Our plan of action uses every tool in the toolbox

BY:Dom Shannon| May 23, 2023
Our plan of action uses every tool in the toolbox


The study of fascism done by Communists throughout history is being proven correct in the United States. As the GOP is being taken over by extreme right elements in their party, this is confirming Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov’s points about how fascism develops in countries experiencing a crisis of capitalism and a revolutionized working class.

The united front strategy has been accepted and utilized by a vast majority of the worldwide Marxist-Leninist movement, aside from a number of fringe ultra-left elements who label everything existing under capitalism explicitly fascist. Regardless, it does us no good to squabble on this point when the GOP poses an imminent threat to the lives of working-class and oppressed people. As Communists — as members of the Communist Party — we must have a plan of action that not only resonates with progressive forces in and allied with the working class, but that also advances us towards socialism.

A plan of action and an offensive strategy has been the U.S. working class’ demand since the time our working class was developing. The women workers of the textile mills in the Northeast region of the United States planned strikes to protest the exploitation and oppression within their workplace, and presented petitions to their government leading to working-class gains.

“Campaigning for the ten-hour day, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association presented petitions to the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1843 and 1844. When the Legislature agreed to hold public hearings, the Lowell women acquired the distinction of winning the very first investigation of labor conditions by a government body in the history of the United States.” (Angela Davis, Women, Race, & Class)

During the civil rights movement, Black working-class men and women were leading the struggle for full equality under the economic system that was built on the backs of their mothers and fathers. Before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King was being guided to progressive and socialist-oriented politics due to the revolutionary character of the Black working class. This era of struggle for Black liberation led to huge legislative wins for all workers in the United States.

The history of democratic struggle shows that the working class wins when every tool is utilized to chip away at capitalist power. And yes, it includes participation in the electoral arena. Ignoring this would be a grave error, not only because it would hand over control of an entire section of our existing democratic institutions solely to the upper strata of class society, but also because this is the primary political tool of struggle for social progress being utilized by the working class in the era of neoliberalism. To reject the need for an evaluation of a concrete situation in order to determine the appropriateness, or inappropriateness, of a given form of struggle, would be to reject one crucial aspect of Leninism, leading to confusion. Lenin put it this way:

Marxism demands an absolutely historical examination of the question of the forms of struggle. To treat this question apart from the concrete historical situation betrays a failure to understand the rudiments of dialectical materialism. At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of struggle undergo change in their turn. To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon the Marxist position. [emphasis added] (V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Vol. XI pp. 213-214)

Yet, so many self-described Marxists have rejected the electoral arena of struggle in a matter that is uncritically sweeping. Some of them, likely a large number, seem to have forgotten that it was the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and his open identification as a socialist that spurred them on to read Marx, Lenin and other socialist theorists in the first place. This is especially heinous in our period of crisis, where fascist politics are seeping into the GOP, and in turn are empowering fascist groups such as the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, and the Patriot Front to terrorize oppressed minorities.

Ten years ago, it was inconceivable to many people in the U.S. that Donald Trump would become president of the United States and employ elected officials, lap dog operatives, and a cult-like voter base to stage an insurrection — an insurrection that attempted to negate the democratic will of the U.S. working class and people. It was inconceivable that public officials, such as Doug Mastriano from my home state of Pennsylvania, would be meeting with, and sometimes hiring, open white nationalist talking heads who dream of an ethnostate. Kanye West, who previously had anti-right-wing leanings evident by his famous quote, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” shocked many Black Americans when he went on a weeks-long pro-Hitler speaking tour late last year. And yet, here we are at the beginning of 2023 looking into the barrel of a gun called fascism with the GOP’s finger itching to pull the trigger.

Conversely, it was also inconceivable to many people in the U.S. that the most popular politician in the country would be a self-described socialist, that 64% of registered Democrats would have a favorable view of socialism, or that the Communist Party would have record increases in membership.

Recent history shows that working-class consciousness has the ability to influence the political atmosphere in Washington, and in turn, the political atmosphere in Washington influences working-class consciousness. Some leftists are ignoring this fact and stomping their feet instead of working to advance the progressive movement, helped by the Sanders campaign, to one guided by a Marxist-Leninist analysis.

Our engagement with the masses must be rooted in the concrete realities of the working class. It must reflect the “on the ground” momentum, while also resonating with their political demands. To capitulate to those who reject electoral (i.e. political) struggle and Leninism, will only lead to us slipping into the middle class radicalism that Gus Hall warned about.

The advocates of petty-bourgeois radicalism try to by-pass this reality. They believe they can avoid the necessary and unavoidable consistent and sustained work, the work of organizing, educating, mobilizing and leading people in mass, of leading people on the level of their understanding, of their own self-interest, and in this sense reflecting the objective processes leading to a revolutionary struggle against capitalism. For this they seek to substitute radical rhetoric with general slogans, or advanced actions that have no relationship to struggles to which the masses do respond. Thus when the concepts based on unreality meet the reality of class struggle they bounce back. If such tactics are further pursued they become an obstacle to struggle. They become a destructive and divisive force. Organized groups which pursue such policies not only tend to move away from the working class but they reject mass concepts of struggle altogether. (Gus Hall, Crisis of Petty-Bourgeois Radicalism)

Exaggerated revolutionism and short-term strategies that fall flat won’t win broad support from the masses because they do not reflect the realities of the stage of struggle that we’re in. But that does not mean the working class will reject an agenda deemed too radical by the capitalist class. We’ve seen progressive leaders, like the ones discussed here, and their ideas be labeled too “pie in the sky” by capitalist-class operatives, yet they have remained positively looked upon by working people. Although the progressive movement has yet to broadly embrace Marxism-Leninism, that doesn’t mean that Communists are to sit by until some divine moment when “our time” comes. It is our time when a progressive, working class fight is being fought. And through this fight — the fight for democracy and progress — workers are imbued with the ideas of Leninism, so long as we, the Communists, are in it as well.

All “democracy” consists in the proclamation and realisation of “rights” which under capitalism are realisable only to a very small degree and only relatively. But without the proclamation of these rights, without a struggle to introduce them now, immediately, without training the masses in the spirit of this struggle, socialism is impossible. (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 23, p. 74)

We must be honest with what stage of struggle we are in right now and avoid imposing our own will upon the working class. Lenin cautions against this error explicitly in his crucial piece, “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder.

Victory cannot be won with a vanguard alone. To throw only the vanguard into the decisive battle, before the entire class, the broad masses, have taken up a position either of direct support for the vanguard, or at least of sympathetic neutrality towards it and of precluded support for the enemy, would be, not merely foolish but criminal. Propaganda and agitation alone are not enough for an entire class, the broad masses of the working people, those oppressed by capital, to take up such a stand. For that, the masses must have their own political experience.

The demands of our working class and people are being made clear, and our primary task is to advance these demands until we’ve broken the back of the capitalist class and subordinated it to the will of the exploited and oppressed.

Image: Voting march by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania (Facebook); Philly crowd: COUNT THE VOTES … by Joe Piette (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0); Black voters matter photo by UNITE HERE! (Facebook)


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