Ever since the founding of our Party, PLP has put forward communist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the working class--led by a communist party--seizing state power.
There have been many changes in our line over the years. While the line has constantly moved to the Left, we have found ourselves applying far too much of our time and thinking to building militant reform struggle rather than revolution. The roots of this contradictory development will be traced shortly, but it should be stated now that unless we fit the reform struggle into revolutionary politics and not vice-versa, no matter what we say, we will become a revisionist party, that is, a party that accommodates itself to--and works within the framework of--the capitalist system.
Pursuing reform or revolution involves two totally different tasks. Reform builds the system (tries to make it work better); revolution destroys it. Therefore, the theory and action of trying to win immediate reform demands can never, in and of itself, lead to a revolution. By definition, it is not designed to do that.
We participate in reform struggles in order to get the opportunity to put forward communist ideas and goals. These communist ideas cannot be drawn from the reform struggle itself. Workers do not come to Marxist-Leninist conclusions merely from working on the assembly line. These ideas must come from outside the reform struggle and are directly opposed to reformist goals or working within and building capitalism. Communist ideas have always been brought to workers from outside the reform struggle itself, from Marx to Stalin to the present day.
The Party's role, therefore, is to make a revolution that destroys the system, not to make reforms and build it. The Party leads people in reform struggle to the goal of a better union or of rank-and-file power. Building the Party is primary, not building the union, although a by-product of building the Party, of building for a revolution, can be, and often is, a better union.
Obviously we have improved in trying to put forward revolution rather than reform, compared to years ago. Yet as the line moves to the Left, our practice tends to trail this movement, tends to move more in the direction of primarily fighting militantly in the union to throw out the sellouts, to run for elections, to go into a strike with the main idea of "winning the strike," or building militant picket lines, etc. And correspondingly, we judge "victory" or "defeat" based on whether or not we achieve these reform goals. We tend far less to think in terms of how well Challenge-Desafio was sold, how many subscriptions were bought, how much anti-racist struggle was organized, how much workers were pointed in the direction of seeing the necessity to take state power, how many workers and others were recruited to the Party on the understanding of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Our main goal in going into virtually every strike has been building the strike and a militant, democratic union, not building the Party and revolutionary ideas.
Thus, we tend to spread the illusion--and are victims of it ourselves--that to build a militant reform struggle, a democratic union or strike is to be Left (revolutionary). But militant reform struggle does not lead to revolution. It didn't in the 1930's when communists organized 5,000,000 workers into the CIO; it didn't in the 1960's in the civil rights movement and the ghetto rebellions; and it didn't during the anti-Vietnam war movement which involved millions in militant action against U.S. imperialist war. Even insurrectionary armed struggle does not spontaneously lead to communist class consciousness and the establishment of socialism.
Reform, militant or otherwise, is not revolution. The movement for reform and revolution are two parallel movements. Fighting to reform the system will not lead to its overthrow, to revolution. In the sense that fighting strictly, or even mainly, to reform--patch up--the system spreads illusions that capitalism can be reformed. In this sense, reform politics are completely divorced from revolutionary politics. In this sense, fighting for reforms will never lead to revolution. Of course, if communists fight in, and even lead, the reform struggle with the idea of tying that struggle to revolutionary ideas, of showing how merely fighting for reforms is a dead end, that it will never change our lives for the better because capitalism will always take back any gains in another form--if we do that in the reform struggle, we will be concentrating on the main function of a communist: winning workers directly to revolutionary ideology, to joining the party, to fighting for state power for the working class.
Yet, for the most part, we have ended up concentrating on trying to lead the reform struggle to victory under capitalism. We haven't participated in the reform struggle as one tactic in the revolutionary process. Most of the time it has become our all-consuming passion, with the tacking on--virtually as an afterthought--the necessity to destroy, not reform, the system, to make a revolution. Because of that, we rarely go into a reform struggle with the main instrument with which the working class will make a revolution. Therefore, the implied conclusion is that somehow a revolutionary struggle will grow out of militant reform battles. It won't. (See Lenin: What Is To Be Done, Chapter III, Section A).
To better understand how and why we in PLP have allowed reformism to dominate our actions, we should look at revolution and reform more dialectically, as two sides of a contradiction. In every contradiction there is a unity of opposites. In this instance, we would agree that, on the one hand, we can't just shout revolution at workers and expect one to happen. We must participate in the reform struggle. On the other hand, we also agree that we can't simply participate in reform struggle limiting ourselves to reform goals; we must raise the need for revolution, the need for the working class to take state power, and therefore the need to build a party. So here, in the necessity to fight for revolution while we also work in the reform movement, there is a unity of opposites.
Yet, in every contradiction there is a primary aspect and a secondary aspect. The primary aspect determines the essence of a thing. For instance, in bourgeois or capitalist society, the main contradiction is between two classes, the bosses and the workers. But the primary aspect of that contradiction is that the bosses hold state power and control all production and distribution of all value created by the workers. It is this primary aspect that determines this society to be a bourgeois or capitalist society.
Similarly, as regards building a revolutionary movement: although there are two aspects to this --reform and revolution--one is primary and will determine the essence of what we are building. Too often we view both aspects as equal, and that therefore if we "do both" (the unity indicated above), we will achieve our goal of revolution. This belies material reality. When our anti-communist enemies accuse us of not really being interested in the immediate reform ("you just want to use the reform struggle for your `ulterior motive' of building your party")! they are actually saying that revolution and reform are contradictory. We have been trained to resolve that contradiction in a reformist way, by saying, "No, the two aspects are compatible; in fact, if we have a strong revolutionary Party we are more likely to win the reform."
Yes, while revolution and reform do--in one sense--go hand-in-hand, they are also contradictory. One, if pursued to its inherent logical conclusion, would destroy capitalism and build socialism; the other, if pursued to its inherent logical conclusion, maintains capitalism. If we must do both, revolution and reform, which is primary in our work? Again, the primary aspect determines the essence of what our Party is building, a revolutionary movement or a reformist movement.
This essence came out sharply in the old Communist Party during the late 1940's. When the ruling class mounted a ferocious anti-communist offensive, they forced all union officials by law (the fascist Taft-Hartley law) to sign non-communist affidavits if they were to remain as union officials. The C.P. leaders of unions virtually all decided to resign from the party, sign the affidavits and continue as union officials, on the "theory" that they must sacrifice politics to "save the union" ("but in our hearts we're still communists"). We'd characterize this as an abject sellout of principle. But when we're faced with essentially the same choice, although on a lower level, we act to prove ourselves in the reform struggle as real militants, "win the respect of the workers as fighters" (for reform), and then introduce our revolutionary politics, later. We therefore build a good base for reformism, and when the struggle gets sharp (in a strike, etc.), it is our friends (not our anti-communist enemies) who say to us, "don't sell C-D" "don't raise your Party", etc. In life, by concentrating on reform work in a reformist way, we have made reform the principal aspect of the contradiction. The working class has recognized this and acted accordingly. And, just as happened with the old C.P., we will end up with a revisionist, sellout party if we pursue this path to its ultimate conclusion.
We cannot win workers to communist ideology if we come off to them, in practice as "better reformers," as promisers of reform victory.
First, if we do win an immediate reform gain without the main idea of tying reform struggle to the necessity to make a revolution--to take state power--then it will only reinforce the idea among the rank and file participating in the reform struggle that you can win under capitalism--therefore, why do you need a communist revolution?
Secondly, whatever gain might be won will always be reversed by the capitalist class because it has state power and can always take back the gain in another form. Thirdly, with communists in leadership the bosses might deliberately take a harder line and refuse to grant anything just to "prove" to workers they can do better without communist leadership. And they have the power and resources in this period to outlast workers, if they deem it better for them in the long run.
Finally, we will not be able to lead a revolution for state power based on "first" winning power in the unions through militant reform struggle and "then" launching the struggle for state power. First of all, the ruling class will never let revolutionary communists get to the top of the labor movement, and possibly not even to head a big local in steel, auto etc.; they will pull out all necessary stops, including plenty of force and violence to prevent it. Therefore, to prepare workers for that inevitable ruling class reaction, we would have to raise the need to seize state power right from the beginning of building our base with a group of workers.
Here in the U.S. we often follow a reformist line in opposing the revisionists. We usually center our attack around how they sabotage the reform struggle. This is not the essence of our ideological differences with them; this is not necessarily how they are leading the workers into the bosses' arms. In fact, at times the revisionists themselves criticize the union leaders; some are militant and even build a base.
Here again: Oppose the revisionists on revolutionary grounds, not reform ones; show that they put forward sharing power with the "good" bosses, that they believe the ruling class will give up its rule peacefully, while revolutionaries understand that there are no "good" bosses (only bad ones with different tactics on how to exploit workers); that no ruling class ever gave up its power peacefully, and that therefore we must destroy what is essentially a dictatorship of the bosses and replace it with a dictatorship of the working class, of the proletariat; furthermore, that the revisionists are nationalists and in practice oppose the time honored internationalist slogan of "workers of the world unite!" It is on these and similar grounds that we should oppose the revisionists, not on who does better in the reform struggle.
Even recruiting to the Party is not necessarily a measure of whether or not we are pursuing a correct, revolutionary course since we can--and do--easily recruit workers and others on a reformist basis. Two million workers belong to the Italian C.P.; they have been recruited on the basis that the "communists" will bring them more under capitalism. Recruiting by itself doesn't mean building the Party. Recruiting on a revolutionary political line means building the Party.
The further danger of recruiting people on a militant reform line is that once the ruling class succeeds in reversing the gains won through the militant reform, once the first dip in the reform struggle comes along, this new recruit winds up leaving the Party. They do not have the staying power of revolutionary ideas and commitment to a long-range, protracted revolutionary struggle for the seizure of power. But, if we have already recruited people on a reform basis, we shouldn't now ask them to leave; we should attempt to consolidate them on the basis of revolutionary ideas and struggle.
All this does NOT mean we get out of the reform struggle. It does not mean we don't go to union meetings, that we don't run for union election, etc. It DOES mean that we pursue these activities and others in the reform struggle with the eye to building the party, with the goal of how do we use the union--as one aspect of the fight for revolution--to recruit to the Party and to the idea of the working class seizure of state power. We advocate, participate and even initiate struggle in the reform movement, but within the context of building for a revolution (which means building the Party). It is necessary not just to win reforms (which, by itself builds capitalist ideology, that you can reform the system), but to move masses to revolution.
We are using the reform struggle as a tactic in building a revolutionary movement that will not stop at the useless and impossible aim of reforming capitalism but will enable the working class and its allies to use the party to make a revolution. Communists want workers to use their strength as a class to overthrow their oppressors, and that can only be accomplished by building a revolutionary party--which they must join--and has that as its only goal.
The fact is that our Party has made its biggest advances when we have raised our revolutionary politics front and center as our main activity. This was true in raising the anti-Vietnam war movement to an anti-imperialist level. It was certainly true in organizing and carrying out our May Day action in Boston in 1975. It was then and around other May Days that the largest number of workers have seen the need to join the Party and build for a revolution, not simple stick to reforms. If we just put forward our revolutionary politics for a few weeks before May Day, the workers view us as militant reformers the rest of the year and then it is harder to understand the major political issues raised around May Day--the fight for Communism, internationalism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc.
Putting revolution primary and reform struggle secondary means building for something like May Day all year round. It means building a communist base who we can go to about participating in such an important Party activity. Otherwise May Day will get smaller and smaller.
If winning workers to revolution is primary, then nowhere are these ideas spread more widely than through the pages of Challenge-Desafio. Increasing the sale of, and subscriptions to, C-D, is not just some numbers game but part and parcel of the fight to win thousands of workers and others to the Party's ideas. It should lead us to many new recruits, workers thirsting for the real solutions to their problems It can provoke discussions about revolutionary ideas among thousands and tens of thousands, if they are given the opportunity by us to read the paper regularly.
One reason we often view the reform struggle as primary is because we believe the revolutionary struggle is either too distant or impossible. Often we tend to see the objective situation in a limited and static sense. For example, some of us do not believe the ruling class is in a state of accelerated decline. Therefore, it is very hard for us to accept the Party's line on war and fascism. Sometimes we are frustrated because the class struggle appears to be quiet. It seems that the working class will always submit to the dictates of the ruling class. Consequently, if our thinking is dominated by the fact that the bosses are on top, and that this is permanent reality, then our attention must turn from a revolution to reform.
If we believe reality to be a passive working class that won't fight back, then we will abandon a revolutionary perspective. At "best," we will stay in the reform struggle. And, if we don't accept the Party line about war and fascism, don't understand that the only way to defeat these capitalist developments is by revolution, we will never see the urgency of building our Party.
These weaknesses occur in all of us because we don't have an historical basis and historical information about the inevitability of change and the inevitability of the revolutionary process. Particularly unfortunate is the fact that we don't draw the proper conclusion from recent important political events. For example, while it's true that the anti-Vietnam war movement and the black rebellions were not revolutionary, the fact is that both these developments shook the ruling class to its heels.
These were two major upheavals in our short lifetime. both shook the ruling class badly. But the fact is that these upheavals did happen! The other reality is that without a revolutionary party in the leadership of these movements they will peter out.
We should encourage insurrection; every upheaval should see our party grow, leading to faster and continuous struggle in which we and the working class move to the left and to revolution. Strikes, or even general strikes--both of which are goals we seek--are not the quintessence of the struggle. We must learn how to direct these struggles into open rebellion against the ruling class, challenging them for state power. More and more workers must be won to the outlook of state power.
If our revolutionary outlook were staunch, then our revolutionary will would grow.
Our problem, as stated, is that our revolutionary outlook has been limited in the first place. But our illusions in reformism have persisted or even grown. So what often seems to be a weakening of revolutionary will, is in fact our loss of reformist will. This loss CAN and MUST be replaced by revolutionary consciousness. Historical examples, as well as more recent ones should give us overwhelming confidence that the workers can ultimately play their revolutionary role.
The question of fighting in the reform movement in a revolutionary way--for revolutionary ideas--rather than in a reformist way (that maintains and even builds the system and its ideology), is no academic question. In fact it goes right to the heart of why we're fighting for socialism and on what basis we recruit someone to that fight and to the Party.
If we fight in the reform movement in a reformist way, and tag on the necessity to fight for communism as the way to win the reforms we can't win under capitalism, w e will be planting the seeds of the reversal of Communism once we were to win it. If the reason we fight for Communism is only to win material gains, then what would happen if workers were won to the Party solely on these grounds and did make a revolution? Once the working class has destroyed the capitalists and their ability to reap surplus value (profit) from the labor power of the working class, it does not necessarily mean that each individual worker under Socialism would get the full value of his/her labor power in his/her paycheck, to do with what they will. Where, then, would the social value come from to build whatever workers need in common--hospitals, dams to prevent floods or more factories and machinery to produce whatever the working class decides it needs? Still further, where would the value come from to help revolutionaries elsewhere in the world to take state power, to overthrow the ruling class that not only oppresses them but also has as its aim to destroy Communism where it has already been achieved?
The fact is, under Communism, with the working class in control of the state, it would decide collectively how to apportion the value it produces. It might not mean that every reform demand fought for under capitalism would be met right away, because other social and political needs might be more pressing. But if Socialism were won mainly on the basis of material incentives, rather than the ideological level of preserving and spreading the revolution to make it worldwide, then working class rule would eventually be destroyed, as has happened in the Soviet Union and China.
First, if all Socialism meant was more goods in more hands, we would have had it in the U.S., since the most goods in the hands of the most people exists right here. Secondly, "goulash communism" means forsaking revolutionaries elsewhere, since you're committed to producing the most for yourself. This creates the basis for your own destruction, since it leads to (1) more powerful bosses outside the Communist state being allowed to exist and aim their guns at you; (2) the drive to produce for the individual rather than for the social good of all; and (3) the opposite of proletarian internationalism, imperialist expansion, where the Soviet revisionist leadership expands its tentacles around the world on the grounds of feathering its own material nest and power.
Still further, winning workers to Socialism based mainly on material incentives (fulfilling the economic reforms not realizable under capilalism), leaves aside the whole superstructure of culture, relations between people, the question of family life, of what values will govern the society--communist or bourgeois values. It leaves aside the whole question of politics. Lenin said, "The economy is primary, but in the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat, politics must take absolute priority over economy.
"To give first importance to politics does not mean to replace the economy with politics and to neglect the economy, allegedly for the sake of politics, but means that each economic problem and the whole development of the economy must be seen through political eyes and be carried out in the direction defined by the proletarian politics..."
What we are mainly fighting for in the reform battles under capitalism--material gain or building a revolutionary party with a revolutionary ideology--will determine on what basis we recruit to the Party, on why we're fighting for Socialism, and ultimately on whether ideological incentives will overrun, preserve and spread that Socialism or whether material incentives will plant the seeds of its destruction and the restoration of capitalism based on capitalist ideas.
In the recent NYC hospital strike (Local 1199), the plan was to build the Party (recruit) and contrast the "demand" of arbitration with the necessity to win through violence, raising the whole communist concept of the need to seize state power
Now, there was improvement in this strike. PLP leaflets did come out putting forward revolutionary ideas as primary. Some workers were recruited to the Party. However, the Party leadership spent entirely too much time giving leadership to the reform struggle (exposing the sellout, organizing stronger picket lines, etc.) and far less time to plans for the two goals mentioned above. Therefore, too little political discussion took place in the clubs. Thus, the larger fraction meetings achieved during the strike became little more than left-wing caucuses. Thus, recruiting would tend to be on a reform, "we're the good guys" WAM-type basis.
In the 38-day San Francisco city workers strike the Party leadership planned a focus on three points: (1) racism; (2) who controls the city government; and (3) exposing the union leaders as sellouts. The idea was to build the Party around these points.
In practice, fighting racism and linking the strike to the broad political point of how capitalism uses racism to stay afloat (and therefore, why it can only be smashed with a revolution) became a very secondary thing. The question of who controls the city government--basically a question of state power--was nonexistent. This left the exposure of the sellout union leaders as the main point and led to the Party forces trying to become--and sometimes achieving--the tactical leadership of the strike. By not teaching the lesson of the capitalist government--in this particular case, the actual boss--smashing the working class with its state power, and by concentrating on the union sellout issue, even though we led hundreds in militant struggle, the net result was that no city workers were won to the Party.
Still another example is the recent strike by AFSCME Local 1006 in Chicago against racist layoffs and led by the Party. Two Party members were elected to the 1006 executive board, the recording secretary of the local and the chief shop steward. In addition, the editor of the local union paper is a PLP member. Three Party goals should have been: (1) since the strike was a Party-led action against racist layoffs (120 minority workers were axed), a good issue, to broaden this out to oppose the Nazi racist attacks and general ruling class offensive in the city of Chicago; (2) defeat the revisionists ideologically in the union; and (3) recruit to the Party on the above basis.
(1) No fight was made to expand the strike to oppose the broader manifestations of racism, thereby failing to politicize many in a mass way, to understand the relation of the strike to Mayor Daley and the whole ruling class, etc. The strike was restricted to the fight inside the union against layoffs, (2) We allowed the revisionists to run us over ideologically. We backed off selling C-D as "divisive" (it was done, but weakly), when we should have thrown the revisionists out of the union and explained why, (3) When we met with the strike leaders we discussed mainly how to build the picket lines, not how to build the Party.
All this happened after conducting a long and positive fight in 1006 to actually go on strike, and against layoffs. When it happened and with Party members in leadership, it appears we felt impelled to "win" the strike to show how good the Party members were ("better reformers"), rather than really winning by recruiting to the Party based on revolutionary ideas, at the same time as we participate in a militant strike, using the latter opportunity to make the points we had planned to.
Finally the government/boss fired 300 strikers who were protesting these racist layoffs. Then the AFSCME International sellout Jerry Wurf came down, put the local in receivership, declared the strike over, and connived with the bosses to split the strikers, maintaining the firing of 33 (PLPers and other militants).
The communists who, in attempting to carry out the political fight against racism and thereby organized the strike, were virtually all fired, without, so far, having recruited any workers to the Party out of this struggle. There is no PLP fraction there. Therefore, not only was the revolutionary movement not built, but the bosses, having accomplished their most important aim--lessening communist influence--can now go about driving the workers down still further, with far less communist leadership to contend with.
The entire line of putting reform before revolution has been reflected in our leaflets and C-D articles. We have spent most of the leaflet discussing the ins and outs of the reform struggle, giving good advice on how to militantly overturn the union sellouts' tactics, and ending up with "PLP fights for communism and workers power; for more information, call us."
While this may sound too crude, it is essentially what most of us have done. And this is the way our activities have been described in C-D articles. We do that instead of starting out with revolutionary politics, why we are involved in this reform struggle, in what way does it show the need for overthrowing capitalism, in what way does it show capitalism as the cause of the problem, etc., and then spending some time on tactics, growing out of this communist analysis which would imply sharper class struggle and an understanding to act against capitalism.
How did all this happen? Is it wrong to be active in the union, to run for union leadership, to be militant, to immerse one's self in the working class at the point of production, etc.? Definitely not, but certainly we shouldn't do it in the one-sided, reform-over-revolution way we've done it. The reformist errors described did not result from Party members not carrying out the Party line. It was the Party leadership who allowed the line to develop in a one-sided way. The fact is the Party membership followed the example set by the leadership. When the articles appeared in C-D in the fashion described, members could only conclude that this was desirable and followed suit. When the leadership concentrated on the reform struggle, making it primary in practice, the membership followed suit, "carrying out the line."
Now, based on a review of our practice and where it has gotten us, we are trying to correct these mistakes and develop the line in such a way that it isn't practiced one-sidedly, so that the advances made each step of the way are not undercut. Advancing our theory and practice is a protracted process, not an all-or-nothing affair. It is a painstaking struggle to constantly test it, evaluate the results, make necessary changes and then test it again, always using the mooring of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the necessity for the working class to seize state power, and the need for a communist party to lead that goal.
At this point it might be helpful to examine the development of our line, especially in the labor movement.
When the PLM (Progressive Labor Movement) was first formed in 1962, it was based on the fact that the working class was the key class historically in making a revolution and that it needed a communist party to lead to the smashing of bourgeois state power and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. This was the answer to the old C.P.'s total abandonment of the fight for Socialism. The PLM period (1962-1965) re-asserted the public role of communists ("out in the open, on the streets"), laying the basis for the formation of a party. There was plenty of "reporting" on the role of workers and class struggle but absolutely no communist base-building (there were very few Party members who were workers; at the founding convention of PLP we had one "trade union club" with four members out of 200 people at the convention).
From `65 and the establishment of PLP to around `68, we attempted to move members to work and into the unions, mostly to try to establish a base within the working class at the point of production and secondarily to get some stability. Since most of our members were students or ex-students, these were the people who "entered" the working class to carry out the line.
The main emphasis was to "get our feet wet" in what Lenin referred as the "muck and mire" of trade unionism. We were going to try to build a rank-and-file movement, caucuses, a left-center coalition, learn trade union and strike tactics and organize struggle so "Marxist-Leninist conclusions could come out of the struggle." For students and ex-students to stick in the working class--given many romantic notions of workers--and therefore to avoid adventurism, we opted for opportunism and downplaying the open Party role at the expense of avoiding sectarianism (and getting fired immediately). This meant little putting forward of the Party in the here and now. Most members were not known as PLers by their co-workers.
Although the Party was buried for the most part because of this, one important advance in this period was the development of the basebuilding concept which became the main speech at the 1968 party convention. While this was the height of the period of the ghetto rebellions and the anti-war movement, there was very little relation between our activities in those two movements and our work in the labor movement, partly because of the lack of a communist base among workers.
As we began to see that putting students in the "front lines" wouldn't work and that they either left the Party or they buried themselves at work (and left the Party behind), we pulled many of them out of the industrial working class and put them in situations more related to their backgrounds, some still in unions, others in situations where they could more naturally win their peers to a pro-working class stance.
This period, from `69 to `71, was characterized by the more mass putting forward of the Party, especially through the mass sale of CD. Members were encouraged to sell the paper in front of their plants, to tell workers about the Party right at the beginning, etc. Sales of the monthly C-D reached 100,000 in the summer of 1970. Sellers' collectives of Party and non-Party were formed. With the start of the recession 1970, Workers Councils and Unemployment Councils were formed to try to win workers directly to the Party, although done essentially away from the point of production.
In ` 71, with the advent of a big wave of wildcat strikes and general working-class unrest, we suddenly realized we were outside this movement. Members organizing sellers collectives, Unemployment Councils, selling the paper outside plants, etc., were not even attending union meetings and participating in the main mass organization of the working class. They were therefore unable to put forward politics in that struggle. So `71-72 marked a return to unions, slates, caucuses, union activity (both by members in unions in which ex-students were naturally accepted on the job, and by those industrial workers recruited out of the Councils' work), but this time on the basis of telling co-workers about the Party and the intention to recruit "out of the struggle."
In the beginning of `72, the Workers Action Movement (WAM) was formed to organize a mass-based Left organization around a major issue--30 for 40. To WAM we would win the most advanced workers who we would then recruit to the Party. Party members would be open in WAM. It would unite the working class, engage in strike support, and fight racism. But the intention was for it to be a single-issue organization, to re-develop the Left inside the labor movement. Actually, WAM developed as a militant, class-solidarity group, with an everything-but-the-dictatorship-of-the-proletariat program. This led to the idea it was "unnecessary to join the Party because it is no different than WAM" and the Party was generally buried in WAM activities (reform work), although some workers were recruited to the Party through WAM. Yet, it was generally on a militant WAM line, not on a revolutionary line.
The period from Dec. `74 to the present was marked by a drive for a mass Party, to recruit those who were hidden from the Party by WAM, etc. Party membership jumped. WAM was dissolved, having outlived any usefulness it might have had, to be replaced by communist fractions (a line which began in Aug. `75). The idea was, and is, to win workers ready to function directly under the leadership and line of the Party, and from there to recruit them. Still ready to join caucuses, we now distinguish between them and fractions--the caucus is not set up to build the Party, although workers could and should be recruited to the Party or fraction out of caucus work.
Fractions were formed on the basis of "linking reform to revolution," seeing that the working class won't get Marxism-Leninism simply by working on the job, nor simply from class struggle at the point of production. The fraction, and the Party members in it, must run the whole gamut of political ideas and events, on and away from the job, since (1) a communist outlook goes far beyond the point of production, and (2) the battle for state power is one that occurs away from the factories, although occupying factories could be one aspect of a revolution. The ability to "take over" production is really dependent upon having state power and outlawing private property. As long as the ruling class has state power, it can use it to prevent workers' control over production.
However, while putting forward communist fractions and the above ideas, we have still managed to organize fractions that are essentially reformist in nature. That is in "linking reform to revolution," we still use reform struggle as "the basis" of winning workers to the Party, which also means they can be won to the Party on a militant reform line, not on a revolutionary line. We are now coming to the conclusion that fighting for reforms without the main content being to tie the fight to the communist idea of overthrowing the system (i.e., fighting in the mass movement in a reformist way), is contradictory to the fight for revolution. Winning workers to see the need to take state power, and therefore to join and build the Party to lead to that goal, does not grow out of the simple fight for reforms. Therefore, it is only capitalism that can be built by fighting in the reform movement in a reformist way.
Yet we can see from tracing our history in this very cursory fashion, that there was both a good side and a weak side--a revolutionary side and a reform side--to our work. There was always a concentration on the working class as the revolutionary class, and, after `68, an attempt to win workers directly to the Party. Within that we developed the concept of building a communist base in the working class. We always put forward the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the necessity of the working class to seize power and smash the bourgeois state. We always put forward the need to fight racism as necessary to unite the working class to a point where it could move for state power. This central anti-racist thread, along with the analysis of the decline of U.S. imperialism, has laid the basis for the development of the line on fascism.
Each advance in the line produced something positive which we still incorporate into our current work: the working class is the revolutionary class; do communist work in the unions, lead class struggle at the point of production; build a personal/political communist base among workers; tell workers about the Party; put forward the Party in a mass way; mass sale of C-D; boldly put forward the Party at plant gates; intensify work in the unions on the basis of talking about the party and recruiting to it; putting forward 30 for 40 and anti-racism to the whole working class; uniting the working class through these issues; fractions, not caucuses, as Party units; winning workers to communist ideas beyond just the momentary boss-worker relationship; seeing that revolution will occur away from (although sometimes including) the factories.
We published Road to Revolution I, a reassertion of the dictatorship of the proletariat after its abandonment by most of the world communist movement at that time. In Road to Revolution II we corrected errors on the question of nationalism, seeing that this is a ruling class ideology and cannot lead to socialism but leads to the maintenance of capitalism. In Road to Revolution III we attacked the two-stage theory of revolution, declaring that workers, peasants and others can be won directly to fighting for Socialism.
However, our practice has tended to tail this progression in our line. Part of what we have been doing is a reflection of winning workers on a two-stage basis--first to militant reform and then to revolution. We have rejected this in theory. We must reject it in practice. The fact is that when we win workers to militant reform first, it can and does just as easily turn into its opposite and away from revolution and joining PLP.
This happened because (1) of many early subjective weaknesses; (2) when it comes to a choice of pursuing a revolutionary path or a reform road, a reform fight will always meet with a lesser resistance from the ruling class; therefore, without revolutionary politics being foremost in our minds, we are most likely to pursue a reformist road; and (3) we haven't understood the Leninist thesis that the reform struggle is just one tactic in the revolutionary process. Therefore, we haven't entered the reform struggle with a communist understanding, with the primary goal of building the Party, but rather from the point of view that the working class is the revolutionary class and that "therefore" out of the class struggle will grow Marxism-Leninism.
Our practice has taught us that this is simply not true. So somewhat inherent in the way we have developed the various changes and advances in our line over the years --and there was always a positive and more advanced concept in each successive change, growing out of practice--there has also been a one-sidedness that allowed reformism to override revolution. It is this weakness that must be reversed. We can no longer have the idea, present in many past trade union programs, that we will take over the unions and from that vantage point launch a fight for state power. The ruling class will opt for violent struggle to save their system long before we "take over" the unions.
Therefore, we must, right from the beginning, win workers to the concept of state power, not to the idea that they will win through rank-and-file power first and revolution later. Sure, we should and must be active in the unions, run for office, participate in the fight for rank-and file power against the sellouts. But only from the point of view of fitting that struggle into one for revolution, not from the point of view that this reform of the unions precedes the fight for revolution.
The concept of making the primary fight one of fighting for revolution, and therefore of building the Party, and the fight for reforms secondary should not view recruiting to the Party in a narrow or limited way. Winning someone to join the Party is not simply meeting some numerical quota, and after we've won 51% of the working class, we'll simply "have Socialism." Winning someone to join the Party around a revolutionary line means winning that person to go back into the reform movement, into the mass movement, participate in the class struggle in a way that sharpens the fight against the ruling class as a class, tie the reform struggle to capitalism and why and how it must be overthrown, and in that way recruit still more workers to the Party. Winning someone to join the Party is not merely an intellectual exercise; it is winning them to be active in leading and initiating class struggle around a revolutionary line, rather than just being a militant fighter for reforms.
In the recent NYC Local 420 hospital strike, a leaflet was distributed which put forward the Party's revolutionary line and explained how capitalism has caused the strikers' problems, therefore why a Party and Socialism was needed. An expanded Party meeting was called on the first day of the strike and 16 non-Party workers came. It was announced at the start of the meeting that, while it was important to discuss strike tactics, it was more important to discuss the overall ravages of the system, of racism, etc., and why it was necessary to build the Party in this strike.
The sharpness of the revolutionary line during the August 28 Detroit auto march helped recruit five workers to the Party. Many workers who have been around the Party for some time were recruited simply by asking them in a serious way to join. They had been ready for some time but had never been asked or followed up seriously.
The Party's leadership of the wildcat strike at NYC's Montefiore Hospital involved anti-racism (uniting white professionals with black and Latin non-professionals), pointing out the class nature of the system, and pointing out the necessity to join the Party and build for a revolution as the only way out. Four workers joined who participated in the struggle. Now a shop paper is being distributed there among Local 1199 members entitled, "We Tried Arbitration; Look What We Got-- Revolution is the Only Solution."
The bosses in one shop posted an order requiring workers to submit to lunchbox inspections "because supplies were being stolen." Black workers were singled out for special harassment. The Party put out a leaflet asking "Who is stealing from whom?" and went on to explain the robbery of surplus value by the bosses off the workers' labor, and show how Socialism will stop the biggest thievery of all, tying the racist nature of the attack into this explanation.
There have been similar attempts elsewhere at fitting the reform struggle into the revolutionary goal. Some of this has been more reflected in the kinds of articles now being written in C-D.
These are good beginnings. As we attempt to change our approach, we will no doubt make, mistakes. But we must make decisive changes in the work. One way to do it is the following:
Instead of beginning by becoming active in any reform struggle that is occurring in our area of work, begin with studying the problems in an industry (or elsewhere) from a communist point of view: what are the main reflections of capitalism in that area (unemployment? racism? high accident rate? etc.). Then develop an explanation of how these problems result from capitalism, and therefore why we need socialism and how socialism would solve those problems. The idea is to explain why the problems exist in such a way that it would impel workers to act in a way to destroy the system, not to merely oppose the sellouts and fight for rank-and-file power. Acting in the direction of destroying the system means joining a fraction or the Party, spreading revolutionary ideas, recruiting others to the fraction and the Party, as well as participating in the reform struggle to get the opportunity to do the above.
Leaflets, C-D articles, and other written material should start with the concepts of revolution, not dwell on reform. This means that the political goals set forward, for instance, in the plans as outlined previously in the NYC Hospital strike, the S.F. city workers strike, the AFSCME 1006 strike, should be the bulk of the leaflet or article, with a much lesser amount devoted to the ins and outs of the reform struggle, and then mainly as they fit into the revolutionary struggle. In other words, we shouldn't merely reverse the present content, putting the present last sentence or paragraph about PLP and revolution at the beginning and then just proceed with our usual concentration on reform. We must really think out how the main problems in the struggle reflect capitalism and therefore win workers to the necessity to get rid of capitalism, not merely change the union.
Finally, if we are elected to union office, we should: (1) tie every grievance to capitalism, which should make us a fighting grievance person (do not feed the illusion that a communist, or communist-led union, can make things better under capitalism; use the grievance to win workers closer to the idea of destroying capitalism and therefore joining the Party or Party fraction); (2) use the union office to conduct political discussion, at union meetings, in union committees, at shop steward meetings, etc.; (3) use the union office to win workers to join the Party.
If using our union position to build the Party in this way leads to a sharp struggle and even ouster from the position, this would be a victory if it meant that we had recruited workers to the Party, to seeing the need to destroy capitalism and take state power. That is the barometer of winning or losing, not the votes in the election or the ability to hang onto the office.
Comrades and friends: a future of revolution was never brighter. The objective situation is worsening; the bosses' economy is headed for another slump. This will mean new attacks on the working class and increased imperialist meddling abroad, pointing to war and fascism. Against all this the working class can take the offensive, if led by a communist party that follows a line of putting revolution first, that bursts the chains of capitalist reformist ideology. This is our historic task; let's get to it!