciplinary procedures were ignored as men were given written warnings, suspensions and the sack. The spontaneous reaction of the vast majority of the workers was to immediately unite in self-defence. As Lenin said, “The working class has no other weapon but organisation”. The attacks were generally carried out on the workers as a whole, but they specifically attacked through disciplinary action individual workers with a record of “offences”. Without hesitation the workers on the particular section took action in defence of the worker or workers singled out, usually in the form of the strike.

Other occasions saw spontaneous acts of sabotage. All this was despite the pleas of the convenor and leading stewards to “hold off” any action while they could negotiate. Another result of the struggles around the “Riot Act” was that barriers between the workers within each section had been broken down. Previously there had been several small groups who kept themselves to themselves, which had bred mistrust and backbiting.

Fighting the “Riot Act” showed the spontaneous, militant spirit of the workers. But the full potential of this was never tapped, because in the absence of a 1eading core of politically advanced workers, the shop stewards were incapable of welding the various sections of workers together or leading them in a united struggle against the bosses’ attacks on the shop floor.

At Factory Y, what was most immediately apparent was the divisions within the workforce. These divisions were based on race, sex and the complicated pay structure.

For example, it was common to hear from some of the men the view that “We’d do something – but the women are only interested in their bonus”. Talking to the women workers showed that this was not the case. The majority of the women workers are older women, some with grown up families. Most had worked locally all their lives or since coming to this country. In particular some of the national minority women workers understood the bonus system very well and knew how to argue their case with the foremen better that the shop stewards. They were also prepared to talk about a wide range of subjects like racism, liberation struggles in Africa, and some had read about China, and the achievements of the Chinese people under socialism. Later when leafleting started some of the national minority women workers were prepared to read them on the basis of what they said, as opposed to rejecting them on the grounds that they were “Communist propaganda”. This section of the workforce is certainly not backward. They are among the most solid of the middle elements.

Racial divisions in the workplace had the same effect as divisions between men and women. Again it was often a case of “We’d do something, but they won’t back us up”. Ideas of white superiority were not often openly expressed, probably because white workers are a minority at the factory. But where these are expressed, it is on questions removed from the workplace. Many white workers will oppose national minority workers in the abstract -but in practice they will unite with them at the place of work. Some workers will take up points made in the bourgeois papers about the number of immigrants on social security, or about Asian shopkeepers. But the most important point for Communists to make is that unity is not a moral question, it is not a question of “liking blacks”, but it is a political question. The working class must be united in its fight. A striking example of this at Factory Y was when one white worker was discussing union organisation at the factory. The comrade had just made the point that the choice of stewards should reflect the composition of the workforce as far as possible, so as to unite the workers effectively. The white worker replied “I’ve got nothing against the blacks – well, I have, I can’t stand them, but we must unite with them.”

This particular worker was held back by racist ideas. At the same time he was willing to take the first step in overcoming these ideas to unite in practice with fellow workers in the interests of unity. This shows how racism in the working class will be overcome step by step -when correct Communist leadership is given.

Another example was given by a one day strike at Factory Y held to protest at the sacking of a black worker who had struck a supervisor. The worker had been struck first, but there were no witnesses to back him up. The strike was supported by the majority of the workers, black and white, because they could see the injustice of the sacking, and could see that such unjust decisions could affect any of them in the future.

The ruling class also organises production in such a way as to divide the workers. The bonus system at factory Y for example is a method of holding down basic rates, and at the same time of making workers compete with each other in a divisive way. For example, when two out of three workers wanted a job retimed, the third refused, on the grounds that she made a good bonus, so the others couldn’t be working hard enough. This meant that a struggle for a better price was passed up, the third woman never realising that she really knocked herself out in the process of earning her “good” bonus.

These investigations showed that bourgeois ideas do have a hold on the working class, but also that, when united in struggle these ideas tend to be pushed into the background. It is the task of Communists to take such opportunities for drawing out the lessons of united struggle, and to draw out also the negative lessons of the divisions within the workers own ranks.

The opportunists are a major block on this process.

Although Factory X is better organised, bold and militant shop floor leadership is needed at both. The need for this at factory Y is brought out in every struggle. During a recent eight day strike for example, the senior stewards consistently refused to bring out a leaflet explaining the issues clearly to the workers. The lessons of the strike were never summed up, so that although the basic issue was won, many workers were demoralised by the experience.

At Factory X it was found that there were a small number of shop stewards who genuinely strive to serve the interests of the workers whilst others under the leadership of a particularly bad convenor, fail to do so. The opportunists on the shop stewards committee do not represent any particular opportunist political organisation. Bourgeois trade union politics predominates, the positive point from this is that as well as the contradiction between the mass of the workers and the opportunist misleaders, there are definite contradictions between the misleaders themselves.


...teach every comrade to love the people and listen attentatively to the voice of the masses; to identify himself with the masses wherever he goes and, instead of standing above them; to immerse himself among them; and, according to their present level, to awaken them or raise their political consciousness and help them gradually to organise themselves voluntarily and to set going all essential struggles permitted by the internal and external circumstances of the given time and place. (Quotations, p 126)

This quote sums up well what the task of Communists is, and what the mass line means, but as yet we have little direct experience in practising it. This is why the experiences we do have, particularly that of the comrade at factory X, should be summed up.

It was soon learnt that all workers have some correct ideas. The first thing was to find out what they are. This means having as wide discussions as possible and listening to what the workers have to say, in order to find out about their correct ideas – whether on the Soviet Union and the threat of war, on the lack of democracy in the union, on the way Labour acts in the bosses’ interests, or on the level of opposition to such things as the Royal Family, rent or bus fare increases, etc. Or in fact one of a thousand other things. Only then is it possible to sum up these correct ideas by relating them to more general aspects of class struggle by applying Marxism-Leninism and taking them back to the workers in a more concentrated, systematic and correct form.

It is necessary to engage in both unity and struggle with the masses.

At first the comrade united with the workers on their correct ideas, patiently letting them finish speaking and making their point. If it is correct he agreed and drew it out a little. Then on the basis of unity and struggle, he built step by step on these correct ideas to overcome the incorrect ideas one by one. For example, if a worker sees through a particular trade union misleader (at plant, branch or district level) he united with that idea and broadened it out, showing how the national leaders, the TUC, the Labour Party, all play similar roles and act against the interests of our class.

If an incorrect idea was put forward, the correct proletarian view was carefully explained in a modest, non-sectarian way. He united first, was patient, and developed unity by relating the worker’s correct ideas to their incorrect ones. That is, by showing how their incorrect ideas contradict their correct ones. It was seen that this is a gradual process, and it is wrong to expect dramatic results overnight.

In practising the mass line great attention must be paid to the question of leadership. As Mao says, the mass line is the “basic method of leadership”:

Take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them, then go to the Masses, persevere in the ideas and carry them through, so as to form correct ideas of leadership – such is the basic method of leadership”. (Quotations, p 128)


The key to firmly establishing the cell is to rally the advanced workers around it. This sets up an active unit of Communists and advanced workers who will increasingly lead mass struggles. The task of rallying the advanced should not be separated from agitation among the masses. The advanced will only come forward in the course of struggle. Communist politics must be combined with the day to day struggle, and propaganda must be combined with agitation. There is no short cut to this process.

Advanced workers are those workers who respond most rapidly to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, and who are most active and dedicated in the cause of the proletariat. Eventually the great majority of workers will be won over, but some will be won more quickly than others. By investigation followed up by propaganda some relatively advanced workers were identified. More time has been devoted to winning these over, while not neglecting the middle and the few backward elements.

At both factories, “Class Struggle” sales were used as one way of picking out the more advanced. The comrades could see who bought the paper, could discuss it ’with them, and could move on to discuss Communist politics more widely. This formed the basis of internal sales which were later developed by the comrades themselves.

At both factories, “Class Struggle” sales were used as one way of picking out the more advanced. The comrades could see who bought the paper, could discuss it with them, and could move on to discuss Communist politics more widely. This formed the basis of internal sales which were later developed by the comrades themselves.

Why use the term “relatively advanced”? This is because advanced workers in the sense of the formulation used earlier on are not easily found. Why this is has already been explained in the article. For example, the more advanced workers at Factory Y are open to Communist ideas, but they are also open to some opportunist ideas. Also, they are not yet active, in the cause of the working class.

Thus to firmly establish the cell, to begin to rally the advanced workers, means that Communists must unite with workers of differing levels of consciousness, and they must actively develop the relatively advanced into class conscious fighters. Individual worker contacts must be summed up, their strengths developed and their weak points struggled against. This will proceed at the pace the workers themselves wish it to. Bold leadership must also be given to struggles at the place of work so that such workers can see that Communist policies do give direction and work out in practice. Experience of revisionist and opportunist sell-outs has bred some cynicism in the minds of workers. In many factories the task of rallying the advanced will be a protracted one.

Agitational leaflets have been developed at both factories. One such leaflet at Factory X was distributed after the wage negotiations of autumn last year. The negotiations were handled nationally under the leadership of Moss Evans, heir to the throne of Jack Jones. Like Jones, the bosses have projected Evans as a militant and a “left winger” for several years. But many car workers who have been around that long have few illusions in him. He has sold them out before and he sold them out on this occasion. No struggle ever got off the ground at plant level. The only mass meeting of the plant that took place was after the bosses “final offer”, and after all the other plants in the combine had met and accepted it. The main conclusion to be drawn from this defeat was the total failure to involve the mass of the workers in the struggle, beginning with the formulation of the claim and the negotiations that followed, The leaflet made this point, and fired a secondary criticism at the local plant leadership including some stewards, for either not having any – or not enough section meetings to allow individual workers to voice their opinions.

The reaction of one steward to this was to complain that the leaflet should have “had a go at the shop floor” because it was they “who voted to accept the offer”. Some months later at a branch meeting this same steward spoke out boldly, advocating the full involvement of the rank and file in the next wage claim and blaming the failure of the last one on not doing so. Point taken!

Through talking to a wide number of workers, it was quickly realised that very few have much access to any real news. Most rely on the “Sun” or the “Mirror” and rarely pay much attention to radio and TV news. So the leaflets were developed into more of a newsheet format, containing 2 or 3 short agitational items on national and international class struggle, to supplement the main article which is always on issues directly affecting the plant. These initiated and stimulated many good discussions amongst the workers. An article exposing the fascist nature of Soviet social imperialism united with, and educated some workers and armed them with the information to challenge a member of the revisionist “C”PGB. These secondary articles have also acquainted the workers with the various lines and policies of the RCLB, and have helped overcome the parochial outlook of some workers. When, after a discussion with a worker, he is shown a copy of “Class Struggle”, it is now found less formidable as the lines and policies are more familiar.

At Factory Y the need for a similar broadsheet is now recognised. Whilst agitation on plant issues has developed, this must be combined with political education of a wider nature. We must combine the propaganda and agitation of “Class Struggle” with agitational leaflets, so that we pay attention to both the relatively advanced and the mass of the workers. This was not firmly grasped when leaflets first began.

At the present stage there is now a need to do deeper investigation to make sharper agitation on plant issues, and to give more leadership to them. One element of this will be to concentrate more on the out and out opportunists in the union leadership at local level. Investigation is also needed in order to expose these “leaders” in the course of struggle. This will provide a basis for rallying the more advanced workers and raising the level of the mass of workers by more closely uniting with them. More thorough investigation is also the key to enable the use of good propaganda in leaflets. Although leaflets should be mainly agitational, propaganda should also be used when necessary to sum up struggles, drawing conclusions and consolidating the gains made with advanced elements.

The most important form of propaganda (besides “Class Struggle” itself) is regular meetings with advanced workers It is now the aim to establish “Class Struggle” groups which will meet to discuss struggles in the factories (and union branches where applicable), to draw up leaflets, and to study “Class Struggle”.

This type of activity is a necessary stage in the development of the advanced and relatively advanced workers. It is necessary both to raise their political level through study of Marxism-Leninism, and the League’s policies and to mobilise their initiative for action in class struggle at the place of work. Once such groups have been formed and consolidated the advanced workers will develop with correct Communist leadership.