The Communist Party is organized in such a way as to guarantee, first, complete inner unity of outlook; and, second, combination of the strictest discipline with the widest initiative and independent activity of the Party membership. Both of these conditions are guaranteed because the Party is organized on the basis of democratic centralism.
Democratic centralism is the system according to which:
1. All leading committees of the Party, from the Unit Bureaus up to the highest committees, are elected by the membership or delegates of the given Party organization.
2. Every elected Party committee must report regularly on its activity to its Party organization. It must give an account of its work.
3. The lower Party committees and all Party members of the given Party organization have the duty of carrying out the decisions of the higher Party committees and of the Communist International. In other words, decisions of the C.I. and of the higher Party committees are binding upon the lower bodies.
4. Party discipline is observed by the Party members and Party organizations because only those who agree with the program of the Communist Party and the C.I. can become members of the Party.
5. The minority carries out the decisions of the majority (subordination of the minority to the majority). Party questions are discussed by the members of the Party and by the Party organization until such time as a decision is made by the Party committee or organization. After a decision has been made by the leading committees of the Cd., by the Central Committee of the Party, or by the National Convention, this decision must be unreservedly carried out even if a minority of the Party membership or a minority of the local Party organizations is in disagreement with it.
6. The Party organizations, Units, Sections, and Districts, have the full initiative, right and duty to decide on local questions within the limits of the general policies and decisions of the Party.
On the basis of democratic centralism, all lower Party organizations are subordinated to the higher bodies; District organizations are subordinated to the Central Committee; Section organizations are subordinated to the District Committee; Party Units (shop, street and town) are subordinated to the Section Committees.
All decisions of the World Congress and committees of the C.I. must be fulfilled by all parties of the C.I. All decision of the National Convention and the Central Committee must be fulfilled by the whole Party; all decisions of the District Convention and Committee must be fulfilled by the Section organizations of that District; all decisions of the Section Convention and Committee are binding on the shop, street and town Units in that Section.
A Party committee or Unit Bureau, throughout the whole of its activity from Convention to Con- given Organization. In cases where the elected Party committee is not capable of carrying out its task and the correct Party line, this committee can be changed through the calling of an extraordinary Conference by decision of the higher committees, or by the initiative of the lower organizations with the approval of the higher committees.
The Communist Party puts the interest of the working class and the Party above everything. The Party subordinates all forms of Party organization to these interests. From this it follows that one form of organization is suitable for legal existence of the Party, and another for the conditions of underground, illegal existence. Under conditions where there is no possibility of holding open elections or broad Conventions, the form of democratic centrallain necessarily has to be changed. In such a situation, it is inevitable that co-option be used as well as election. That means that in such a situation the higher committees will appoint the lower committees (for example, the Central Committee may appoint the District Committee; the District Committee may appoint the Section Committee, etc.). Or, in very exceptional cases, when the lower committee is to act quickly, this committee has the right to co-opt new members to the committee from among the best leaders of the organization; and this co-option must be approved by the higher committee.
But even in the most difficult situation, the Party finds ways and means of holding elections. The Conventions or Conferences under such conditions will necessarily be smaller. The organization will bs tighter so as to eliminate as far as possible the danger of the exposure of delegates to the class Party, and in this way cripple the revolutionary movement. Therefore, such a method is used by the Party in electing leading committees during such a period which eliminates the danger of exposure.
Democratic centralism therefore represents a flexible system of Party organization which guarantees all the conditions for combining the conscious and active participation of the whole Party membership in the Party life together with the best forms of centralized leadership in the activity and struggles of the Party and the working class.
The free discussion on questions of Party policy in individual Party organizations or in the Party as a whole, is the fundamental right of every Party member as a principal point of Party democracy. Only on the basis of internal Party democracy is it possible to develop Bolshevik self-criticism and to strengthen Party discipline, which must be conscious and not mechanical. There is complete freedom of discussion in the Party until a majority decision has been made by the Unit or the leading committee, after which discussion must cease and the decision be carried out by every organization and individual member of the Party.
It is clear, however, that basic principles and decisions, such, as for example, the Program of the Communist International, cannot be questioned in the Party.
We cannot imagine a discussion, for example, questioning the correctness of the leading role of the proletariat in the revolution, or the necessity for the proletarian dictatorship. We do not question the theory of the necessity for the forceful overthrow of capitalism. We do not question the correctness of the revolutionary theory of the class struggle laid down by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. We do not question the counter-revolutionary nature of Trotskyism.
We do not question the political correctness of the decisions, resolutions, etc., of the Executive Committee of the C.I., of the Convention of the Party, or of the Central Committee after they are ratified. Otherwise, every under-cover agent of the bourgeoisie and every sympathizer of the renegades would have an opportunity of continually raising their counter-revolutionary theories in the Units, Sections, etc., and make the members spend time and energy in discussing such questions, thus not only disrupting the work of the Party, but also creating confusion among the less experienced arid trained elements in the Party. (As a matter of fact, this is what enemies of the Party are always trying to do in the name of "democracy".)
However, that does not mean that the problems dealt with in such decisions-and how best to apply these decisions-are not to be clarified in the Party organizations by discussion. On the contrary, a most thorough discussion for the purpose of making every Party member understand these resolutions and decisions and how to apply them is essential for effective Party work.
Party discipline is based upon the class-consciousness of its members; upon the conviction that without the minority accepting and carrying out the decisions of the majority, without the subordination of the lower Party organizations to the higher committees, there can be no strong, solid, steeled Party able to lead the proletariat. This discipline is based upon the acceptance of the C.I. and the Party program and in the confidence of the membership in the Communist International and in the Central Committee.
There can be no discipline in the Party if there is no conscious and voluntary submission on the basis of a thorough understanding or the decisions of the Party. "Only conscious discipline can be truly iron discipline" (Stalin).
Because without discipline there is no unity of will, no unity in action. Our Party is the organized and most advanced section of the working class. The Party is the vanguard of the proletariat in the class war. In this class war there is the capitalist class with its henchmen and helpers, the reformist leaders, on one side, and the working class and its allies, on the other. The class war is bitter. The enemy is powerful; it has all the means of deceit and suppression (armed forces, militia, police, courts, movies, radio, press, schools, churches, etc.). In order to combat and defeat this powerful enemy, the army of the proletariat must have a highly skilled, trained General Staff (the Communist Party), which is united in action and has one will. How can an army fight against the army of the enemy if every soldier in the army is allowed to question and even disobey orders of his superior officers? What would happen in a war if, for example, the General Staff orders an attack, and one section of the army decides to obey and go into battle; another thinks that it is wrong to attack the enemy at this time and stays away from the battle; and a third section decides to quit the trenches and retreat to another position instead of going forward?
Let us take an example from the class struggle. The District Committee decides that a demonstration should be held against police terror and gives directives to the Sections to mobilize the whole membership to get the greatest possible number of workers to the demonstration. The date and place of the demonstration are set by the District Committee. One Section, after receiving the decisions, works out plans to mobilize the masses, and activises the whole Section to work for the demonstration. Another Section does not think that the issue is very important and neglects to mobilize the membership; a third Section decides that the time set by the District Committee is not the best one and instructs its members to mobilize at a later hour; and a fourth Section decides to come at an earlier hour. What kind of a demonstration would it be? What would workers think and say about such a Party?
Our Party cannot lead the masses if there is not unity in action. Unity of will and action can be achieved only if all the members of the Party act as one — are disciplined. If each Party member should decide which decision of the Party he wanted to carry out; if each member would carry out only those decisions which he liked and ignored those with which he disagreed, it would be impossible to lead the masses in the struggle against capitalism. An army with that kind of leadership would be defeated.
Unified opinion is essential for unity in action, for successful work of the Communist Party. What would happen if each Party member would interpret a political issue individually and bring his individual opinion to the masses? The workers in a factory, for example, would get as many opinions on certain questions as there are Party members in the factory.
The unified opinion which is hammered out in the Party by discussion is necessary in order that the Party be able to lead the masses in their constant struggles.
Self-criticism is the most important means for developing Communist consciousness and thereby strengthening discipline and democratic centralism. Self-criticism helps to discover all the mistakes, deviations, shortcomings, which separate us from the masses, and to correct them. It helps us to discover and expose the harmful policies or practices of organizations and individuals who work against the interest of the masses. Self-criticism helps us to improve the work of the Party organizations; to exterminate bureaucracy; to expose the agents of the enemy in our ranks.
"Let us take, for instance, the matter of guidance of economic and other organizations on the part of the Party organizations. Is everything satisfactory in this respect? No, it is not. Often questions are decided, not only in the locals, but also in the center, so to speak, 'en famille', the family circle. Ivan Ivanovitch, a member of the leading group of some organization, made, let us say, a big mistake and made a mess of things. But Ivan Federovitch does not want to criticize him, show up his mistakes and correct him. He does not want to, because he is not disposed to 'make enemies'. A mistake was made, things went wrong, but what of it, who does not make mistakes?
"Today I will show up Ivan Ivanovitch. Tomorrow he will do the same to me. Let Ivan Ivanovitch, therefore, not be molested, because where is the guarantee that I will not make a mistake in the future? Thus everything remains spick and span. There is peace and good will among men. Leaving the mistake uncorrected harms our great cause, but that is nothing! As long as we can get out of the mess somehow. Such, comrades, is the usual attitude of some of our responsible people. But what does that mean? If we, Bolsheviks, who criticize the whole world, who, in the words of Marx, storm the heavens, if we refrain from self-criticism for the sake of the peace of some comrades, is it not clear that nothing but ruin awaits our great cause and that nothing good can be expected?
"Marx said that the proletarian revolution differs, by the way, from other revolutions in the fact that it criticizes itself and that in criticizing itself it becomes consolidated. This is a very important point Marx made. If we, the representatives of the proletarian revolution, shut our eyes to our shortcomings, settle questions around a family table, keeping mutually silent concerning our mistakes, and drive our ulcers into our Party organism, who will correct these mistakes and shortcomings? Is it not clear that we cease to be proletarian revolutionaries, and that we shall surely meet with shipwreck if we do not exterminate from our midst this philistinism, this domestic spirit in the solution of important questions of our construction? Is it not clear that by refraining from honest and straight-forward selfcriticism, refraining from an honest and straight making good of mistakes, we block our road to progress, betterment of our cause, and new success for our cause? The process of our development is neither smooth nor general. No, comrades, we have classes, there are antagonisms within the country, we have a past, we have a present and a future, there are contradictions between them, and we cannot progress smoothly, tossed by the waves of life. Our progress proceeds in the form of struggle, in the form of developing contradictions, in the form of overcoming these contradictions, in the form of revealing and liquidating these contradictions.
"As long as there are classes we shall never be able to have a situation when we shall be able to say, 'Thank goodness, everything is all right'. This will never be, comrades. There will always be something dying out. But that which dies does not want to die; it fights for its existence, it defends its dying cause. There is always something new coming into life. But that which is being born is not born quietly, but whimpers and screams, .fighting for its right to live. Struggle tween the old and the new, between the moribund and that which is being born-such is the basis of our development. Without pointing out and exposing openly and honestly, as Bolsheviks should do, the shortcomings and mistakes in our work, we block our road to progress. But we do want to go forward. And just because we go forward, we must make one of our foremost tasks an honest and revolutionary self-criticism. Without this there is no progress."
(Stalin, Report to the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, pp. 65-66.)
Self-criticism is a natural part of the life of the Party. How can the members fail to criticize the Bureau or committee if its work is poor, if it makes mistakes? Without self-criticism there can be no Communist Party. But this criticism must never depart from the line of the Party, from the principles of Marxism-Leninism. We should make it very clear that there are two kinds of criticism: one which, on the basis of the line of the Party, on the basis of revolutionary theory and practice, analyzes mistakes and shortcomings, and offers concrete proposals for improvement in the work of the organization or individual member. This is Bolshevik selfcriticism: constructive criticism. A good example of such self-criticism is the Open Letter, adopted at the Extraordinary Party Conference. The other is the kind of criticism which is based on distortion of the line of the Party or does not offer any proposal to improve the work, or to correct mistakes. This is destructive criticism, which, if tolerated, inevitably leads not only to driving out new members, discouraging the weaker elements and disrupting the work of the Party, but also leads to factionalism.
Comrade Stalin, in his speech on the Communist Party of the U.S.A., in 1929, gave an excellent answer to this question:
". . . factionalism weakens the Party spirit, it dulls the revolutionary sense and blinds the Party workers to such an extent that, in the factional passion, they are obliged to place the interests of faction above the interests of the Party, above the interests of the Comintern, above the interests of the working class. Factionalism not infrequently brings matters to such a pass that the Party workers, blinded by the factional struggle, are inclined to gauge all facts, all events in the life of the Party, not from the point of view of the interests of the Party and the working class, but from the point of view of the narrow interests of their own faction, from the point of view of their own factional kitchen.
". . . factionalism interferes with the training of the Party in the spirit of a policy of principles; it prevents the training of the cadres in an honest,, proletarian, incorruptible revolutionary spirit, free from rotten diplomacy and unprincipled intrigueLeninism declares that a policy based on principles is the only correct policy. Factionalism, on the contrary, believes that the only correct policy is one of factional diplomacy and unprincipled factional intrigue. That is why an atmosphere of factional struggle cultivates not politicians of principle, but adroit factionalist manipulators, experienced rascals and Mensheviks, smart in fooling the 'enemy' and covering up traces. It is true that such 'educational' work of the factionalists is contrary to the fundamental interests of the Party and the working class. But the factionalists do not give a rap for that-all they care about is their own factional diplomatic kitchen, their own group interests.
"It is, therefore, not surprising that poll-ticians of principle and honest proletarian revolutionaries get no sympathy from the factionalists. On the other hand, factional tricksters and -manipulators, unprincipled intriguers and backstage wire pullers and masters in the formation of unprincipled blocs are held by them in high honor.
". . . factionalism, by weakening the will for unity in the Party and by undermining its iron discipline, creates within the Party a peculiar factional regime, as a result of which the whole internal life of our Party is robbed of its conspirative protection in the face of the class enemy, and the Party itself runs the danger of being trans:formed into a plaything of the agents of the bourgeoisie. This, as a rule, comes about in the following way: Let us say that some question is being decided in the PolitBureau of the Central Committee. Within the PolitBureau there is a minority and a majority which regard each decision from their factional standpoint. If a factional regime prevails in the Party, the wirepullers of both factions immediately inform the peripheral machine of this or that decision of the PolitBureau, endeavoring to prepare it for their own advantage and swing it in the direction they desire. As a rule, this process of information becomes a regular system. It becomes a regular system because each faction regards it as its duty to inform its peripheral machine in the way it thinks fit and to hold its periphery in a condition of mobilization in readiness for a scrap with the factional enemy. As a result, important secret decisions of the Party become general knowledge. In this way the agents of the bourgeoisie attain access to the secret decisions of the Party and make it easy to use the knowledge of the internal life of the Party against the interests of the Party. True, such a regime threatens the complete demoralization of the ranks of the Party. But the factionalists do not care about that, since, for them, the interests of their group are supreme.
". . . factionalism consists in the fact that it completely nullifies all positive work done in the Party; it robs the Party workers of all desire to concern themselves with the day-to-day needs of the working class (wages, hours, the improvement of the material welfare of the workers, etc.) ; it weakens the work of the Party in preparing the working class for the class conflicts with the bourgeoisie and thereby creates a state of affairs in which the authority of the Party must inevitably suffer in the eyes of the workers, and the workers, instead of flocking to the Party, are compelled to quit the Party ranks . . . . What have the factional leaders of the majority and the minority been chiefly occupied with lately? With factional scandal-mongering, with every kind of petty factional trifle, the drawing up of useless platforms and subplatforms, the introduction of tens and hundreds of amendments and sub-amendments to these platforms.
"Weeks and months are wasted lying in ambush for the factional enemy, trying to entrap him, trying to dig up something in the personal life of the factional enemy, or, if nothing can be found, inventing some fiction about him. It is obvious that positive work must suffer in such an atmosphere, the life of the Party becomes petty, the authority of the Party declines and the workers, the best, the revolutionary-minded workers, who want action and not scandal-mongering, are forced to leave the Party.
"That, fundamentally, is the evil of factionalism in the ranks of a Communist Party."
(Stalin's Speeches on the American Comunist Party, pp. 27-30.)
Structure and Functions of Party Organisations