On the Communist Party

On the Communist Party


As it has already been explained in detail in former articles, the movement of matter is governed by laws. In the same way, the societies of human, as a higher level of organization of matter, are governed by laws conditioning their movement. The material circumstances make up a certain framework of possibilities, that the subject, i.e. the conscious human action, can realize. Mankind is nowadays in a particular evolution stage. The material circumstances in this stage have created the possibility of constructing a socialist society. There is no other possibility as far as the evolution of the society is concerned. Neither can the society go back to former modes of production (for instance feudalism or slavery), nor can it abruptly pass to communism without the labor of a long transitional period.

The realization of the possibility that figures in the current material circumstances is going to happen in a deterministic way rather than an automatic way. That is to say the conscious action of the human element is necessary for its fulfillment. The history of the human societies is the history of the class struggle. The social evolution is defined by the class struggle. Thus, in capitalism, the class that has the historic role to liberate the society through its own emancipation is the proletariat, as it is the only class in history which can not impose its own special modes of appropriation, which has been the case of all the dominated classes once they became ruling classes.

Nevertheless, so that the working class fulfills its historic role, it must be conscious of that role. This will not occur automatically either. The action of the most vanguard, i.e. class- conscious, revolutionary workers is demanded so as to engraft this consciousness in the class. Of course, the conscious revolutionaries do not work on their own. Their organization in a separate political party, representing the strategic interests of the working class, standing for the future of the movement, highlighting the final goal, a party that will not be tied down by the instant, everyday struggle is necessary. Only such a political formation set up on the basis of revolutionary theory, with a revolutionary program, can play the role of the political vanguard of the revolution and transform a revolutionary situation into a victorious revolution.

The revolutionary party as the essential form of organization of the working class. The only form of organization which can play the role of the revolutionary vanguard.

The controversy between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks- the contemporary Menshevik versions

Historically, the most well- known controversy on the question of the party took place in the 2nd congress of the Social-Democratic Revolutionary Party of Russia. In this congress, the Bolsheviks prevail in all the questions under dispute, apart from the crucial one concerning the first article of the party Articles.

The proposition put forward by the Bolsheviks on the article defining who can be a member of the party ends up to be that:

a member of the party is considered to be everyone who accept its program, support the party in a material sense as well as by their personal participation in one of its organizations”.

The Mensheviks replace this formulation with the wording:

a member of the party is considered to be everyone who accept its program, support the party in a material sense and provides their personal help on a regular basis in the party under the guidance of one of its organizations”.

This disagreement is going to lead the Social-Democratic Revolutionary Party of Russia to a split.

The difference between these two propositions lies in the fact that the first goes for a party in which only conscious revolutionaries who can accept a minimum organizational discipline can participate, whereas the second goes for a party where spontaneous forces can participate as well. Those who act “under the guidance of one of its organizations”, for example on a strike, are thousands of fighters who are fighters only but not communists and conscious revolutionaries. The Menshevik view regards as a member any worker on strike, any fighter, regardless of their level of consciousness. Such a party is the organizational expression of the submission to the spontaneous element. The Menshevik current, in spite of its proclamations, subject to the spontaneous element, passed to the counter- revolutionary camp in the end. Lenin, referring to the particular controversy wrote that:

“We are the party of a class, and that is why almost the whole class (in a period of war, in a period of civil war absolutely the whole class) must act under the guidance of our party, must be connected as tightly as possible to it; however, it would be manilofism and chvostism 1, if we thought that in capitalism, almost the whole or the whole class is capable to rise to the consciousness and the activity of its vanguard section, its social-democratic party. So far, not a single reasonable social- democrat ever doubted that in capitalism, even the trade- union organization (the most primitive, the most accessible to the grade of consciousness of the less developed strata) is not capable to include almost the whole or the whole class. Forgetting the difference between the vanguard section and the masses attracted by it, forgetting the constant obligation of the vanguard section to raise wider and wider strata to this vanguard level would simply mean that we deceive ourselves, that we ignore our huge obligations, that we limit these obligations. This is exactly the case- we forget and ignore when we wipe off the difference between those who are well disposed to the party and those who belong to the party, the conscious, active and those who help.” (Lenin, “A step forward, two steps backward”)

The opportunist side accused the Bolshevik view on the party of actually leaving out a huge part of fighters from the party, who, according to the Menshevik view, should be regarded as members. Lenin answered the accusations as follows:

“ What is the meaning of this monstrous in a first reading phrase “leaving them out”? When the members of the party are considered to be the members of organizations which have been identified as party organizations, people who can not belong directly to a party organization, they can nevertheless work in an organization which does not belong to but is well disposed to the party. Consequently, it is out of the question that anyone is left out, meaning that they are removed from the labor, from their participation to the movement. On the contrary, the stronger our party organizations comprising the real social-democrats are, the less unstableness and wavering there is, the wider, the more versatile and the more fruitful the influence of the party on the elements of the working masses surrounding the party and guided by it will be. […]One is not allowed to confuse the party, as a vanguard section of the class with the whole class.” (Lenin, “A step forward, two steps backward”)

The Menshevik view on the party influenced a lot of currents who criticized from a left point of view the “orthodox” communist movement and the official Communist Parties. In an attempt to provide an alternative answer to the bureaucratic centralized model, these views drifted unwittingly to another Menshevik version.

By adopting the Menshevik view about the vanguard in its essence, regardless of some differentiations, these revolutionary efforts lost any possibility to develop the spontaneous along revolutionary lines. By waiting for the spontaneous element to fulfill on its own the role of the revolutionary vanguard, they remained on the fringe and were eliminated from the political scene.

A Lenin’s or Marx’s party?

The systematic effort to prove Lenin’s views different than Marx’s ones has been an invariable tactic of the social-democracy; this has had an impact on the question of the party, as the illusion that the party of a new kind was a novelty conceived by Lenin is quite widespread in the Left. The social- democrats present Lenin as “authoritarian”, “counter- democratic” and “centralizing” in contrast to “democratic” Marx. The anarcho-autonomy in several versions has adopted the identical mythology of the social- democracy. In Greece, in the 70’s, these views were supported by “PASOK” through articles in its youth section newspaper, called “Fighter”.

In fact, Marx and Lenin lived in different periods of different development of the revolutionary movement. Marx acted in a period while the movement was in its infancy, whereas Lenin in a period when the movement had grown more mature from any point of view. An aspect of this maturity is reflected in recording variances and different approaches, developed within the revolutionary movement, referring even to strategic questions. Leftism is an illustrating example of how the views evolve and new currents appear in connection with the material circumstances and the development of the revolutionary struggle. There might have been seeds of leftist views in the movement, but leftism as a current could not appear before the appearance of Soviet power. Lenin, by expressing his point of view on the controversies that were deploring the international revolutionary movement, appears to formulate new views, but in fact, he just goes deep into the Marxist conception.

The question of the revolutionaries’ organization had raised controversy between Marx and the Bakounin adherents in the First International. In spite of referring to a wide front of the oppressed and rejecting the Marxist idea of the organization of the revolutionaries, the anarchists finally made up an organization of three concentric circles with different name and independent function. Revealing this structure provided the occasion of the split of the First International. The so –called federal structure, that is to say the union of several independent groups in a central organization was an anarchist conception as well. In the framework of such an organization these groups would maintain their autonomy and their independent function.

On the contrary, Marx supported a democratic revolutionaries’ organization, which would constitute a union of natural persons, thus ensuring its unified, centralized action. This was the model of the “Union of Communists”, which has been the first communist organization in history.

Lenin supported the same organization model. The so –called party of a new kind was just an attempt to re-orientate politically the social-democratic parties that had degenerated by limiting themselves to electoral machines, to transform them into effective revolutionary parties. Some special traits of the Bolshevik party, such as the conspiratorial element and the underground party machine, were imposed by the conditions in Russia, under the yoke of the tsar autocracy.

An argument widely used by the adherents of anarchist-autonomist views is based on the following wording drawn from the “Manifest of a Communist Party”: “…This organization of the proletarians into a class, and thus, into a political party…”.In this phrase, some find that Marx was supporting a party in a wider sense. However, if this was the case, it would be obvious in his writings and his political action as well; these views do not appear anywhere. This is a detail to be forgotten by those who wish to present Marx as a supporter of the autonomy.

The democratic centralism

In 1921, Russia lays in ruins after a 4-year civil war, during which a great part of the country had been occupied by the armies of foreign forces who hastened to overthrow the newly established Soviet power. The Bolshevik party had to deal with duties that no communist party had ever confronted before, such as the organization of the production and the society in general, the effort against the counter- revolution forces etc. Various views and platforms emerge with respect to each one of these questions within the party.

Due to the special conditions imposed by civil war and the imperialist interference, it is temporarily decided by the 10th party congress taking place that year to prohibit any faction. Thus, the so far consolidated possibility of free and open juxtaposition in front of the whole party is suppressed due to the necessity to confront the urgent situation. Despite the fact that this decision was to be a temporary one, it will maintain its force after the war and it will mark the communist parties ever since.

This organization model will be known as democratic centralism, even though it has nothing to do with the Bolshevik democratic centralism. To give an illustrating example of the Bolshevik tradition, when dissent occurred in CC, Lenin believed it was obligatory for the dissenters to submit their platform to be discussed in the whole party. The platform “…must be submitted…exclusively and directly for discussion to all party members.”, “We can not deprive the party and the members of the CC of the right to address to the party, when dispute is raised on an important question. If the conditions bring about fundamental dissent, could it be prohibited to present them in front of the judgment of the whole party? It can’t be ”(Lenin, 10th congress of the Communist Party of Russia).

The degeneration of the Bolshevik democratic centralism is obvious in several manuals, where the democratic centralism is relegated to the submission of lower organs to higher ones and to the compulsory application by the lower organs of the decisions made by the higher ones. It goes without saying that this is the case in all the bourgeois and petty- bourgeois parties. The most important is that the democratic centralism cannot exist without revolutionary strategic. Abandoning the latter changes the democratic centralism into bureaucratic centralism, into suffocating any revolutionary conception, into strangling democracy.

1 Author’s Note: tail policy “chvost” in Russian stands for queue