Statement of Revolutionary Initiative
History is littered with pre-Party formations that “jumped the gun” and attempted to launch themselves as a Parties prematurely and turned out to be “Parties” in name only. Some of these premature “Parties” still managed to lead important struggles and are historically significant. Others remained marginal sects and never gained traction in the working class. What both have in common is their eventual destruction – either through splits, liquidationism, being smashed by the state, or some combination thereof.
Therefore, it is vital to ask the question: At what point can a pre-Party formation say that it has reached a higher stage of development and has achieved the ideological, political, and organizational preconditions necessary to transform itself into a genuine Communist Party?
This article will attempt to list what Revolutionary Initiative believes to be the preconditions for the founding of a genuine Communist Party in Canada. The preconditions are not listed in terms of priority or chronological stages and not all the preconditions can be expected to develop uniformly. However, all of these preconditions are connected dialectically. Should even a single precondition be absent it will retard, distort, or even totally prevent the development of all the other preconditions for the founding of a genuine Communist Party in Canada.
“Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” – Lenin, What Is To Be Done?
The revolutionary transformation of society is not a simple undertaking and will not happen spontaneously. It will require the conscious activity of millions of people, united by a broad revolutionary movement and led by a vanguard Party. This conscious activity requires theory as a guide to action.
While the natural and instinctual drive towards social liberation has existed since the dawn of class-based societies, it is only with the arrival of the proletariat and proletarian ideology that this drive has become achievable. It is only proletarian ideology that is capable of providing a scientific understanding of the totality of the capitalist system and the world-historical process by which it shall be replaced with socialism and then communism. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the most advanced form of proletarian ideology as it is the synthesis of the entire experience of the worldwide revolutionary proletarian movement from its earliest beginnings up to today and provides the universal principles that can then be creatively applied to our particular conditions.
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism must be grasped in its essence by the Party as a living science and not studied as a dogma. It must be taken up creatively and as a guide to the entire work of the Party. Every comrade must delve deeper and deeper into the theoretical problems that confront our movement. Otherwise it is inevitable that the Party will degenerate into revisionism and reformism and be reincorporated back into the capitalist system. Only through constant study and education in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism will the members of the Party be able to recognize the degeneration of the Party, launch a rectification movement whenever necessary, and lead the working class to victory.
“But a party is not what it says and believes about itself, but what it does.” – Rosa Luxemburg
“New things always have to experience difficulties and setbacks as they grow. It is sheer fantasy to imagine that the cause of socialism is all plain sailing and easy success, without difficulties and setbacks or the exertion of tremendous efforts.” – Mao, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People
Before a pre-Party formation can transform itself into a Party, it must have experience in the creative application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to Canadian conditions, to have verified theory through practice. It must have steeled itself in practice by participating in and leading popular struggles, by learning how to be strategically firm and tactically flexible. It must have learned how to carry out its leading role through the mass line: the step by step method of developing the militancy and organization of the people through careful persuasion and winning over of the broad masses. It must have learned how to move amongst the people like a fish through water.
It is not required that all experiences be positive ones. While working to overcome inexperience it is likely that the pre-Party formation will make many errors. Hopefully, errors will be small rather than disastrous, but we can guarantee that there will be defeats and setbacks. What is critical is that the formation engages in regular assessment, both individually and collectively, and adjusts its tactics accordingly. Only in this way will the formation gradually lose its amateurish character and prepare itself for the responsibility of becoming a Party. As a pre-Party formation gains practical experience its defects and weaknesses will become more obvious. It will be better able to rectify mistakes in its methods of work, fill in the gaps in its theoretical understanding, enjoy richer bilateral relationships with other formations and Parties, and systematize data from a wider range of sources and areas of struggle.
“The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing…” – Marx and Engels, preface to the German edition, The Communist Manifesto
In order to creatively apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to Canadian conditions it is necessary for the the pre-Party formation to have engaged in concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Revolutionaries must provide the people with a clear understanding of their objective and subjective conditions and the historical context in which these conditions came to be. This includes the development of a basic analysis of Canadian society and class forces, the interrelationship between the various class forces, the role of the working class, as well as a historical overview of the development of the Canadian mode of production. It is only with this analysis and historical overview that the formation can develop the correct strategy and tactics for the Canadian revolution.
This analysis and historical overview will serve as a guide for each sector of the mass movement to orient itself in relation to the basic problems of Canadian society and their particular role within the overall revolutionary process. While each sector of the working class (industries, regions, genders, sexual minorities, nations, ethnic groups, etc.) has its own particular needs and struggles, they are linked together by their common oppression and exploitation by the ruling class and the need for a revolutionary solution. By providing an overall analysis and historical overview the Party will help break down the parochial divisions that fragment the movement. Otherwise, the movement will be left as cross-class, sector-based fiefdoms that can at best speak of “intersecting oppressions” but are incapable of actually resolving these oppressions and tend to degenerate into petty bourgeois opportunism.
The Party will also need its own program, related to but distinct from the program of the wider revolutionary movement. The Party program covers the specific tasks of the Party in its leading role in the revolutionary movement and remains valid for an entire stage of class struggle. In this case, the stage will last from the current pre-revolutionary situation to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Once that epoch is passed, a new Party program will be required to confront the new situation and its challenges.
The program must be formed in accordance with the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The Canadian revolution will have its own particular characteristics but will still be in line with the general experience of the the international working class movement. While Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is a living science and must be constantly adjusted to the practical circumstances of every society there must be no compromise of our fundamental principles. Otherwise the descent into opportunism is inevitable.
“The real education of the masses can never be separated from their independent political, and especially revolutionary, struggle. Only struggle educates the exploited class. Only struggle discloses to it the magnitude of its own power, widens its horizon, enhances its abilities, clarifies its mind, forges its will.” – Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 241
The main task of the Party is to educate, organize and mobilize the masses for self-liberation. While the Party is composed of the most conscious, disciplined, and active members of the working class, it is necessary for the broad majority of all workers and their allies to be won over to revolutionary struggle. Since people’s consciousness develops unevenly, it is vital to educate and organize the people in a step by step process. This process begins with uniting the workers around their day to day struggles and basic issues of survival and gradually proving the interconnectedness of their struggles, their relation to the primary contradiction in their society and the need for revolutionary change. This involves forming genuine peoples organizations that are based in the working class and outside the control of the state as well as winning over spontaneous natural organizations on a voluntary basis to the line of the Party.
Peoples organizations must be formed or won over in every arena of struggle, amongst every sector of the working class and its allies. These genuine peoples organizations will be the conveyor belt that links the Party to the masses. It will spread the line of the Party far beyond its immediate reach, bringing in sections of the people that may not yet accept the entire Party program because they have not yet seen it in practice. It will provide a proving ground where genuine peoples’ leaders to emerge, to prove themselves in class struggle, before joining the Party. It will also give the Party a legal front that will allow it to interact with the people while protecting itself against state repression.
This dialectical relationship must begin even before the founding of the Party. Even pre-Party formations should have a wide mass base. To attempt to build the Party otherwise will either create a sect, divorced from the struggles of the people, or bog down the Party in economism.
“Cadres are a decisive factor, once the political line is determined. Therefore, it is our fighting task to train large numbers of new cadres in a planned way.” – Mao, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 202.
A Party is not a monolith. It has members with varying degrees of development, the most mature of which are the cadre. A cadre is an individual who has made the revolution in Canada their life’s goal, one who has been trained in the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and is capable of leading at least a basic unit of the Party. They must also be able to identify, assess and train potential members for the Party and guide their development from candidate membership to full members of the Party. They must carry out the political line of the Party in a way that is creative and appropriate for local conditions, wholehearted, comradely, and free of arrogance or aloofness. As such they play a critical role in the development of the Party and revolutionary movement. Thus, it is not the total number of members in the formation that is decisive, but how many are capable of taking up a cadre level of responsibilities.
Presence in Several Major Cities
“It is up to us to organize the people. As for the reactionaries in China, it is up to us to organize the people to overthrow them. Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.” – Mao, Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 19.
Viewed internationally, the proletariat has interests that go beyond the bounds of their various nationalities, most importantly the need for world-wide revolution. However, we live in a world of unevenly developed nation-states that express the interests of the ruling classes of each country and oppress the working people of “their” country. Therefore, while each revolution is a contribution to the global revolutionary movement, each revolution takes place within specific geo-political boundaries set by the current ruling classes. This requires the working class to have a distinct vanguard Party for each country.
For the Party to be the genuine vanguard for its country it must have a wide range of experience and this can only be assured by having developed a wide presence. To reach the Party stage of development, the pre-Party formation must be able to lead the struggles of the people across several regions and have an organized presence in several major cities, spanning a wide stretch of the country. If the Party is confined to a single region it will be unable to develop the correct pan-Canadian strategy and tactics necessary to seize state power as it will not have a well rounded experience and may mistake the particularities of a single region as being common to the whole of the country.
Proletarian Membership from Multiple Industries
The Party must also be present in several of the major industries of the country. Many earlier attempts at refounding genuine Communist Parties in the various imperialist countries were primarily confined to intellectual circles and the student sector. This lack of a firm base in the proletariat resulted in wild swings to the left followed by swings to the right. This alienated the Parties from the people, caused internal splits and a failure to build genuine vanguards. This is precisely because of the material conditions and corresponding subjectivity of intellectuals under capitalism.
“…the intelligentsia, as a special stratum of modern capitalist society, is characterised, by and large, precisely by individualism and incapacity for discipline and organisation… This, incidentally, is a feature which unfavourably distinguishes this social stratum from the proletariat; it is one of the reasons for the flabbiness and instability of the intellectual, which the proletariat so often feels; and this trait of the intelligentsia is intimately bound up with its customary mode of life, its mode of earning a livelihood, which in a great many respects approximates to the petty-bourgeois mode of existence (working in isolation or in very small groups, etc.)” – Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 7, p. 267
Due to this instability, while the intellectuals and other urban petty bourgeois elements will be the basic ally of the proletariat in the socialist revolution, they cannot be the leading force of the revolution. While it is natural and beneficial that the Party will have as members some “fellow travellers”, these elements must make up a minority of the Party membership at its founding. It is only the proletariat that can be the most consistent, most disciplined, and most determined agent for revolution. A proletarian majority in the Party is a necessary requirement to ensure the adoption and maintenance of a proletarian line and world outlook. This will require the pre-Party formation to consciously focus on the development and recruitment of proletarians.
“Our work is primarily and mainly directed to the factory, urban workers. Russian Social-Democracy must not dissipate its forces; it must concentrate its activities on the industrial proletariat, who are most susceptible to Social-Democratic ideas, most developed intellectually and politically, and most important by virtue of their numbers and concentration in the country’s large political centres. The creation of a durable revolutionary organisation among the factory, urban workers is therefore the first and most urgent task confronting Social-Democracy, one from which it would be highly unwise to let ourselves be diverted at the present time. But, while recognising the necessity of concentrating our forces on the factory workers and opposing the dissipation of our forces, we do not in the least wish to suggest that the Russian Social-Democrats should ignore other strata of the Russian proletariat and working class. Nothing of the kind.” – Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 330.
In the early stages of the development of the pre-Party formation it may be that the formation’s most immediate connections and areas of support are outside of the factories. However, should the pre-Party formation concentrate on areas of work that bring in proletarian elements, such as territorial organizing in working class neighbourhoods, it is then possible to spread from the neighbourhoods where workers live to the factories in which they work and the trade unions to which they belong.
“The Party is not only the advanced detachment of the working class. If it desires really to direct the struggle of the class it must at the same time be the organized detachment of its class. The Party’s tasks under the conditions of capitalism are immense and extremely varied. The Party must direct the struggle of the proletariat under the exceptionally difficult conditions of internal and external development; it must lead the proletariat in the offensive when the situation calls for an offensive; it must lead the proletariat so as to escape the blow of a powerful enemy when the situation calls for retreat; it must imbue the millions of unorganized non-Party workers with the spirit of discipline and system in the struggle, with the spirit of organization and endurance. But the Party can fulfil these tasks only if it is itself the embodiment of discipline and organization, if it is itself the organized detachment of the proletariat. Without these conditions there can be no question of the Party really leading the vast masses of the proletariat.” – Stalin, Foundations of Leninism
In order to build a Party, the pre-Party formation must develop not only its ideological and political strength but also the correct organizational structures and methods capable of leading the working class to victory. The history of the International Communist Movement has shown that the only organizational principal capable creating a united and disciplined proletarian fighting force is found in of democratic centralism. Democratic centralism is the combination of both the widest possible freedom with iron discipline. Under democratic centralism members are encouraged to engage and debate all matters of policy and direction. All leading bodies are elected by the membership or their delegates and are renewed systematically as needed. At the same time, the individual is subordinate to the organization; the minority is subordinate to the majority; the lower level is subordinate to the higher level; and the entire membership is subordinate to the Central Committee. Only in this way can full, conscious unity and discipline be achieved.
As the pre-Party formation expands it must create ever higher bodies of leadership, starting with the local and culminating in the formation of a central body capable of directing the entire Canadian revolutionary movement. The central leadership must be capable of all-round work, co-ordination of struggle, and responding to the problems of the day. Party building is neither an exclusively top-down nor bottom-up process. While uneven conditions may require one aspect of democratic centralism to become predominant, this must be only on a limited and temporary basis. There may be cases of expansion where new units will be directed by the centre, but once a unit of the formation is formalized it immediately gains all the rights and responsibilities of any other unit.
Only a well organized Party will be able to expand rapidly during periods of crisis, when the majority of the working class and its allies turn to revolution. Properly organized, the Party will be able to absorb thousands or tens of thousands of new members without degenerating into a loose affiliation of sympathizers.
“A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and collective agitator, but also a collective organizer. In this respect it can be compared to the scaffolding erected around a building in construction; it marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, permitting them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organized labour.” – Lenin, What Is To Be Done?
The central organ is the means by which the Party systematically propagates Communist ideas amongst the people. The pre-Party formation must build a central organ to spread its line, expose imperialism and its agents within the working class movement, and promote revolutionary struggle, both at home and abroad.
The developments in communications technology over the past 20 years has opened up new means for the Party to spread its line amongst the people. Websites, internet radio, video hosting, and social networking sites allow the Party to make use of media forms that were previously beyond the material resources of the revolutionary movement. They allow for the Party to relate with the people outside of regions with direct Party presence, both across Canada and around the world. While a print newspaper is still useful, this should be combined with internet media.
“On what basis should our policy rest? It should rest on our own strength, and that means regeneration through one’s own efforts. We are not alone; all the countries and people in the world opposed to imperialism are our friends. Nevertheless, we stress regeneration through our own efforts. Relying on the forces we ourselves organize, we can defeat all Chinese and foreign reactionaries.” – Mao, Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 20.
Building the Party and the revolutionary mass movement will take not only commitment and struggle, but also material resources. The Party must be able to rely on fairly stable sources of revenue in order to finance functionaries who are able to devote themselves full time to revolutionary work.
Every organization within the movement must be self-sufficient and capable of looking after its own material needs. The Party and the mass movement must not become dependent on funding from the state or any other imperialist institution. While at times it may be possible to capture resources from the state, this should only be an occasional supplement to our main base of support: the working class and its allies.
While the financing of the Party must be clandestine, this does not mean that the Party can engage in fund-raising activities that violate proletarian ethics. Such activity risks lumpenizing the Party and tarnishing the reputation of the Party amongst the people.
It is hoped that this document will assist not only Revolutionary Initiative but also other pre-Party formations in their struggle to build a genuine Communist Party in Canada. We have laid out what we believe to be the most important preconditions for the founding of such a Party. This does not preclude there being other preconditions or tasks that will need to be undertaken. As the Party building movement develops, new challenges and necessities will present themselves, but as long as revolutionaries are able to correctly and creatively apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to our conditions, there is nothing that we cannot overcome!
For a genuine Communist Party in Canada!
Long live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!
Long live the revolution!