It has often been stated that a revolutionary political organization is the subjective expression of the objective process. From this point of view a serious revolutionary organization must not only politically express actual current social motion, it must be firmly linked into and part of the evolution of the nation’s revolutionary movement. The history of the American Left is replete with the bones of organizations that sprang up around issues, declared themselves “revolutionary,” but lacking any historical continuity, died away as these issues were resolved.

Economic, political, military, social and moral forces in the country are beginning to coalesce in such a manner as to make another upsurge of social struggle inevitable. At such times, in order to prepare the organization for the battles that lie ahead, it is worthwhile to evaluate our process of development in order to prepare for the next step forward.

Rise of the Scientific Communist Movement

We begin with the understanding that the spontaneous, objective development of the means of production creates the social context for people to consciously choose how to create their history. Therefore, revolutionary history is the record of the quantitative development of the means of production and the subjective or political response in the form of the rising and dying away of various forms of revolutionary organization.

The modern, scientific communist movement began as manufacturing with its small, scattered workshops was replaced by industry with its concentration of thousands of workers in giant factories. This development was expressed by the founding of the Communist League and the 1st or Workingmen’s International.  In 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were called upon to write a manifesto for the League, which was called The Communist Manifesto. The Communist League then became The Communist Party.

The productive capacity of the industrial countries developed very rapidly. So long as national production was restricted to the national market, the struggle between the capitalists and the workers intensified year by year. The communist movement grew with strikes and uprisings by the workers. The means of production rapidly went through several quantitative stages and the struggle between the classes subsided as the capitalists expanded their markets by conquering the economically backward areas of the world and bribing the working class into political and military support.

Under these changed conditions the 1st International and its Communist Party collapsed. In its place arose a new movement — socialism — that essentially was a patriotic, petty bourgeois movement for reform. As this movement swept across Europe and America, a new International, the 2nd International was formed. Socialist Parties were formed in the United States on the basis of the populist movement and the sharpening struggle between the new industrial working class and the monopolies. In Western Europe, socialist parties gained premierships as well as large representations in parliaments. In Eastern Europe and Russia the more overtly political struggle broke out into revolutionary upsurges. By 1912, the economically undeveloped world was conquered and any further market expansion would have to be done by one imperialist power at the expense of another. World War I became inevitable.

Revolutionary History in America

Unlike Europe, America was capitalist from its inception; the total destruction of the Native American communal life left no feudal or communal hangovers. There was a large and widespread class of small producers. Most importantly, from time to time, as much as one-quarter of the toilers were slaves. During this period, until the end of the Civil War in 1865, the communist groupings were primarily immigrants who struggled very hard to impose their sectarian ideals on the actual American social struggle. However, the roots of the American communist movement lie in the broad populist struggle between the small producers and the emerging monopolies led by the robber barons of post-Civil War America.

As the industrial working class expanded and the contradictions of monopoly capitalism intensified, a number of working-class organizations throughout Europe and America came into being and the two dialectically opposed trends became clear. On the one hand there was the spontaneously developed trend called syndicalism, or the idea that the mass organizations, especially the unions, can reconstruct society by simply intensifying the economic struggle. On the other hand, groupings of Marxists, who based their activity along the lines of a political struggle, evolved alongside of and within the syndicalists. The conscious, intellectual movement of communism cannot unite with its antithesis, the spontaneous syndicalist movement of the working class, until capitalism has completed its development. This completion is marked by the wiping out of the small producers — the economic middle — and the two poles stand face to face. Since the system had not completed its development there could be no synthesis, one side remained syndicalist and the other sectarian.

World War I and the Russian revolution had a profound impact on the revolutionary movements. Groups that had been fighting one another for hegemony of the American movement suddenly wanted to unite with the Russian revolution. The Soviet revolutionaries, hoping to expand the revolution, or at least protect it, formed the 3rd Communist International.

This required that the American revolutionaries come together as one organization. In 1921, the various factions of the movement were cobbled together to form the Communist Party USA. It is important to remember that these factions in the CPUSA never gave up their programs and in times of internal crisis constantly reverted back to them. From 1921 through 1946 the CPUSA played a very important role. The syndicalists found full expression in building the CIO. The Populists carried on their historic anti- monopoly struggle as part of the Roosevelt coalition. Ultimately, however, both sides found themselves tied to consolidating the financial, internationalist wing of American imperialism.

Lessons from History

In Europe and America the communist and socialist movement was the subjective expression of the struggle of the industrial working class during the quantitative stages of industrial capitalism’s development.  It is important to note that once bourgeois industrial hegemony was established, the working class could only fight for a bigger slice of the economic pie. They were part of the system and could only carry out struggles for social reform to reflect the quantitative development of the productive process. This reality shaped the communist parties of that period. They defended and expanded the science of society and propagandized their goals. They led the workers in militant economic and social struggles. Their fatal weakness was that they had to constantly strive to win the workers over to their program. The workers had their own program that arose out of their concrete economic needs within the context of the existing economic system. Therefore the communist parties were revolutionary in program and propaganda, but reformist in its practical work. This contradiction handicapped the movement in America and Europe.

In Czarist Russia, a different kind of revolutionary movement got underway. An economic revolution from agriculture to industry, a social revolution from the countryside to the cities and a political revolution against the absolutism of the Czar tore the country apart. This great revolutionary upsurge, within the context of the slaughter of WWI, was crowned by a class struggle to determine which class would reconstruct an industrial Russia in its own image. At a particularly intense moment of the revolution the communists of Russia seized state power.

One lesson that we can learn from this period of history is that during the periods of class peace between social revolutions, the communist parties must not attempt to persuade the workers to drop their concrete demands in favor of the abstract demand of revolution. The inevitable result is isolation as a sect, instead of a party.

The essential lesson, however, is that a political revolution can only take place within a social revolution. A political revolution takes place when the development of the means of production creates economic classes outside the existing political structure. The class or classes external to the system cannot impliment their economic program without state power. It is such a situation we see developing today.

Way Opens for New Organizations

World War II was a turning point in history. At the end of the war the fascist alliance was smashed. Both the Soviet Union and the United States emerged stronger than before the war. The victorious European imperialist countries were weakened and dependent on American imperialism for food. The European regimes and Japan which owned direct colonies were considerably weakened by the war. France in Indo-China, England in India, and Holland in Indonesia did not have the military forces to maintain colonialism. This was exaserbated by American imperialisms drive to open up the closed colonial markets. The colonial world, taking advantage of weakened colonialism, went into revolution.

Suddenly there were two revolutionary fronts. One was the struggle of the workers in the advanced countries to stop resurgent fascism, prevent NATO from attacking the Soviet Union and contain aggressive American imperialism. They attempted to avoid war in order to consolidate their post- war position.

The other front was the expanding militancy of the anti-colonial struggle. This side needed to prevent imperialism from concentrating its military might against the anti-colonial revolutions. They urged revolutionary activity in Europe even at the risk of nuclear war. Thus the split in the international communist movement was much more strategic than ideological. The revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries split between those wanting to seize power and those advocating a broad cross-class front in the fight for peace.

The colonial revolution split between the national bourgeoisie and the popular forces. The result was a fundamental split within the international communist movement reflected by splits within each national communist party. This split within the world communist movement allowed for the resurgence of a revisionist Marxism, and the demise of the 3rd International.

The 1968 Watts uprising was a specific expression of the international anti-colonial revolution. As such it galvanized all the other nationalities and oppressed minorities into activity. A number of so-called communist groupings arose on this basis. It appeared that they were galvanized by the Chinese revolution. That was external. The actual foundation was the Watts uprising and its results.

In the USA the split in the communist movement was formalized in 1958 at the CPUSA’s 16th convention. During the pre-convention discussions the fragile peace between the party factions broke down with at least four major factions emerging. During the Convention, one of the major factions walked out of the Party and organized itself as The Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in the United States (POC).  Other internal splits took place within the CPUSA, leaving the right wing firmly in control. The POC soon also underwent splits, leaving the Black and Puerto Rican nationalists in control. The Los Angeles organization of the POC attempted to maintain an internationalist outlook and shortly after the Watts uprising was expelled. They regrouped as the California Communist League in 1968, and as it became national, the Communist League in 1970.

By the mid-1970s, a series of developments were at play. One, a new economy was arising based on electronic production. Secondly, the colonial revolutions shifted the center of gravity away from the traditional base of the organized industrial worker. Thirdly, the decline of the parties of the 3rd International opened the way for new organizations.

The Detroit League of Revolutionary Black Workers and The Motor City Labor League as well as a number of local and regional Black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican revolutionary groups joined the Communist League. A conference was called to found a new Communist party, and in 1974, the Communist Labor Party was formed.

Organization of a New Type

By 1985 it was clear that an entirely new form of production was coming into prominence. The globalization of both the market and production was followed by a dramatic decline of the power of the unions and the practical destruction of the communist parties as revolutionary organizations. New economic classes evolved from the new economy and it was clear that a new type of revolutionary organization was necessary. The Communist Labor Party was dissolved in 1993 and the National Organizing Committee, the beginnings of the LRNA, was formed.

The revolutionary movement is now leaping into a new quality of struggle. It cannot help but do so since it is the subjective or political expression of the leap from industry to the electronic economy. This process will go through a number of quantitative stages. At each stage, the revolutionaries will have to regroup on new foundations.

The immediate, first stage is clear - the quantitative transformation from a highly organized, well paid, politically reformist core of the industrial working class to the emergence of a new class increasingly pushed out of capitalist relations of production. This first stage will see the new class becoming aware of itself and articulating a program for its survival.  Its political reflection must be a revolutionary organization that accurately reflects that stage — a League of Revolutionaries — a non-sectarian organization that having formed on the basis of the objective process has as its mission to make that class aware of itself as a class.


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Revolutionary History and Our Tasks