Friday, June 22, 2007

The Relationship Between a Party and Building a Mass Movement


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The Relationship Between a Party and Building a Mass Movement

Having a revolutionary political party with competent and disciplined cadre with the correct political line is the most efficient way to build a mass movement. What distinguishes a political party from other organizations is that a party’s objective is to attain power.

From Lenin’s Teachings About the Party, published by the Communist International in 1931. “ What is the Party? The briefest answer will be as follows:

“Our Party is a union of the class conscious, advanced fighters for the emancipation of the working class.”(Lenin, Socialism and Religion, 1905.)

“The Party is a sum of organizations connected into one. The Party is the organization of the working class divided up into a network of various local and special central and general organizations.”

The Communist Party represents the most class conscious, advanced, revolutionary section of the working class. It constitutes a minority of the proletariat, and this cannot be otherwise in capitalist society, where the working class is oppressed; after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie much time will pass before the proletariat will become morally consolidated, will rid itself of the heritage of capitalism and will join in its majority the Party. Under capitalism only a minority of the workers are class conscious….

“Political parties are governed, as a rule, by more or less stable groups of the most authoritative, influential and experienced people, elected to the most responsible positions and known as leaders.” (Lenin, The Infantile Sickness of “Leftism” in Communism.)

The wiser more experienced, more devoted, more farsighted the leaders, the better for the working class….Every good leader enables the working class to save a mass of energy, effort and blood in the class struggle. The more experienced, authoritative and farsighted the leaders, the more confidently does the Party move, the more quickly does it find a way out of every difficulty, the more successfully does it maneuver and change positions, issue slogans to the working class, determine the current tasks, etc.

The Party must protect its leaders in the same way as the brain is protected against injury. The German workers failed to protect Liebknecht and Luxemberg against the white guard officers and this loss very painfully affected the development of the German Communist Party. The West European Communist movement has not yet produced any very great, influential and authoritative leaders, and this circumstance makes itself very strongly felt in the development of the Communist Parties in Western Europe; they would not make one-tenth of their mistakes if they had leaders such as the Russian Bolsheviks have…The bourgeoisie understands very well some of the things which the backward workers of Western Europe and America fail to understand, namely, that the leaders constitute one of the most important and essential elements in the development of the revolutionary movement.

In order to weaken, demoralize and disorganize the labor movement, it is enough to smash its head, to destroy its leaders; the bourgeoisie understands this very well. If it is impossible, inconvenient or dangerous to kill the leader, then it is necessary to undermine his authority among the working masses, to defame his name, to slander him…

No serious movement ever takes place without leaders. Even a small strike is directed by some leader. Even a “spontaneous” movement, a riot, has some leaders who unexpectedly rise to the top and disappear as quickly and without leaving a trace. The bourgeoisie, too, has its leaders…

The leaders are no “heroes” capable of miracles; the masses are not a “mob” whom the “hero can lead wherever he desires.” The leaders are not the “spirit” breathing life into the “dead matter”(the masses). Anyone who imagines the relations between the leaders and the Party in this way is a mystic and superstitious man who had better go to church and sing in the choir than belong to the Communist Party. Our conception of the role of leaders contains not a drop of mysticism in it.”

From Samora Machel’s book, An African Revolutionary on pages 3-4, “At the dawn of mankind, when the change from ape to man occurred, pre-humans lived in nomadic bands governed by the concern for survival. The entire productive effort was consumed immediately, and often failed to satisfy basic needs. These pre-humans lived on roots, wild fruit and animal corpses.

Mankind’s forebears lived like this for hundreds of thousands of years. At a certain stage these forebears began to use bones or sticks to dig up roots, to hunt animals. They began to use tools to produce their food, production albeit highly primitive began, and the ape gave way to man. Production distinguishes man from the beast, unleashes his brain, and opens the way to progress.

With the emergence of production, initially gathering and hunting, and in a second phase agriculture and animal husbandry, mankind begins to develop. A division of labor arises and an improvement in tools for production and production techniques. So man’s productive effort can now yield more than he himself needs for subsistence. Production generates a surplus.

The existence of surplus production provides the material basis, the objective conditions, for forces to emerge in society that seek to appropriate the surpluses to the detriment of those who have produced them.

The society divides into opposing classes, with differing interests: some want to appropriate the fruit of the labor of others, while the latter object. Human relations which have until now been co-operative become relations of conflict between exploiters and exploited.

Obviously this whole process took hundreds of thousands of years: opposing interests, antagonistic classes did not grow overnight. But the process is fundamental.

Once differing and antagonistic interests had appeared in society, the fundamental issue in that society was one of ‘power’: who could make decisions, on what criteria, and in whose favor.

A given group can impose its interests and project its aims only if it controls the society, or in other words rules that society.

Ruling a society means organizing the society to serve the interests of the ruling group, imposing the will of this group on all other groups whether they agree or not. With the passage of time, the ruling group makes the other groups regard its domination as the best, the fairest and the wisest, and one that corresponds to the interests of all.

This goes on until the moment when new forces within the society, realizing that their interests are prejudiced by the ruling group, unite, struggle, overthrow the former power, and establish their new power, reorganizing society to satisfy their own appetites.

Until a recent period of mankind’s history it has been the various exploiting classes-slave-owners, feudalists, bourgeoisie-who have successively dominated society and organized its politics, economics, ideology, culture, administration and legal system for their own benefit.

This was possible because the exploited masses did not have sufficient class consciousness to unite them, or an ideology able to give them an overall view of their interests and provide the appropriate strategy and tactics for the struggle to win and exercise power.

Historically speaking, the first occasion when the exploited masses did, after various failed bids, win and exercise power, was in Paris in 1870. The Paris Commune was smashed after a few months by a coalition of French and German reactionaries, and 30,000 workers were massacred.

Finally, in 1917, under the leadership of Lenin, the exploited masses achieved power in Tsarist Russia and created the Soviet Union, the first state in the world with the people in power.”

In order to build a strong movement it is necessary for the party to organize democratic life. Again Samora Machel pages 15-17, “Our decisions must always be democratic in both content and form. Democratic in content means that they must reflect the real interests of the broad masses. Democratic in form means that the broad masses must take part in reaching a decision, feeling that it is theirs and not something imposed from above.

Obviously there are practical and emergency situations when someone in charge has to take it upon himself to make a decision on his own without consulting anyone. In an ambush a commander cannot assemble all the fighters so that they can take a vote on when to fire, when to attack or retreat.

But, on the other hand, the more discussion a commander has with the fighters before an action, giving them a grasp of the meaning and objective of the battle they are undertaking, the difficulties they face and the best tactics to adopt, the more disciplined they will be under fire and the more prepared to make sacrifices, since victory depends on the fine fighting that results from fine leadership that releases the initiative of the rank and file.

Sometimes in the course of discussion a comrade may express himself badly or even put forward an erroneous argument. We might be tempted to use our authority and tell him to keep quiet. This will have a negative result: first, because the speaker will feel misunderstood and will persist in his error even to the extent of grumbling outside the meeting, and second, and even more important, in order to oppose an erroneous argument it is essential that everyone, or at least the great majority, should understand how and why the argument is mistaken.

Democracy within the party is an essential precondition for each and every one to feel committed and responsible for a situation, since the creation and development of the situation are always closely tied.

Democratic discussion requires rigorous preparation. Before the discussion we must make a careful study of the subject, ascertain the general feeling on the issue, and be quite clear as to the party line on the matter. Thus prepared, we are in a position to guide the discussion and formulate correct guidelines and precise watchwords.

We must always bear in mind that even if a guideline is correct in principle, it can often have a negative effect to seek to impose it if it does not correspond to the masses level of understanding. In particular, guidelines that go against traditions should be introduced gradually, and only after thorough mobilization especially of the sector or sectors which are most affected by the tradition in question.

In guiding a discussion, we should use the tactic of uniting the enlightened sector, isolating the recalcitrant forces, and winning over the hesitant majority to a correct view.

We must not be abstract in our discussions, we must deal with concrete issues, and we must dig deep into the most painful facts so that everyone feels the real need to settle the problem.

A discussion should therefore be prepared in the same way as we prepare for a battle: carry out strategic and tactical reconnaissance of the items to be discussed, understand our weak and strong points and those we want to combat, and organize and deploy our arguments correctly, knowing how to advance and how to retreat if need be…

The tendency of certain comrades to hide the mistakes of those with responsibilities from the masses reflects a lack of political democracy and a lack of confidence in the masses. Power belongs to the working people. The political line reflects the interests of the mass of laborers, and discipline is the watchdog that defends the line. It is therefore clear that the defense of our line and discipline is first and foremost the task of the masses of the people, since this defense is the defense of their lives.

To entrust the masses with the task of criticizing mistakes, deviations and violations of our line and discipline is also to affirm that mistakes, deviations, violations and crimes are first and foremost political acts which reflect either inadequate understanding of our line or opposition to that line. Within this context, public criticism and denunciation provide political lessons that educate both us and those who contravene our line.”

A united leadership body in the party is crucial to building a revolutionary movement. Samora Machel on page 19, “For a leadership body to work with the masses it must be united. When there are contradictions in a leadership body, this gives rise to rumors, intrigue and slander. Each faction tries to mobilize support for its views, dividing the masses. When we are disunited we divide the masses and the fighters, causing the rank and file to lose confidence in the leadership, demobilizing it and making it inactive, and opening breaches through which the enemy penetrates. We ultimately divide our own friends.

To be united and to unite with the masses, we need to know ourselves well. To know ourselves well is to be sure that we are correct in thinking and behavior and, when something is wrong, to be ready to assume responsibility for it, submitting ourselves to criticism and self-criticism.

Unity within the leadership behind a correct line, at whatever level, is the driving force of any sector and the precondition for success in a task.

Just as a person must feed himself daily so that his body is able to cope with his tasks and difficulties, so does unity need daily sustenance.

Collective living, work and study, criticism and self-criticism, and mutual help are the food, salts and vitamins of unity.

Members of the leadership should not therefore live separately from one another, each absorbed in his own private world, only coming together when there is a meeting.

With due allowance, of course, for the tasks each of them has and for the fact that they have to travel about, the members of the leadership ought to make an effort to live together, to know one another better in day-to-day life and to understand each other’s failings, so as to be in a better position to offer mutual correction. Working together, producing together, sweating together, suffering the rigors of the march together and overcoming the challenges of the enemy and the environment create strong bonds of friendship and mutual respect. It is not by words that we are bound together, but by the many activities we share when serving the people; it is unity fed by sweat and suffering and blood that binds us together.”

The study-cell process has proved to be one of the most effective ways of providing political education to groups of people. The party should go on a political education campaign that encourages organizations and the masses of our people to become organized into study-cells. The party will be responsible for sharing the study-cell process that we have been into for years. The basic difference is that we are not limited to just people who are joining the party, we are encouraging the masses to be in a study-cell. We should share the advantages of the study-cells and struggle with our people to get organized into them worldwide. This is one of the most effective ways the party can have a massive effect on building a movement.

Samora Machel from pages 31-34, “If we inspire the cadres who are the decisive factor in putting our political line into effect, we shall then be in a position to transform the sections and circles into basic cells for our political organization. This action will enable us to structure and transform the life of the masses who in growing numbers are joining our organization, and will thus ensure the consolidated broadening of our front…

We serve the masses by setting an example in implementing our line. When our behavior as militants reflects the line, we are training the masses in the new life. We serve the masses by setting an example of organized living, by teaching them the methods of organization and guiding them in organizing themselves more effectively.

It is by organizing the masses and creating democratic and popular structures among them that we shall be able to transform society. The structures created in the circle will guide the peasants, the cattle raisers, fishermen and craftsmen to organize collectively in production co-operatives, to improve their production techniques, to raise production and so in turn the living standards of the masses.

As more recently we studied the means of putting these directives into effect, we laid down two basic guidelines; intensifying the ideological offensive aimed at cadres, fighters and the masses, and intensifying organizational work in forming groups and sections as basic cells in the army, and in making circles the basis for our political activity among the masses.”

Some advantages of the study-cell:

1)You will be able to develop as people when we engage in political education that is geared towards the interest of the masses of the people.

2) You will be in an organization working for the people.

3)By becoming more politically educated we will train more educators who will be able to educate more people.

4)We will have a positive impact of the women’s and youth movements if they organize themselves into study-cells.

5) The people who participate will get a chance to know each other better and create an atmosphere of trust.

6)The enemy’s propaganda will affect us less because we will be armed with the truth of what is in the people’s interest and what is against the people’s interest.

7) There will be unlimited possibilities and probabilities of study-cells getting together on bigger project such as fighting for independence, democratic rights, self-reliance, and taking control of our communities.

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