(article first published in 1986)
At the concluding discussion of a recent training school of our party, a young Latin American woman got up and said: "I have been in and out of jail. I have been beaten. But I feet sad when I look around the office. I see many copies of Challenge lying about. In my country it is passed from hand to hand, until there are only smudge marks left on the paper, or the paper is in tatters."
These remarks represent the indomitable spirit and strengths of the international working class. Workers may be beaten. At moments, they may be losing the class struggle. But the workers "are like a river. They keep coming and coming. You can't stop the workers."
All of the 85 people at our training school for professional revolutionaries reflected some of the qualities of endless struggle. Comrades at the school represented workers from around the world. There was a coal miner from Britain; workers from all over Latin and Central America, some of them living in the U.S. Workers from the fields, hospitals, factories, etc.
Students, teachers and various scientists showed the possibility of a serious alliance between workers and professionals. More important, the presence of all these various forces proved the universality of Marxism-Leninism. It proved that our Party is a creature of the past, present and future. We are here to stay! No force on earth can dislodge us!
Most of the people at the school, and hundreds of others not there, are eager to become professional revolutionaries. But, most of us are not that at the moment. What is a professional revolutionary? It is not a mystery! A professional revolutionary is not someone who works for the Party, although that is sometimes the case. A professional revolutionary is a serious communist; a communist who realizes that communist revolution and the building of a communist society are the only meaningful goals of the working class. A professional revolutionary knows that a communist party based on Marxism~Leninism, and the line of the PLP will lead to making revolution. Consequently, total commitment to the Party is the essence of being a professional revolutionary. To be ready to carry out whatever the Party's decisions are in any given period.
In order to play this role, one must shed most or all of his/her subjectivity. Objectivity must replace the muddling of bourgeois subjectivity. The Party's problems, our problems, must always supercede "my" problems. "Looking out for number one" is a capitalist outlook. It is an outlook which precludes long range efforts.
When we join the Party we don't join for a day, a week, a month, a year or many years. We don't join until the next big demonstration, or until some reform battle is won or lost. When we become communists we become communists for our entire lives. The fight for communism isn't over when the revolution triumphs. The building of communism is an endless process. Thus, we become communists for a lifetime. Nor can we let every twist and turn in the class struggle befuddle us and divert us from the fight for communism. There will be many ups and downs. We must be prepared to objectively analyze events and draw lessons from them. This will enable us to go on and on. If we throw up our hands at some personal, political setback or complication, we have lost. The bosses have succeeded in stopping us from making revolution. Being subjective, being unable to evaluate any situation, places us at the mercy of the ruling class.
The working class needs a large cadre of professional revolutionaries. The more, the merrier. Revolution requires professional revolutionaries like plants need water. But don't get carried away; commitment is only one basic aspect of being a revolutionary. How are we going to make this revolution? Even if there were a million professional revolutionaries, even if there were two million, revolution is still based on the aspirations of the working class. Without a mass base, an overwhelming base for revolution among the working class, the revolution can never triumph.
Our strategy is to build a mass base for our Party within the working class, within the schools, within the military and within other sections of the population. In the long run, our strategy must be based on armed struggle. Only armed struggle led by the Party, involving millions, can succeed in bringing down capitalism and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
If basebuilding for the Party is the operating strategy of the Party, we must ask ourselves: is this central to our lives? One can be committed in words and thoughts, but only practice confirms the level of commitment. Again, many of us, based on our practice, are less than fully committed. Is basebuildingjust making friends? In part it is! But that is far from the entire story. We want to develop ties that can move large numbers of workers to the left and into our movement. So at work we must have a plan to move the shop, the local, the district, the industry to the left.
Which of the workers we know can best help us accomplish this? Can any worker play this role? We think not. Lenin long ago talked about winning the more advanced workers to the Party first. So we must evaluate our brother and sister workers. We should first try to develop ties with advanced forces. Does this mean we can only be friends with those whom we feel are central to moving others? Of course not. We will have friends who at times play no other role than being our friends, but at other times may well step out and hecome real leaders. And even if this never happens, it is good to have a friend or friends. Someone who has friends is often viewed by others to be a good person. Some workers will respond to us initially only because we have friends.
But we are not a friendship society. We want to build a base to strengthen the working class and the Party. We must engage the enemy in militant battles. Militancy must become the trademark of our movement. We should never allow ourselves to be viewed as just another bunch of crazies. We must be viewed as serious forces in the class struggle not afraid to take on the enemy. Thus our plan of battle, our tactics and our goals should be well-considered. We should, as much as possible, include our base in the planning, and of course the execution of our actions. However, being crazy is not our weakness. Right now we are too timid in all of our actions. Boldness in making friends, boldness in fighting back, and boldness in selling Challenge and Party building are still goals we are striving for.
Well, we don't make friends just to make friends, we don't fight just to fight. We do these things to build the Party. We must introduce political consciousness into our efforts. Therefore we must always struggle with our base to win them to the Party's line. Many of us are ready to fight the cops; we are often ready to go get the KKK; some of us are aiways the first to put our hands into our pockets for the Party and so on. However, many of us find it easier to be bold in an individualist sense than to be bold in basebuilding and struggling with our base to become part of the movement.
But the struggle with ourbase tojoin the Party should be thought out as carefully or more carefully than going into battle with the enemy.
The people we are trying to win are much like ourselves. They have been inundated with capitalist ideas and values. They are products of capitalism. Winning them to the movement could take a long time; don't become impatient. Patience combined with struggle should be our method. Thus, basebuilding is a three-legged thing: Friendship, battle against the enemy and struggle with our friends.
At our training school a young black woman hospital worker told this story. The class was discussing differences in being a teacher, a hospital worker or an auto worker. Some of us make things. Others of us work with human beings. Despite similar contradictions in all work, alienation and oppression, there are differences. This young woman was telling why we should try and be helpful to people even if the boss is screwing us and them.
"One day I was at work doing some shit work in a room. An old man, easily in his mid-eighties, wandered in. He was obviously lost. I helped him find his room. While walking and talking to him, I discovered he was from Russia. He told me he lived there until 1925. He had seen a lot of things, including the revolution. He told me he was a communist. I told him I was also a communist, a member of the Progressive Labor Party. Lying in a bed in the same room was a black worker. He said he was involved in the PLP's attack on the Nazi headquarters in Chicago. He remembered the small thin woman who was brave and badly injured. Well, the old man and myself and the black worker started to sing the Internationale. A worker from India, Iying in another bed was following our conversation as best he could. He couldn't understand everything, but every time we said, `Kill the bosses!,' he raised a clenched fist. Well, I ran as fast as I could to my locker and grabbed my Challenges. Obviously many workers were interested in reading C-D."
A postscript to the story is that the young woman's husband is a doctor at the hospital. She came home that night and told him the story of the old Russian man and singing the Internationale. He, being a little incredulous, went down to the old Russian man's room the next day. "Well, what a picture we must have made, all three of us in that hospital room, clenched fists, singing the Internationale." he said.
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