Saturday, August 16, 2008

Communist Clubs 'ARE the Communist Party'

"The clubs are not the most important feature of the Communist Party. They ARE the Party." (Gus Hall, Labor Up-Front, 1979, International Publishers)

Brothers and Sisters,

I warmly point out that the question of the role of Marxist-Leninist clubs is important. V.I. Lenin wrote that: "Not a single class in history achieved power without putting forward its political leaders and spokesmen, capable of organizing the movement and leading it." (Lenin, "The Urgent Tasks of Our Movement," Dec. 1901) Communist clubs are absolutely essential to train proletarian Marxist-Leninist leaders. Lenin wrote that: "If the proletariat wishes to defeat the bourgeoisie, it must train from among its ranks its own proletarian 'class politicians' who should not be inferior to the bourgeois politicians." (Lenin, 'Left-Wing' Communism--An Infantile Disorder, 1920)

Lenin also wrote that a Marxist-Leninist party is the vanguard of the proletariat. He said: "By educating the workers' party, Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat which is capable of assuming power and of leading the whole people to socialism, of directing and organizing the new order, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the toilers and exploited in the task of building up their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie." (Lenin, State and Revolution, 1917) A Communist club is a vanguard fighting working-class organization at the groundfloor of class and mass struggle.

(’We see in the independent, uncompromisingly Marxist party of the revolutionary proletariat the sole pledge of socialism’s victory and the road to victory that is most free from vacillations.’--Lenin, A Militant Agreement for the Uprising, 1905)

Gus Hall, the great former leader of the Communist Party USA, wrote that Communist clubs should " influence, initiate and guide movements and struggles." Hall said that a Communist club must "raise the class and socialist consciousness of our shopmates and neighbors." He stresses the value of Marxist-Leninist literature and leaflets. Gus Hall points out that Communists must "participate in mass work," "project advanced ideas...class and socialist consciousness" and never "forget they are Communists."

"When a club is engaged in mass work," Hall said in Labor Up-Front, "the overall work of the Party takes on a different meaning. Then the Party's propaganda, agitation and educational work will deal with and blend in the issues that emerge from the mass struggles. Then the advocacy of socialism takes on an immediacy of being approached as a solution, an alternative to the existing problems. Then the study of Marxism-Leninism becomes a science--not in the realm of abstract theory, but as an approach, as a guide to struggle." (Gus Hall, Labor Up-Front, 1979, International Publishers)

Hall said that "People have to see us, to hear us, to talk to us and to struggle with us--as Communists, a a Communist club." (Hall, For Peace, Jobs, Equality, 1983, New Outlook Publishers)

I assume that Hall might also add that a Marxist-Leninist Communist club must take into account the level and experience of the class consciousness of the masses. But Gus Hall would agree with Otto Kuusinen that: "taking the level of class-consciousness of the masses into account has nothing in common with adaptation to that level, with adopting the level of their backwardness. Such an understanding of connection with the masses is characteristic of opportunism. Revolutionary Marxists understand it differently. They do not drift with the tide." (Otto Kuusinen, et. al., Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow)

And "we must anchor our approach, our attitude, our sense of priorities in the basics of the class struggle." (Hall, For Peace, Jobs, Equality, 1983, New Outlook Publishers)

In an extract from Gus Hall's 1979 essay, The Struggle Ahead, Hall provides some practical ideas for Communist clubs:

"...(A) club purpose must come from working to influence, initiate and guide movements and struggles. The purpose of a club must include concrete ways to bring understanding and clarity to people we work with. It must include specific ways to raise the class and socialist consciousness of our shopmates and neighbors. It must include the building of the press and the creative use of leaflets and pamphlets. Club life must include...regular reading and study...A club purpose must be related to some form of struggle or movement, whether in the shop or neighborhood. A meaningful and serious club purpose must include a periodic review of experiences to see where it has been effective and what are the shortcomings. This should be followed by a discussion of how to improve the work. The work of a club must have continuity.

"The life of a club, the form and content of club meetings, the work of each member, should be related to and geared towards mass activities--activities against high taxes, inflation, soaring electric and gas bills; activities in the electoral arena, forms of political Independence,; activities in the shops and trade unions; activities in the struggle against racism and for working-class unity; activities based on planned educational and propaganda efforts to raise class and socialist consciousness. And as one of the results of mass work, we should be consciously trying to convince people to join the Party. In all our activities we should be creatively using our press...and mass literature. Club activities should include increasing the circulation of our press as well as using it in our particular struggles and movements.

"On the club level, the Party's general policies and assessments must become specific tasks, involving not masses, but particular people, by name; specific local organizations, by name. To have meaning, tactics must emerge in the writing and distribution of leaflets, mailing out pamphlets; convincing people, one-to-one; making telephone calls; visiting people for subscription renewal and a hundred other seemingly small tasks.

"The responsibility of Communist leadership must include a concern for the spirit of a club meeting, giving encouragement to members, attention to their personal problems, and never being too tired to take part in the nitty-gritty work of the club.

"When the economic and military avenues become restricted, monopoly capital increases its activities in the field of ideology. The deepening of the crisis of capitalism, the sharpening of the contradictions and the process of radicalization are all reflected in a sharpening of the contradictions in the arena of ideology and ideas. Because of this, agitation and propaganda have become frontline necessities for the Party. We must bring them up to date, both in form and content. We must increase both our written and our oral word. The circulation of...(Communist literature)...must become a daily task for every member of the Party.

"In our propaganda work we must master the art of exposing, explaining and then answering the question: what can the people do? In our propaganda we must not be satisfied with talking to ourselves. It is not enough to be right for the record. We must be able to be correct AND convincing. The Party must fight for a public presence. We must fight to break through the blockade of the mass media against the Party...Each member of the Party should become involved in this struggle...

"There should not be a club that does not have a plan for the circulation of the press--neighborhood routes, shop gate distributions. There should not be a club that does not issue at least three leaflets a year. When Party pamphlets come out...each club should work out a specific plan for its circulation and distribution, which includes sales, mailings and other forms of mass distribution. The sale of Marxist books is a task for every member of the Party...

"Mass activities means working with, speaking to and organizing people who are not in the Party. The Party does have instruments of agitation and propaganda. The challenge is to get them into the hands of millions. We have...Marxist-Leninist books and pamphlets...

"When put on paper all this sounds overwhelming. It is obvious there is not one club that is going to be able to carry on all these activities and tasks at the same time. The club leadership should take two or three of the key concepts and work them into a very concrete, realistic club-size plan. A sense of priorities is important. After this is done each club should be devoted mainly to a discussion about these selected tasks. What are the experiences? What should be changed or modified? What are some of the new tasks that have emerged and should be added to the plan?

"The club should always be focused on one or two key tasks, key tasks that influence and move all other areas. A Party club that is not related to mass work is a club that has no clear purpose. A member of the Party who is not active in some form of mass activity becomes isolated. The other side of this coin is that Communists who do participate in mass work, but do not project advanced ideas, do not advance class or socialist consciousness, who forget they are Communists, become isolated politically and ideologically.

"A club purpose should always include a plan based on the specifics. However, it must also be realistic. Fantasy--a purpose developed within the framework of a dream world instead of the real world--will not bring results. Finally, the bottom line, the purpose, of a club must include recruiting, and the plan of work must include special, detailed plans for recruiting. We have to face the truth that with the present size of our Party there are limitations on what we can do or contribute. With our present size we can not fully meet the responsibilities of the present moment. We must face the truth that the Party does not grow spontaneously. As a result of our mass work, the influence of the Party does grow. However, without special efforts this does not result in recruiting. Recruiting is a concrete, year-round task of every member. But without concrete actions, without specific forms and methods--open club meetings, special educationals for the specific purpose of recruiting--without special Party-building drives, without special materials to convince people to join the Party--we are not going to grow fast enough. While raising recruiting to a new level we must also systematize and modernize the education of new members. The system of educating new members and recruiting must go hand-in-hand. " (Gus Hall, The Struggle Ahead, 1979, New Outlook Publishers)