It has been a year since we have founded ourselves as an organization. At the start of this year, almost all of us were still members of the PCUSA, and only towards the end of January were five of us expelled which triggered a wave of resignations. Out of nothing, we have created a Marxist-Leninist formation that has made real progress towards the foundation of a Marxist-Leninist party.
We have established New Worker with a website regularly published articles. We have published important theoretical contributions to the communist movement in the US such as the “Communist Workers Platform USA Plan of Action,” “Democratic Centralism and the PCUSA,” “A Communist Party is Necessary,” and “What Is the Communist Workers’ Platform?” We have established our first Marxist-Leninist study groups and recruited our first members who were not previously members of PCUSA. This is an important step in confirming that our organization is one that stands on its own and is not merely being kept together by our shared experience in the PCUSA. We are poised to recruit several new members from these study groups which will help us immensely in our immediate tasks.
Before we go on to explain what these immediate tasks are, we must also mention the mistakes that were made this year. Clearly, mistakes were inevitable given our level of inexperience in the communist movement. The task of forming a new Party has been thrown on us by circumstance and, while we eagerly took on the task and put our best efforts into it, we were not entirely prepared. In What is to Be Done?, Lenin wrote about the failure of the Russian communists in the 1890s to establish an organization that could unite the strike movement with the revolutionary movement. He describes this as “an entirely natural phenomenon” owing to the “lack of training of the majority of the revolutionaries.”
We must recognize that we are in a similar stage in the development of the communist movement in the US. This should not mean resigning ourselves to amateurishness; this would mean failing to understand the significance of what Lenin wrote in What is to Be Done? We must apply the lessons of the early years of the Russian revolution by doing everything possible to weed out amateurishness in our work. That starts with a sober assessment of our mistakes, understanding that many were caused in part by our lack of experience, while at the same time not using that as an excuse to stop ourselves from learning from those mistakes and making a plan to correct them.
A mistake we made early on was formalism that resulted in organizational dualism. In the Comintern’s document “Guidelines on the Organizational Structure of Communist Parties,” the authors write: “In the organizations of the old, nonrevolutionary workers movement a thoroughgoing dualism developed of the same kind as had arisen in the organization of the bourgeois state: the dualism between the bureaucracy and the ‘people.’ Under the ossifying influence of the bourgeois environment the functionaries of these parties became estranged: the vital working collective was replaced by mere formal democracy, and the organization was split into active functionaries and passive masses. Inevitably, even the revolutionary workers movement to a certain degree inherits this tendency toward formalism and dualism from the bourgeois environment.”
In our meetings we implemented the rules of order too strictly and did not provide time for the discussion of reports. The strict application of rules that most members were unfamiliar with led to general uneasiness in meetings where members were not able to display initiative and waited for things to be done “correctly” by others. Reports were almost always put together mechanically or informally. In both cases, little thought was put towards giving a detailed analysis of activity. One only has to look at the Comintern document mentioned above to see the great care we should take in providing high quality reports.
This contributed to a general phenomenon of the already small organization becoming separated into an active leading committee and a mostly passive general membership. There are several contributing factors to this result, which we will mention as we go, but this organizational dualism is where most of our mistakes lead. The consequence of this was the loss of several members not on the Interim Executive Committee such that our membership went through a period of decline. Of course this was not the only factor which contributed to our loss of members. Another factor was our recruitment methods in the early months of our organization. We recruited unstable and wavering elements from anywhere. Most of these elements were previous members of the PCUSA or those who had heard through the grapevine what we set out to do. So long as these persons expressed a desire to join the organization, we voted them in. At that time, we didn’t even have our interviewing process set up. Nevertheless, it is clear that if this dualism is not corrected, it poses an existential threat to our organization.
One of the causes of this formalism was over-compensation for the anti-democratic, personality-driven meetings many of us had to endure in the PCUSA. Once separated from the PCUSA, there was an urge to create an orderly system that would be hostile to this anarchic style of work. While we succeeded in doing that, we should also recognize that in the early days we went too far. Since then, meetings have been much less strict with the rules, but there remain some impulses to “check with the experts” on the rules before doing something. This dampens initiative and should be rooted out. The rules are there to serve us; we should not be afraid to make mistakes with respect to the rules so long as they are not careless. It is far worse to fail to put forward an idea or perform a task that would improve our organization and further the class struggle than to fail to get the “required approvals” first. In any case, if one of those mistakes leads to an undesirable result, or presents too much risk, it will be identified by good reporting and will result in an improvement in our own guidelines for work. One concrete example of how this formalism manifested itself was in the case of the motion to establish local study groups. The wording of the motion was such that members an hour or less apart would work together to establish the study groups with the aim of eventually forming a local cell. This led to members who were an hour and a half or two hours away not working together due to the wording of this motion. It was clear that the wording was too restrictive and was a fetter on our ability to organize study groups in many areas. If these members, despite the distance, were willing to meet in-person to work to establish a study group or even a cell, then the wording should’ve been criticized and changed. Due to this formalism, the general hesitancy of the membership towards initiative, the motion remained as was, which contributed to the low number of study groups that actually formed. As we continue to work together as a formation we will begin to develop a level of trust and confidence in ourselves and each other which will be vital in combating this formalism.
On the issue of the dualism that arose in our organization, it must be mentioned that this passivity of the general membership did not originate within the CWPUSA. In fact, it was a holdover from PCUSA which we failed to address and break away from. The PCUSA, being the clique-driven organization that it is, purposefully cultivated this passivity within membership. Everything that was done had to be “signed off” by the general secretary personally and if members so much as met to discuss something apart from the general secretary, they would be labeled as factionalist. This fear of doing something wrong kept most of the membership from developing a sense of initiative. Another way this passivity was cultivated was through the very structure of the PCUSA. In the party, clubs did not have any autonomy in their spheres of responsibility. The general secretary, who had to be present at every meeting lest they be labeled a faction, had final say over all discussion and decisions of the clubs. If an idea was put forward and it was not to the general secretary’s liking, he would shoot it down claiming it violated some politburo decision. Of course, written documentation of this decision would never be produced or even explained to the club because the truth was that there was no such decision. This environment hampered any initiative that members may have had. It taught them to just listen to the “leaders” because they must know what they are doing. It taught them to wait around for instructions from “leadership” because otherwise they would make mistakes. As if mistakes were not a part of the process of cadre-building and education. As if mistakes could be eliminated entirely by simply following orders. Mistakes are bound to happen but the point is to ensure that such mistakes are not grave and that, through criticism and self-criticism, these mistakes are addressed and learned from. This is the environment in which most of our members came from so it is not surprising that this passivity and lack of initiative has followed us from the PCUSA. Regardless of its origin, it is still true that we did not do enough to break away from this habit. We need to begin the work of breaking this bad habit and eliminating this dualism within the CWPUSA.
Another mistake we made was attempting to write an all-encompassing program all at once. We attempted to emulate the programs of the great parties of the Marxist-Leninist pole of the International Communist Movement. These programs tackled all of the major problems facing the proletariat and popular strata, internationally as well as in their own countries, in a very detailed and clear way; which inspired us immensely. We tried to do the same but progress was slow with many delays. We were soon confronted with our own lack of education and experience which left us unable to adequately address all of the important questions like the bigger parties do. These programs were the result of, in many cases, years if not decades of work done by the experienced cadres of these parties. An organization such as ours, new and filled with inexperienced communists, could not produce such a program overnight or even within a year. While such a program is desperately needed it will require education and experience in the struggle to produce. We decided that in order to complete a program despite the dualism within our organization, we needed to refocus our efforts and use the tools at our disposal. The editorial board of New Worker put together a plan for a program, where a refocused outline would be followed and programmatic articles published every two weeks. The outline was to address the most pertinent questions facing the US communist movement while taking into account the size and ability of the CWP currently. We successfully implemented this outline and were able to publish the first of these programmatic articles. Unfortunately, this was a short-lived success as we failed to publish any subsequent articles during the holidays. This is another area in which our problems with dualism have hindered our work. The work of writing for New Worker has fallen to only a few comrades. This led to many comrades simply burning out during the break and much of our work being delayed. This is how dualism manifests itself within our work. Where a general problem arises of overworking a few while underworking many. This lull in our work is a sign that the current situation is untenable and needs to be corrected. Despite all of these mistakes, the CWPUSA, even in such a nascent stage, has shown itself capable of identifying and correcting its errors before they become grave.
Our Immediate Tasks
Now that we have addressed our successes and our failures we go on to our immediate tasks for the coming year.
Restructuring the CWPUSA
One of the most important tasks facing the CWPUSA is that of restructuring ourselves along Bolshevik lines. In December of last year, we had the opportunity to attend the VII Congress of the PCM. From bilaterals with both the PCM and other delegates to the Congress we received invaluable advice which otherwise would have required us years of trial and error to figure out. One of the main pieces of advice was that we need to implement a Bolshevik party structure. That there is a danger in idling too long in hopes that one day we will have the “ability” to become a real party. The fact is that no matter our size now, we have the capacity to structure ourselves as a party and we should do so. While the exact details are still being discussed, in general what we can draw from this advice is a need for a Central Committee, local committees and primarily workplace cells, and a greater division of labor within our organization.
Another lesson drawn from our bilaterals was the need to move away from virtual meetings as much as possible in favor of in-person meetings. It was correctly said that a party which meets comfortably online is not fit to take state power. In order that we can foster a truly revolutionary party life, we must begin conducting our work primarily in-person. Of course, this will mean that meetings will have to become less frequent by necessity. While the meetings will be less often they will be more fruitful. Furthermore, it will give members more time to focus on their locality and earnestly begin the vital work of forming local committees and workplace cells.
The task of establishing local committees is of vital importance to the overall task of party building. The base organization of any Leninist party is the cell and if we intend to restructure ourselves we must not be the exception. It must be the duty of every member of the CWP to establish a local committee within their area and/or workplace. In a Leninist party, membership in a cell is the basis for membership in the party and thus no at-large members are allowed into the party. We should adopt the same requirement but an exception should be made for current members with the understanding that after a period of time all at-large members should be purged from the membership rolls. This will give members time to establish a local committee while not delaying our restructuring.
Formation of Local Committees and Workplace Cells
As we begin to move away from virtual meetings, the bulk of our practical work, our members’ every day party work, will take place within these committees and cells. They will be the contact points through which the party stays grounded to the working class and popular strata, to their struggles and conditions. It will be through these committees that the decisions and analysis of the entire party will be put into practice, tested in the field of practical work. In turn, the committees will have a duty to generate thorough reports in order to keep the center informed at all times and so that the party can better navigate the struggle, better avoid the submerged rocks in its path. The primary task of these committees will be to form workplace cells. The committee, as soon as it is formed, should begin building workplace cells around one of its member’s workplaces. Another way workplace cells could be formed is through the committee’s interventions in the workers’ struggles if they come into contact with an advanced worker who, after a period of education and political work, could be recruited. Other tasks of the committee will be to hold political and theoretical study circles for its members and other workers and distribute and regularly contribute to New Worker. Due to the geographical distance between our members, many of our local committees will initially encompass a large area and include an entire metropolitan area. In this respect, they would be more analogous to a town, or even district units than street units. Nevertheless, they will play the same role as that of a street or town unit in the creation of workplace cells. Specifically, they will help its members inside a workplace politically and organizationally to create a cell. To quote J Peters:
“The Street and Town Units [Local committee -Ed.] have many members who are working in big factories. These single members should know that their main task is to build the Party inside the factory. But it is not sufficient to assign this basic task to these members. Their Street Units must help them politically and organizationally (forces from outside, shop papers, Daily Worker distribution from outside, finances, etc.). There are many good examples in our Party which prove that with proper help, one member in a big factory can recruit two, three or more members for the Party in two or three weeks, and organize a Shop Unit [Workplace Cell -Ed.].”
It will be through this organizational work that our members will learn to be true cadres, steeled and competent organizers of the working class.
Intervening in the Workers’ Struggles
Another task which we need to tackle is that of intervening the worker’s struggles in our country. This task is very much connected to our task of establishing local committees as explained above. Another lesson drawn from our time at the congress was that we must not wait to intervene for fear of not having the correct “form.” As we intervene, as we gain experience in the struggle, the form that our particular intervention should take will become clear. We must not hesitate to intervene for fear of not having “planned it all out.” Such “analysis paralysis” will only delay the necessary work of building connections to the working class and popular strata. That said, we must not intervene aimlessly either. Just recognize that we will not be able to plan every detail to the end. Some thought will need to be given, on the part of every member and the organization as a whole, as to where and how we will intervene in the struggles. More generally, we must focus on those industries that are of great importance, i.e basic industries. As J. Peters explains, “basic industries are those upon which the whole economic system depends. They include:
- Those which produce material for production, like steel, mining, oil, chemicals.
- Those which deliver material to the place of production or consumption, like railroad, trucking, marine, etc.
- Those which produce power for running the wheels of industry, electric power plants, steam and hydro-electric plants, etc.”
Interventions into such industries should be the general strategy of the CWPUSA. Of course, other industries can and should be organized but preference should be towards basic industries. If, for example, none of the members of a local committee work in vital industries they should still work towards building cells within their workplaces. Our work in basic industries can be seen as our most direct attack against our class enemy while our work in other industries can be seen as “flanking maneuvers” which forces the enemy to fight a war on two fronts.
Mastering Marxist-Leninist Theory
Another task we must confront is raising the ideological level of all members. We need to begin training our membership in the science of Marxism-Leninism until they have mastered it. Our current level of ideological development has become a fetter on our work and has prevented us from tackling bigger things. One of the ways we attempted to address this was through the Local study group proposal and its associated curriculum. While the directive to form local study groups has been rescinded, it is important that the local committees take up the task of education. The same three-month curriculum should be immediately implemented in any local committees. This will allow members to quickly become familiar with the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism in a short amount of time. These groups can and should be tied to the committee’s task of organizing workplace cells. At the PCM’s congress, they shared with us a curriculum and extended an offer to hold educational seminars to help develop our members. The CWP has already accepted their offer and their curriculum has been sent to the wider membership. Once the committee finishes the CWP curriculum, it will be important to begin studying the PCM’s and preparing for these seminars.
Developing the Central Organ
The development of New Worker is another important task of the CWP. As it stands now, New Worker is only available digitally with the aim of publishing one article every week. This alone is a good achievement and we should be proud of the work it took to make this a reality but it is not enough. We need to continue to develop and grow our publication to greater heights. The vision for New Worker in the short term is to reestablish and solidify our weekly publishing schedule. In about six months to a year, we should be publishing twice a week digitally with a four page print version published monthly. We will have to continue to build on this general plan for the long term but even this small step will require the commitment and hard work of the entire CWP membership. The fact is that New Worker is every members’ paper, it should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Until now, the bulk of the writing has been undertaken by the editorial board but if we are to grow this cannot continue to be the case. Every member must recognize the importance of New Worker for the emancipation of our class. We must work to make it into the true tribune of the working class through which their interests are expressed. Our class must look to New Worker, at every turn for guidance. They must identify themselves with New Worker but for this to happen New Worker must prove itself as the staunch defender of the working class. It must become the force through which our class directs its contempt for the bourgeoisie and its government and through which it speaks. This can only happen through the collective efforts of all CWP members in laying down the foundations of the central organ. This means producing article submissions about the local and national struggles. These articles must not only keep our class informed but must also give answers to the important questions arising from these struggles. It also means working to establish distribution lines for New Worker in their workplaces and communities. In this way, an eager and encouraging audience can be built up that motivates workers to contribute to and engage with the publication. This effort must be closely linked up with the activity of our local committees and workplace cells. As a result, we must task every member and every organization of the CWPUSA with improving New Worker.
Unification with Other Marxist-Leninist Organizations
The last major task before us is that of the process of unification.. It is clear to us that the communist movement in the US is currently in dire straits. Scattered organizationally and ideologically, stuck in the swamp of reformism and revisionism. No one can deny the necessity of regrouping the revolutionary elements of the movement but the “how and when” of amalgamation is very important. There are those within the movement who call for unification at all costs, unity for unity’s sake. Proponents of this conciliatory trend argue that the differences between the various groups in the movement are small and insignificant when compared to those between us and the class enemy. That our differences in ideology should be ignored or decided once we unite. These views are those of reformists and opportunists. Proponents of these views do not want to build a Communist Party, a Leninist Party, welded together through democratic centralism and common work. Instead, owing to their social-democratic tendencies, they wish to build a mass party where membership is general and based on the electoral district. Such a unity would not be in favor of the working class as it would see its principal weapon in the struggle, the Party, be inundated with opportunists. It would end up either with the party succumbing to the opportunist becoming yet another reformist and tailist organization (the CPUSA comes to mind) or with the party left paralyzed fighting a war against the class enemy from without and within. We are currently working on an article which deals more thoroughly with the topic of unity which will hopefully answer not only what the CWPUSA considers necessary for unification but also what concrete steps can be employed to achieve unity with other groups. What can be said generally is that before organizational unity there must be ideological and political unity. For this, the CWP must establish clear lines of demarcation between itself and other groups. The program we are currently developing does just that and will allow us to begin concretely discussing unification with other groups.
Dualism within our organization has led to a situation where some comrades are overworked while others are underworked. This state of affairs exerts a pressure to rapidly unite with other groups. The idea being that if we unite this will introduce more members that can take up work which will help alleviate this. While this idea is understandable, it is nevertheless wrong. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that unity itself is going to fix the problem. If anything, rushing to unify may even worsen the issues we face. There is no guarantee that the groups we unite with do not also have the same issues with formalism and dualism that we do. We have to resist the urge to take the “easy” way out of our problems because there is no easy way out of anything. The problems we face are going to require hard work and dedication to solve. It’s going to take time and the initiative of all members. It will require a sober assessment of our work, collectively and individually and our standards. As it stands now the only obligation that a member has is attending biweekly meetings of the GA. Even with our current structure this is too low of a standard for work. We need to expect more out of ourselves and our members. Even or better put, especially when we restructure, we will need to raise our expectations if we are to be successful in building a Leninist party. A serious discussion will need to be had about the kinds of obligations we have as members of the CWP, as communists seeking the liberation of our class. A rushed merger will not fix this. Only a reorganization of our forces and a commitment on the part of all can do that. It will be our in-person work intervening in the struggles which will be vital to addressing issues like that of dualism.
The fact is some of the best members we will recruit will be those we recruit from our work in local committees. This makes sense when we consider where we gained the bulk of our membership, the PCUSA. The PCUSA’s recruitment standards were essentially non-existent. They recruited almost exclusively from online spaces and accepted anyone that expressed a desire to join. Naturally, those that were recruited were not the best in the movement and the vast majority had little to no experience in organizing. The PCUSA made it a point to keep their members as underdeveloped and inexperienced as possible since these kinds of members would be the easiest to control. This is evidenced by the fact that during the George Floyd uprising they explicitly told members not to participate. Recognizing this, we began to put forward initiatives like the local Marxist reading groups which have allowed many of us to begin cultivating this knowledge. Many members have gone even further to gain experience by getting involved in local work. Our experience in the PCUSA has shown that we cannot effectively build a party by recruiting online and having loose standards for membership. Instead we must link recruitment to our work of building cells since the members recruited this way will be of a higher quality. In the course of our local work, our members will get to know potential recruits on a personal level and see first-hand what kind of people they are and how they work. We will be able to be more selective in our recruiting so that we get the best among those we work with: natural leaders, organizers, and the politically or ideologically advanced. This will ensure new recruits have some level of development and political skills that surpass that of those that could be recruited online. This is all to say that amalgamation is definitely a goal to strive for but we must not think that it alone will fix our issues.
We have come a long way from where we were last year, comrades. We should be proud of the hard work that has led us here. But we know that this is only the beginning. The task before us is as arduous as it is important. We are tasked with building a new communist party, one that can reorganize the communist forces in the US once more under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. The importance of completing such a task cannot be understated. The degree to which we are successful in not only building a communist party but also in creating the subjective forces for a successful socialist revolution will influence the struggle in other countries, both regionally and internationally. In their program the KKE says the following:
“At the same time, the course of the class struggle in each country will have an influence on the international framework, as well as a more general impact at a regional and international level. What flows from this is the need for planned and coordinated joint action against every imperialist alliance which aims to suppress the revolution in one country, as well as the potential to form the conditions for the victory of socialism in a group of countries.”
As we see, it will be necessary for concerted effort on the part of the communist parties around the world to take action together against every imperialist alliance. If we fail to complete or even delay our tasks, not only would we be jeopardizing the success of a socialist revolution in our country but around the world as well. The level of development and dedication shown by many members of the CWP demonstrates that we have what it takes to complete these tasks.
Our immediate tasks are to:
- Restructure ourselves along bolshevik lines as a Leninist party.
- Move away from virtual meetings in favor of in-person ones
- Establish local committees with the aim of then establishing workplace cells preferably in basic industries.
- Intervene in the workers’ and popular struggles.
- Raise the ideological level of all members through the implementation of the three-month curriculum and the PCM curriculum at the local committee level.
- Grow and develop New Worker.
- Work towards the principled amalgamation of Marxist-Leninist groups within the US.
We have much to do so let’s get to work, comrades! To a new year of communist work!