Third Congress of the Communist International – Resolutions

Theses on the Organisational Structure of the Communist Parties
and the Methods and Content of their Work

Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (, pp. 978-1006
Translation: Translation team organized by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission

I. General principles

1.) The organisation of the party must correspond both to the purpose of its activity and to the conditions in which it is conducted. The Communist Party aims to be the vanguard of the proletariat, its leading contingent, in every phase of its revolutionary class struggle and during the subsequent period of transition to socialism, the first stage of communist society.

2.) There is no immutable, absolutely correct structure for Communist parties. The conditions of proletarian class struggle are variable and subject to a process of constant change. In line with these changes, the organisation of the proletarian vanguard must also constantly seek appropriate forms. Similarly, the organisation of each party must conform to the historically determined features of its country.

However, there are limits to this differentiation. Despite all peculiarities, there is a similarity in the conditions of proletarian class struggle in different countries and in different phases of the proletarian revolution, and this has fundamental importance for the international Communist movement. This provides a common foundation for the organisation of Communist parties in each country.

The task is to further develop the Communist parties’ organisation in an expedient fashion on this foundation, and not to strive for the founding of new model parties to replace those that already exist, or to seek an absolutely correct organisational form or ideal statutes.

3.) Most of the Communist parties, as well as the Communist International as a world party of the revolutionary proletariat, share as a condition of their struggle that they must still struggle against the ruling bourgeoisie. Victory over the bourgeoisie and taking power out of its hands remains the decisive goal, setting our course in the coming period.

The organisational work of the Communist parties in the capitalist countries is thus directed toward building an organisation that can make possible and secure the victory of the proletarian revolution over the possessing classes.

4.) To be effective, every joint action needs a leadership. This applies above all to the great struggle of world history. The Communist Party is the organisation of Communist leadership in the proletarian revolution.

To lead effectively, the party itself needs a good leadership. Our basic organisational task is thus to form, organise, and train an active Communist Party with competent leading bodies, as the competent leadership of the revolutionary proletarian movement.

5.) To lead the revolutionary class struggle, the Communist Party and its leading bodies must combine great striking power with great capacity to adjust to the changing conditions of struggle.

Successful leadership also requires close ties with the proletarian masses. Without such ties, the leaders of the masses will not lead them but at best only follow along after.

The Communist Party seeks to achieve such organic ties through democratic centralism.

II. On democratic centralism

6.) Democratic centralism in a Communist Party should be a true synthesis and fusion of centralism and proletarian democracy. This fusion can be achieved only on the foundation of constant and common activity and struggle of the entire party.

In a Communist Party, centralisation should not be formal and mechanical. It should relate to Communist activity, that is, to the formation of a strong, agile, and also flexible leadership.

A formal or mechanical centralisation would concentrate ‘power’ in the hands of a party bureaucracy, lording it over the other members and the revolutionary proletarian masses outside the party. But only enemies of communism could assert that the Communist Party seeks to utilise its leadership function and its centralisation of Communist leadership to dominate the proletarian class struggle. That is a lie. Moreover, internal power struggles and efforts to dominate the party are equally incompatible with the fundamentals of democratic centralism adopted by the Communist International.

In the organisations of the old, non-revolutionary workers’ movement, a pervasive dualism developed, similar to that of the bourgeois state, between bureaucracy and ‘people’. Under the paralysing influence of the bourgeois environment, functionaries became estranged from members, a vibrant collaboration was replaced by the mere forms of democracy, and the organisations became split between active functionaries and passive masses. Even the revolutionary workers’ movement cannot avoid being influenced to some degree by the formalism and dualism of the bourgeois environment.

The Communist Party needs to thoroughly overcome such contradictions through systematic, ongoing political and organisational work, marked by repeated improvements and changes.

7.) During the transformation of a mass socialist party into a Communist Party, care must be taken not to limit the process to gathering instruments of power into the hands of the central leadership, while otherwise leaving the previous setup unchanged. For centralisation not to remain a dead letter but to be carried out in practice, it must be implemented in such a way that the members perceive it as an objectively required strengthening and broadening of their overall work and capacity to struggle. Otherwise the masses will perceive it as a bureaucratisation of the party, which can give rise to opposition to any centralisation, any leadership, any strict discipline. The polar opposite of bureaucratism is anarchism.

The mere forms of democracy cannot rid the organisation either of the tendency toward bureaucratism or of that toward anarchism, which indeed find fertile soil in this type of democracy. It follows that efforts to centralise the organisation, that is, to establish a strong leadership, cannot succeed if limited to the framework of formal democracy. Such a leadership requires above all developing and maintaining living ties and interrelationships both within the party, between its leading bodies and the rest of the membership, and also between the party and the masses of proletarians outside its ranks.

III. On Communists’ obligation to be active

8.) The Communist Party should be a working school of revolutionary Marxism. Through daily common work within the party, organisational ties will be established between its different wings and among the individual members.

Even today, in the legal Communist parties, most of the members still are not consistently active in the party’s daily work. This is a major failing of these parties and a cause for uncertainty regarding their future development.

9.) Any workers’ party taking its first steps toward Communist transformation runs the risk of resting content with adoption of a Communist programme. Communist doctrine replaces previous doctrine in its propaganda, and Communist-oriented functionaries replace those with other views, and that is all. Adoption of a Communist programme, however, is only a statement of intent to become Communist. If there is no Communist activity, and if the passivity of most members in party work remains unchallenged, the party is not carrying out even the minimum of what it has promised the proletariat by adopting a Communist programme. Indeed, the first condition in implementing this programme is to draw all members into ongoing daily collaboration.

The art of Communist organisation is to make use of everything in the proletarian class struggle, to divide up party work effectively among all members, and through the members to draw broader masses of the proletariat into the revolutionary movement. This art also involves maintaining a leadership position in the movement as a whole not by virtue of power but by virtue of authority, energy, and great experience, diversity, and ability.

10.) In its efforts to have a genuinely active membership, a Communist Party should ask of everyone in its ranks to commit their energy and time to the party, to the extent possible under given circumstances, and to always do their best in its service.

Besides commitment to Communist ideas, membership in the Communist Party normally involves formal registration, perhaps initially as a candidate and later as a full member; regular payment of fixed dues; a subscription to the party newspaper; and so on. The most important thing, however, is the participation of every member in daily party work.

11.) In order to take part in daily work, each member should, as a rule, belong to a small working group, be it a committee, collective, fraction, or cell. This is the only way that party work can be properly allocated, led, and carried out.

In addition, of course, members should take part in general meetings of the local organisation. Under conditions of legality, it is not good to replace these periodic assemblies by delegated local bodies. Rather, all members should be obliged to attend these meetings regularly. But that is not adequate. Such meetings need to be properly prepared by the work of smaller groups or of assigned comrades. The same applies to preparations to make effective use of broad assemblies of workers, demonstrations, and workers’ mass actions. Only small groups can carefully assess and intensively carry out the varied tasks flowing from such activity. Without such ongoing detailed work by the entire membership, functioning through a great many small working groups, even the most energetic efforts to take part in proletarian struggle will lead only to vain, feeble attempts to gain influence. They will not lead to the necessary unification of all the living, revolutionary proletarian forces in a unified Communist Party capable of action.

12.) Communist nuclei should be formed for day-to-day work in different arenas of party activity: door-to-door agitation, internal education, newspaper circulation, literature sales, information services, communications, and so on.

Communist cells are nuclei carrying out ongoing Communist work in factories and workplaces, trade unions, proletarian cooperatives, military units, and so on – wherever there are at least a few Communist Party members or candidates. If there are many party members in the same workplace, union, etc., the cell expands into a fraction, whose work is led by a nucleus.

If it is appropriate to form a more broadly based opposition formation [in a union] or to take part in one that already exists, the Communists need to strive to lead such formations through their own cells.

Whether a Communist cell should make its presence known to those around it, or declare itself publicly as Communist, must be decided by conscientiously weighing the dangers and advantages present in the specific situation.

13.) Introducing the obligation to party activity and organising these small working groups is particularly difficult for Communist mass parties. It cannot be done overnight. It demands tireless persistence, careful consideration, and much exertion.

It is particularly important that this reorganisation be carried out from the outset with care and balanced consideration. It would be a simple matter to allocate all members in each organisation into small cells and groups according to some formal schema and then simply call on these structures to take on the party’s daily work. Starting that way would be worse than not starting at all. It would quickly lead party members to object to this essential reorganisation or to reject it.

The party leadership will do well to begin with intensive discussion with a number of competent organisers who are convinced and enthusiastic Communists, with a detailed grasp of where the movement stands in different areas of struggle. On this basis, a detailed outline can be prepared for the first steps toward this renewal. Next, trained organisers or organisational committees must effectively prepare the plan of work on the local level, choosing the initial group leaders and taking the first steps. The next step is to assign concrete, specific tasks to the organisations, working groups, cells, and individual members, tasks that are clearly useful, desirable, and practicable. Where necessary, practical demonstrations can show how these tasks are to be carried out. It should be explained what errors are to be particularly avoided.

14.) This reorganisation should be carried out one step at a time. At first, not all that many new cells or working groups should be founded in a local organisation. It is first necessary to show through a brief experience that the cells founded in certain important factories and unions are functioning properly. It is also necessary that working groups founded in the other main areas of party activity – such as information gathering, communications, door-to-door work, the women’s movement, distributing literature and the paper, work among the jobless – are reasonably well consolidated. It would be wrong to tear down the old organisational framework before the new one has been broken in to some extent.

However, this fundamental task of Communist organisational work must be carried out energetically everywhere. This places great demands not only on legal but also on illegal parties. An extensive and active network of Communist cells, fractions, and working groups is needed in all crucial arenas of the proletarian class struggle. The party must be strong and purposeful, with every member taking part in the daily revolutionary work. The participation must become a self-evident routine. Until all this is reality, the party cannot take any respite from its efforts to carry out this task.

15.) This fundamental organisational task obligates the leading party committees to exert constant, inexhaustible, and direct leadership of the party’s work. It requires varied efforts by every comrade active in the party leadership. The leadership of Communist activity must not merely ensure that all comrades are busy; it must assist them and lead their work systematically and expertly. Precise orientation is needed on the specific conditions of work. An effort is needed to identify errors in one’s own activity, apply the lessons of experience to improving methods of work, and to never lose sight of the struggle’s goal.

16.) The entirety of our party work consists of struggle, whether theoretical or practical, or of preparation for this struggle. In the past, specialisation of this work has mostly been very inadequate. There are important arenas of work in which the party has carried out work only accidentally, at best, such as efforts by legal parties to struggle against the political police. Instruction of party members is usually haphazard, incidental, and so superficial that the majority of the party’s most important principled decisions, including its programme and resolutions of the Communist International, remain unknown to broad layers of the membership. Ongoing and systematic instruction is needed throughout the organisation, in all its working groups, in order to achieve a continually rising level of specialisation.

17.) The duty to be active in the Communist organisation also necessarily includes submission of reports. This applies to all party branches and committees as well as to every individual member. General reports must be regular and frequent, while special reports are needed when specific party tasks are carried out. It is important to carry out submission of reports so systematically that it becomes a firmly established tradition of the Communist movement.

18.) Four times a year, a party makes its regular report to the leadership of the Communist International. Each unit within the party reports to the leading body immediately above it – such as monthly reports by the local organisation to the relevant party committee.

Every cell, fraction, or working group should report to the party committee that actually leads its work. Individual members should report – perhaps weekly – to the cell or working group to which they belong. Where special tasks have been carried out, the report should go to the party unit that made the assignment.

Reports should always be made at the first opportunity. They should be given orally, unless the party or the appropriate committee has asked for a written report. Reports should be brief and factual. The recipient of the report must ensure that reports whose publication would cause harm are kept secure, and that important reports are passed on without delay to the relevant party committee.

19.) These reports should not be limited, of course, to what the reporter has done. They should also include information relevant to our struggle on what has been observed during activity, especially observations that could occasion a change or improvement in our future activity. When our activity reveals the need for improvement, this should be passed on.

All Communist cells, fractions, and working groups should, as a rule, discuss the reports they have received as well as those they have to deliver. These discussions must become routine.

All cells and working groups must ensure that individual members or groups of members regularly receive a special assignment to observe and report on enemy organisations, especially on petty-bourgeois workers’ organisations and ‘socialist’ parties.

IV. On propaganda and agitation

20.) In the period before an open revolutionary uprising, our universal task is revolutionary propaganda and agitation. This activity is often largely carried out in the old, formal way, by intervening occasionally in mass meetings from the outside, without much care as to the actual revolutionary content of what is written or said.

Communist propaganda and agitation must take root in the very heart of the proletarian milieu. It must arise from the workers’ lives, common interests and strivings, and especially from their common struggles.

Revolutionary content is the most important aspect of Communist propaganda. The slogans and positions advanced on specific questions in different situations must be evaluated from this point of view. Not only full-time propagandists and agitators but all party members must receive ongoing and extensive instructions, to enable them to take correct positions.

21.) The main forms of Communist propaganda and agitation are: personal discussions, participation in struggles by the trade-union and political workers’ movement, and the impact of the party’s press and literature. Every member of both legal and illegal parties should take part regularly in this activity in one way or another.

Oral, person-to-person propaganda must be carried out above all through systematically organised door-to-door agitation by working groups established with that purpose. No dwelling in the reach of local party units should be omitted. In larger centres, good results can be had from specially organised street agitation, utilising posters and leaflets. In addition, cells or fractions must organise regular person-to-person agitation at workplaces, linked to distribution of written materials.

In countries whose population includes national minorities, special attention is needed to agitation and propaganda in the proletarian layers of these minorities. This work is to be carried out, of course, in the language of the national minority in question. Special party publications must be created for this purpose.

22.) In capitalist countries where a large majority of the proletariat still has no conscious inclination to revolution, ways must be sought to improve Communist propaganda. It must be adapted to the understanding of non-revolutionary workers to link up with their incipient revolutionary understanding and open their road to the revolutionary movement. The slogans of Communist propaganda must foster the impulses of such workers toward revolution – even though still germinating, unconscious, incomplete, wavering, and semi-bourgeois – as they undergo an inner struggle against bourgeois traditions and appeals.

Communist propaganda must not rest content with the present limited and unclear demands or hopes of the proletarian masses. The revolutionary seeds of these demands and hopes are no more than the necessary starting point for us to gain influence. Only from such starting points can proletarians be brought closer in understanding to communism.

23.) Communist agitation among the proletarian masses must be such that proletarians in struggle recognise our Communist organisation as a courageous, perceptive, vigorous, and consistently loyal leader of their common movement.

To achieve this, Communists must take part in all elemental working-class struggles and movements and lead the workers in every battle with the capitalists over hours and wages, working conditions, and the like. Communists must closely study specific issues of workers’ lives. They must help workers to disentangle these questions, direct their attention to the most important abuses, help them formulate precise and practical demands on the capitalists, strive to develop their consciousness of solidarity, and arouse their awareness of the common interests and goals of workers of all countries, as a unified working class in the world proletarian army.

Only such daily work, detailed but indispensable, and such continual devoted participation in all the proletariat’s struggles can enable a ‘Communist Party’ to become a Communist Party. This is the only way it can depart from the outdated model of socialist parties dedicated entirely to propaganda and recruitment, whose activity consists of gathering members, making speeches about reforms, and utilising the opportunities that arise – or, more likely, do not arise – in parliament. The broad masses of party members need to take part, with devotion and a sense of purpose, in the school of daily struggles and conflicts between the exploited and the exploiters. That is the indispensable precondition for winning the dictatorship of the proletariat and, even more, for exercising it. Only leading the working masses in an ongoing guerrilla war against the attacks of capital enables the Communist parties to become a working-class vanguard that can really learn to lead the proletariat and gain the capacity to consciously prepare for elimination of the bourgeoisie.

24.) When strikes, lockouts, or mass layoffs take place, Communists must mobilise in large numbers to take part in the workers’ movement.

Communists make an enormous mistake by pointing to the Communist programme or the armed struggle as excuses for passivity, scorn, or even hostility to workers’ current struggles for small improvements in their working conditions. No matter how small and modest the demands may be that the workers now pose for struggle against the capitalists, this is never cause for the Communists to stand aloof from the struggle. Of course, our agitation should not give the impression that we Communists blindly instigate unwise strikes or other rash actions. However, among the workers in struggle, the Communists should always earn the reputation of being the most competent comrades-in-arms.

25.) In trade-union activity, the Communist cells and fractions have often been at a loss in face of the simplest daily issues. It is easy to preach only the general principles of communism, and then – faced with a specific challenge – to fall back into the negative approach of vulgar trade unionism. But this is harmful, merely playing into the hands of the yellow leaders of Amsterdam.

Communists, by contrast, should determine their revolutionary position based on the factual content of each question that arises. For example, rather than resting content with principled opposition to all wage contracts, Communists should contest the actual factual content of the contracts proposed by the Amsterdam leaders. Every move to rein in the proletariat’s readiness to struggle should be condemned. As is well known, the capitalists and their Amsterdam accomplices try to use every wage agreement to tie the hands of the workers in struggle. Communists must certainly explain this to workers. But as a rule, Communists can best do this by proposing a wage scale that does not shackle the workers.

This same approach applies, for example, to the workers’ mutual aid societies and trade-union benefit plans. It is certainly beneficial to provide strike support and pay for costs of the struggle from common funds. It would be quite wrong to oppose such arrangements in principle. However, the type of collections favoured by the Amsterdam leaders and the way they use the funds contradicts the workers’ revolutionary class interests. As for trade-union health insurance and similar arrangements, Communists may, for example, propose an end to the requirement to pay special premiums and the removal of restrictive provisions relating to voluntary insurance schemes. But if some of the members still want to secure their health insurance by paying premiums, they will not understand it if we want to simply forbid that out of hand. It is first necessary to carry out intensive personal propaganda to free these members from their petty-bourgeois aspirations.

26.) In the struggle against Social Democratic and other petty-bourgeois trade-union leaders and the various workers’ parties, we cannot hope to achieve anything through persuasion. The struggle against them must be organised with full vigour. However, this can be done successfully only by separating them from their supporters, convincing workers that the social-traitor leaders are simply doing the menial work for capitalism. Where possible, these leaders should be put in a situation where they are compelled to expose themselves – and when that is achieved, vigorously attacked.

It is certainly not enough to curse the Amsterdam leaders as ‘yellow’. Practical examples are needed to demonstrate this. We can point to their activity in labour-employer collaborative bodies, in the League of Nations’ International Labour Office, in bourgeois ministries and administration. We can cite their traitorous statements in speeches at conferences and in parliaments and the decisive passages of their many appeasing articles in hundreds of newspapers. We can point in particular to their wavering and hesitant conduct in preparing and carrying out even the smallest wage movements and workplace conflicts. In all these ways, we have the opportunity every day to present simple motions, resolutions, and clear speeches exposing and characterising the unreliable and traitorous activity of the Amsterdam leaders as ‘yellow’.

The cells and fractions have to strike these blows systematically. The lower-level trade-union bureaucracy should not be exempt. Although their intentions are often good, they hide their weakness behind union bylaws and decisions and instructions of the union top leadership. Communists should not hesitate to act resolutely, always demanding that the lower-level bureaucrats explain clearly what they are doing to remove these supposed obstacles, and whether they are prepared to join with the membership in struggle for this goal.

27.) Communist participation in trade-union meetings and conferences needs to be carefully prepared by the fractions and working groups. Motions should be drafted, reporters and speakers chosen, and competent, experienced, and energetic comrades proposed as candidates.

Communist organisations must prepare just as carefully when parties opposed to them call workers’ meetings, election rallies, demonstrations, political festivals, and the like. When the Communists themselves call general meetings of workers, as many Communist working groups as possible must collaborate according to a unified plan both before and at the rallies, in order to draw full advantage for the organisation.

28.) Communists must improve their ability to attract workers who are unorganised and lack consciousness into the party’s permanent sphere of influence. Our cells and fractions should convince these workers to join the trade unions and read our party newspaper. Our influence can also be conveyed through other workers’ associations (consumer cooperatives, groups of wounded veterans, study circles, sports associations, theatrical groups, etc.). If the Communist Party must work illegally, such workers’ associations can be formed outside the party by its members – with the approval and under the supervision of the party’s leading bodies (sympathiser organisations).

Communist youth and women’s organisations can also awaken the interest of many proletarians uninterested in politics in the activity of collective organisations, through their classes, reading groups, special trips, festivals, Sunday excursions, and so on. In this way, they can be won to permanent participation in the organisation and involved in useful party work (distributing leaflets, newspapers, pamphlets, etc.). Active participation in the common movement is the best way to free them from petty-bourgeois inclinations.

29.) In order to win semi-proletarian layers of the working people to the side of the revolutionary proletariat, Communists must utilise the conflicts of interest that set these layers against large landowners, capitalists, and the capitalist state. Through constant discussion, these intermediate layers must be freed from their suspicion of proletarian revolution. This often demands lengthy contact. Their trust in the Communist movement will be increased by showing sympathetic interest in their day-to-day needs, providing free information in coping with small challenges they cannot deal with on their own, inviting them to special free educational events, and so on. In this process, Communists must cautiously but persistently counter hostile organisations and individuals who have local authority, and influence working peasants, household servants, and other semi-proletarians. Enemies close at hand, whom the exploited know from their experience as oppressors, must be exposed as personifications of the criminal capitalist system as a whole. Every day-to-day event in which the governmental bureaucracy infringes on the ideals of petty-bourgeois democracy and the rule of law must be forcibly explained in simple language in Communist propaganda and agitation.

Every local unit in rural areas must carefully divide up among its members the work of door-to-door agitation, and extend this work to all villages, estates, and individual houses in the area.

30.) To conduct propaganda in the capitalist army and navy, Communists must look into the most appropriate methods for each individual country. Pacifist agitation against militarism is very harmful, since it furthers the bourgeoisie’s efforts to disarm workers. The proletariat rejects in principle and combats all the military institutions of the bourgeois state and the bourgeois class. Nonetheless, these institutions (army, rifle clubs, neighbourhood patrols, etc.) can be useful to prepare workers for revolutionary struggle. The target of anti-militarist agitation, therefore, is not military training of the youth and workers, but the militarist system and the despotism of the officers. Every chance for proletarians to hold weapons in hand should be energetically utilised.

Rank-and-file soldiers in the army must be made aware of the class antagonisms expressed in the shabby treatment they receive and officers’ material privileges. In addition, it must be explained to soldiers how their whole future is linked to that of the exploited classes. In periods of increasing revolutionary ferment, agitation for the election by soldiers and sailors of all those in command and for the formation of soldiers’ councils can be very effective in undermining the pillars of capitalist class rule.

Attentive and vigorous agitation is needed against the bourgeoisie’s special class-war contingents, especially their volunteer armed bands. Where their social composition and corrupt practices make this possible, systematic efforts are needed, at the appropriate time, to introduce social discord into their ranks. In cases where they are homogeneous in class character, such as contingents formed entirely of officers, they must be exposed to the contempt and hatred of the entire population, so that they will be undermined internally by social isolation.

V. Organising political struggles

31.) For a Communist Party there is never a situation in which political activity is impossible. The party’s strategy and tactics must be built on utilisation of every political and economic conjuncture, in all their variations.

Even if the party is still weak, it can still take advantage of major political events or strikes that shake the entire economy in order to carry out well-prepared radical propaganda initiatives. When the party decides on such an initiative, it must commit all the energy of its branches and sectors to this campaign.

All the connections that the party has acquired through the work of its cells and working groups should be used to hold meetings in the main centres where political organising or a strike movement is under way. At such meetings, party speakers should advance Communist slogans showing how participants can surmount the difficulties of their struggle. Special working groups should meticulously prepare these meetings. If it is not possible to hold our own meetings, suitable comrades should take the lead as speakers in general assemblies of strikers or other proletarians in struggle.

When there is a chance of winning support for our slogans from most or many participants in a meeting or rally, we must try to express these slogans through well-written and well-motivated motions and resolutions. If they are adopted, efforts should be made to pass the same or similar resolutions in every meeting on this issue in that city or region, or at least to win substantial minority support for them. In this way we will draw together layers of the proletariat in the movement on whom we previously had only limited influence and enable them to recognise the new leadership.

After each meeting of this sort, the working groups involved in preparing and conducting it should meet briefly, not only to prepare a report for the leading party committee, but also to draw out the lessons of this experience for future work.

The slogans can also be conveyed to interested layers of workers, as befits the situation, through posters or short handbills. More extensive leaflets can show how these workers are linked to the struggle and present Communist slogans in accessible fashion. A skilled poster campaign requires specially organised groups to identify the best spots and the best times for pasting up the posters. Distributing handbills inside or in front of the factory or in places where travelling workers congregate (traffic junctions, employment offices, railway stations) should be accompanied, where possible, by personal discussions that pass on slogans orally to working masses who are in motion. Detailed leaflets should properly be distributed indoors, in the factories, meeting rooms, or homes, or wherever else they can receive an attentive response.

This intensive propaganda must be accompanied by parallel activity in all trade-union and factory meetings affected by the movement. Our comrades may build or organise such meetings themselves, and then assign members to give presentations or contribute to discussions. Our party’s newspapers must give a great deal of space and assign their best writers to respond to such a special movement. Indeed the entire party apparatus must be freed up as long as needed to support unrelentingly the main ideas of this movement.

32.) Demonstrations need a flexible and dedicated leadership that keeps the purpose of the action in view. This leadership must be constantly able to judge whether the demonstration has reached its limit of effectiveness, or whether – in the given situation – the campaign can be brought to the level of a mass action by demonstrative strikes or even mass strikes. The peace demonstrations during the War taught us that even when such an action has been repulsed, if the goal is urgent and overriding and is inherently of continued broad interest to the masses, a genuine proletarian combat party, even if underground and quite small, cannot turn aside or hold back.

Street demonstrations should rely on the largest factories for their main support. Our cells and fractions should carry out systematic preparatory work through discussions and handbills to establish some degree of agreement regarding the situation. Our leading committee should convene our factory shop stewards and cell and fraction leaders to a briefing to decide on measures to rally forces effectively on the appointed day and have them meet punctually. This meeting should determine the nature of the slogans, the prospects for intensifying the action, and the time to break off and disperse the demonstration. A well-trained and experienced staff of energetic functionaries is needed to form the backbone of the demonstration from its outset, when contingents leave the factories, to its dissolution. To enable these functionaries to maintain effective contact with each other and to be supplied throughout with the requisite political instructions, responsible party workers must be integrated into the mass of demonstrators. Such a mobile political and organisational leadership maximises the chances of renewing the action and possibly broadening its scope.

33.) Communist parties that are already somewhat consolidated and have an experienced team of functionaries and significant mass support should do everything possible, through major campaigns, to overcome fully the influence of the social traitors on the working class and bring its majority under Communist leadership. The way campaigns are organised depends on circumstances, such as whether the current struggles enable Communists to take the lead of proletarian forces or whether the movement is temporarily stagnant. The party’s composition also influences organisational methods in an action. That is why the VKPD, as a new mass party, resorted to the so-called Open Letter in order to win the socially decisive layers of the proletariat more effectively than had been possible in individual districts. In order to expose the social traitors, the Communist Party approached the other mass organisations of the proletariat, at a time of increasing impoverishment and class antagonisms. The party demanded that they tell the proletariat publicly whether they were willing to commit their supposedly powerful organisations to a struggle together with the Communist Party for very modest demands to counter the evident impoverishment of the proletariat.

When a Communist Party begins a campaign of this type, it needs to prepare organisationally so that its initiative can receive a response among the broadest layers of workers. All the party’s factory fractions and trade-union functionaries must, after thorough preparation, effectively present the party’s demands as an overall response to the proletariat’s most urgent needs in their next factory or trade-union meeting and in all public meetings. Leaflets, handbills, and posters must be effectively distributed wherever our cells or fractions aim to generate and develop support for our demands among the masses. While the campaign is under way, our party press must publish daily articles – sometimes short, sometimes detailed – examining the issues from varied points of view. Party units need to send in a steady stream of materials and be vigilant that the editors do not flag in covering the campaign journalistically. In addition, party fractions in parliament and municipal councils should be placed at the service of such struggles. They must implement party instructions by speaking about the movement and advancing appropriate parliamentary resolutions. The deputies should act consciously as a wing of the masses in struggle, as their spokespersons in the enemy camp, and as responsible functionaries and party workers.

Let us say that the unified activity of every wing of the party leads within a few weeks to a large and growing number of resolutions of support. The party then faces a significant challenge: how to give organisational form to the masses’ support for its demands. If the movement is based primarily in the trade unions, the main effort should be to increase our influence in the unions. Our fractions should take well-prepared initiatives against the local trade-union leaderships, in order either to push them aside or to convince them to carry out an organised struggle for our party’s demands. If there are factory councils, committees, or similar bodies, our fractions should carry out an orderly intervention to induce a full meeting of these bodies to join in supporting the struggle.

If such a campaign for the proletariat’s basic interests has led to formation of local groups under Communist leadership, these must be brought together in conferences, which should also include special delegates from factory meetings that have come out in support of the movement. The new leadership consolidated in this fashion under Communist influence can gain strength through such a unification of active groups of organised workers. This strength can then be utilised to drive forward the leadership of socialist parties and trade unions or to unmask them organisationally.

In branches of the economy where our party is strongest and has won the greatest support for its demands, this exerts pressure on the local trade unions and factory councils. This situation should then be utilised to draw together all the individual economic struggles and budding independent movements into a unified campaign that will now go beyond the concerns of a specific union by raising some basic common demands. All district organisations can then join forces in pushing them through. In such a movement the Communist Party will prove itself as the genuine leader of the proletariat in struggle. If the trade-union bureaucracy and socialist parties oppose such a unified campaign, they will be thrust aside, not only on the plane of political ideas but organisationally as well.

34.) If the Communist Party is attempting to achieve leadership of the masses at a moment when heightened political and economic tensions provoke new movements and struggles, there is no need to advance special demands. The party can then appeal directly to the members of the socialist parties and trade unions, in a popular style. It can point to the struggles needed to respond to the situation’s urgency and to increasing oppression by the employers. It can call on these members to disregard the desires of their bureaucratic leaders by engaging in these struggles, so as to avoid complete collapse. During such a movement, the party publications – and especially the daily newspapers – have to stress and demonstrate that the Communists stand ready to take the lead in impoverished proletarians’ struggles, whether impending or under way. In such a situation, the Communists stand prepared to come to the aid of all the oppressed, wherever possible. It must be stressed daily that, although the old organisations seek to evade and obstruct these struggles, without them there is no way to secure a tolerable living standard for the workers.

Factory and trade-union fractions must explain to assembled workers that there is no turning back, while stressing the Communists’ dedication and readiness for struggle. The most important factor in such a campaign is to draw together and unify the struggles and movements that arise from a given situation. Cells and fractions have to maintain tight organic ties among the trades and factories drawn into the struggle. In addition, the leadership has to act, through both district committees and the central leadership, to make functionaries and responsible party workers immediately available to join with those in struggle in the process of leading the movement – broadening, building, intensifying, generalising, and linking it together. The party’s main task is to highlight what the different struggles have in common and convert that into a general slogan, if necessary advocating political measures.

During the process of building and generalising struggles, it will be necessary to create unified leadership bodies. If bureaucratic strike leaders abandon the struggle prematurely, prompt efforts are needed to replace them with Communists who will assure a firm and determined leadership. If efforts to combine several struggles have succeeded, an attempt should be made to create a common action leadership, which can, if possible, be headed by Communists. Such a unified leadership can often be easily attained, through trade-union and factory fractions, factory councils, factory council general assemblies, and especially through assemblies of all the strikers.

If the movement becomes generalised and intervention by the employers’ organisations and government give it a political character, it may be possible and increasingly necessary to elect workers’ councils. The party should advocate and prepare organisationally for this step. All party units should insist that only councils arising directly from working-class struggles can act for their liberation with the needed single-mindedness. Such councils should not be weighted down with the trade-union bureaucracy and its Socialist Party satellites.

35.) Already consolidated Communist parties, and especially large mass parties, should take organisational measures to assure ongoing readiness for mass political actions. The organisational lessons of demonstrations, mass economic movements, and all partial actions must always be utilised to resolutely firm up ties with the broad masses. The experiences of all recent and large movements should be thoroughly discussed in broad conferences of leading functionaries and party workers together with the shop stewards of large and mid-sized factories. Energetic efforts are needed to constantly strengthen the network of links among shop stewards. A close relationship of trust linking the leading functionaries and party workers to the shop stewards is the best guarantee that mass political actions will not be launched prematurely and that they assume dimensions appropriate to the conditions and the party’s current influence.

The Communist Party cannot carry out mass actions and genuine revolutionary movements unless the party has close ties with the proletarian masses in large and mid-sized factories. Consider how the unquestionably revolutionary uprising in Italy last year, expressed above all in the occupation of the factories, collapsed prematurely. In part, this was because of betrayal by the trade-union bureaucracy and the inadequacies of the party leadership. But it was also caused, in part, by the utter lack of organic ties between the party and the factories, through politically aware shop stewards engaged in party activity. An intensive analysis of the large movement of British miners this year shows that it certainly suffered greatly from this weakness.

VI. On the party press

36.) The party must work tirelessly to develop and improve the Communist press.

No newspaper should be recognised as a party publication unless it accepts the party’s instructions. This principle should be applied, by analogy, to all publications, including magazines, books, pamphlets, and so on, while taking into account their theoretical, propagandistic, or other purpose.

The party must focus more on the quality of its newspapers than on their number. Every Communist Party needs above all a strong central organ, appearing if possible on a daily basis.

37.) A Communist newspaper must never become a capitalist business, in the fashion of the bourgeois and often the so-called ‘socialist’ newspapers. Our papers must guard their independence from capitalist loan-making institutions. Skilled collection of advertising greatly assists the survival of mass legal parties’ newspapers, but it must never lead to any kind of dependency on large ads. Instead, our mass parties’ newspapers should acquire the necessary authority through their unyielding stance on all proletarian and social questions. Our newspaper should not serve to satisfy the public’s varied desires for sensation or amusement. It should not strive to be socially acceptable by providing a platform for criticisms by petty-bourgeois literary figures or journalistic virtuosos.

38.) A Communist newspaper must be concerned above all with the interests of the oppressed workers in struggle. It should be our best propagandist and agitator for proletarian revolution.

Our newspaper has the task of gathering useful experiences from the activity of all party members and presenting them to party comrades as guidance for ongoing correction and improvement of Communist methods of work. These experiences should be exchanged at meetings of editors from the entire country. The exchange of views there will bring about the greatest possible unity in the tone and orientation of the party press as a whole. In this way, the party press and each of its components will be the best organiser of our revolutionary work.

Without the unifying and purposeful organisational work of Communist newspapers, especially the official paper, it will hardly be possible to implement democratic centralism, achieve an effective division of labour within the party, and thus carry out its historic task.

39.) A party newspaper must attempt to be a Communist undertaking. It must be a proletarian organisation of struggle, a working collective of revolutionary workers, including all who write regularly for, typeset, print, administer, distribute, and sell the paper, those who gather local material for it and discuss and prepare this material in the cells, and those active in its distribution.

A number of practical measures are needed to convert the newspaper into a genuine organisation of struggle and a vibrant working collective of this type.

Each Communist acquires a close relationship with his newspaper by making sacrifices for it and working for it. The paper is his daily weapon, which must be steeled and sharpened anew each day in order to be usable. The Communist newspaper can be sustained only by ongoing and substantial material and financial contributions. Party members need to provide continual injections of support for the paper’s expansion and improvement until the point where, in the mass legal parties, it achieves such broad distribution and solidity that it begins to contribute materially to the Communist movement.

It is not enough to be an active recruiter and agitator for the newspaper. One must also be a helpful collaborator. Factory fractions and cells need to report as quickly as possible everything that is socially and economically notable, from on-the-job accidents to factory assemblies, from mistreatment of an apprentice to the company’s official report. The trade-union fractions must convey all important decisions and measures taken by the committees and secretariats of their union federation. Goings-on at meetings and in the streets often enable an observant party worker to note details of social significance. These can be reported in the newspaper to indicate close ties to the daily needs of those indifferent to politics.

The editorial committee must handle with great care and affection these reports coming from the lives of workers and their organisations. They can be used as short news items that make our newspaper into a living, strong, and vibrant working collective. Alternatively, such reports can be used as practical examples from workers’ daily existence – the best way to make the teachings of communism comprehensible to masses of workers. Wherever possible, editorial collectives should be available at times convenient for workers, in order to hear their desires and complaints regarding the hardships of life, take copious notes, and use them to enliven the newspaper.

None of our newspapers, to be sure, can become perfect Communist working collectives under capitalist conditions. But even under such difficult circumstances it is possible to successfully organise a revolutionary workers’ newspaper. This is shown by the example of our Russian comrades’ Pravda in 1913 – 14. It did in fact serve as an ongoing and active organisation of the conscious, revolutionary workers in the most important centres of the Russian empire. These comrades edited the newspaper collectively, published it, and distributed it, most of them in addition to working for wages and setting aside from their wages the money needed for the newspaper’s costs. The newspaper, for its part, could give them what they most needed and what they utilised in the movement – material that is still useful today in work and struggle. Such a publication was capable of becoming viewed as ‘our paper’ by party members and many other revolutionary workers.

40.) The characteristic feature of a Communist newspaper is direct involvement in campaigns led by the party. When the party focuses its activity for a period of time on a specific campaign, the party newspaper must serve this campaign, not only in its political editorials but in all its departments. The editors must use every type of material to build the campaign, while designing and shaping the entire paper to serve this purpose.

41.) Subscription work for our paper should be based on defined procedures. Every situation should be utilised where a worker is involved in a living movement and his interest in political or social life is stimulated by some political or economic event. Thus, immediately after every significant strike movement or lockout in which the newspaper has energetically defended the interests of the workers in struggle, person-to-person subscription work should be started up among the former strikers. Factory and trade-union fractions in the industrial sector involved in the strike should seek subscriptions among their contacts, using lists and subscription forms. In addition, where possible, they should obtain lists of the addresses of workers who took part in the struggle, so that special working groups building the newspaper can carry out vigorous door-to-door agitation.

In the same way, whenever an election campaign has aroused the interest of the masses, working groups should carry out systematic door-to-door work in the proletarian districts.

When a political or economic crisis is looming, its impact is felt by broad working masses through inflation, joblessness, or other expressions of deprivation. Skilled propaganda regarding these developments should be followed up by attempts by the trade-union fractions to obtain comprehensive lists of union members in different trades. The working group building the newspaper can then pursue fruitful ongoing, planned door-to-door agitation. Experience shows that the best time for this continuing subscription work is the last week before the end of the month. Any local organisation that leaves this last week unutilised for subscription work, even if only for a single month of the year, is guilty of a serious dereliction of duty with regard to expanding the Communist movement. The working group building the newspaper should also be active at every public meeting or large rally of workers, circulating its subscription forms at the start, during the breaks, and after the wrap-up. The trade-union fractions must do this in meetings of their union, as must the cells and factory fractions at factory-wide meetings.

42.) Party members must also consistently defend our newspaper against all enemies.

All party members must campaign strongly against the capitalist press, exposing and condemning its venality, its lies, its suppression of facts, and all its misdeeds.

As for the Social Democratic and Independent Socialist [centrist] press, it must be defeated through a constant effort, without straying into petty factional polemics. Examples from daily life should be used to expose their traitorous conduct, which conceals class antagonisms. Fractions in the trade unions and elsewhere must strive to free members of the trade unions and other workers’ associations from the confusing and crippling influence of these Social Democratic newspapers. In addition, subscription work for our newspaper, whether door-to-door or, must importantly, in the factory, must be carefully designed to undercut the press of the social traitors.

VII. Concerning the party’s overall structure

43.) The party’s expansion and consolidation should not take place according to a formal, geographic schema. Instead, it should correspond to real economic and political patterns as well as the communications structure of the given region. The main emphasis should be placed on the capital cities and the centres of large-scale industry.

When a new party is being built, there is often an effort at the start to immediately expand the network of party units across the entire country. Even if the available forces are very limited, they are often scattered about in obscure corners, thereby undercutting the party’s capacity to recruit and grow. After a few years, there is usually a comprehensive administrative system, while the party may not yet have struck roots in the country’s most important industrial centres.

44.) Optimal centralisation of party activity is not aided by dividing up the party leadership schematically into a hierarchy with many different levels arrayed one above the other. Efforts should be made to equip every large city that is a centre of economic, political, or communications activity with a network of connections into the surrounding hinterland and the economic or political region linked to it. The party committee in the large city that directs this structure and gives political leadership to the district must be in close touch with the worker-members in the main centre.

The district conference or convention should elect full-time organisers, who are to be confirmed by the party central leadership. These organisers are obliged to participate consistently in party activity in the district capital. The district party committee needs to be constantly reinforced by activists from the membership in the district capital, in order to maintain a close contact between this committee, which gives political leadership to the entire district, and the broad membership in the main centre. As forms of party organisation develop, an effort should be made to have the district leadership committee coincide with the political leadership of the district capital. In this way, the leading party committees of the district organisation, together with the Central Committee, will be able to provide effective leadership for the party organisation as a whole.

The reach of a party district is, of course, not limited to the district’s boundaries. What is important is that the district committee is capable of giving unified leadership to all the local party units within the district. When that is no longer possible, the district should be divided, and a new district committee established.

In the larger countries, the party also needs coordinating committees that stand between the central leadership and the different district leaderships (provincial or regional leaderships). Such committees will also coordinate between the district leadership and the local units (sub-district or county committees). It may sometimes be appropriate, for example in a large city or one with a large membership, to give one of these intermediate committees a leadership function. However, it is usually better to avoid decentralisation.

45.) The larger party units (districts) are composed of local units: local branches in rural areas or small centres; districts or wards in the various parts of large cities.

When a local party unit has grown to the point that it cannot hold general membership meetings of a size appropriate to legal conditions, it must be divided.

Members of a local party unit should be divided up, for the purposes of daily party work, in different working groups. In larger units, it may be expedient to link working groups in a number of different collectives. A collective, as a rule, includes members who come into contact at the workplace or in some other aspect of their daily lives. A collective has the task of dividing up the party work among the different working groups, receiving reports from the heads of these groups, training candidate members in these groups, and so on.

46.) The party as a whole is under the leadership of the Communist International. The instructions and resolutions of the international leadership concerning an affiliated party will be forwarded either: (a) to the Central Committee of the party; (b) through the Central Committee to the leadership of some special activity; or (c) to all party units.

The instructions and decisions of the International are binding for the party and, of course, for every individual party member.

47.) The central leadership of the party (Central Committee or expanded Central Committee) is responsible to the party’s convention and to the leadership of the Communist International. Both the smaller leadership and the broader committee or council are usually elected by the convention. If the convention considers it expedient, it can instruct the central leadership to elect the smaller leading body from its own members; the latter consists of both the Political Bureau and the Organisational Bureau. Both the party’s political course and its ongoing work are directed by the smaller leadership through these two bureaus.

The small leadership convenes regular plenums of the party’s central leadership in order to make decisions of greater significance and more lengthy applicability. When electing the central party leadership, it is important to take account of the different regions in the country, if possible. That will help provide a thorough grasp of the political situation as a whole and give a vivid image of the party, its level of understanding, and its capacities. For the same reason, when electing the central leadership, minority points of view on significant political issues should not be excluded. On the contrary, they should be encompassed in the leadership as a whole through their best representatives. Whenever possible, however, the small leadership should be homogeneous in outlook. In addition, in order to lead firmly and confidently, it should not have to rely only on its own authority but rather be backed by a numerically clear majority in the leadership as a whole.

Legal mass parties, in particular, will find that a more inclusive central leadership of this type is the most rapid way to achieve a strong basis for firm discipline and unconditional confidence among the membership. In addition, any vacillations or ailments that may crop up among the party’s layer of functionaries will be more rapidly evident and thus more readily remedied. This approach can make it possible to head off, to a certain degree, an accumulation of such ailments in the party. Otherwise, such an accumulation can lead, later on, to a drastic remedy at a party convention with possibly catastrophic consequences.

48.) Every leading committee in the party must institute an appropriate division of labour, in order to be able to direct party work effectively in every field. Special leading bodies may be necessary in a number of work areas, such as propaganda, newspaper distribution, trade-union struggles, rural agitation, agitation among women, communications, Red Aid,[1] and so on. Each special leading body is subordinate either to the party’s central leadership or to the leading committee of a district.

The district leadership – and, ultimately, the central leadership – must supervise all subordinate committees to ensure that they are functioning properly and are constituted in a sound manner. All the party’s full-time staffers and its parliamentary deputies are directly subordinate to the leading party committee. It may be advisable now and then to change the assignments and locations of full-time staffers (editors, propagandists, organisers, and so on), provided that this does not overly disrupt the party’s activity. Editors and propagandists must take part in regular party work through one of the working groups.

49. The central leadership of the party and the Communist International can at any time demand comprehensive reports from all Communist organisations, their leaderships, and from individual members. Representatives and delegates of the central leadership have the right to attend all meetings with consultative voice and the right of veto. The central leadership must always have such delegates (commissars) at its disposal, so that it is able to address district and local leaderships not only through political and organisational circulars but through direct verbal instructions and information. Both the central leadership and each regional leadership needs a control commission, made up of tested and trained comrades, to supervise the administration of funds. They should make regular reports to the broader committee, council, or commission.

Every party unit and committee and every single member has the right to express their wishes and make proposals, comments, and complaints at any time directly to the party central leadership or the International.

50.) Instructions and decisions of the party’s leading bodies are binding for all subordinate bodies and for individual members.

Leading bodies have the responsibility and duty of guarding against neglect or abuse of their leadership position. This can never be fully assured by formal provisions. Moreover, the smaller the formal obligations – as for example in illegal parties – the greater is the duty to seek the opinion of other party members, obtain frequent and reliable reports, and take their decisions only after thorough and comprehensive consideration.

51.) Party members are obligated always to conduct themselves, in all their public activity, as disciplined members of a combat organisation. When disagreements arise over a course of action, these should, if possible, be settled within the party before acting. In order to ensure that every party decision will be carried out energetically by all party units and members, the broadest possible range of members should be involved in considering and deciding every question. The party and its leading bodies have the responsibility of deciding whether and to what extent questions raised by individual comrades should be discussed publicly (newspapers, lectures, pamphlets). Even when some members consider a decision of the party or its leadership to be wrong, they must bear in mind in their public activity that the worst breach of discipline and the worst mistake in struggle is to disrupt the unity of the common front.

The highest duty of every member is to defend the Communist Party and, above all, the Communist International, against all enemies of communism. Anyone who forgets this and publicly attacks the party or the Communist International must be treated as an enemy of the party.

52.) The party statutes must be drafted so as not to pose any barriers to the leading committees in the steady development of the party organisation and the constant improvement of its work. On the contrary, the statutes should assist this process.

Decisions of the Communist International should be carried out without delay by the affiliated parties, including in cases where the requisite changes in existing statutes and party decisions can be carried out only after the fact.

VIII. On combining legal and illegal work

53.) Every Communist Party modifies its functioning in line with the changing phases of the revolutionary process. This does not, however, change the basic character of the desirable structure of the party, regardless of whether it is functioning legally or is driven underground.

The party must be organised in such a fashion that it is always able to adjust quickly to changes in the conditions of struggle.

The Communist Party must evolve into an organisation of struggle. When the enemy is arrayed for battle with superior forces and with all its strength concentrated at one point, the party must be capable of evasion. On the other hand, when the enemy is clumsy, the party must seize upon this to launch the attack when and where it is least expected. It would be a great mistake for the party to reckon only with the prospect of an uprising and street fighting or, on the other hand, the prospect of severe repression. Communists must carry out their preparations for revolution in every situation, standing always ready for struggle. It is often almost impossible to predict the shifts from periods of uprising to those of quiescence. Even in cases where the shift can be predicted, only rarely does this make possible a corresponding party reorganisation. Usually the shift comes quite fast, indeed, arrives as a total surprise.

54.) Most of the legal Communist parties in the capitalist countries have not sufficiently grasped their task of properly preparing for revolutionary uprisings, armed struggle, or underground existence. The party is built too one-sidedly in expectation of lasting legality and is structured for the needs of legal daily work.

The underground parties, by contrast, often do not understand well enough how to utilise opportunities for legal activity and how to build a party that has living ties with the revolutionary masses. In such conditions, the party tends to lapse into a sterile labour of Sisyphus or impotent conspiratorial work.

Both approaches are erroneous. Every legal Communist Party must be able to maintain the greatest possible readiness for struggle even if forced underground and must, in particular, be prepared for the outbreak of a revolutionary uprising. Every illegal Communist Party must make energetic use of openings afforded by the legal workers’ movement in order, through intensive work, to become the organiser and authentic leader of the broad revolutionary masses.

Leadership of both legal and illegal work must always be carried out by the same unified party central committee.

55.) In both legal and illegal parties, the work of an underground Communist organisation is often understood to consist of founding and maintaining a closed-off and exclusively military organisation, isolated from the rest of the party’s work and structure. That is quite wrong. On the contrary, during the prerevolutionary period, fighting contingents are formed primarily through the general work of the party. The party as a whole should be trained as a battle organisation for the revolution.

If isolated revolutionary military organisations are formed too far in advance of the revolution, they can easily become demoralised and disintegrate, simply because there is not enough useful party work for them to do.

56.) For an underground party, it is naturally very important, in all its activities, to protect its members and committees from discovery, and not to give them away through carelessness regarding membership records, dues payment, or distribution of printed materials. It cannot utilise open organisational forms for underground work in the same manner as a legal party. Nonetheless, it can learn to do this more and more.

Every precaution must be taken to prevent dubious or unreliable forces from entering the party. The choice of methods for this depends greatly on whether the party is legal or illegal, persecuted or tolerated, growing or stagnating. One method that has brought good results under certain circumstances is the institution of candidate membership. An applicant for membership in the party, proposed by one or two members, is admitted first as a candidate. How they then acquit themselves in party work assigned to them will determine whether they are accepted into full membership.

Inevitably, the bourgeoisie will seek to infiltrate the underground organisation with spies and provocateurs. The struggle against this must be pursued with great caution and persistence. One way to do this is to combine legal and illegal activity. Extended legal revolutionary work is the best way to test who is sufficiently reliable, courageous, conscientious, energetic, skilled, and punctual to be entrusted with important tasks of underground work appropriate to his abilities.

A legal party should constantly improve its defences against surprises – as, for example, by carefully protecting cover addresses, making a habit of destroying correspondence, vigilantly protecting essential documents, training contacts in the arts of underground functioning, and so on.

57.) Our overall party work should be divided up in such a way that, even in the period prior to a revolutionary uprising, the roots of a fighting organisation of the type needed for this phase develop and are consolidated. It is vital that the Communist Party leadership always keep these needs in view and that it attempt, as much as possible, to form a clear idea of these tasks in advance. Of course, this conception can never be sufficiently precise or defined. That is no reason, however, to neglect this important aspect of Communist organisational leadership.

When the time comes for a revolutionary uprising, this produces a great transformation in the functioning of the Communist Party. Even the best-organised party can then face difficult and complicated tasks. It may then be necessary to mobilise our party for military struggle within a few days. And this applies not only to the party but to its reserves, the groups of sympathisers, indeed even the entire Landsturm[2] – that is, the unorganised revolutionary masses. At this stage, it is too early to think of forming a regular Red Army. We must win victory without a previously constituted army, through the masses and under the party’s leadership. It follows that even the most heroic struggle will not succeed unless the party is already organisationally prepared in advance.

58.) It has often been the case in revolutionary situations that the revolutionary central leadership showed itself incapable of carrying out its task. During the revolution, the proletariat may score splendid successes in lower-level tasks, while the central leadership is gripped by disorder, helplessness, and chaos. Even the most elementary division of labour may be lacking. In particular, the information service is usually so poor as to cause more harm than good. Communications are unreliable. When secret postal services, secret transport, safe houses, and secret print shops are needed, their availability usually is a matter of sheer chance. Provocations by the organised enemy have good chances of success.

The only way to remedy this is for the leading revolutionary party to set up in advance a special apparatus for these tasks. For example, tracking and exposing the political police requires special training. An apparatus for secret communications can function securely and quickly only if it has been in operation for some time. Every legal Communist Party has to make preparations, no matter how limited, in all these fields of special revolutionary activity.

The apparatus needed in these fields can largely be developed through activity that is entirely legal, provided that this activity is developed in full knowledge of the purpose it is to serve. For example, carefully structured distribution of legal leaflets, publications, and letters can serve in large measure as a vehicle for setting up an apparatus for secret communications, including a courier service, a secret postal service, safe houses, secret transportation, and the like.

59.) A Communist organiser sees in every party member and every revolutionary worker the future soldier in his historic role in the battle organisation at the moment of revolution. It follows that the organiser will direct individuals to the nucleus or the task that best corresponds to his future role in combat. His present activity must also be useful and necessary for today’s struggle, rather than a mere drill that the activist cannot today understand. Indeed, the present activity is, in part, training for the urgent requirements of tomorrow’s final struggle.


1. Committees for Red Aid were formed in Germany, early in 1921, to aid political prisoners in that country. International Red Aid (Russian acronym: MOPR) was founded on 30 November 1922.

2. In Germany, the Landsturm consisted of those liable to military service who were not part of the armed forces or the organised reserves. Calling up the Landsturm was the final stage in mobilising for all-out war.