Third Congress of the Communist International
Source: Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International, translated by Alix Holt and Barbara Holland. Ink Links 1980;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
1 The organisation of the Party must correspond to the conditions and the purpose of its activity. At every stage of the revolutionary class struggle and in the subsequent period of transition to socialism – the first step: in the development of a Communist society – the Communist Party must be the vanguard, the most advanced section of the proletariat.
2 There is no absolute form of organisation which is correct for Communist Parties at all times. The conditions of the proletarian class struggle are constantly changing, and so the proletarian vanguard has always to be looking for effective forms of organisation. Equally, each Party must develop its own special forms of organisation to meet the particular historically-determined conditions within the country.
But there are definite limits to national variations. Proletarian class struggle varies from country to country and according to the stage of the revolution, but the similarity in the conditions of struggle is of decisive importance for the international Communist movement. This similarity serves as a basis for the organisation of all Communist Parties.
It follows that we must develop and improve the existing Communist Parties, not try to replace them with new model Parties or invent absolute organisational forms and ideal statutes.
3 The bourgeoisie still rules over much of the world and so most Communist Parties and also the Communist International as the united party of the world revolutionary proletariat have to fight it.
In the coming period the centrally important task for all Parties is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the seizure of power.
Accordingly, all the organisational work of the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries must be directed towards establishing organisations which can guarantee the victory of the proletarian revolution over the ruling classes.
4 Leadership is a necessary condition of any political action and is a vital factor in the present most important struggle in world history. Organising the Communist Party means organising Communist leadership for the period of the proletarian revolution.
The Party itself must have good leadership if it is to lead well. Our basic organisational task is therefore to create an organisation and to educate the Communist Party under the guidance of its experienced bodies to he the effective leadership of the revolutionary proletarian movement.
5 To lead the revolutionary class struggle, the Communist Party and its leading bodies must possess great fighting power and at the same time the ability to adapt to the changing conditions of struggle. Successful leadership presupposes, moreover, the closest contact with the proletarian masses. Unless such contact is established the leaders will not lead the masses but, at best, only follow them.
The Communist Party organisations are to achieve organic contact with the masses by practising democratic centralism.
6 The democratic centralism of the Communist Party organisation should be a real synthesis, a fusion of centralism and proletarian democracy. This fusion can be achieved only when the Party organisation works and struggles at all times together, as a united whole. Centralisation in the Communist Party does not mean formal, mechanical centralisation, but the centralisation of Communist activity, i.e., the creation of a leadership that is strong and effective and at the same time flexible.
Formal or mechanical centralisation would mean the centralisation of ‘power’ in the hands of the Party bureaucracy, allowing it to dominate the other members of the Party or the revolutionary proletarian masses which are outside the Party. Only enemies of Communism can argue that the Communist Party wants to use its leadership of the proletarian class struggle and its centralisation of Communist leadership to dominate the revolutionary proletariat. Such assertions are false. Equally incompatible with the principles of democratic centralism adopted by the Communist International are antagonisms or power struggles within the Party.
The same divisions emerged in the old organisations of the non-revolutionary workers’ movement as had existed in the organisation of the bourgeois state: the division between the ‘bureaucracy’ and the ‘people’. Under the paralysing influence of the bourgeois environment a separation of functions occurred; formal democracy replaced the active participation of working people, and the organisation was divided into the active functionaries and the passive masses. Even the revolutionary workers’ movement has nit entirely escaped the influence of the bourgeois environment and the evils of this formalism and division.
The Communist Parties must overcome these contradictions once and for all by carrying out a systematic on-going plan of political and organisational work and by making many improvements and changes.
7 The transformation of a mass Socialist Party into a Communist Party must be more than a transfer of authority to the CC which leaves the old order otherwise unchanged. Centralisation should not just be agreed in theory; it must be realised in practice. All Party members must understand how centralisation positively strengthens their work and their capacity to fight. Otherwise the masses will see centralisation as a bureaucratisation of the Party and will oppose any attempts to introduce centralisation, leadership and firm discipline. Anarchism and bureaucratism are two sides of the same coin.
Formal democracy by itself cannot rid the workers’ movement of either bureaucratic or anarchistic tendencies because these in actual fact result from this type of democracy.
All attempts to achieve the centralisation of the organisation and a strong leadership will be unsuccessful so long as we practice formal democracy. We must develop and maintain an effective network of contacts and links both, on the one hand, within the Party itself between the leading bodies and the rank and file of the membership and, on the other hand, between the Party and the proletarian masses outside the Party.
8 The Communist Party must be a labour school of revolutionary Marxism. Close links between the various Party bodies and the individual members will be forged through day-to-day work in the Party organisations.
Few members of the legal Communist Parties are taking a sufficiently active part in the day-to-day work of the Party. This is the major shortcoming of these Parties and an obstacle to their steady progress.
9 There is always a danger that the workers’ Party will go no further than adopting a Communist programme: that it will merely accept Communism in the place of its old doctrine and replace its anti-Communist officials with Communist ones. But the adoption of a Communist programme expresses only the desire of the Party to become Communist. If the Party fads to carry out Communist work and if the mass of its membership remains passive, the Party will not have fulfilled even the minimum obligation placed upon it by its acceptance of the programme. The most important requirement is that all members should at all times participate in the day-to-day work of the Party.
The art of Communist organisation consists in involving everything and everyone in the proletarian class struggle, effectively dividing Party work among Party members and organising members to draw the broad proletarian masses into the revolutionary movement. It also means being always in a position of leadership over the entire movement, a position which the Party wins not by force but by the authority it derives from its great energy, ability, experience and flexibility.
10 A Communist Party, in order to ensure that its members are really active, must demand that they give all their time and energy to Party work. Then it will have a really active membership. Besides commitment to Communist ideas, membership of the Communist Party obviously entails formal admission, preceded in some instances by a period of candidacy, regular payment of membership dues, subscription to the Party paper, etc. But the most important condition of membership is that members participate on a day-to-day basis in the work of the Party.
11 For the purpose of carrying out day-to-day work each Party member should belong to a smaller working group: a committee, commission, board, group, fraction or cell. This is the only way Party work can be correctly allocated, carried out and supervised.
It goes without saying that members should attend the general meetings of their local organisations; it is not wise for legal Parties to try to substitute meetings of local representatives for these general meetings. All Party members must attend these meetings regularly. But this is by no means all. The proper preparation of these meetings and intervention in workers’ meetings, demonstrations and mass actions presupposes work by smaller groups or by individuals delegated for the purpose. The vast amount of work that has to be done can be examined carefully and organised properly only by smaller groups. Unless all members are divided among a large number of working groups and participate daily in the work of the Party, even the most militant efforts of the working class to further the class struggle will lead nowhere and the requisite concentration of all revolutionary proletarian forces around a united and strong Communist Party will be impossible.
12 Communist cells must be formed to carry out the day-to-day work in the various spheres of Party activity: house-to-house agitation, Party schools. group newspaper reading, information services, liaison work, etc.
Communist cells are the basic units for carrying out the day-to-day Communist work of the Party in the factories, trade unions, workers’ co-operatives, military detachments etc – wherever there are a few or more Party members or candidate members. When the number of Party members in a factory, a union etc. is large, fractions are organised, whose work is supervised by the Communist cell. Should it be necessary to organise a broadly-based opposition fraction or to take part in the work of an already existing fraction, the aim of the Communists must be to win a leading position through the work of their own separate cell.
The question as to whether the Communist cell should openly declare its Party affiliation is something that has to be decided in each individual case by a careful study of the dangers and advantages of each course of action.
13 The introduction of universal labour conscription and the organisation of small working groups is particularly difficult in the mass Communist Parties. Results cannot be achieved overnight. Great patience, tact and energy are required.
It is particularly important that reorganisation should be carried out very carefully from the start and should be preceded by a general discussion of the question. It would be very easy, of course, simply to divide up the members of the organisation into small cells and groups according to some formal scheme and order them to take part in the general day-to-day Party work. But such a beginning would be worse than no beginning at all for Party members would soon become dissatisfied and disillusioned with the new method of work.
It is particularly recommended that the leading Party body hold a detailed preliminary discussion with those Party members who, as well as being committed and sincere Communists, are also good organisers and have a good knowledge of the general situation in the workers’ movement in the country’s main centres; on the basis of its findings the leading Party body can work out in detail the basic principles of the new method of work. Next, the instructors, organisers or organising commissions should prepare the plan of work at the local level, elect the first group leaders and launch the campaign. Then the organisations, working groups, cells and individual members must be given specific tasks to perform that are clearly appropriate, useful and within their capabilities. If necessary, the Party should give a practical demonstration of how to tackle the job. In this case it is important to focus attention on the mistakes which are particularly to be avoided.
14 The reorganisation should proceed one step at a time. The local organisations should not be in a hurry to organise too many new cells and working units at once. Party members should be allowed to see from experience that individual cells organised in large factories and unions are functioning correctly and that in other areas of Party work the working groups which deal with information, communications, house-to-house agitation, the women’s movement, paper distributions, the unemployed, etc. are already organised and more or less established. ‘Me old forms or organisation should not be blindly destroyed before the new organisational apparatus has begun to take shape.
However, Communist organisational work must always be directed as firmly as possible towards its main goal. This places great demands not only on every legal Party, but also on every illegal one. Until such time as a broad network of Communist groups, cells, fractions and working groups is established in all the centres of proletarian mass struggle, until the Party is strong and sure of its aims and until all its members participate in the day-to-day revolutionary work and accept participation as normal practice, the Party must not let up on its organisational work.
15 The leading Party bodies must not fail to be in constant and firm control of this basic organisational work and must give it a consistent direction. This requires a great deal of effort on the part of those comrades who direct the Party bodies. The Communist Party leadership is responsible not only for making sure that all comrades have work to do, but for assisting and directing this work systematically and with a practical understanding of the matter at hand. They must be familiar with the specific conditions of work and watch for mistakes. They must use their experience and knowledge to improve methods of work, always keeping the aim of the struggle in view.
16 All Party work is practical or theoretical struggle, or preparation for struggle. Up until now specialisation in Party work has been organised in a very unsatisfactory manner. There are entire areas of very important work in which, if anything has been done, it has been quite by chance. The special struggle of the legal Parties against the political police is one example. Another is the training of Party comrades, which as a rule is conducted haphazardly and so superficially that large sections of the Party’s membership are ignorant of most of the Party’s important decisions – even of the Party programme and the resolutions of the Communist International. All Party organisations and all working groups of the Party must educate their members on a regular and systematic basis so that a higher level of specialisation is possible.
17 One of the duties of the Communist organisation is to make reports. This applies to all organisations and organs of the Party and to its individual members. Regular general reports must be made at frequent intervals and special reports when specific Party tasks have been carried out. It is very important that reports are presented systematically and become a firmly established tradition of the Communist movement.
18 The Party makes a regular quarterly report on its activity to the leading body of the Communist International. Every Party organisation must present reports to the committee immediately above it (for example, local organisations present monthly reports to the appropriate district Party committee).
Each cell, fraction and working group must present a report to the Party body which supervises it. AU members must report approximately once a week to the cell or working group to which they belong, and to the Party body which has given them a particular assignment, on the progress of their work.
Reports must be made at the first convenient opportunity. The report can be made orally, unless the Party or Party body specifically require a written report. Reports should be concise and to the point. The person receiving the report is responsible for the safe-keeping of information that cannot be made public and also for ensuring that reports are communicated without delay to the relevant directing Party organ.
19 These Party reports should not, of course, deal only with the activity of the person delivering the report. They must also mention any observations that have been made during the course of the work which are relevant to the struggle, particularly if these might lead to changes or improvements in future activity. Party members should suggest how those shortcomings that have come to light during their work can be overcome. The Communist cells, fractions and working groups must discuss all the reports presented to them and presented by them. Discussion of reports must become customary practice.
Cells and working groups must see that individual members and groups of members regularly examine and report on the activity of rival organisations, particularly petty-bourgeois workers’ organisations and above all the organisations of ‘socialist’ Parties.
20 In the period prior to open revolutionary insurrection, revolutionary propaganda and agitation is one of our most important tasks. For the most part, however, this work is still prepared and carried out in the old-established formal manner and is limited to occasional interventions in mass meetings, without any special attention being given to the actual revolutionary content of speeches and pamphlets.
Communist propaganda and agitation must take root in the proletarian milieu. It must grow out of the actual life of the workers, their common interests and aspirations and, above all, their common struggle.
The most important aspect of Communist propaganda is its revolutionary content. The slogans and the positions taken on concrete questions in different situations must always be carefully considered from this standpoint. The Communist Parties will not be capable of adopting the correct position on every question unless the fun-time propagandists and agitators and all members of the Party are given a thorough and continuous political education.
21 The main forms of Communist propaganda and agitation are as follows: verbal propaganda on an individual level, participation in the trade-union and political workers’ movement, and the Party press and Party literature. Every member of a legal or illegal Party must in some way be regularly involved in this activity.
Propaganda at the individual level must above all take the form of systematic house-to-house agitation by groups specially established for the purpose. In areas where the local Party organisation has some influence, every house should be visited. In large towns specially organised street agitation with posters and leaflets can often have good results. In factories and offices the cells or fractions must carry out well-organised agitation on an individual level, combining this with the distribution of literature.
In countries where there are national minorities the Party must see that enough attention is given to agitation and propaganda among the proletarian sections of these minorities. It goes without saying that agitation and propaganda must be conducted in the minority languages and appropriate Party bodies must be established to carry out this work.
22 In those capitalist countries where the large majority of the proletariat still lacks a revolutionary consciousness there must be a constant search for more effective methods of work. Propaganda must be adapted to the understanding of the workers who are not yet revolutionary but are beginning to be radicalised, and must make the revolutionary movement comprehensible and accessible to them. Communist propaganda and Communist slogans must be capable, whatever the situation, of fostering the hesitant and unconscious aspirations – still influenced by bourgeois ideology, but nevertheless revolutionary – which the proletariat develops in its struggle against bourgeois traditions.
At the same time Communist propaganda should go beyond the present demands and hopes of the proletarian masses which are limited and vague. It is on the basis of these demands and hopes that we can build and develop our influence and bring the proletariat to understand and sympathise with Communism.
23 Communist agitation amongst the proletarian masses must be conducted in such a way that the militant proletariat recognises that our Communist organisation is both courageous and far-sighted, and a loyal and energetic leader of the workers’ movement.
To win this recognition the Communists must take part in all the day-to-day struggles and all the movements of the working class, and defend the workers in every clash with the capitalists over the length of the working day, wages, conditions of work, etc. The Communists must study carefully the conditions in which workers live; they must help the workers understand the problems that face them; focus their attention on the most flagrant abuses of their rights; assist them to formulate precise and practical demands; foster class solidarity and the awareness of their common interests and common cause as members of a national working class, which forms in its turn part of the world proletarian army.
It is only by means of such day-to-day grass-roots work and by constant and full commitment to participation in all the struggles of the proletariat that the Party can become a truly Communist party. Only in this way will it mark itself off from the obsolete Socialist Parties whose activity is confined to abstract propaganda, recruiting work, talking about reforms and exploiting the ‘possibilities’ of parliament. The conscious and principled participation of all members of the Party in the daily struggles and clashes between the exploited and the exploiters is a necessary pre-condition not only for the seizure of power but, even more, for the realisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only by leading the working masses in the day-to-day struggle against the attacks of capitalism can the Communist Party become the vanguard of the working class, learning in practice how to lead the proletariat and prepare for the final overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
24 Communists make a grave mistake if they stand back passively, are scornful of or oppose the day-to-day struggle of the workers for small improvements in the conditions of their life on the grounds that they have a Communist programme and that their final goal is armed revolutionary struggle. However limited and modest the demands for which the workers are willing to fight, this must never be a justification for the Communists to stand aside from the struggle. Our agitational activity should not give the impression that we Communists stir up strikes just for the sake of it and approve of any kind of rash action. On the contrary, we must earn the reputation among the militant workers of being their most valuable comrades-in-arms.
25 The Communist cells and fractions in the trade-union movement have often proved in practice unable to cope with the simplest of their immediate tasks. It is very easy, but not at all helpful, always to preach only the general principles of Communism and then adopt a negative position of vulgar syndicalism when concrete questions are posed. Such a practice only plays into the hands of the leaders of the scab Amsterdam International.
A study of the real content of every question should determine the revolutionary position taken by the Communists. Instead of resting content, for example, with a theoretical and principled opposition to all wage agreements, the Communists should fight the actual provisions of the agreements put forward by the Amsterdam leaders. Anything that hinders proletarian militancy must be condemned and vigorously opposed; and, as is well known, the capitalists and their Amsterdam assistants are trying to use wage agreements to tie the hands of the militant workers. It is clearly the duty of the Communists to explain this to the workers. However, as a general rule, the Communists can expose the capitalists most effectively by counterposing a wage agreement which does not tie the workers.
The same position can also be taken, for example, on mutual aid and other trade-union benefit organisations. Fighting funds and benefit funds to support workers on strike are in themselves very valuable. It would be incorrect to object on principle to the raising of such funds. It is not these methods of struggle themselves, but the way they are applied and the use to which the Amsterdam leaders put the funds, that contradict the revolutionary class interests of the workers.
As regards sickness benefit schemes etc., the Communists could, for example, demand the abolition of the contributory system, and of all the conditions that restrict the voluntary benefit system. If some members of the benefit system still wanted to insure themselves against illness by paying contributions we should not simply forbid them to do so as our reasons would be misunderstood. We would first have to conduct a great deal of propaganda work at the individual level to free members of petty-bourgeois aspirations.
26 In the struggle against the social-democratic and other petty-bourgeois leaders of the trade unions and the various workers’ parties there is no hope of achieving anything by persuasion. The struggle against them has to be organised with great persistence. It can only be waged successfully by depriving the leaders of their followers and by showing the workers the real role the social-traitor leaders play at the beck and call of the capitalists. Therefore, when the opportunity arises, these leaders should be put in a position where they have to show their true nature; then a vigorous attack can be launched against them.
It is by no means sufficient just to label the Amsterdam leaders ‘scabs’. Practical examples of how they sell out the workers must constantly be found. Their activity in the trade unions, in the International Labour Organisation of the League of Nations, in the bourgeois ministries and administrations, their right-wing speeches at conferences and in parliament, the attitudes expressed in their numerous lulling articles in hundreds of papers and, in particular, the hesitancy and reluctance they show in preparing and conducting even the smallest campaigns for wage increases and improvements in working conditions – all this provides the Communist with daily opportunities to expose in simply formulated proposals and resolutions and in clear speeches the unreliable and right-wing activity of the Amsterdam leaders, who do indeed deserve to be called ‘scab’ leaders.
Cells and fractions must conduct a systematic practical struggle. The Communists must not be put off by the lower-level trade-union bureaucracy, who often have good intentions but who, not being strong enough to put them into practice, use the statutes and resolutions of union congresses, or the directives of the central administration, as excuses not to act. Communists should stick firmly to their chosen course of action and always demand that the lower-level bureaucrats give definite answers to their questions, say what they have done to eliminate the obstacles hindering the struggle and whether they and the members of their unions are ready to fight openly to remove these obstacles.
27 The fractions must carefully prepare in advance the interventions of Communists in the meetings and conferences of the trade union organisations. Suggestions, for example, must be drafted, speakers and orators chosen, and capable, experienced and energetic comrades put forward as candidates (for union positions).
In the same way the Communist organisations through their agitational groups must carefully prepare their interventions at workers’ public meetings organised by opposing parties, as well as at election meetings, demonstrations, working-class political festivals, etc. If the Communists are themselves organising an open workers’ meeting, large groups of agitators should, wherever possible, work together, both before and during the meeting, following an agreed plan of action. In this way the meeting will have maximum impact.
28 Communists must learn how to draw the unorganised and politically uneducated workers into the Party’s permanent sphere of influence. Our cells and fractions must persuade these workers to join the trade unions and read our Party press. Other working-class organisations can be used to spread our influence: consumer co-operatives, disabled ex-servicemen’s organisations, educational unions and study groups, sports associations, theatrical groups, etc. Where the Communist Party has to work illegally, Party members can take the initiative in organising such workers’ organisations – including sympathisers’ organisations – outside the Party, but only with the agreement and under the supervision of the leading Party bodies. The organisations of Communist youth and of women may also arrange courses, literary evenings, excursions, festivals and picnics, which can interest working-class people who have previously been indifferent to politics in the life of the Communist Party, and should later link these people firmly with the organisation and draw them into useful Party work (the distribution of leaflets, Party literature etc.). By actively participating in the general movement these workers will find it easier to overcome their petty-bourgeois attitudes.
29 In order to win the semi-proletarian layers of the working population to the side of the revolutionary proletariat, the Communists must use the conflicts between these layers and the large landowners, the capitalists and the capitalist state and, by conducting a continuous campaign of propaganda, dispel the mistrust these intermediate groups have of the proletarian revolution. This may be a long-term project. The semi-proletarian layers will have more confidence in the Communist movement if the Party takes a sympathetic interest in their day-to-day needs and, without asking for favours in return, provides them with information and assistance in overcoming difficulties which are small in themselves but otherwise could not be surmounted, and if, at the same time, it draws them into special associations designed to further their education. Communists must work cautiously, but must never relax their efforts to counter the influence of organisations and individuals that are hostile to Communism but are respected by the poor peasants, domestic servants and other semi-proletarian elements in the locality. They must show that the enemies who are close at hand and known to the working people from their own experience as exploiters are representatives of the whole criminal capitalist system. Communist propaganda and agitation must take up any day-to-day events which reveal the discrepancy between ideals of petty-bourgeois democracy and the ‘legal state’, and make the point forcibly and in language accessible to all.
Local organisations in rural areas must carefully divide the work of house-to-house agitation among their members and make sure that all villages, estates and individual houses in the area are reached.
30 As regards propaganda in the armies and navies of the capitalist states appropriate methods must be sought for each separate country. Anti-militarist agitation of the pacifist variety is extremely harmful. It only assists the bourgeoisie to disarm the proletariat. The proletariat opposes on principle all military organisations of the bourgeois state and of the bourgeois class and fights consistently against their influence. Nevertheless these institutions (army, rifle clubs, territorials, etc.) can be used to further the military training of the workers in preparation for the revolutionary struggle. This means that intensive agitation must be directed not against the principle of military training for young people and workers, but against the military regime and the autocratic rule of the officers. Every opportunity of getting weapons into the hands of the proletariat must be exploited as vigorously as possible. The rank and file must be made aware of the class antagonisms underlying the material privileges of the officers, the insecure social position of the ordinary soldiers and the rough treatment meted out to the rank and file. The agitation carried out among the soldiers must make clear to them how closely their whole future is bound up with the fate of the exploited class. At a time of growing revolutionary ferment, agitation for the democratic election of all commanding officers and sailors and for the establishment of soldiers’ Soviets can be very effective in undermining the foundations of bourgeois class rule. Careful and vigorous agitation has to be conducted against the special troops employed by the bourgeoisie in the class war and in particular against its armed volunteer bands. The Communists must choose the right moment to undermine morale and encourage the break-up of the ranks, wherever the social composition and conduct of the troops indicates that such a campaign might be successful. When these troops are all of the same class as, for example, in the officers’ corps, they must be denounced before the whole population so that, becoming the objects of universal hatred and scorn, their discipline crumbles and their cohesion evaporates.
31 For a Communist Party there is never a situation in which political activity is impossible. Organisational strategy and tactics must be developed so that Communists can take advantage in an organised manner of every political and economic situation and of every development.
However weak a Party is, it can always turn big political events or large-scale strikes which shake the entire economic life of the country to its advantage by organising and carrying out systematic and practical propaganda. If a Party decides upon such a course of action, it should enthusiastically involve all its members and all sections of the Party in the campaign.
The Party above all must make use of every contact it has established through the work of its cells and workers’ groups to organise meetings in the areas where political feeling or the strike movement is strongest. At these meetings Party orators must explain how the Communist slogans point the way to overcoming the difficulties. Special working groups must be set up to make careful and detailed preparations for these meetings. If the Party cannot call its own meetings, suitable comrades must speak at the general strike meetings or at the meetings attended by the militant workers,. and must take a leading part in the discussion from the platform and from the floor.
If there is a possibility of winning over the majority or a significant part of the meeting to support for our ideas, the Communists should try to put them across in clearly worded and well-argued proposals and resolutions. In the event of such a resolution being passed, the Communists must try to get the same or similar resolutions either passed or at least backed by a strong minority at all meetings held in the same locality or in other localities involved in the same movement. In this way we shall unite the proletarian layers over which we have an influence and induce them to recognise our leadership.
The working groups which take part in the preparation and organisation of such meetings must get together subsequently to discuss briefly a report for the leading Party committee and also to draw lessons for future activity from the experience and the mistakes that have been made.
Depending on the situation, we can get across our action slogans to the sections of workers most concerned by using posters and small-format leaflets or by distributing a more detailed leaflet that explains Communist ideas and shows how they are linked to the problems at hand and the slogans of the day. Specially organised groups are needed to ensure the effective use of posters and to choose the right place and the right time to stick them up.
When leaflets are being distributed inside the factory or at those places outside the factory where the militant workers congregate – in town centres, at traffic junctions, employment offices, stations etc. – someone should, wherever possible, give a short but convincing talk which can be understood and appreciated by the working masses who are being drawn towards the movement. Detailed leaflets should be distributed whenever possible, but only in factories, meeting halls, blocks of flats and other places where workers can be expected to read them carefully. Apart from conducting intensive propaganda, Communists should at the same time be intervening in all trade-union and general factory meetings where the issues at stake are being discussed. Our comrades should themselves organise meetings or be certain to co-operate with others in organising such meetings and providing suitable speakers. Our Party newspapers must devote a lot of space to discussing these workers’ movements and defending them with careful arguments. The entire organisational apparatus of the Party must allocate a certain period of time in which it will work unhesitatingly and unstintingly to further the movement’s cause.
32 Protest actions require a very flexible and selfless leadership which does not lose sight of its aim for a moment and is capable of deciding when the protest has won the maximum gains or when there is a possibility of intensifying the campaign by organising mass stoppages or even mass strikes. The anti-war demonstrations during the last war showed us that even when demonstrations are unsuccessful a genuine proletarian fighting party, however small and however greatly persecuted by the authorities, must not ignore issues that are of great urgency and importance and are bound to become increasingly relevant to the masses.
Street demonstrations should rely on the big factories for their main contingents. Our cells and fractions must prepare the way by systematically conducting oral propaganda, distributing leaflets and creating a favourable atmosphere for their ideas. Then the leading committee must call a meeting of Party representatives in the factories and the leaders of the cells and fractions to discuss and decide upon the best date for the demonstration, the time and place of assembly, the slogans, the publicity needed and the time the demonstration will begin and end. The demonstration must be stewarded by a group of well-briefed and capable Party workers who have organisational experience. Party workers must be placed at regular intervals in the crowd of demonstrators so that Party members can keep in contact with one another and regularly receive the necessary political instructions. If such a flexible and politically organised leadership is set up there will be more chance of organising a second demonstration or using the demonstration to start a broad mass campaign.
33 Communist Parties which are already fairly strong and possess sufficient mass support must use the broad campaigns to put a final end to the influence that the social-traitors still have on the working class and persuade the majority of the working masses to recognise Communist political leadership. The way the campaign is organised will depend on the existing political situation and whether the state of the class struggle makes it possible for the Party to take up the leadership of the proletariat or whether the period is one of temporary stability. The composition of the Party will also have a decisive influence on the organisational methods of action adopted.
For example, the United Communist Party of Germany, which has recently become a mass Party, used the so-called “Open letter” to win wider layers of the proletariat than it had been possible to win by working in the individual districts.
In order to expose the treachery of the workers’ leaders in this epoch of growing impoverishment and class conflict, the Communist Party has demanded that the other mass proletarian parties show where they stand. They must make it clear to the proletariat whether they are ready to join the Communist Party in the fight for a crust of bread and against the obviously deteriorating living conditions of the proletariat, and whether they are prepared to throw into the struggle those mighty organisations over which they say they have command.
Wherever the Communist Party initiates such a campaign, it must conduct the necessary organisational preparation in order to win a response from the broad masses of the workers. AN factory fraction members and all trade-union officials who are Party members must carefully prepare their interventions at the factory and trade-union open meetings and raise the question of the Party’s “Open letter”, explaining how these “letters” put forward the fundamental and relevant demands.
Leaflets, handbills and posters must be skilfully distributed amongst sections of the masses which are sympathetic to the aims of the movement and whose support the cells and fractions want to win for the “Open letter”. During the campaign our Party press must carry daily articles (short or more detailed) which discuss the different aspects of the movement and its problems. The organisations must provide the press with a continuous stream of up-to-date and suitable material and must make sure that the editors continue to reflect the progress of the fight in their pages. The Party fractions in parliamentary and local councils should also be used systematically in the political struggle. They must raise the question of the campaign in the manner laid down in the Party directives. Their resolutions in parliament and in the factory councils must act to centralise the disparate actions and the various groups who are taking up the issue. The broad movement thus formed transcends individual trade-union interests and puts forward several of the main basic demands which can be fought for by the joint efforts of all the organisations in the area. In such a campaign the Communist Party will prove itself to be the real leader of the militant proletariat. The trade-union bureaucracy and the Socialist Parties on the other hand, by their opposition to the broad organised movement, will compromise themselves ideologically, politically and organisationally.
34 If the Communist Party is attempting to gain the leadership of the masses at a time when political and economic conflict is leading to mass action and struggle, it is not necessary to advance a series of demands. Instead, the Party can appeal directly to the members of the Socialist Parties and trade unions not to shrink from the battles against their poverty and their increasing exploitation at the hands of the bosses even if the bureaucratic leaders are against action. For only by fighting can a complete catastrophe be avoided. The various Party bodies, and in particular its daily press, must constantly emphasise and demonstrate that the Communists are prepared to take part in any and every struggle of the impoverished proletariat and that in the present tense situation they will take every opportunity to assist all the oppressed. The Communist Parties must demonstrate day in, day out that without a fight the working class can never hope to win a tolerable standard of living and that even though this is the case the established organisations are attempting to avoid or prevent working-class struggles.
The factory and trade-union fractions must explain repeatedly to their fellow-workers at meetings that the paths of retreat are closed, and stress that the Communists are ready for battle and prepared to make sacrifices. The organisational unit which has developed out of conflicts and campaigns is a most important factor. The cells and fractions of the unions and factories which have been drawn into the struggle must not only maintain permanent organisational links with each other, but must also rely on the district committees and the central administration to arrange for officials and Party workers to join the movement immediately and work with those in struggle to extend, strengthen, centralise and unite it. The Communist Party’s main task is to discover and draw attention to the elements which the different struggles have in common so that, where necessary, a political programme of united action can be proposed. As the struggle develops and becomes widespread. it will be necessary to create unified bodies to lead the struggle. Should the bureaucratic strike leaders abandon the struggle prematurely, well-timed efforts should be made to replace them with Communists, who can give the struggle a firm and decisive leadership. Where the co-ordination of various individual actions has been achieved, the aim should be the creation of a common leadership, in which, wherever possible, the Communists should occupy leading positions. If adequate organisational preparation is made, it should not be difficult to create a common leadership, using the trade-union and factory committee fractions, general factory meetings and, in particular, mass strike-meetings.
If the movement assumes a political character as a result either of the internal dynamic of its development or of intervention by the employers and government authorities, it may prove possible and essential to elect workers’ Soviets. In such a case, Communists must start to conduct propaganda and make organisational preparations. All Party bodies must place great emphasis on the fact that the working class can only achieve its real liberation by means of organisations such as the Soviets, which have arisen directly out of the struggle, and by fighting hard and independently of the trade-union bureaucracy and its fellow-travellers from the Socialist Parties.
35 Communist Parties which have reached a certain level of organisation and in particular those which are large mass parties must always be ready to launch broad political campaigns and back them with organisational measures. When demonstrations, mass economic struggles and other campaigns are under way, it must always be remembered that the organisational experience gained in these campaigns will steadily and surely lead to increasingly firm links with the broad masses. The experience of the most recent and most important campaigns should be discussed and debated at broadly-based conferences attended by officials, Party workers and also delegates from the large and medium-sized factories, so that an improved communications network can be organised through the factory representatives. Close links based on mutual trust between the various levels of Party workers and the factory delegates are the best safeguard against premature mass action and the best guarantee that campaigns will be on a scale appropriate to the circumstances and the level of Party influence.
Unless the Party organisations maintain close contacts with the proletarian masses in the large and medium-sized factories, the Communist Party will not be able to conduct large-scale mass action and genuinely revolutionary campaigns. One of the reasons for the premature ending of the revolutionary rising that took place last year in Italy, [The last instance of mass proletarian self-assertion before Mussolini’s March on Rome] reaching its height with the factory occupations, was undoubtedly the treachery of the trade-union bureaucracy and the inadequacy of the political party leaders. However, another reason was the complete lack of politically educated factory delegates interested in Party life, who could have maintained organisational links between the Party and the factories. For the same reason, the large miners’ strike which took place in Britain this year 2 did not have as much influence on political events as it could have had.
[In March 1921, the British government ended the wartime control of the mines. The private owners immediately cut the pitmen’s wages. When the miners resisted they were locked out. Unemployment had already soared well over the million mark and there was general unrest throughout industry. The miners called for a general strike and the government prepared a middle-class Defence Force. On ‘Slack Friday”, 15 April, the Triple Alliance backed down. By the end of June, the pitmen accepted defeat.]
36 Constant effort must be made to develop and improve the Communist press.
No paper can be recognised as a Communist organ unless it is subject to Party control. This principle must be applied, within reason, to all Party publications, i.e., journals, papers, pamphlets etc., but control has to be exercised without affecting adversely their academic, propagandistic or other content. The Party must be concerned more with the quality than with the quantity of papers. The first priority for every Communist Party is to have a good and, wherever possible, daily central paper.
37 A Communist paper must never be run as a capitalist business in the way bourgeois papers and often the so-called “Socialist” papers are. Our papers must be independent of the capitalist credit institutions. Skilful use of advertising can substantially assist a paper’s finances – provided the Party is a legal mass party – but it must not lead to a paper becoming dependent on the large firms that place advertisements. Our papers will establish their authority by the uncompromising position they take on all proletarian social questions. Our papers must not try to satisfy the ‘public’s’ desire for sensation or light entertainment. They must not heed the criticisms of the petty-bourgeois authors and virtuosos of journalism or seek an entree to these literary circles.
38 The Communist paper must concern itself first and foremost with the interests of the exploited and militant workers. It must be our best propagandist and agitator, the leading advocate of the proletarian revolution.
Our paper must aim to gather the valuable experience of all the members of the Party and disseminate this experience in the form of guide-lines so that Communist methods of work can be constantly revised and improved. Experiences must also be shared at meetings, attended by editors from all over the country; this exchange of opinion will also bring about maximum consistency in the tone and direction of the entire Party press. In this way the Party press and each individual paper will be effective organisers of our revolutionary activity.
Unless the Communist papers and in particular the main paper are successful in their efforts to centralise and organise, it will scarcely be possible to achieve democratic centralism or an effective division of labour within the Communist Party and the Party will be unable to fulfil its historic task.
39 The Communist paper must strive to become a Communist undertaking, i.e., a proletarian fighting organisation, an association of revolutionary workers, of all its regular contributors, type-setters, printers, administrators, distributors and sellers, and of those who collect local news, discuss and edit the material in the cells, etc.
A number of practical measures are required in order to make the paper a fighting organisation and a real Communist association.
Each Communist should have close links with the paper for which he or she works and makes personal sacrifices. The paper is the Communist’s daily weapon which has to be constantly steeled and sharpened in order to be effective. Communist papers can only survive if Party members are prepared to make substantial and regular financial and material sacrifices. Members must see that the papers have a steady supply of funds for their organisation and improvement until such time as the legal mass Parties achieve a position of strength and stability enabling them to exist independently and themselves offer the Communist movement material support.
The Communists must be more than just lively canvassers and agitators for the paper; they must be useful contributors. Everything that happens in the Communist fraction of the factory or in the cell, any event of social or economic importance, whether it be an accident at work or a factory meeting, the ill-treatment of apprentices or the factory’s financial report, must be communicated to the paper as quickly as possible. The fractions in the trade unions must collect all the important decisions and measures adopted by union meetings and union secretariats and any information on the type of activities our enemies are engaging in and send them to the paper. The round of meetings and the life of the street give the alert Party worker the opportunity to observe and critically evaluate various minor details which can be used in the paper to demonstrate clearly even to the workers who are indifferent to politics that we are in touch with their daily needs.
The editorial board must handle with particular care and feeling the reports on the life of working people and on workers’ organisations, which can either be published as short articles to show that the paper is close to the life of working people or used as practical examples to illustrate Communist ideas – this is the best way to make the principles of Communism comprehensible to the broad working masses. Wherever possible, the editorial board must at suitable times hold discussions with the workers who visit the editorial office, listen to the hopes and complaints they draw from their experience of life’s hardships, note them down carefully and use them to make the paper more vital.
Under the capitalist system, it is true, none of our papers can become a perfect Communist working association. But even in the most unfavourable circumstances it is possible to organise a revolutionary workers’ paper. The paper of our Russian comrades, Pravda, for the years 1912 and 1913 is an example of this. It represented a highly active organisation of conscious revolutionary workers from the important centres of the Russian Empire. These comrades jointly edited, published and distributed this paper, most of them financing it from their own wages. The paper gave them what they wanted and what their movement needed at that time; it was an experience which is still of benefit to them today in their work and struggle. Members of the Party and many other revolutionary workers could look on such a paper as ‘their own’.
40 Contributing to Party election campaigns is an integral part of the work of a militant Communist press. When the activity of the Party is focused on some definite campaign, the Party paper must devote not just its leading political articles but as much space as necessary to the campaign. The editors must draw material in support of the campaign from all sources and design the paper’s content and format so that this material can be presented in the most effective way.
41 Subscriptions for our papers must be collected very systematically. During periods when workers are joining the labour movement or when political or economic events are disrupting social life there are good opportunities for winning readers and the Communists should be able to make the best of them. When any large strike or lockout openly and energetically defended by the paper comes to an end, Communists should immediately persuade those who were on strike to take out individual subscriptions to the papers. Not only must Communists distribute subscription forms and carry out propaganda amongst the Communist fractions in the factories and trade unions during a strike but, wherever possible, they must develop a militant agitational campaign, visiting the homes of the workers who participated in the struggle.
It is also essential that after any political election campaign which has aroused the interest of the working masses in politics, special groups be set up to visit homes in the working-class areas.
At times of potential political and economic crises which affect the broad working masses through high prices, unemployment etc., Communists must make skilful propaganda around these issues. They must do everything in their power to obtain from the trade-union fractions detailed lists of the workers organised in trade unions and use them to approach these workers individually to win subscribers. Experience has shown that the last week of the month is the best time for this kind of canvassing work. Any local group that has not tried during this period at least once in a year is letting a good opportunity slip by.
Paper-sellers should not miss a single workers’ meeting or demonstration; they should sell subscriptions before, during and after the event.
The trade-union fractions must sell papers at all meetings of the cells and the factory fractions as well as at the general factory meetings.
42 Party members must also defend the paper against its enemies. All Party members must also defend the paper against the capitalist press, exposing and criticising the way it distorts and suppresses information.
We must get the better of the social-democratic and independent socialist press by a constant offensive, which should not however degenerate into a petty polemic. The many examples from everyday life must be used to show up the disgusting attempts to smooth over the manifold social contradictions. Our fractions in the trade unions and other organisations must do all they can to liberate the members of the trade unions and other workers’ organisations from the misleading and harmful influence of the social-democratic press. Our campaign to win subscribers by both house-to-house and factory agitation must involve a direct attack on the press of the social-traitors.
43 In extending and consolidating the Party organisation, the actual economic and political patterns and the network of communications the area exhibits should be given more consideration than any conventional geographical criteria. The chief emphasis should be on main cities and the centres of large-scale industry.
When a new Party is being formed, there is often the temptation to start immediately extending the network of Party organisations across the whole country, even though the forces at the Party’s disposal are limited and widely dispersed. Consequently the Party is less able to recruit members and, though it may manage to create a highly developed bureaucratic system in the space of a few years, it will not even succeed in building up a firm base in any of the country’s main industrial towns.
44 Maximum centralisation of Party activity will not be achieved by constructing a schematic, hierarchical system of leadership with a large number of Party organisations, each one subordinate to its superior. The aim is for every large town which is a centre of economic and political life and of communications to have an organisational network extending over the economic and political area around the town. The Party committee in the regional capital, as head of the Party organisation, must direct all the organisational and political activity in the district and maintain the closest links with the mass of working-class Party members who live in the main town.
The district organisers, elected by the district conference or the Party district congress and confirmed in office by the Party’s CC, must play a regular part in the Party life of the regional capital. Party workers from the main town must constantly reinforce the Party district committee, which provides the political leadership, so that close contact is maintained between it and the broad mass of Party members in the regional capital. As the forms of Party organisation develop further, it is essential to work towards a situation where the leading Party district committee assumes political leadership in the town. The leading Party committees of the district organisations, along with the Central Committee, will provide real leadership of the Party organisation as a whole.
It is obviously not essential for the boundaries of the Party district to coincide with the geographical boundaries of the area. What is important is that the Party district committee should be able to supervise equally efficiently all the local organisations in the district. If this is not possible, then the district must be divided in two and a new Party district committee created.
In the larger countries the Party naturally needs to have several general liaison bodies to unite the Central Committee with the various district committees (provincial bodies, regional committees, etc.), and the district central authority with those of the various local organisations (regional or divisional bodies). In some circumstances it may certainly be advisable to give a leading role to one or another of these liaison bodies (for example, to the main organisation of a fairly large town with a big Party membership). But, as a general rule, it is wise to avoid such decentralisation.
45 The Party as a whole is under the leadership of the Communist International. The directives and resolutions of the central bodies of the International which concern the affiliated Parties are sent 1) to the Central Committee of the Party or 2) through the CC to the central body which is in charge of some special activity or 3) to all Party organisations.
The directives and resolutions of the International are binding on the Party and also, it goes without saying, on each Party member.
The policies and the current activity of the Party are directed by the International through its two ‘bureaux. The smaller leading body regularly calls general meetings of the central leading body of the Party at which important resolutions of decisive significance are issued. During the elections to the central body of the Party, attention must be paid to the wishes of the organisations in the various parts of the country and to any suitable suggestions made by any of them, so that the centre has an exact picture of the general situation and the stage of development of the Party, its morale and fighting capacity. For the same reason, serious tactical disagreements which surface during elections to the central body should not be ignored; on the contrary, they must be discussed by the central body, of which able representatives of the minority view must be members. However, the smaller leading body must as far as possible share the same ideas so that it is able to give the Party a firm and reliable leadership, backed up not only by its own authority, but also by a sizeable and even a strong majority on the central leading body. The larger membership of the central Party body will, for one thing, enable the legal mass Parties in a short period of time to ensure that the mass of Party members have absolute trust in their CC and observe strict discipline in their relations with it. Moreover, the Party will be able to diagnose and cure more rapidly any ailments and weaknesses which full-time Party workers may develop. This makes it possible in part to eliminate in a rational way the growth of disease in the Party and obviates the necessity of curing it at future Party congresses by surgical methods, which could have catastrophic consequences.
46 The central leadership of the Party (Central Committee or the Enlarged Central Committee) is responsible to the Party Congress and the Executive Committee of the Communist International. The Central Committee and the smaller leading organ are usually elected by the Party congress, but if the congress considers it expedient, it may instruct the central body to elect from its own membership a narrower leading organ consisting of members of the Political and Organisational bureaus.
47 Each leading Party committee must organise an effective division of labour enabling it to supervise Party work as fruitfully as possible. Special leading bodies may prove essential in many areas of work (propaganda, distribution of papers and periodicals, trade-union work, work amongst women, political Red Cross work, information and liaison work, etc.). Each special leading body is subordinate either to the central leading body or to the Party district committee.
The leading Party district committee and, ultimately, the central leading body of the Party controls the activity and the correct functioning and composition of all the committees subordinate to it. All members who are full-time Party workers are directly responsible to the Party committee. It may be advisable to rotate Party members who hold positions (editors, propagandists, organisers, etc.) between different jobs and towns, provided this does not interfere too much with the work of the Party. Editors and propaganda workers must also take part in regular Party work as part of some working group.
48 The central leadership of the Party and the Communist International are at all times entitled to demand comprehensive reports from all the Communist organisations, from their bodies as well as from individual members. The representatives and delegates of the central leadership are entitled to attend all meetings and sessions with a consultative voice and the right of veto. The central Party leadership must always have delegates available so that it can provide district and area bodies with instructions and information on political or organisational matters, not only through circulars or correspondence but also through verbal communication by its representatives.
The Central Committees and all district committees must have revision commissions, which are made up of tried and experienced Party comrades and which have the job of controlling funds and auditing accounts. At certain fixed times they must report to the Extended Central Committee.
Every organisation and every Party organ as well as every individual Party member has the right at any time to communicate proposals, comments or complaints directly to the central Party leadership or the International.
49 The directives and decisions of the leading Party bodies are binding on subordinate organisations and on all individual members.
The obligation and responsibility of the leading bodies to guard against leading comrades neglecting their duties or abusing their rights cannot be fully expressed in a formal manner. In illegal Parties, for example, their formal responsibility is less, but their obligation to take note of the opinions of other members of the Party, to try to receive reliable information regularly and make their decisions after considered and comprehensive discussion is that much greater.
50 In their public appearances members of the Party are obliged to act at all times as disciplined members of a militant organisation. If there are disagreements on the correct method of action on this or that question, these should, as far as possible, be settled in the Party organisation before any public activity is embarked upon and the members should then act in accordance with the decision made. In order that every Party decision is carried out fully by all Party organisations and Party members, the largest possible number of Party members should be involved in discussing and deciding every issue. The different levels of the Party apparatus must decide whether any given question should be publicly discussed by individual comrades (in the press, in pamphlets), in what form and to what extent. If the decision of the organisation or leading Party body is in the view of certain other members incorrect, these comrades must not forget, When they speak or act in public, that to weaken or break the unity of the common front is the worst breach of discipline and the worst mistake that can be made in the revolutionary struggle.
It is the supreme duty of every member of the Party to defend the Communist Party and above all the Communist International against all enemies of Communism. Anyone who forgets this or goes so far as to attack the Party or the Communist International in public must be considered an enemy of the Party.
51 The statutes of the Party must be drawn up so that they do not serve as a barrier to the development and growth of the Party.
The decisions of the Communist International must be carried out without delay by all those Parties affiliated to it, even in those cases where the requisite changes in the existing statutes and Party decisions can only be made subsequently.
52 The day-to-day life of every Communist Party changes in accordance with the different stages of the revolutionary process. Essentially, however, every Party, whether legal or illegal, should aim at the same type of Party structure.
The Party must be organised so that it can adapt itself quickly to changes in the conditions of struggle.
The Communist Party must develop into a fighting organisation, capable on the one hand of avoiding open encounters with the enemy which has superior forces, and on the other hand of taking advantage of its opponents’ difficulties and attacking where an attack is least expected. It would be a great mistake for the Party organisation to stake everything on an uprising, on street fighting or on the spontaneous response of the masses to their extreme oppression. Communists must prepare for revolution in all situations and always be ready to fight, since it is often almost impossible to know in advance when the movement will grow and when there will be a period of calm. But even when it is possible to forecast struggles, the signal rarely comes in time to allow for alterations to be made in the Party organisation, since such changes in the situation usually occur very swiftly and often completely unexpectedly.
53 Legal Communist Parties in capitalist countries have, as a whole, not yet grasped fully how seriously they must work to prepare the Party for the revolutionary insurrection, the armed struggle and the illegal struggle.
The Parties are not preparing for illegal work; they assume that they will be able to operate legally for a long period of time and adopt structures that meet only the requirements of the day-to-day legal struggle.
The illegal Parties, on the other hand, are often not sufficiently skilful at seizing opportunities to engage in legal activities that can build a Party organisation which has real contact with the revolutionary masses. In such cases Party work tends to amount to a Sisyphean labour performed by ineffectual conspirators.
In both cases improvements need to be made. Every legal Communist Party must be organised so that, should it have to go underground, it is ready and capable of continuing its struggle. In particular, it must be prepared to respond to outbursts of revolutionary activity. Every illegal Communist Party, in its turn, must make good the opportunities provided by the legal workers’ movement, so that by working hard it becomes the organiser and the real leader of the broad revolutionary masses. The direction of both legal and illegal work must always be in the hands of a single Party centre.
54 Both the legal and illegal Communist Parties often understand illegal Communist organisational work to be the creation and maintenance of a closely knit and exclusively military organisation, isolated from other aspects of Party work and organisation. This is undoubtedly a mistaken view. In the pre-revolutionary period our military organisations must be built primarily by general Communist Party work. The Party as a whole must become a military organisation fighting for revolution.
When isolated revolutionary military organisations are set up prematurely, they tend to become demoralised and break up because there is no directly useful Party work for them to do.
55 It is of course vital that during any important campaign an illegal Party protect its members and its organisations from discovery and be careful not to give away their identity through membership lists, careless collection of dues or careless distribution of literature. The illegal Party is unable to use open forms of organisation for conspiratorial purposes in the way the legal Party does. But it can learn to make increasing use of these methods.
Every precaution must be taken to prevent suspicious or unreliable persons joining the Party. The methods to be used will depend to a considerable degree on whether the Party is legal or illegal, whether it is in a period of growth or of stagnation. One method which has had favourable results in some places and in certain circumstances is the system of candidature, according to which persons wanting to join the Party are first accepted as candidates on the recommendation of one or two Party comrades, and are only adopted as full members if they carry out successfully the Party work assigned to them.
The bourgeoisie will inevitably send spies and provocateurs into the illegal organisations. These elements must be countered with great care and patience.
One method of combating alien elements is the maximum combination of legal and illegal work. The best test of who is sufficiently reliable, brave, conscientious, energetic and skilful to be trusted with illegal work, and of the kind of illegal work they are most suited to is an extensive period of legal revolutionary work.
The legal mass Party must prepare thoroughly to meet the unexpected, to arm itself and adapt itself to illegal work (for example, it must hide addresses with care, develop the habit of destroying correspondence, learn to preserve necessary documents, educate people in conspiracy, etc.).
56 Consequently, our general Party work must be conducted so that the roots of a fighting organisation meeting the needs of the given stage of the revolution are developed in good time. It is particularly important that the administration of the Communist Party should keep these requirements constantly in view and as far as possible try to form a clear idea of its tasks before the revolution begins. Such a picture can never, it is true, be absolutely complete and precise, but that should never be an excuse for ignoring this important aspect of Communist organisational leadership.
For even a well-organised Party can find it extremely difficult to change its orientation in a period of open revolutionary struggle. The political party may have only a few days to mobilise for military activity. Not only the Party, but also its reserves, organisations of sympathisers and even the unorganised revolutionary masses, may have to prepare for action in this short time. In such a situation the formation of a regular Red Army is out of the question. Victory must be won without the assistance of a previously organised army; victory must be won by the masses alone, under the Party’s leadership. The most heroic struggle may therefore prove useless if our Party has not organised itself for such an eventuality.
57 The revolutionary central leadership bodies have often proved incapable of carrying out their tasks. During a revolution the proletariat can make great strides forward with its grass-roots organisational tasks, even while disorder, uncertainty and chaos reign at headquarters. Sometimes the most elementary division of labour is lacking. The communications network is usually particularly badly organised, becoming more of a burden than an asset and one which no one can rely on. If secret postal and transport facilities, secret hide-outs and printing presses are operating where they are needed, this is usually quite coincidental. An organised opponent can initiate provocative action with every chance of succeeding.
Unless the leading revolutionary party has set up its own special apparatus to deal with these organisational tasks, this kind of chaos is inevitable. Military intelligence demands special training and knowledge, as does counter-intelligence work to combat the political police.
A system of secret communication can function reliably and efficiently only if it has been in regular operation for a long time. In all these spheres of special revolutionary activity, every Communist Party needs some secret preparations, if only on a small scale.
In most cases a system may be established legally, provided the type of apparatus that may need to be created is kept in view: for example, an underground apparatus organising postal and courier services, transport, accommodation, etc. can be developed by the careful distribution of legal leaflets and also legal publications and letters.
58 The Communist organiser must from the outset think about the future historic role that each member of the Party will play as a soldier of our militant organisation at the time of the revolution. Thus the organiser will place workers in that Party section and give them that work which best corresponds to their future position and role in the struggle. The work must be useful in itself and essential to today’s battle, not merely an exercise which the activist does not understand. It must prepare the workers for the major tasks that win face them in tomorrow’s final struggle.