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John Molyneux

Marxism and the Party


The bankruptcy and barbarity of capitalism is clear for all to see. In the advanced countries living standards are slashed, social welfare is cut, mass unemployment has returned, democratic rights are eroded, and racism grows apace. In the third world the perennial consequences of imperialism – underdevelopment, poverty and starvation – remain unalleviated, while a succession of military coups shuts out all possibility of reform or improvement.

What is to be done? The road of reform, whether social democratic or Eurocommunist, leads only to incorporation into the system. Recourse, in blind desperation, to individual terrorism merely strengthens the authoritarian tendencies of the capitalist state. The only way out is through the mass struggle of the working class. But the whole history of the class struggle shows that the working class cannot achieve power purely spontaneously: it requires organisation and leadership. These however cannot be built in a day: they must be patiently constructed well in advance of the decisive revolutionary crisis. What we are talking about is the revolutionary party of the working class.

For the building of the party there must be a certain theoretical clarity. Why is a party necessary? What must its structure be? Above all what is its relationship to the class and its role in the revolutionary process?

These questions are not new. They have been asked and answered by all the leading theoreticians of the marxist movement from Marx onwards. If the revolutionary party is to be built, then this accumulated body of knowledge must be widely assimilated. In itself, of course, this is far from enough. Equally important, and far more difficult, is the concrete analysis of the present situation and the development of the strategy and tactics capable of linking revolutionaries and revolutionary ideas to the real movement of the working class. Nonetheless, learning the lessons of the past remains an essential prerequisite for tackling the problems of today.

This, in short, is the aim of this work; to present, as coherently as possible, the main ideas of the outstanding marxist theoreticians on the nature and tasks of the revolutionary party.

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Last updated: 3.8.2012