In order to win a communist society it is necessary to win millions of workers into the party, and to have close ties to millions of others. This means that we have to start building a base for communist ideas and organization, among all types of workers. In the course of revolutionary battle millions of workers will be won to communism. When the revolution triumphs countless millions will have been won to launching a communist society with no concessions to capitalism.
How can a relatively small organization like ours is today win millions of workers and others to support a communist revolution? This article suggests a concept of basebuilding which, if put into practice by party members, would make this possible. It is not a new idea. The same ideas are set forth in the pamphlet, Build a Base in the Working Class, which was first adopted by our party in 1968! But we have a long way to go, as a party, in actually carrying out this line. Unless we make a major breakthrough in basebuilding, however, we will either never be able to bring about a revolution for communism to begin with, or, if we do, it will certainly be reversed, as were the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions. This is the lesson of Road to Revolution (IV).
Every PL member should have a personal and political base of many, many friends. We should think of our "base" as those persons we get together with, in whatever context, on a regular basis, at least every four to six weeks.
Many comrades carry out basebuilding in a very limited way. Outside other party members, and those who are in the party's immediate base, many comrades have few if any friends. Many comrades who do have many friends and acquaintances beyond the party and its immediate base do not think of these relationships as political. They have no long-range plan for moving these friends, who are less politically advanced or apolitical, to the left, toward the party's ideas. The results are similar in both cases -- political and personal isolation. This isolation is the major form revisionism takes within our party, and the major obstacle holding back our work. Obviously it is not a communist style of basebuilding, since with such a limited, narrow base we could never hope to build a base of millions of workers for communist ideas.
One cause of this limited basebuilding is a very narrow concept of what basebuilding is. Many comrades think of their "base" as being the politically advanced persons they know. Understood in this way, "basebuilding" means building friendships with politically advanced people. But even those who know a great many people will have only a relatively few politically advanced persons among them. So this mistaken and narrow concept of basebuilding often means in practice: "I will have only a very small number of friends" outside the party and those who are very close to it. This is deadly for the party and for communism.
Every PL member should have a personal and political base of many, many friends. We should think of our "base" as those persons we get together with, in whatever context, on a regular basis, at least every four to six weeks. The key idea here is regularity. Unless you see a person regularly, the personal and political relationship cannot develop over time. This article proposes that every member make it his/her basic political duty to have a base of 50 to 75 people, to see each of these people at least once every four to six weeks, and many of them much more often than that. As this process is taking place, each member should develop a plan for moving all these people to the left, over time, and to the extent possible. Working out this plan should be a main function of club meetings.
We should see this as a long-range process. We must make as many friends as possible, wage political struggle with them on many levels, and maintain these friendships for years with those who are not won to joining PL. Naturally, most of any comrade's circle of friends will not be politically advanced. Most will not seem likely to join PLP in the near future, or perhaps ever. Many will even appear "apolitical." We should still maintain and build close ties with them over a long period of time, and develop and carry out a plan to move them to the left as much as possible. We must learn to have friends who are at all different levels of political interest.
There are at least two reasons for having such a broad base. In the short term, if everyone in the party had a base of fifty or more friends, there would be more recruiting going on. More persons from the party's base would become "advanced," become active, and join PLP. They, in turn, would be won to extending the party's base even further.
The second reason for having such a broad concept of basebuilding is more long-range. Repression, war, and fascism are in the future for U.S. workers. As fascist repression and war become reality, millions of people will become politicized who are not now politically active or interested. This is an historical law; war and fascism lead to mass politicization. But we can be sure that the ruling class will not permit us to freely agitate among these millions of politicized workers. Fascism will mean that we will not be able to contact and organize millions of politicized workers and others unless we already have a broad base of contacts among them. Only if we know masses of workers already will we be able to bring them around to our party and the ideas of communism.
Additionally, now as in the future, the party and its members will need help from many people in order to get the many things done that must be done if our struggles are to grow. Many of these things can be done if one has close friends, even if those friends are not especially political now. Babysitting, the loan of a car, money for bail or other purposes, and many other tasks needed to further the party's work can only be done if party members have many friends who can help us do them.
Some comrades have raised the question of how large the party needs to be before a communist revolution can take place. Obviously, whatever the size of the party, no matter how large it becomes, we must have a base many, many times that size. The only end to that process is when everyone is in the party!
Every PL member should, within a reasonable period of time, put him or herself into a situation where he or she sees 50 to 75 or more people on a regular basis. For most of us, this will mean that we should become active in one or several kinds of groups or, organizations. If you work at a large place, or go to a university, there may be many such groups. But if not, you could look for groups in your area -- preferably beginning with groups that your own non-party friends already belong to. For example: a roadrunners' club (for joggers), or any kind of sports club, a tenants' organization, block association, or PTA if your kids are in school. Unions and many jobs have social committees. Churches are another possibility -- not the fundamentalist, crazy kind -- but some that are integrated, and attract socially active people, and have extensive social activities. These are not "good organizations;" rather" they are organizations in which good people are involved.
Join an organization with a life of its own. We are not going out to "build" these groups as such, but to use them to get to know people. But you have to make the life of the organization a part of your life; and take it seriously, in order to be taken seriously by those in it. The idea is not to join a group, identify the most left forces within it, then concentrate on them to the exclusion of the rest of the people; not to build the group as a reformist group; not to become a leader of the organization, but to have a serious, long-term relationship with the people in it, using the group as a vehicle to do this. As soon as possible, you should see your new friends outside of the group's activities as well. You should be involved with them in many ways.
Naturally there are tactical differences in working in different kinds of groups. Open communists cannot operate inside a few kinds of groups: many churches, Boy Scouts, a few others. Non-public people, on the other hand, can be active in all of these. Also, some groups are more directly tied to the ruling class than others. Neighborhood, sports and social clubs, etc. are less likely to be led by people ideologically committed to capitalism. But often the best groups for meeting people will be ruling class-led mass organizations. The main thing is to make a plan, and get involved.
Some people might object that we might fall into an opportunist trap, and for the sake of not endangering new friendships, stop raising our political ideas. This is a danger. But, although we always have to fight opportunism, the biggest danger at this point is sectarianism, being "politically pure in glorious isolation." While aiming to win people to the party as fast as possible, we should see basebuilding as a long-range thing. While combating right-wing opportunism (revisionism) we should see sectarian isolation as the main form of opportunism.
Once we start making more friends on & regular basis, we will be able to bring more people to InCAR and PLP activities, increase the sale of C-D and the InCAR Arrow-La Flecha, etc. And we can and must have political discussions with even the least political of our base. Individual articles from C-D or the Arrow can be given to people for their reaction. And, after all, we live in a period now where world events happen so fast that people are beginning to look for answers, or at least explanations of why things are happening. When the army crushed the Solidarity union in Poland, how many of us got comments from people we thought weren't interested in current events? True, many people were and are taken in by the redbaiting pushed by the bosses' press, but this gives us a great opportunity to explain many aspects of our line -- the main contradiction in the world and why it leads to WWIII, why the Soviet Union isn't communist, why religion and nationalism are bad, the hypocrisy of Reagan and the union hacks supporting Walesa while screwing workers here, etc.
We should raise with people the less "obvious" aspects of our line: how politics, the class struggle, the decline of the U .S. rulers and the move towards war and fascism color every aspect of their lives and ours, even though they might not be aware of it.
We must have a long-range attitude about changing people. We should ditch the idea that, if people don't respond quickly to our ideas, we are "wasting our time on them."
We should also maintain contacts with people who, for one reason or another, have left the Party on a friendly basis. Over the years many people have left the Party, and we have lost touch with them. Many other comrades who left the Party are still friendly to it, and come to May Day, buy a sub, contribute money -- or could be won to any or all of these. We should see that as part of our basebuilding.
With every Party member, a plan should be made in the club on how to get a mass base and then on how to move each of them to the left while developing our relationship with them.
One excuse given by many of us for not doing all of this is that we are "too busy," that we "don't have the time." But what is it we are so busy doing? Often the wrong things -- watching TV by ourselves, going to too many meetings among ourselves without bringing anyone. We should be busy building a base for our Party, involving ourselves, our spouses, children, friends and comrades in that process, and selling our paper and discussing how to crush this rotten system.
The essential point of Road to Revolution (IV), summed up at the beginning of this article, is that communist ideas must be grasped by millions. None of the ideas in RR IV are possible without a turn-around in our basebuilding. In fact, if we don't do this, RRIV could turn into its opposite -- rather than building new commitment and a brighter vision of the future, it could be a source for cynicism and revisionist ideas if the Party does not make some progress in building the mass base which is the essence of RRIV. If we do begin the struggle to qualitatively change our basebuilding, our confidence in the Party's future, and in communism, will grow qualitatively, too. Build a mass base for communism!