Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reinventing a 1969 wheel when a 1903 wheel works just as good?

Mike Ely's Kasama posting below raises some fascinating questions about how Marxists need to organize themselves today to do their work.  While Bolshevik-Leninists have always taken the "org question" as paramount, as part of our continuity with the Left Opposition led by Leon Trotsky, the Leninist or Bolshevik type party seems demographically impossible in this period.  To me a Bolshevik type party needs a large and growing critical mass of members, especially young members, carrying out propaganda and recruitment where they work and in the city districts where they live, doing this together as a collectively functioning branch or fraction of a larger party.  That was the way I learned it, and the way most others did too, whether they eventually came to reject such a course or not.
 
But what happens when there are not 5-10 comrades in a city to do this work?  What if there are only 2, or 1 cadre and a supporter; or just a couple of curious readers of the party press?  That is what communists in the United States face in most cities today.  In Cleveland, Ohio it is clear the old organizations built out of the levy of youth from the 1960-70s  cannot grow  in this period.  The SWP, as party of a national strategy of retrenching, closed their branch here in 2002 or 2003.  Workers World party has a couple of members, but as I can attest from personal experience they are for a variety of reasons politically unequipped to recruit to Marxism even those begging to be recruited.  The Revolutionary Communist Party has an attractive and recently remodelled bookstore in Cleveland, and several hard-working cadre, but they seem to keep themselves aloof from the Black-labor proletarian component of political life in the city, the only part that is not subsidiary outright to the Democratic Party raj.  When the RCP does reach out productively around police brutality, their adamantine and inflexible campaign around atheism, and their lack of sensitivitty to the question of religion's contradictory role in the Black community, has kept them from fruitful growth and recruitment. 
 
National leaderships of Workers World and the Revolutionary Communist Party clearly do not intend to allocate reinforcing cadre to Cleveland when there is more motion toward fightback and resistance in other regions. 
 
So the 'unclubbables' of Cleveland who had not already joined existing Marxist organizations locally before the draw-bridges were raised, must begin again.  And as we feel our way forward, driven by the necessity of doing political work in augmentation of our informal meetings, study groups, et cetera, the "org question" is posed anew.  So let us see what the "org" wind blowing from Kasama has to say.
 
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Red Papers 1: Calling for communist collectives

Posted by kasama on September 6, 2011

Intro by Mike Ely

Along with the One Struggle discussion of organization, we have been asked to post the following call for collectives from Red Papers 1 – so its ideas (and our ideas!) can be discussed in their own thread.

This rather ground-breaking 1969 document shaped (in many ways) the formation of the previous communist movement. It set important terms for an emerging communist movement — that strongly influenced even the radicals who went on to form other, opposing communist trends. And of course it was the basis on which the Bay Area Revolutionary Union became the national Revolutionary Union. The document gives a sense of how that generation's "basis of unity" was being developed — and how collectives formed around this early proposal.

The power of a call

I just want to mention (again) the kind of impact a document like this can have.

When I received (from afar) a copy of Red Papers 1, i was a seventeen year old college freshman. I read that document over and over until the print started to fade — and until the many strange and difficult concepts were burned into my brain. It left me as a fierce partisan of its proposals. And I worked to circulate Red Papers 1 and 2 with everyone I met.

A year later (under the influence of this approach) I was in a revolutionary collective off campus (with people of quite diverse radical views), and working in a shoe factory. Our main work was organizing white working class youth to fight the system in ways inspired by the Black Panther Party, and to build a revolutionary anti-racist movement among them. A year after that, I was in the Midwest, working with the Panthers there, and working in a steel forge, and a year after that, I was (still very young, but with a bit more experience) starting a protracted project with other communist organizers in the West Virginia coalfields.

These Red Papers, and the line of march that they sketched, took many of us in a common communist direction. It inspired us to understand the importance of a particular kind of urgent experimentation. It suggested a form of organization. It situated our work within the international communist movement of that time and within the history of previous revolutionary attempts.

We may not today write the same words, but we want to aspire to the same impact, clarity and symbolic power.

Different times…..

Different times cause different dividing lines to be important — the political landscape and the defining political issues change (even in the course of a single world-embracing revolutionary transition period like this). And (it is worth saying) in order to re-conceive, we do need to have a sense of previous conceptions — and approach them with a sense of learning what we can and dividing one into two.

The idea of the early Revolutionary Union and Red Papers 1 was to to:

  • promote an explicitly communist basis of unity (in a movement that was forming revolutionary collectives of a great many kinds) ,
  • to explain what main points of such a communist unity might be (in this particular historic moment, in the opinion of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union)
  • to urge formation of communist collectives to do study and common practice together
  • to start the sharing of their experiences and views nationally
  • to form a common nationalist communist organization based on such emerging unities
  • to develop that initial organization into a force that could act as a leading player on the stage, and become a political party (with socialist revolution and communism as its program).

In practice, there was a real explosion of interest — and the national RU congealed much faster than Red Papers 1 foresaw. This had to do with the intensity of the upsurge, the extreme eagerness of new-formed communists to create and organized framework — and it also has to do with the fact that the ongoing work of Mao Zedong and the "beacon" of revolutionary China helped many people "orient" themselves along similar and common lines.

One important issue here is also that the Red Papers assumed and promoted a very particular view of what the ultimate communist organization would look like. The formation of a communist vanguard party of a particular type was lifted from the organizational principles of the Third Communist International, and had been endorsed by the Communist Party of China (including Mao). And it was widely thought that the shape and methods of such a party had been successfully worked out (in a universalized way), and mainly needed to be "applied" to concrete conditions in each country.

Critical summation… Creative application and development

We need, under our conditions and from our perspective in history, to dig into this as well — and determine what kind of communist formation we ultimately seek to form. Many aspects of that will be determined along the way (and will not be set in stone at the very beginning of this communist regroupment). But certainly, the questions urgently need to be joined now — and key controversies identified, and possible solutions explored, and (more) some initial steps outlined based on our current understandings. We need to regroup communists — how will we now do it?

Part of that is a serious and critical evaluation of the previous universalized model of a communist party.

What different kinds of communist organization are we going to need:

  • As we carry out an initial process of reconception, regroupment and the sinking of initial roots among the people
  • As we mature to the point where we are increasingly leading sections of the youth and the advanced — toward communist politics and in the course of sharpening conflicts with the system
  • As the actual process of transition and overthrow — from capitalism to socialism — emerges (in ways that we can't yet see or foresee)
  • As communist organization continues in the post-capitalist period –  as new forms of popular power and agency need to emerge, and as both we communists and the people confront intense ongoing challenge and political conflict,  as problems of socialist economics present themselves, and (especially) as we all confront the problem of preventing capitalist restoration.

If we understand that a single model of communist organization doesn't work for all the different nodal points of preparation, struggle and power — then where do we start now? How will such different forms of communist organizations morph into each other in key historical transition points? Or will they?

How do we develop communist organization that:

  • trains communists to be critical thinkers with initiative
  • is able to sink deep roots among the people and help draw them forward as political actors and leaders in their own cause
  • prevent the infiltration and repression of the system from shattering whatever is build
  • is able to learn: creatively understand new situations, absorb the best of new ideas, hear others when they speak, create powerful symbolism that connects amid rapidly changing events, and that is able to be self-critical and humble in the midst of the people it serves
  • is able be an instrument of on-going revolution, embrace new ruptures, and avoid becoming a self-important roadblock or (worse) a center and apparatus of new oppression.

This document is now up on EROL Anti-Revisionist Encyclopedia — along with other formative documents. Its original name was "Statement of Principles."

We will excerpt first sections on forming collectives, then follow that with the full document.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Excerpts on forming communist collectives

" There is, of course, a limited value to statements which try to describe in a few words any living society. Nevertheless, the world revolutionary movement has produced a body of ideas drawn from objective reality and tested in political struggle The following elementary theses contain a core of such ideas which must be developed, concretized and deepened through application to class struggle in this country. They form the basis of our revolutionary perspective for the United States."

After laying out a series of theses on revolution, U.S. class society and more, this document said:

A revolutionary collective serves the working people: both their immediate and long term interests. It does this by linking up with them, learning from them, fighting in their ranks for better conditions or in resistance to an attack upon them, and by helping to develop a more advanced revolutionary theory for the advancement of the struggle to a higher stage. At the same time as it bends every effort towards victory in the immediate struggle, it gives special attention to raising popular consciousness, and discovering and training revolutionaries.

"A revolutionary organization should base itself on Marxism-Leninism, not as a dogma, but as a constantly developing body of thought which unifies revolutionary theory with revolutionary practice. The organization should apply Marxism-Leninism, as it has developed through Mao, to the concrete situation within the United States, in order to prepare the conditions for the liberation of working people and mankind.

"A revolutionary collective should be composed of a relatively small number of highly dedicated, well-disciplined persons who are willing to subordinate individual preferences to collective decisions and who are capable of working in accordance with an equitable, rational and efficient division of labor. The collective should be the focal point for intellectual activity, practical activity, and an effort to integrate the two.

"Intellectual activity refers to study and analysis. The collectives should study the history of revolutionary theory and practice and consider how that history can be applied to the current situation in America. At the same time, the collectives should analyze the present situation in their localities and in the U.S. as a whole, for knowledge of revolutionary history is useless if we are ignorant of the contemporary conditions to which we want to apply it. What is the nature of the class struggle in various localities? What can be generalized about the nature of class struggle in the country as a whole? What can revolutionary history teach us about how to relate to these struggles? These are the primary questions that revolutionary collectives must attempt to answer.

"Practical activity refers both to the formulation of tactics for day-to-day struggle and also the development of a strategy which can place day-to-day tactics in a comprehensive revolutionary context. The collectives should work strenuously to relate the. development of tactics and strategy to the development of study and analysis. If it is true that a revolutionary party cannot exist without revolutionary masses, it is also true that it cannot successfully lead the masses to victory if it fails to unify intellectual activity with practical activity. In striving to achieve this unity, collectives should employ the principle of criticism and self-criticism, which is designed not to embarrass individuals, but to improve their political work.

"What kind of relationship should exist between the collectives? At first the relationship will involve little more than exchange of information and experience, and perhaps some joint regional political activity when it seems useful. Eventually, however, the collectives should relate to each other on the basis of democratic centralism. Democratic centralism is the dialectical unity of two opposites – democracy and centralism. Its purpose is to achieve both initiative and discipline within the Communist collective, and to ensure that the leaders and leading bodies of the Party constantly receive criticism and supervision from the Party rank and file and the masses. Democratic centralism proceeds according to the principle, unity-criticism-unity. The decisions of the whole Party, and of its leading bodies, must be carried out by every member. But, at the same time, constant struggle must be carried on at all levels of the Party, to correct mistaken ideas and policies, to help all members advance and to achieve rank-and-file selection and supervision of leaders. And the leaders and leading bodies must rely on the criticism and supervision of the rank and file in summing up the work of the Party, determining the correct political line, and providing overall direction in strategy and tactics."

* * * * * * * * *

The whole document:

Bay Area Revolutionary Union's Red Papers 1

Statement of Principles

There is, of course, a limited value to statements which try to describe in a few words any living society. Nevertheless, the world revolutionary movement has produced a body of ideas drawn from objective reality and tested in political struggle The following elementary theses contain a core of such ideas which must be developed, concretized and deepened through application to class struggle in this country. They form the basis of our revolutionary perspective for the United States.

We are aware that what follows represents only a primitive understanding of the reality of the American revolution. Its greatest shortcoming is that it lacks detailed understanding of the methods to be employed to achieve our aims. We need to develop our ability to accomplish, together with others, our many pressing tasks. But we are not discouraged. We know that the program of a revolutionary organization at any time is less important than conscientious application to serving the people; to practicing criticism and self-criticism in summing up its work; and to developing a thorough struggle against bourgeois self-interest in membership and leadership, and against opportunism in organizational affairs.

We are determined to so apply ourselves. And we invite others who are in general agreement with our principles, and are willing to assume part of the responsibility for their implementation, to join with us in taking the path of struggle.

* * *

The Present Situation and the Goal

The U.S. ruling class not only exploits our own working people; it extends its exploitation throughout the world by a system of imperialism. Its oppression is most vicious in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where large U. S. corporations extract, at the point of a gun, super-profits from super-exploitation. The present period of history is marked by the struggles of the people of these areas against U.S. imperialism. Today, Vietnam is the focal point of these struggles. Tomorrow it will be Brazil or Thailand, southern Africa or the Middle East.

As the peoples of the world increasingly seize the initiative in their global confrontation with U. S. imperialism, the ability of monopoly capitalism to resolve its contradictions with the U.S. working class becomes progressively limited, setting the stage for the seizure of state power by the working class.

It is therefore the primary revolutionary duty of the people of the U.S. to build a militant united front against U. S. imperialism. The main force and leader of the united front must be the working class. But such a united front can and must include all other classes and groups in the U.S. which at any stage in the struggle find their interests in opposition to those of the monopoly capitalists.

Because the U.S. ruling class is the main prop of world imperialism, the U.S. revolutionary has a special responsibility to the peoples of the world. Their victories are our victories, and whatever we can accomplish to weaken our ruling class is of multiplied benefit to their struggles. We believe that it is important for revolutionaries in the U. S. to recognize and accept this responsibility.

It is not possible, however, for U.S. workers, in their great majority, to join the fight against American imperialism unless their class consciousness is heightened through the political work of revolutionaries – consciousness not only of their own exploitation which, in large measure, they already possess, but also an understanding of the inseparable inter-relationship between monopoly's exploitation of U.S. workers and its super-exploitation of the peoples of the colonial and semi-colonial world. Beyond this working people must have a consciousness of their own power to be the decisive force in the defeat of their class enemy, the monopoly capitalist ruling class.

Building opposition to American imperialism will also lay the foundation for a struggle that will have to be waged after the attainment of socialism – specifically against the tendency that will then arise to enjoy the fruits of a rationalized and unfettered U. S. economy without sufficient regard to raising the standard of living in the underdeveloped world.

The role of Black people as a leading force in U.S. revolutionary struggles is of great significance. Black people are an imported colonial people, brought to this country in chains and dispersed throughout it. Robbed of their land and resources and divested of their cultural heritage, Black people today are forced into oppressed communities, exploited by absentee white business interests, and controlled and contained by an occupying army of mercenary police. Because of their particular geographic situation – dispersed in concentrations among the larger population – it appears extremely unlikely that Black people can win national liberation before the system of U. S. monopoly capitalism is destroyed.

The Black people are, in their overwhelming majority, working people. Thus, while they are a colonial people whose immediate struggle is closely linked with that of the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America, they are at the same time in the forefront of the working class movement in the United States. Ultimately they will be joined by the white working class to deal the death blow to monopoly capitalism.

That the struggle for Black liberation at present surpasses, in revolutionary militancy, the struggle of the working class against exploitation, emphasizes the need for revolutionaries to link up with the working class, develop therein increasing support for the demands of Black people and increasing struggle against their common exploiters. Our victory lies in the revolutionary unity of the exploited.

It is our conviction that the U.S. working class, black and white, with its allies from other classes, together constituting a vast majority of the people and led by a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party, will smash the existing, state apparatus (in fact a dictatorship of the monopoly capitalist class) and set up its own form of state: the dictatorship of the proletariat. The power of wealth will thus be overthrown and replaced by the power of the people, led by the working class. But it is not enough merely to destroy the institutions of monopoly capitalism. Pernicious ideas and habits engrained in the culture, after centuries of life under capitalism, must be struggled against, defeated and struggled against once more. To do otherwise – for the people to relax their vigilance – is to surrender the people's revolution to the control of class enemies in whatever guise.

The socialist state will eliminate the exploitation of labor by taking away from the monopoly capitalists all the means of production, distribution and communication; all banks and financial institutions; and all large holdings in land and housing. The socialist state will carry out democratic economic planning and guarantee the right of everyone to a secure job. It will ensure basic human-needs of food, clothing, housing and education. It will guarantee the right of self-determination to oppressed nations – including self-governing territories if so desired.

The socialist state will suppress attempts 'at armed counterrevolution by the dispossessed monopoly capitalists. And it will carry on a thorough class struggle against all remnants, or revivals, of the former capitalist class and against all ideas, habits and institutions of capitalism – in order to make the "peaceful" or violent restoration of the capitalist system impossible. The experience of the socialist countries in the last 20 years shows that class struggle does not end with the establishment of the socialist state. This is borne out both by the positive experience of China and Albania, which are carrying out such a struggle and thus laying the groundwork for a future communist society; and by the recent negative experience of the Soviet Union and certain East European states, where managers and administrators have usurped power from the working class.

To this end, the establishment of socialism and the building towards communism, we pledge our efforts and our lives, and resolve to further this goal by active participation in the immediate struggles of our exploited people.

* * *

Theses on American Monopoly Capitalism

I. The class basis of U.S. Society.

Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? The central theoretical task of revolutionary collectives is to analyze the economic and political status of U. S. classes and their attitudes toward the revolution. Only then can a revolutionary line emerge, and with it the sound beginning of a revolutionary party.

The basic consideration to be made in defining and understanding classes is how they relate to the productive process: that is, what is produced, how it is produced, and how products are exchanged. As complex as that economic structure is, it is the basis of all social structure and the root of all social change. To begin to understand it, and to be capable of revolutionizing it, the first step is to distinguish between two antagonistic classes: the capitalist class and the working class.

The capitalist class owns and controls the means of production, distribution and communication. The working class owns none of these, and therefore workers must sell their labor power to the capitalist for wages in order to live. The worker creates a product of value, part of which is returned to him as wage, and the rest of which is taken from him by the capitalists as profit. Thus is created the basic antagonistic contradiction between worker and capitalist, since the interest of one is, and has to be, directly opposed to the interest of the other. This most fundamental of contradictions will not end until capitalism with its private ownership and/or control of the means of production is itself ended, and replaced with socialism.

But the class of capitalists is itself divided. We have small business and big business, small landlords and large real estate companies. The very largest banks and corporations are controlled by several hundred very wealthy families: These are the monopoly capitalists. They control most of the wealth of the United States, and thereby – directly or indirectly, themselves or through their representatives – exert effective control over the mainsprings of economic, military and political power in the country.

The monopoly capitalists are the ruling class of the United States. But various small and middle-sized capitalists have interests that conflict with those of monopoly. A number of other class segments in the United States – for example, small farmers, "independent" professionals, small storekeepers – also have basic interests in opposition to those of the monopoly capitalists.

The first step in a class analysis is to understand the antagonism of the two basic classes: capitalist and worker. The second, more difficult step is to develop a comprehensive analysis of all classes and class segments in U. S. society. An understanding of their economic inter-relationships will indicate the extent of their revolutionary development and potential, and will reveal their relative importance to the success of the revolution. This understanding must come from much experience in working and struggling with the people who make up a particular class, and from study of the inner workings of American corporate capitalism.

A careful class analysis must take into account the special characteristics of the colonized people of the United States: Black people, Chicanos, Puerto-Ricans, American Indians and Asian Americans. These peoples, having developed historically as "internal colonies" of the United States, embody elements of both the external and internal struggles against the U. S. ruling class – on the one hand, the struggle of the colonized people of the world against American imperialism, on the other hand, the struggle of the U.S. working class against monopoly capitalism.

II. Racism and U.S. Monopoly Capitalism.

Racism, like national chauvinism and anti-Semitism, is the ideological product of class divided society. This ideology serves to divide the oppressed classes and strengthen the oppressors. Present-day racism, directed primarily against Black people, Chicanos, American Indians and Puerto Ricans, draws its strength from monopoly capitalism's basic economic strategy designed to maintain a surplus of labor and prevent the unity of the exploited.

All aspects of bourgeois ideology that penetrate the working class must be struggled against and overcome. This is especially true of racist ideology, which is very strong in the white working class and prevents its advance. We must expose this ideology continuously and defeat it in practice before the necessary unity of the working class against monopoly capitalism can be achieved. Thereafter, the establishment of a socialist state will go a long way toward the elimination of present-day racism. But this struggle must continue under the dictatorship of the proletariat until racism is wiped out entirely.

III. Male Supremacy, Women's Liberation, and U.S. Monopoly Capitalism.

Under monopoly capitalism, American working women are super-exploited. Like Black people and national minorities, women are relegated to the most subordinate, low-paying jobs and receive unequal pay for equal work. Women are also used as a reserve labor pool which can threaten the security of men's jobs and depress the wage level. Women make up almost 40% of the civilian work force and many are concentrated in the credit and financial industries. Lenin, in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, defined monopoly capitalism and imperialism precisely by the dominance of finance capital. Thus women workers are situated in one of the most strategic and fragile sectors of the imperialist economy. In addition, these industries make possible the expanded consumption which, through advertising, perpetuates the oppression of all women under monopoly capitalism. Women, particularly, are manipulated as consumers, and their sexuality is used to sell commodities.

Male supremacy is both a subjective attitude and an ideological reflection of objective historical conditions. These conditions have been marked since the development of class society by control over the means of production by males and male domination over women in the monogamous family. Male supremacy views women as beings who are creatures of nature, passive and inferior to men, and men as decisive, self-fulfilling makers of history.

Women as well as men accept the basic premises of male supremacy. This attitude cuts across all class and ideological lines and is to be found within the revolutionary movement itself. As Marxists-Leninists we must ask ourselves what class or classes does male supremacy benefit and what class or classes does it hurt? Obviously, it hurts all women regardless of their class since it provides the rationale for keeping them in an inferior position. Male supremacy does not benefit working men. It prevents working class unity, enables the realization of surplus value. In addition, by making the working man "the head of the house" male supremacy helps create and maintain the illusion that he has real power and control over his own life. In capitalist society, male supremacy only benefits the ruling class.

One of the most destructive features of capitalism is its systematic suppression of women. On the one hand monopoly capitalism super exploits working women and on the other hand it keeps the majority of women off the labor market maintaining them as a "reserve labor force" who are confined to child rearing and the maintenance of the home. The labor performed in the home is crucial to sustaining the work force and reproducing new generations of workers but goes totally unpaid. Being unpaid, this necessary social labor is demeaned and the women engaged in it are also thereby demeaned. These women are literally married to their homes, as feudal serfs were attached to the land they tilled, in return for the security and protection offered by their lord and master. Thus, lacking both recognition for accomplishment and economic independence, housewives are among the real victims of the system.

The struggle for women's liberation represents a major and integral part of the overall movement for the defeat of U. S. monopoly capitalism and its replacement by a socialist America. Within the revolutionary movement, the women's liberation struggle will be led by working women. These women will play a major role in the defeat of the enemy and the building of a society in which men and women will participate equally in all spheres of social existence with no sexually predetermined roles.

IV. The State as an instrument of class rule.

The state has not always existed. There were societies which did without it, which had no idea of the state or of state power. At a given stage of economic development, which was necessarily bound up with the breakup of society into classes, the state became a necessity, as a result of this division. . . With the disappearance of classes the state, too, will inevitably disappear. (Engels)

The people have been taught to bow before the modern state with superstitious awe. The state has been looked upon as something sacred, as a "neutral arbiter," standing above classes and mediating disputes between them. In reality, government institutions in the U. S. (courts, prisons, police forces, the military, legislatures, bureaucracies, etc. ) are dominated by representatives of the capitalist class and ensure their rule. "The state," writes Lenin, "is the product and the manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises when, where, and to the extent that class antagonisms cannot be objectively reconciled. And conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable . . . The state is a special organization of force; it is the organization of violence for the suppression of the working class."

The complex of government institutions constitute, collectively, the theater of operations where conflicts within the capitalist class can be mediated, and where interclass conflicts can be resolved on terms most favorable to the capitalist class. "Two institutions", writes Lenin, "are especially characteristic of this state machinery; bureaucracy and the standing army." In moments of acute class struggle and increasingly during this period of the decline of imperialism, the bourgeoisie relies more and more on these two institutions which are based on arbitrary and naked force, on the power of the gun. The real nature of the state is exposed and it becomes clear, as Lenin says,' that "the power of capital is everything. . .while parliament (the legislatures) and elections are marionettes, puppets."

The working class must not rest content with "taking over" these institutions which the exploiters have fashioned and perfected over hundreds of years, but must destroy this machine and replace it with their own machine designed to provide democracy for the masses of working people who constitute the majority and suppression for the exploiters who constitute a minority. As a state designed to end the exploitation of man by man and representing for the first time a majority class in society, it will differ from all other states, which perpetuated the exploitation of man by man and were based on the rule of a small minority divorced from production and living off the labor of others. The new state will constitute the first step toward the eventual elimination of the state itself.

V. Consequences of the capitalist state.

The exploitative role of the U. S. monopoly capitalist class is synonymous with, and inevitably produces, unemployment and poverty, militarism and imperialism, racism and national chauvinism.

U.S. monopoly capitalism breeds a culture of exploitation and dehumanization on an individual as well as collective level. Competition is valued over cooperation. Coercion or cajolery, rather than mutual respect, form the basis for relationships. The sciences, subsidized by the large corporations or by the monopoly capitalist state itself, are perverted to the demands of private profit and the class interests of the monopolists. Artists are forced to compromise themselves before a manipulated market place, thus ensuring that those ideas compatible with class domination – "rugged individualism"; the irrationality and emptiness of human existence; the indelible apathy and ignorance of the masses; racism and chauvinism, subtle and overt – are hammered into the collective consciousness.

VI. The abolition of capitalism's consequences.

The only way to abolish the capitalist exploitation of labor and the decadent society built on this foundation is to destroy the state power of the exploiting class: the American monopoly capitalists.

In the struggle against unemployment and poverty, militarism and imperialism, racism, chauvinism and war, and in the development of a revolutionary culture of masses in motion, the necessary numbers, strength, consciousness, and unity to overthrow capitalism will be achieved.

VII. Communist society.

In communist society, all means of production will be common property. There will be no classes and no class struggle. The consequences of class divided society – racism, national chauvinism, male supremacy, the monogamous family based on property, etc. – will all have disappeared. There will be no wars, no armies, and no need for weapons of war, which will become historical curiosities. There will be no distinction between mental and manual work. Communism will be a life of material and cultural abundance. Contradictions between people will remain, but these will not be antagonistic and will be resolved by mutual cooperation.

VIII. The necessity for armed struggle.

An oppressed class which does not strive to use arms, to acquire arms, deserves to be treated like slaves. We cannot forget, unless we have become bourgeois pacifists or opportunists, that we are living in a class society, that there is no way out, and there can be none, except by means of the class struggle and the overthrow of the power of the ruling class.

In every class society, whether it is based on slavery, serfdom or, as at present, on wage labor, the oppressing class is armed. The modern standing army, and even the modern militia (National Guard) represents the bourgeoisie armed against the proletariat. This is such an elementary truth that it is hardly necessary to dwell on it. It is sufficient to recall the use of troops against strikers, which occurs in all capitalist countries without exception. The fact that the bourgeoisie is armed against the proletariat is one of the biggest, most fundamental, most important facts in modern capitalist society.

Only after the proletariat has disarmed the bourgeoisie will it be able, without betraying its world-historical mission, to throw all armaments on the scrapheap; the proletariat will undoubtedly do this, but only when this condition has been fulfilled, certainly not before. (Lenin)

We recognize the need for organized armed struggle against the power of the state, and assume the responsibilities of revolutionaries in the preparation of that struggle. The people must be armed, organized and under the direction of a revolutionary party serving the working class. We further recognize that the revolution will not end with the seizure of state power. That power must be retained and consolidated under the political rule of the working class, that is, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It will be under the political leadership of the working class that the secure transition to socialism will be effected.

The recognition of class struggle leads inevitably to the recognition of the necessity for violent revolution and the political rule of the working class. It is the task of the revolutionary party of the working class, guided by Marxism-Leninism, to lead the people to victory. The organized repressive violence of the state must be met with the organized revolutionary violence of the people. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

* * *

Thesis on Building a Revolutionary Party in the United States

The last few years have witnessed an inspiring escalation of protest against the oppressive policies of the rulers of the U.S. The mounting struggles for Black liberation and against imperialist aggression in Vietnam have swelled the ranks of those who recognize the enemy and dare to confront it. Significant also have been the struggles against widespread poverty; the growing number and length of working class strikes; and the student revolt against a controlled educational system which perpetuates caste divisions and transforms, students into servants of the ruling class. As these protests are evaluated, their limitations are being recognized by an increasing number of dedicatee activists. Many are becoming conscious of the need to transform the protest movement into a revolutionary movement – a movement that would be more than a thorn in the side of the ruling class; a movement capable of destroying that class and creating a new society; a movement that is not primitive, fragmented and directionless, but one guided by a revolutionary party based on Marxist-Leninist principles.

How are we to transform today's radical movement into a revolutionary movement? History shows that revolutionary movements are successful only when they are guided by highly-organized, well-disciplined revolutionary parties. History also shows that revolutionary parties are only' successful when there are revolutionary masses. The people need a party and the party needs the people: neither can succeed without the other.

Presently in the United States the revolutionary movement is diffuse, loosely connected and primitive in organization and ideology. The most immediate and urgent practical task facing U.S. revolutionaries is to establish an organization of revolutionaries capable of maintaining the energy, continuity and direction of the political struggle, thereby creating the conditions for the emergence of a revolutionary party.

How should revolutionaries carry out the most important task? Although there are individuals and groups in the United States playing a revolutionary role, there is no revolutionary party which actually has a base among white working people, or seems likely to have a promising future in this regard. It is also unlikely that a revolutionary party will develop strictly as a result of the day-to-day struggle of the working class.

Consequently, we think it necessary for individuals with a revolutionary perspective to form collectives which link up with working people and serve their class interests. These groups should accept a collective discipline, carry out criticism and se criticism of their political work, and apply the most advanced revolutionary concepts to their common efforts. By doing this, we he to move toward the development of a revolutionary party. We encourage revolutionaries in other areas to build collectives for this purpose.

Most groups that call themselves Marxist-Leninist at the present time are predominantly white, and have no base in the Black people's movement. On the other hand, it is clear that among Black people, there are groups actively studying Marxism-Leninism and applying the scientific experience of revolution to the liberation of their people. And it is precisely from these groups that the greatest present advances, both in practice and theory, are coming. We believe that a major section of the leadership of a Marxist-Leninist party in the U. S. will come from these groups. The Marxist-Leninist Party is the general staff of the working class struggle. There is one enemy, monopoly capitalism, and to defeat it we need, and will achieve, a unified general staff.

AT THE PRESENT TIME, THE BUILDING OF COLLECTIVES ON A LOCAL BASIS, AND THE EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCES BETWEEN THEM, CAN CONTRIBUTE THE MOST TO THE CREATION IN THE NEAR FUTURE OF A MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY.

* * *

Organizational Principles

A revolutionary collective serves the working people: both their immediate and long term interests. It does this by linking up with them, learning from them, fighting in their ranks for better conditions or in resistance to an attack upon them, and by helping to develop a more advanced revolutionary theory for the advancement of the struggle to a higher stage. At the same time as it bends every effort towards victory in the immediate struggle, it gives special attention to raising popular consciousness, and discovering and training revolutionaries.

A revolutionary organization should base itself on Marxism-Leninism, not as a dogma, but as a constantly developing body of thought which unifies revolutionary theory with revolutionary practice. The organization should apply Marxism-Leninism, as it has developed through Mao, to the concrete situation within the United States, in order to prepare the conditions for the liberation of working people and mankind.

A revolutionary collective should be composed of a relatively small number of highly dedicated, well-disciplined persons who are willing to subordinate individual preferences to collective decisions and who are capable of working in accordance with an equitable, rational and efficient division of labor. The collective should be the focal point for intellectual activity, practical activity, and an effort to integrate the two.

Intellectual activity refers to study and analysis. The collectives should study the history of revolutionary theory and practice and consider how that history can be applied to the current situation in America. At the same time, the collectives should analyze the present situation in their localities and in the U.S. as a whole, for knowledge of revolutionary history is useless if we are ignorant of the contemporary conditions to which we want to apply it. What is the nature of the class struggle in various localities? What can be generalized about the nature of class struggle in the country as a whole? What can revolutionary history teach us about how to relate to these struggles? These are the primary questions that revolutionary collectives must attempt to answer.

Practical activity refers both to the formulation of tactics for day-to-day struggle and also the development of a strategy which can place day-to-day tactics in a comprehensive revolutionary context. The collectives should work strenuously to relate the. development of tactics and strategy to the development of study and analysis. If it is true that a revolutionary party cannot exist without revolutionary masses, it is also true that it cannot successfully lead the masses to victory if it fails to unify intellectual activity with practical activity. In striving to achieve this unity, collectives should employ the principle of criticism and self-criticism, which is designed not to embarrass individuals, but to improve their political work.

What kind of relationship should exist between the collectives? At first the relationship will involve little more than exchange of information and experience, and perhaps some joint regional political activity when it seems useful. Eventually, however, the collectives should relate to each other on the basis of democratic centralism. Democratic centralism is the dialectical unity of two opposites – democracy and centralism. Its purpose is to achieve both initiative and discipline within the Communist collective, and to ensure that the leaders and leading bodies of the Party constantly receive criticism and supervision from the Party rank and file and the masses. Democratic centralism proceeds according to the principle, unity-criticism-unity. The decisions of the whole Party, and of its leading bodies, must be carried out by every member. But, at the same time, constant struggle must be carried on at all levels of the Party, to correct mistaken ideas and policies, to help all members advance and to achieve rank-and-file selection and supervision of leaders. And the leaders and leading bodies must rely on the criticism and supervision of the rank and file in summing up the work of the Party, determining the correct political line, and providing overall direction in strategy and tactics.

Democratic centralism should be the principle that ultimately defines the structural relationship between collectives. Mass line should be the principle that defines the structural relationship between collectives and other progressive groups and people. What is mass line? "Every communist working among the masses," writes Mao, "should be their friend and not a boss over them, an indefatigable teacher and not a bureaucratic politician. At no time and in no circumstances should a communist place his personal interests first; he should subordinate them to the interests of. ..the masses… Communists should work in harmony with all progressives outside the party and endeavor to unite the entire people to do away with whatever is undesirable. It must be realized that communists form only a small section of the nation, and that there are large numbers of progressives and activists outside the party with whom we must work. It is entirely wrong to think that we alone are good and no one else is any good."

– Within the collectives: study; class analysis: day-to-day struggle and the developing of tactics and strategy; a continual effort to integrate study and class analysis with tad and strategy; the practice of criticism and si criticism in making this effort.

– Between the collectives: at first, informal exchanges of information and experience, and occasional joint regional political activity Ideological discussion, summing up of work and criticism should be increasingly carried between the collectives, to achieve ideological unity and the basis for organizational merge Then the collectives can develop organizational structures to coordinate and supervise work according to the principles of democratic centralism.
– Between the collectives and other progressive groups and people: the application the mass line.
– These are principles, we believe, that form the basis for the creation and growth revolutionary collectives.

Conclusion

We in the Bay Area Revolutionary Union publish this paper with the twin aims of encouraging the creation of revolutionary collectives in other areas, and of contacting groups that may already be in existence with similar aims. We undertake for the next immediate period to service the exchange of experience between groups until better methods are devised through consultation and agreement.


 

One Struggle: Anti-capitalist organization as a level of unity

Posted by kasama on September 6, 2011

Kasama has received this position paper from the One Struggle collective in Florida — issued in September 2011. This initiative is highly welcome — because of the importance of pressing ahead with forms of revolutionary movement and organization — and debating what those forms should be. One Struggle is organized on the basis of this concept of "intermediate level."

 

Kasama is eager to host such an ongoing  discussion of forms of organization, and urges everyone to dig in.

 

Toward an Anti-Capitalist/Anti-Imperialist Mass Movement:

Organizing at the Intermediate Level

by One Struggle

Mass movements can not be conjured from thin air or willed into being, no matter how correct our ideas or determined our hearts. They arise in response to intolerable social problems, congeal through collective practice and theoretical work, and harden through continuous, escalating struggle.

In the U.S., as in many parts of the world, the 1960s saw the birth of a radical mass movement with revolutionary currents running through it. It didn't burst onto the scene fully formed, but developed through twists and turns, suffering painful lessons, betrayals, mistakes and defeats on the way. It also celebrated victories which, like waves pushed by storm winds, grew ever larger and more powerful until the idea of revolution rose in the public consciousness as a tangible possibility.

As the movement found its footing, participants became skilled in tactics and honed their strategies. Small and vague collectives coalesced and matured into national, multi-level, unified fighting machines.

When the Vietnam War ended, the sense of personal urgency dissipated for many in the US. The declining waves of struggle ultimately beat themselves out on the barren shore of the 1980s bubble economy. The pretense of growth based on debt was enough to bribe much of the population into passivity. The loss of socialism in China and the collapse of the Soviet Union (which, their own natures aside, had acted as counterweights to U.S. hegemony) broke the spirits of most of the rest.

Today the global system faces a convergence of crises, but this time there is no economic growth (real or pretend) on the horizon. The system shows no viable possibilities for a future. Capitalism is played out.

Yet the ruling class hangs onto power, squeezing the last bits of profit out of us and the natural world, not hesitating to kill us in the process. If we're to save ourselves and the planet, we must eliminate the capitalist/imperialist system once and for all.

Opposing the system can, and does, take many forms. Many types of organizations are arising and will arise, with different visions of the future and different strategies on getting there. Some will contribute positively to the overall project; others will commit errors of varying degrees of severity. Diversity in our approaches and ideas is our strength, and mutual respect and non-sectarianism will help us learn from one another, and advance hand-in-hand.

Together, each contributing in our own way, and in tandem with our independent work, we can build a movement strong enough to accomplish the one essential task we all share: to end capitalism/imperialism.

We need to build organizations to magnify our power

Organizations are structured relationships between people who understand that collective power can affect society on a level that atomized individuals can not. Organizations begin with two people and a plan, and go through a process of development as surely as we all go through the stages of infancy, youth and maturity. As the system cracks apart, it intensifies the suffering of all of us living inside the thrashings of its final stage. In response to this new level of urgency to find a way out and create alternatives, people are exploring many possible courses of action. Small, loosely defined collectives are springing up all over.

How will they coalesce into a combative mass movement capable of sweeping away the entire system of global capitalism?

We're still at the initial stage of the current round of systemic crisis-and-response, attempting to come into being as a social force. Since a mass movement can not spring whole into existence, but will instead be forged through practice we have yet to perform, we should organize on a basis corresponding to our current situation and the measure of our forces. To lay the groundwork for a mass movement, we can start with a preliminary type of organization: the Intermediate Level. [1]

The intermediate level organization is a tool with which we can build a mass movement. It can create more favorable conditions for mass struggle, and be in place when mass struggle does erupt, to maximize its effectiveness and provide continuity through its inevitable ebbs and flows.

The intermediate level organization is neither a revolutionary organization nor a mass organization, but has characteristics distinct from both. As its name implies, it operates between the two, structurally and ideologically, and links them. Because it isn't well-defined in popular consciousness, it is often confused with one or the other level.

These categories, defined by levels of consciousness and commitment, are not rigid, and a group can blend them or change from one to another according to circumstances. Their relationship is dialectical, each level acting upon and influencing the others. Their boundaries are permeable, with individuals able to move from one level to another, or to operate in more than one at a time. Some of their elements differ only in degree or emphasis. The levels are generally characterized as follows:

Revolutionary organization

  • A high level of theoretical, ideological and political unity
  • A common long-term goal, a comprehensive strategy, and a detailed plan to implement that strategy
  • Continuously developing methods of work, and systematic summation of that work
  • A process, honed through practice, of collectively shaping ideas, direction and policies
  • A membership of cadre who have dedicated their lives to the struggle
  • A structure that is configured to withstand repression

Mass organization

  • Unity based on common interests to achieve a specific goal (such as a union fighting for higher wages, or a coalition to stop a war)
  • Ideologically and politically broad, often vague or populist
  • A simple goal and/or strategy, usually limited to one issue, often short-term
  • Membership requirements are loose, and expectations are not strict
  • A basically open structure—anyone can join

Intermediate organization

  • A level of unity that defines and opposes the system as a whole, yet refrains from defining a specific strategy for eliminating it (thus is able to embrace members with various theories)
  • A goal of uniting all who can be united for a medium-range goal (the precise content of which is not fixed, but dependent upon historical circumstances and the changing level of class consciousness among the masses—for example, it could currently be to defeat global capitalism) without attempting to unify on long-term goals (such as the precise form of a future society)
  • Collectivity in developing common plans and tactics for achieving the medium-range goal
  • Non-sectarian and mutually supportive
  • Continuously improve methods and practice through collective summation
  • A membership with some level of accountability and commitment beyond "weekend warrior"
  • A semi-open or invitation-only (but not clandestine) structure

The revolutionary level is principle

The revolutionary level is indispensible and ultimately determinate—without its presence, the other two tend to lose themselves in the murky dead ends of spontaneity, such as reformism and economism. This does not mean that the intermediate level is a front group for revolutionaries—care must be taken to avoid inadvertently forming a top-down bureaucratic structure. Each level must function autonomously and to its own fullest potential.

The intermediate level addresses limitations of the other levels

The revolutionary organization and the mass organization each faces specific obstacles during periods of low struggle, such as that from which we are currently emerging.

  • Revolutionary organizations strain to connect with masses who are largely unreceptive. While the global system is still intact and appears strong, it's difficult for people to imagine that the alternatives presented by revolutionaries are possible to implement. Revolutionary organizations, as they struggle to retain their declining membership and their political identity during unfavorable periods, can either become rigid and dogmatic (increasing their isolation), or they can water themselves down in an effort to be more appealing, and be absorbed into the dominant political structure.
  • Mass organizations are, under this system, usually dominated by institutionalized bureaucracies (i.e.: unions and NGOs) whose very functions are to divert the discontent of the masses into themselves and into compromise with capital. Many of them are funded by capitalist entities, turning political organizing into jobs involving social work or charity, and the organized into passive recipients of assistance. The non-funded ones tend to lack continuity: they are able to mobilize people for brief spurts but then lose support as issues fade. Mass organizations, by providing no analysis of the systemic nature of problems, are unable to break the system's ideological hegemony. Currently they are hobbled by a lack of class consciousness and swamped by liberalism and reformism.

An intermediate level organization addresses these obstacles from both directions, and prepares militants to potentially work in all levels. It has two basic functions:

  • to build a combative, continuously advancing mass movement that unites all who can be united to fight against the system
  • to locate and train radicals who might also organize at the revolutionary level [2]

Organizing explicitly at the intermediate level can prevent the problems that occur when a group calling itself either a revolutionary or a mass organization is, in reality, mushing the levels together. Though the intermediate level organization is not widely understood, it is widely practiced (usually unknowingly). If a group proclaims to be revolutionary but hasn't yet achieved the degree of unity and commitment that revolutionary practice requires, then it is in fact an intermediary organization. If a group is attempting to build a mass organization but doesn't yet have a mass base, then it is in fact an intermediate level organization.

Confusion about levels leads to problems. For example, if revolutionary-minded people are working in an intermediate level organization but treat it as revolutionary, they tend to push for a higher level of unity than is appropriate, and don't fully value or take into account the ideological diversity that is present. There lies the danger of replacing genuine unity with pressure to conform. Revolutionaries can, if not careful, end up dominating an intermediate level group, preventing the less experienced people from developing their skills and knowledge, and blocking the free flow and exchange of new ideas.

Often those who do mass organizing are, in reality, also intermediate level organizers who are generating temporary mass mobilizations rather than the movements they are aiming for. With their higher levels of commitment and medium-range (as opposed to short-term) goals, intermediate level organizations can remain in existence through the ebb and flow of mass struggles. They can provide continuity during dry periods, and continuously work to bring people into motion. Their goal should be to constantly draw in new people to replace themselves as organizers at the mass level.

If intermediate level people work within mass organizations but treat them as intermediate, they also can make the mistake of pushing for a higher level of unity than is appropriate for that particular work. Instead they can (and should) work autonomously within mass struggles as an intermediate tendency, representing their own distinct political level within the mass movement. In this way they can avoid being swamped by the liberalism and reformism characteristic of today's mass organizations.

Organizations advance in an ongoing process

As the system goes deeper into crisis, as its cracks widen and struggle erupts in society, people become increasingly radicalized. Mass organizations become more robust and more explicitly political—in effect, they become the intermediate level. As this occurs, the intermediate level gives way to them and dissolves into them. New intermediate levels then form at yet higher levels, in a continuous process that, like a conveyor belt, pulls people in the direction of revolutionary consciousness and organizational forms.

At the same time, revolutionary organizations also advance, working toward more refined bases of theoretical, ideological and political unity. As events escalate, and as organizations ever more effectively express and embody the demands of the increasingly class-conscious masses, these organizations can grow and coalesce into a powerful social force capable of leading fundamental social transformation.

Events are moving rapidly, and we need to be out there, everywhere, collectively sparking and fanning the mass struggles that are necessary to end the nightmare of global capitalism. We need as many people as possible to be prepared and able to quickly respond when mass struggle does erupt (which will likely be sudden and surprising). We need to forge strong, competent organizations and movements that can not be shaken, derailed or pacified. We can contribute to this process now by building organizations at the intermediate level.

Notes:

[1] The concept was implemented in 1979 by the Workers Committee of Rockland County (NY), as well as by a group of Haitian revolutionaries to build a mass movement based among workers and peasants during the fall of Duvalier. More recently, it has been articulated in a paper "The Intermediate Level Analysis," by S. Nappalos for Miami Autonomy and Solidarity (posted on 11/24/11 at: http://miamiautonomyandsolidarity.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/the-intermediate-level-analysis/). The South Florida group One Struggle was initiated on the basis of the intermediate level concept in 2010.

[2] For our present purposes, this term is general and applies to any organization with a long-term goal of social transformation, whether this involves insurrection, overthrow, dismantling, seizing, smashing, or any other type of activity that results in a fundamental shift in power relations.


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