Tasks of the Revolutionary Socialist Movement Founding Document of the Marx Engels Lenin Institute

Currently in the United States the revolutionary socialist movement stands still, waiting and asking: “Where do we start; what is to be done?”

While this or that socialist organization may find their niche and excel in their current way of organizing, they remain fragmented, broken up and scattered across the country; there exists no organized, national body of socialists capable of carrying out the revolution. The question of building a national organization — especially a Party — capable of being the vanguard of the revolutionary socialist movement is paramount. But in the face of our current conditions, we run into many obstacles — from bourgeois ideology to an ineffective ‘division of labor’ within the movement and so on. How do we combat these obstacles and find a way to organize on a national scale? Moreover, not to just organize in the nominal sense but to build a working organization of revolutionaries capable of carrying out concrete actions? All of these questions must be answered by a thorough investigation of the prevailing conditions and the whole history of working class movement.

Where do we begin?

Dedicated, knowledgeable revolutionary socialists are not in abundance; what we find is quite the opposite. What exists in terms of dedicated, knowledgeable socialists are a very small amount of individuals or groups of individuals scattered across various geographical locations, who frequently have no knowledge of one another — and even if they do they find organizing over long distances difficult, as is the case. Some of these individuals may be part of already existing socialist organizations (such as the PSL, WWP, FRSO, etc.) while others may have refrained from joining any at all. This makes no difference to us. On the other hand, we have a massive amount of people indoctrinated through and through by bourgeois ideology — people whose political consciousness is a mass of contradictions. But a viable Party organization depends upon having the support of millions of class-conscious workers.

As Marx, Engels, Lenin, and all successful revolutionaries know, what we are dealing with is not the revolutionary movement as it has developed on its own foundations, but rather as it emerges from the current conditions of capitalist society.

So the question is: how do we go from a small amount of dedicated and knowledgeable socialists scattered across the country on the one hand, and a mass of semi-conscious or completely non-conscious workers and petty-bourgeois all around on the other, to a national revolutionary Party organization which gains its support and strength from the support of millions of class conscious workers and their class allies? To do this we must organize according to the conditions laid out above; that is, we build hundreds — if necessary, thousands — of local cadre bodies capable of bringing the masses of workers to class-consciousness and educating our class allies.

What is a cadre and what do they do?

A cadre is a group of dedicated, active revolutionary thinkers united through a common politics. (in our case Marxism-Leninism) who organize themselves into an organ capable of developing revolutionary thought and influencing other workers and workers’ organizations. A cadre is not a specific party or organization (e.g., PSL or WWP), though the members of cadres can be active within such groups; cadres do not necessarily stand opposed to other worker organizations. Cadre groups do not seek control of any prevailing organizations, institutions, etc, but actively participate in the mass struggles of the working class in a united front, or simply the tactic,

“whereby Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.”

Through this tactic of participating in mass worker/student organizations, cadres have the ability to participate in, as well as facilitate the development of. revolutionary struggles and in doing so, awaken class-consciousness among the working class. In ‘What Is to Be Done,’ Lenin expounds the following thesis:

“Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without; that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships (of all classes and strata) to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.”

Cadres work to develop and “inject” Marxist-Leninist theory into the various spontaneous and ideological working class movements, seeking to transform “the unconscious working class, that is a ‘class-in-itself’, into a class conscious of its historical role, that is, a ‘class-for-itself.’” On its own, the working class movement is subject to petty-bourgeois, utopian, and/or anarchist ideologies. It cannot escape from an “ideological representation of its goals and means of action.” The development of scientific socialism, and the means in which to achieve it, occurred from without these movements. As was mentioned above, a fundamental task of cadres is the importation of Marxist-Leninist theory into the working class movements. The means of carrying out this importation (i.e., of “sealing the union” between Marxism and the working class) necessarily takes the form of an ideological struggle. But what is meant by ideological struggle? By this we mean making clear the hidden dynamics of the capitalist mode of production, exploitation, etc and the liberation of the ideological domain from bourgeois influence. That is, we wish to transform ideology in order to make it serve the interests of the proletariat. This being said, it is important to make clear that the ideological struggle is first and foremost governed by theoretical formation. By theoretical formation we mean the process of education, study, analysis, and work “by which a militant is put into possession… of the totality of [Marxist-Leninist] theory.”

Theoretical formation is another fundamental task of the cadres and all Marxist-Leninist organizations. In fact, theoretical formation is primary in its relationship to political, economic, and ideological struggle. For in order to wage a struggle within the domain of ideology and to not succumb to it, a correct conception of ideology, its function, the interests in which it serves, and its greater place within the social formation must be made clear. Theoretical formation presupposes all forms of struggle, but is also affected by it. Now to get back to the importation thesis. Because revolutionary theory must be “imported” into the working-class in order to successfully construct a revolutionary movement, the correctness of the political line (informed by theoretical formation) is central, the criterion for evaluating its ‘correctness’ being effectivity. Cadres develop their political line and politics through carefully analyzing the social and material conditions in which they are active, focusing on identifying the current class contradictions and social forces. Constant, ruthless (self-)criticism of revolutionary theory and the political line is fundamental to the cadre. Through this self-criticism, cadres can assess their effectivity throughout the course of the class struggle and alter their actions according to constant developments. It is important to remember that,

“We will fall into idealism pure and simple if theory is severed from practice, if theory is not given a practical existence — not only in its application, but also in the forms of organization and education that assure the passage of theory into practice and its realization in practice. We will fall into the same idealism if theory is not permitted, in its specific existence, to nourish itself from all the experiences, from all the results and real discoveries, of practice. But we will fall into another, equally grave form of idealism — pragmatism — if we do not recognize the irreplaceable specificity of theoretical practice, if we confuse theory with its application…”

The cadre always seeks to demonstrate the radical potential of the contemporary workers’ movement through connecting the political/economic struggles of workers across domestic and international locations, exposing the contradictions of capitalism and the possibility for radical change; that is, it seeks to cultivate an atmosphere of workers’ power. When agitating in worker organizations, cadre members engage in transforming revolutionary theory into the popular language of the people, leading to ideological struggle as a result of the contradictions within the masses’ consciousness. But one thing is important to note: A cadre exists primarily for the benefit of revolutionaries. Remember, cadres organize “dedicated, active, revolutionary thinkers,” not the masses. In reality, the benefit of the cadre to the masses is indirect at best, at least until the Party organization is realized. In a moment we will explore the relation of the cadre to the future Party. But first we must explore their relation to the concrete conditions of today.

Worker-Community Organizations and Cadres
“If you want to help the “masses” and win the sympathy and support of the “masses,” you should not fear difficulties, or pinpricks, chicanery, insults and persecution from the “leaders,” but must absolutely work wherever the masses are to be found.” — V.I. Lenin

Though cadres play an essential role in the development and formation of the future Party, a broad range of worker-community front organizations also play an important role in the reproduction of local revolutionary cells and the radicalization of workers. Though the front organizations in which the cadres participate may not be explicitly communist (and nothing says they have to be — most probably will not be) they unite workers and fight for immediate material gains on. their part and build class consciousness, which allows for the growth and development of the local cadre and the recruitment of potential revolutionaries from the masses. A plethora of such organizations exist today: from trade-unions, student unions, community advocacy groups, environmental rights groups, progressive labor rights groups, etc to explicit anti-capitalist. organizations like the PSL, FRSO, WWP, and so on. At the same time in which cadre members participate in such worker-community organizations and struggle for the immediate gains of the proletariat, they must always in all movements, “bring to the front […] the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time,” as Marx and Engels wrote in the Manifesto. For in order to “inject” Marxist-Leninist theory into the spontaneous and ideological movements of the workers class, cadre members active in various struggles must remember one of our fundamental principles: that communists disdain to conceal their views. We must openly propagandize and agitate in the various workers’ movements. Communists in every situation must openly conduct revolutionary work. As Lenin said in Left Wing Communism,

“It is far more difficult — and far more useful — to be a revolutionary when the conditions for direct, open, really mass and really revolutionary struggle do not yet exist, to defend the interests of the revolution (by propaganda, agitation and organization) in non-revolutionary bodies and even in downright reactionary bodies, in non-revolutionary circumstances, among the masses who are incapable of immediately appreciating the need for revolutionary methods of action. The main task of contemporary Communism in Western Europe and America is to learn to seek, to find, to correctly determine the specific path or the particular turn of events that will bring the masses right up against the real, last, decisive, and great revolutionary struggle.”

Worker and community organizations give us a concrete ground on which to launch our offensive. The nature of the revolutionary work conducted in these organizations will obviously vary as conditions vary. However as a general rule, as mentioned above, we must always dialogue with the masses, take every opportunity which presents itself to expose capitalist exploitation and class struggle, and always seek recruitments for the strengthening of the local cadre. This work can be carried out in all situations.

Serving the People

A question the cadres (and the future party) must pay particular attention to is the well-being of the masses; cadres must fight for the well-being of the people in their locality and see to it that their needs are met. Currently, the revolutionary workers’ movement lacks an organic link with the masses. The masses fail to see a future for themselves in revolutionary socialism for revolutionary militants have failed to give the people answers to problems in their daily lives. During the Chinese Revolutionary War, Mao Zedong said:

“If we want to win … we must do a great deal more. We must lead the peasants’ struggle for land and distribute the land to them, heighten their labour enthusiasm and increase agricultural production, safeguard the interests of the workers, establish co-operatives, develop trade with outside areas, and solve the problems facing the masses — food, shelter and clothing, fuel, rice, cooking oil and salt, sickness and hygiene, and marriage. In short, all the practical problems in the masses’ everyday life should claim our attention. If we attend to these problems, solve them and satisfy the needs of the masses, we shall really become organizers of the well-being of the masses, and they will truly rally round us and give us their warm support.”

We must only look at the recent history of the revolutionary workers’ movement in the United States to see this theory validated. During the late 60’s and 70’s, the Black Panther Party was truly the vanguard of the oppressed of the nation. Historical analysis shows that many things point to the reason why the BPP rose to such a position (an entire book can be written on it, in fact, it has) but one reason for certain was their focus on the question of the well-being of the masses. Where chapters were located, the Panthers organized free breakfast programs, medical clinics, day care facilities, schools, committees for the self-defense of their community (including armed patrols) to combat police brutality and abuse. These programs were so successful in rousing the support of the people that they became a central focus of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program.

Today, we must see to it that cadres are providing answers to questions of the people in their locality, they must serve and pay attention to the well-being of the masses. There are many ways to go about doing so. Cadre members can take active roles in already organized community advocacy and defense groups, or form their own. Many radical community programs have already been organized around the country and have shown to be a success: anti-eviction campaigns, language classes, day-cares, anti-slumlord campaigns, etc (We cannot help but give a shout out to the Philly Socialists, whose model of serving the people deserves to be emulated.) Cadres must work in these programs, recruit, propaganize, conduct ideological struggle, etc… By struggling with the masses and providing them with guidance, answers, assistance, etc. cadres — and above all revolutionary socialism — may be realized as the voice of the people.

Electoral Patricipation

The Marxist-Leninist approach to participation in bourgeois elections is simple; it is impossible to rid the democratic republic of bourgeois control through the ballot box, but at the very same time it must not be ruled out as a tool for revolutionary struggle. Lenin wrote in State and Revolution that,

“A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.”

And in “Democracy” and Dictatorship,

“[Y]ou must take advantage of bourgeois democracy which, compared with feudalism, represents a great historical advance, but not for one minute must you forget the bourgeois character of this “democracy”, it’s historical conditional and limited character. Never share the “superstitious belief” in the “state” and never forget that the state even in the most democratic republic, and not only in a monarchy, is simply a machine for the suppression of one class by another.”

To completely ignore electoral work is one-sided, incomplete, and non-dialectical. A balance must exist between the two, determined always by the present conditions. Cadres must seek to cement an alliance of the most class-conscious and politically active workers within a locality who can begin to run independent, working class candidates who will fight for the immediate gains of the workers and their class allies. However, we must first ask some important questions in order to ensure that the use of elections as one tool in the revolutionary struggle does not degenerate into vulgar electoralism, where the simple election of “socialist” candidates functions as the main goal of an organization or party. Some examples of fundamental questions the cadres must ask follows: What do we do if a candidate is elected? How can we ensure the candidates continue to reflect our positions? How do we make sure an ideology of vulgar electoralism doesn’t take root before a mass revolutionary party is even in its infancy? How can we ensure that participation in elections effectively develops class consciousness?

What it really comes down to is having specific details, based on materialist analysis, not of why we think we should use elections, but how we will use elections. There is a fine line between using elections productively as a tool in the class struggle and falling into the trap of vulgar electoralism. Cadres must thoroughly study the class composition, political and economic situation, etc. of the particular area in question and develop specific tactics for the use of elections before taking spontaneous and hasty steps which could be detrimental. At this stage, inaction in the arena of bourgeois elections on the condition that it coincides with developing solid tactics for their use, is acceptable.

Keeping in mind the reservations made above, if used properly, elections can serve as another opportunity to expose the class struggle within society, the role of the state and bourgeois ideology, and to win the working class some immediate gains. This can all be done prior to, and in anticipation of, the development of a nation-wide revolutionary party.

Cadres and the Nation-wide Revolutionary Party

It is not, nor should it be, our objective to force the revolutionary party into existence. Rather, it is our duty to build the prerequisites for the revolutionary party, to take advantage of pre-revolutionary conditions, and to build the framework of the future party. It is a mistake to believe the party can exist independently of the conditions in which it forms. In our assessment of the current national situation, we, perhaps obviously, find that we operate within pre-revolutionary conditions. With this in mind, our duty is to begin the long process of addressing the current situation, recruiting potential revolutionaries and building the revolutionary socialist movement. All of this points to one conclusion: the training of cadre leaders who understand how to apply Marxist-Leninist principles to the current conditions is of utmost importance.

Cadres leaders must organize independently and in their locality but be interconnected with other cadres as we begin to build a network of dedicated organizations, which forms the basis for the future national party. Eventually, when the conditions present are prime to do so, cadres can use their networks to begin organizing the revolutionary party.

Although we make an emphasis on cadres affecting local conditions foremost in the current time, we must emphasize, perhaps more so, that local conditions do not occur independently of the national (or for that matter, international) situation. In practice, this means that the frequent and earnest communication of cadres must take place at all possible times; the fostering of firm connections between the cadres is necessary for the success of both the individual cadre and the future party.

What, then, should this communication consist of? The cadre must communicate its experiences to the other cadres. This is not simply what is working but what is not working, as well. We learn as much in our successes as in our defeats. The key is to adapt around these experiences so that we may best address our local conditions.

While it is necessary for the cadre to be responsible for its locality, this does not mean that cadres cannot seek the input of other cadres in order to overcome especially challenging problems. Likewise, the cadre must communicate what the general conditions of their locality are. It is important to have a perspective on the national situation at all times as our ultimate aim is to create a nation-wide revolutionary party, and the best way to understand the national situation is to understand the multitude of local conditions and how they interrelate. This understanding leads us to make special emphasis on communication between the cadres even before revolutionary conditions present themselves. It is our duty to be prepared.


Written by JF Pointon, 2016. Marx Engels Lenin Institute marxengelslenin.org