On Program, Strategy, and Tactics
From the pamphlet Defending Marxism-Leninism in the US - A Scientific Discussion on the Problems and Solutions of Party Reconstruction - by John Redshield, November 1991. Some minor editing changes made for clarity of context. Note that this was written prior to the Scientific Socialist analysis of "revisionism," the US neo-fascist subterranean state, its fifth column and social-fascist agents; hence, the terms revisionism and revisionists were used. Today we've discarded such terms because they are inaccurate and do not reflect the political reality - see for example, Neo-fascism and the Fifth Column, the article commemorating the anniversary of Stalin's birth, etc. We republish this section of the pamphlet in hopes that it may provide some useful information if not guidance to those vanguard forces who are truly interested in the necessary work to organize democratic and Socialist revolution in the US. Note: some additional editing and corrections made to this already revised copy on 5/18/2006.
On this topic I take up three aspects:
A. the importance of program
B. the essential elements of program
C. the Communist program in the US
A. the importance of program
The program plays a crucial part in the plan for Party building. Lenin and the Russian Marxists understood this well. The Emancipation of Labor group, for example, had already produced a draft program as early as 1885 – more than fifteen years before an actual party was founded. Towards the end of the 90s, Lenin brought the issue of program to the fore in response to the problems and needs of the revolutionary movement when he said
… the demand for program grew out of the needs of the movement itself. At the present time the urgent question of our movement is no longer that of developing the former scattered “amateur” activities, but of uniting – of organization. This is a step for which program is a necessity ( Collected Works , Volume 4).
Lenin places amateur in quotes because the activities of the Russian Communists at the time were unavoidably amateurish but, nevertheless, necessary to create the conditions for the development of the socialist movement in the country. Yet, there was a constant struggle to move the Communist forces to a higher level of unity and organization. To take this next step, Lenin spoke emphatically of the “tremendous importance of program for the consolidation and consistent activity of a political party” ( Collected Works , Volume 4).
Leninist organization is established and built on definite politics. These politics are most accurately and clearly presented in a program wherein the basic aims and major tasks of the Party are scientifically formulated. Tactics, in turn, are developed on the basis of these political aims and objectives. That is why all three – program, tactics, and organization – form the solid foundation for Marxist-Leninist unity. Thus Stalin advances the following definition:
Our Party is a Social-Democratic (read: Communist) Party. This means that it has its own program (the immediate and ultimate aims of the movement), its own tactics (methods of struggle), and its own organizational principle (form of association). Unity of program, tactical and organizational views is the basis on which our Party is built. Only the unity of these views can unite the Party members in one centralized Party ( The Proletarian Class and the Proletarian Party ).
The importance of program lies in its indispensability for Marxist-Leninist unity of thought and action. Program is the keystone for uniting Vanguard elements into one Party to lead and organize the class struggle of the proletariat.
Another important facet of party program is to meet one's responsibility as the class leadership by submitting a clear and open statement to the working class and people on exactly what the Party stands for and what it aims to do. As Lenin argued:
…a program is urgently necessary because Russian public opinion is very often most profoundly mistaken in respect to the real tasks and methods of action of the Russian Social-Democrats; these mistaken views in some cases grow naturally in the morass of political putrefaction that is our real life, in others they are artificially nurtured by the opponents of Social-Democracy ( Collected Works , Volume 4).
The degeneration of the social and political life under capitalism together with the continuous attempt of the bourgeoisie to defame the Communists and Communism through lies, slander, and distortion generate enormous confusion in the minds of the masses. The Party program establishes the theoretical and political grounding from which the vanguard forces wage an unrelenting ideological struggle against all hostile thought and for the education of the working class to realize its revolutionary role.
Programs may have different formats, but to adhere to the Leninist model as a standard, the program must include certain essential elements. These are clear and concise statements on the following:
a. the basic laws and features of capitalism and its development to its highest stage, imperialism, which transforms the present epoch into one of proletarian socialist revolution
b. the particular economic development of the country with a focus on the specific features of its contemporary socio-economic and political conditions
c. the contradictions of society; the revolutionary role of the working class in carrying out the social revolution
d. the conditions for effecting the socialist revolution; the dictatorship of the proletariat
e. the need for the Marxist-Leninist Party in leading the proletariat to achieve its revolutionary aims
f. the working class movement as an international movement and the role of Marxism-Leninism
g. a definition of the immediate aims of Marxism-Leninism in the country, that is:
1. the immediate political task of the revolutionary working class movement
2. the immediate economic and political demands of the working class and its allies
h. the support by the Marxist-Leninist Party for other parties, movements, etc. that are struggling against the existing social and political order; the opposition of the Marxist- Leninist Party against all retrograde forces that strive, through innumerable means, to keep the working class in bondage.
It is not my purpose to discuss all of these elements but to make a few observations as to their nature and how they figure into the Leninist program.
Of the above, elements a , c , d , and e are general and universal to all countries, while b , g , and h are specific and particular to individual countries. The former elements comprise the basis for a general Marxist program that can be used by the vanguard forces for establishing general ideological unity in the very beginning stages of developing the Marxist-Leninist trend in their countries. But a general Marxist program is not an adequate basis for consolidating forces into one Communist Party, armed with the necessary politics to practically lead and organize the working class in revolutionary struggle against capitalism. This consolidation further demands that sub-elements g-1 and g-2 be sharply defined and united upon. Element g, which constitutes the practical program, must be combined with the theoretical section to qualify as a program for building real Communist unity in viable, revolutionary organization. The practical program, however, cannot be worked out until element b is completed through analyzing the concrete conditions that exist in the given country.
Lenin considered element b as the most important section. Here, the Marxist-Leninists, after careful and comprehensive investigation and analysis, summarize with precision the specific features of capitalism in their society. In this section, general characterizations from a general analysis fall short. Lenin criticized Plekhanov's draft program of 1902 for just this reason:
…this draft is a program of an economic textbook on capitalism in general rather than a program for the proletariat, which is fighting against very real manifestations of a very definite capitalism.
The program is particularly unsuitable for the party of the Russian proletariat because the evolution of Russian capitalism and the antagonisms and social evils engendered by Russian capitalism are almost entirely evaded and obscured by the self-same system of defining capitalism in general ( Collected Works , Volume 6).
Lenin teaches us that generalizations in this section of the program are useless. Element b provides the basis for outlining the whole revolutionary course of the struggle in each country, and therefore the programs will reflect “an element of variety. . . in accordance with the social conditions in each of them taken separately.” Understandably, any weakness in this section of the program will ultimately lead to problems in the formulation of the practical section. As Lenin pointed out, sound and specific analysis must be made so that the Party of the proletariat will be able to issue its “declaration of war” on a definite capitalism; this declaration of war, he said, “is most important for the party engaged in a practical struggle” ( Collected Works , Volume 6).
On this point, Lenin drives at the crux of the problem for Communists: using theory as a guide to action. The theoretical part of the program a through f, stands as the foundation for erecting the practical part. Points such as the immediate political task of the proletariat, its immediate economic and political demands, its friends and allies, comprise the minimum program. By skillfully applying theory to practice, these practical aims are all coordinated with and subordinated to the maximum program of social revolution .
The working out of a satisfactory minimum program is vital for developing the revolutionary struggle. Based on the socio-economic and political conditions in the country, as well as the international situation, the Marxist-Leninists clearly define the stage of the revolutionary movement and decide the immediate objective of the working class. This immediate objective or political task changes as the class struggle unfolds into various stages. The proletariat's program is amended accordingly. For example, the immediate objective stated in the first Party program of the RSDLP was the overthrow of the aristocracy in Russia and its replacement with the democratic republic. After this immediate objective was achieved, the political task was revised in subsequent programs, viz. in 1918 and 1919, when overthrowing imperialism and establishing and consolidating the Soviets (a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat) became the immediate objectives.
Once the immediate objective is determined, it becomes possible to formulate the practical demands which are also essential for the proletarian struggle. When the Russian Communists defined the overthrow of the aristocracy and the setting up of a republic as their immediate task in the first Party program, they called for a democratic constitution and outlined the democratic demands of the practical program in light of this. In so doing, they actually laid the political-legal foundations for a democratic constitution and government that would represent proletarian interests. Such focus enabled the Party to defend the fight for democratic reforms in a concrete and practical way from revolutionary positions. Furthermore, the Party also elaborated specific economic demands for the protection and advancement of the working class and peasantry in the struggle to improve their material conditions. At the next stage, when the Bolsheviks were leading the working class to establish and consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat, they reworked the entire practical sections of the program to provide the foundation for building the new Soviet power. This shows that through the practical section of the program, the Party raises the fighting capacity of the working class, combines and coordinates the political and economic fronts of struggle, and merges socialism with the working class movement. Leading and organizing the working class struggle from the platform of the minimum program is what enables the Party to achieve its maximum program .
The Communist Party bases itself on program so that it can play its role as the advanced, conscious detachment of the working class – so that it is in position to chart the course for the proletariat's struggle for progress and for its complete emancipation. The struggle itself, however, is carried out in accordance with the Party's strategy and tactics. While the program outlines the aims, objectives and demands of the working class struggle, strategy and tactics supply the ways and means of waging this struggle. The latter are completely dependent on the former. Strategy and tactics will be taken up separately in the next section, but it might be helpful to preface this with some observations on related points in connection with program.
Strategy (the allies of the proletariat and the direction of the main blow) is designed in correlation to the stage of the revolution and the immediate objective of the working class. This immediate objective is sometimes referred to as the strategic goal. It stands to reason that an effective strategy for uniting allied classes and strata under the leadership of the proletariat and correctly defining the direction of the main blow at the class enemy cannot be articulated without accurately assessing the stage of the revolutionary struggle and what the immediate political objective is. The Leninist program must first be in place.
Tactics (the various forms of struggle and organization) are also dependent on program. They are subordinated to the strategic goal in sub-element g-1 and thus serve strategy. At the same time, tactics are also closely coordinated with the immediate political and economic demands formulated in g-2. Yet, tactics are not to be confused with the Party program, and according to Lenin, should not be taken up here:
The program should leave the question of means open, allowing the choice of means to the militant organizations and to the Party congresses that determine the tactics of the Party. Questions of tactics, however, can hardly be introduced into the program (with the exception of the most important questions, questions of principle, such as our attitude to other fighters against the autocracy). Questions of tactics will be discussed by the Party newspaper as they arise and will be eventually decided at Party congresses ( Collected Works , Volume 4).
Means or forms of the class struggle include those that employ force or revolutionary violence although Lenin held revolutionary violence as a principle and that “the proletarian revolution is impossible without the forcible destruction of the bourgeois state machine and the substitution for it of a new one,” i.e., the dictatorship of the proletariat, whose rule is “based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws” ( The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky ). However, he also makes it quite clear that these and other forms of class struggle employing force are only called for and organized after careful assessment of the flow of the revolutionary movement, disposition of the forces, etc., and after the necessary preparation of the ideological, political, and organizational fronts of the Party and the class. These among other factors have to be taken into consideration in deciding whether such statements are to be included in the program.
Grasping the importance of program and better understanding its essentials are necessary to strengthen the Marxist-Leninist bearings of the movement on this issue. From a strengthened position, the vanguard forces will be able to combat revisionist and opportunist distortions, overcome past weaknesses and advance the work to formulate the proletarian program for socialist revolution in the US.
For instance, if the importance of program is accepted, then the view put forth by the Central Organization of US Marxist-Leninists (COUSML) during the 70s and the USMLO currently must be categorically rejected. This view sees no need for program in uniting the American Marxist-Leninists in their work for Party reconstruction. Thus it completely negates the theory and practice of Communism and agitates for theoretical and political backwardness; it reinforces the conditions of “scattered amateur activities” by groups and individuals – conditions with which Leninism cannot be reconciled. Being fundamentally anarchist, this view not only undermines and thwarts the attempts to build a sound basis for unity and organization of the Marxist-Leninist forces; it, moreover, shows an arrogant disregard and contempt for the working class. What other attitude can be attributed to a group of “leaders” who feel no obligation to clearly and openly state their political views and aims to the class they purport to “lead”? The Leninist stand on program allows for no equivocation on exposing and combating such blatant anti-Marxism and purging it entirely from the US Marxist-Leninist Movement.
Secondly, by increasing their knowledge of the essential elements of the Leninist program, Marxist-Leninists will be able to more critically evaluate those programs drafted by various groups in the movement. What is judged negative and irrelevant can be discarded while what is positive can be considered as a contribution in formulating the program. For example, when comparing either the draft (1986) or the current program of the Marxist-Leninist Workers Organization to the Leninist criteria, it becomes immediately apparent that the former do not correspond to the latter. The MLWO programs do not include the essential elements required of the theoretical and practical sections. There is no scientific analysis of capitalism's development in the US , no clearly defined strategic objective and no sharply formulated minimum program. Instead, the MLWO presents a hodgepodge of pseudo-Marxist and anti-Marxist generalities in “textbook” form and an eclectic series of reformist slogans. Consequently, these programs are essentially indistinguishable from those of the revisionists and opportunists.
In contrast, the draft programs of the Communist Party USA (M-L) (now dissolved) and the Revolutionary Political Organization (M-L) conform to the Leninist model. This can be seen, among other things, by the fact that they (1) are organized into theoretical sections which outline the formation of US capitalism and its development to the imperialist stage, (2) identify the ultimate aims of the working class together with practical sections that advance its immediate political and economic demands. In short, they both contain the maximum and minimum programs consistent with Marxist-Leninist criteria. Therefore, these programs should be carefully studied. As part of this study, there are several points I would like to raise for consideration.
A. Although the programs of both the CPUSA(ML) (1976) and the RPO (ML) (1982) offer a summary of the general economic development of US capitalism and the more particular features of the present socio-economic conditions, their analyses lack clear and concrete specifics.
B. Both programs indicate that the immediate goal or strategic objective of the US working class is the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Point B is unmistakably valid in the theoretical sense, i.e. we are in the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolution, and in the imperialist countries the working class has the revolutionary task of overthrowing imperialism and seizing political power. This is a valid and true generalization. It is also necessary to uphold the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat as an indispensable condition for the working class to achieve it ultimate aims. But one major question should be tackled here: Is the immediate task of the working class, as expressed by these two Marxist-Leninist groups, sound revolutionary politics in the present conditions? Lenin gives an orientation to help us deal with this question:
Marxism requires of us a strictly exact and objectively verifiable analysis of the relations of classes of the concrete features peculiar to each historical situation. We Bolsheviks have always tried to meet this requirement, which is absolutely essential for giving a scientific foundation to policy.
“Our theory is not a dogma, but a guide to action.” Marx and Engels always said, rightly ridiculing the mere memorizing and repetition of “formulas,” that capable only of marking out general tasks, which are necessarily modifiable by the concrete economic and political conditions of each particular period in the historical process ( Collected Works, Volume 24).
And based on how this historical process is unfolding in one's country, the program identifies “…the immediate duty of the party of the proletariat,” i.e., what specific kind of political system it is fighting for, which varies from country to country “because the capitalist system is not developed everywhere to the same degree, and because in different countries it develops in a different social and political setting” ( Collected Works , Volume 24). What is the social and political setting in which capitalism is developing in the US, and what particular period (not to be confused with epoch) of the historical process are we presently in? What are the significant international conditions and developments that have bearing on this determination? These are crucial questions for investigation and analysis that must be answered to formulate the Scientific Socialist program in the US .
The drafts under discussion come up short in these areas and consequently leave these important questions open. Generalizations are made about growing fascism and preparations for imperialist war. We need concrete, specific, formulations of these phenomena which presuppose a comprehensive analysis. We need clear statements on their significance for the revolutionary workers' movement. There is no way that the practical section of the program, including the immediate objective and immediate demands, can be properly dealt with if these things are left hazy. What results is a lack of political focus which is seen in both the CPUSA( ML) and RPO(ML)'s practical sections of their programs. And it is precisely this weakness that impairs the effectiveness of any real immediate demands advanced in them.
Georgi Dimitroff raised similar problems for solution at the 7 th of the Comintern in 1935. During a discussion of the prospects for setting up United Front governments in various countries, he said:
We must not confine ourselves to bare appeals to struggle for the proletarian dictatorship. We must also find and advance those slogans and forms of struggle which arise from the vital needs of the masses, from the level of their fighting capacity at the present stage of development (emphasis added).
Here again, the necessity to take into account specific features and the period of the historical process in order to define objectives. He continues further on:
Fifteen years ago Lenin called upon us to focus all our attention at “searching out forms of transition or approach to the proletarian revolution.” It may be that in a number of countries the united front government will prove to be one of the most important transitional forms. “Left” doctrinaires always avoid that precept of Lenin's. Like the limited propagandists that they were, they spoke only of “aims” without every worrying about “forms of transition.”
On the other hand, Dimitroff warns against the opposite deviation from the Right opportunists who talk about a fictitious “indispensable,” “intermediate stage” of democracy existing between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is a ploy to divert the working class away from socialist revolution rather than directing it towards this objective. Nevertheless, Dimitroff still acknowledges the possibility of an intermediary stage on the road to the proletarian dictatorship, but it is viewed as a momentary one to facilitate socialist revolution and not to obstruct or deter the workers' movement.
Dimitroff was speaking at a time when world imperialism was scrambling to extricate itself from profound crisis through fascism and wars of plunder. Lenin had envisioned such waves of counter-revolution occurring again and again throughout the entire epoch of imperialism. Soon after the Great October Revolution, he explained:
Marxists have never forgotten that violence must inevitably accompany the collapse of capitalism in its entirety and the birth of socialist society. That violence will constitute a period of world history, a whole era of various kinds of wars, imperialist wars, civil wars inside countries, the intermingling of these two, national wars liberating the nationalities oppressed by the imperialists and by various combinations of imperialist powers that will inevitably enter into various alliances in the epoch of tremendous state-capitalist and military trusts and syndicates. This epoch, and the epoch of gigantic cataclysms of mass decisions forcibly imposed by war, of crises, has begun – that we can see clearly – and it is only the beginning . . . We have only just taken the first steps towards shaking off capitalism altogether and beginning the transition to socialism. We do not know and we cannot know how many stages of transition to socialism there will be. That depends on when the full-scale European socialist revolution begins and whether it will deal with its enemies and enter upon the smooth path of socialist development easily and rapidly or whether it will do so slowly ( Collected Works , Volume 27).
I quoted this passage at length because the panorama of the epoch, which Lenin painted so splendidly more than seventy years ago, is extremely helpful for us in understanding what is taking place today. Regardless of how the imperialists and the revisionists attempt to distort the nature of current world developments, no matter how much they try to discredit Lenin or misrepresent Leninism, his thesis is irrefutable: this is the epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution.
The transition of capitalism to monopoly capitalism – imperialism – has spread the plague of crises and wars to all corners of the globe. Shortly after this transition, at the turn of the last century, the general crisis of capitalism began; the imperialist powers, mired in the crises of overproduction, shrinking markets, and the growing impoverishment of the masses, turned to predatory war to resolve the fundamental contradictions of capitalism and settle rivalries over spheres of influence. As it went, World War I brought all the contradictions of dying capitalism to a head, exposing its rottenness and issuing the compelling need for its overthrow. The Great October Revolution in Russia confirmed the rise of the proletariat as the new revolutionary class and socialism as the path forward to rid humanity of the scourge of crises and aggressive wars inherent in the moribund capitalist system. The establishment of socialism in Russia , the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat in the advanced countries, and the national liberation struggles of the colonial peoples all contributed to deepening the general crisis of capitalism.
Immediately after World War I, imperialism launched counter-revolution on the world scale to destroy socialism in the new Soviet Republics, to arrest the development of the revolutionary and national liberation struggles, and thus to stabilize its crisis-ridden system. Fascism soon became the cutting-edge of the reactionary politics of the monopolists. The principal aim of fascism was to crush the Communist Parties, thereby depriving the proletariat of the consciousness and organization necessary to wage the revolutionary class struggle. Open state terror against its “own” people at home and unbridled aggression in safeguarding and extending monopolist spheres of influence abroad became characteristic features of fascism.
The unleashing of fascism, the installation of fascism regimes in a number of countries during the 20s and 30s were symptomatic of a further intensification of capitalism's general crisis. World War II, in fact, proved that capitalism's general crisis had entered a new period. Fascism was the monopolies' answer to stop the development of what Lenin referred to as a “full-scale European socialist revolution.” In response to the counter-revolutionary offensive of the monopoly bourgeoisie, the International Communist Movement, following the orientation prescribed by Lenin, proposed a new strategy and tactics whereby intermediate stages of proletarian revolution could be employed to fight fascism and war and to effect the dictatorship of the proletariat. The correctness of this new, creative, application of Leninism to concrete conditions was borne out with the victory over the belligerent fascist powers and the advance of the revolutionary struggle of the working class. The proletarian struggle entered transitional stages, such as New Democracy, People's Democracy, etc., in Germany and Eastern Europe as necessary steps for establishing socialism.
But fascism and the counter-revolution were not defeated; they continued in different forms when the US became the bulwark of world reaction after World War II. Through open terror and the revisionist fifth column, US fascism and world imperialism destroyed the Marxist-Leninist line and organization of Communist parties in many countries, including the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc where socialism was eventually defeated. The recent overthrow of socialism in Albania, which faced many years of savage imperialist encirclement and revisionist plots and intrigues, was a continuation of fascism's post-war policy.
Thus, in the US today where fascism is assuming a more extreme form, where the policy of counter-revolution is being intensified, the problems of intermediary stages for proletarian revolution must also be broached. Analysis must be done to define the immediate political objective and demands of the practical program upon which all strategy and tactics are based.
Strategy and Tactics
Stalin described the Leninist strategy and tactics as “the science of leadership in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat ”( Concerning the Questions of the Strategy and Tactics of the Russian Communists ). I have already noted their significance as essential components of the plan to reconstruct the Party and in developing the politics of the working class struggle. I have also generally characterized their role in relation to the Party program. Now, it is necessary to make a closer examination of this science of leadership, focusing on the questions of particular concern to the US Marxist-Leninists today.
Three major elements figure into the Leninist strategy: (1) the determination of the direction of the main blow at a given stage of the revolution; (2) an evaluation of the direct and indirect reserves of the proletariat and a plan to organize and lead the revolutionary forces to strike the main blow; and (3) the fight to carry out this plan throughout a given stage of the revolution.
The first, the determination of the main blow of the proletariat, requires that theory and program have defined the stage of the working class movement and its immediate objective. A pressing issue of utmost importance for US strategy is to settle the questions of the stage and objective as quickly as possible. For unless there is clarity and precision on these points, no scientific strategy can be formulated. If we return briefly to the question as it was raised in the last section, the crucial ramifications for strategy become manifest, viz.: Is the aim to remove the Junta and replace the fascist state with a New Democratic Republic through a popular democratic revolution in which, among other things, a Congress is established that represents the interests of the working class and popular and oppressed masses, thus insuring economic progress and the rights of the people, etc., that is, a transitional political system towards establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Or, is the aim to replace the fascist state with the dictatorship of the proletariat, moving expeditiously on the path of socialist construction through socialist revolution? The former is oriented mainly towards a struggle against fascism and imperialist war emphasizing the democratic tasks of a minimum program; whereas the latter constitutes the fight for socialism and assumes the revolutionary tasks of the maximum program. Although the minimum and maximum programs are inextricably linked, they cannot be confused when setting strategy. Stalin remarks:
. . . the program may consist of two parts: a maximum and a minimum. It goes without saying that strategy designed for the minimum part of the program is bound to differ from strategy designed for the maximum part; and strategy can be called truly Marxist only when it is guided in its operations by the aims of the movement as formulated in the program of Marxism ( Concerning the Questions of the Strategy and Tactics of the Russian Communists ).
With the strategic objective defined, the direction of the main blow of the proletariat can then be determined. A Leninist guideline in this determination is the strategic rule to always direct the main blow at the compromising parties. That is, strategy must target those parties which are the most dangerous to the revolution because they provide the main social support for the enemies of the working class by conciliating the proletariat and people to the reactionary status quo. The compromising parties, through their propaganda and mechanisms, attempt to divert and suppress the working class in its struggle for progress and emancipation.
It is obvious how very important identifying the compromising parties becomes in developing strategy. In fact, Leninism holds that the main weapon and major plan in preparation for the revolutionary advance of the proletariat must be directed toward isolating those parties. What are the compromising parties in the US ? For many years the Marxist-Leninists have directed their fire at what has been labeled the “left wing” of the Democratic Party and its hangers on, e.g. the AFL-CIO, CPUSA, social-democratic parties, etc. This orientation will need to be reassessed in light of an accurately defined strategic objective. And, in this connection, certain questions should be raised in acclimating ourselves to thinking along Leninist lines. Questions like whether or not the so-called “left-wing” alone is the most dangerous compromising party and, if so, what role do the “right-wing” of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party play? For they also have their propaganda and mechanisms for influencing sections of the people, even the working class, and work to subordinate popular interests to big capital. Therefore, the role of these two state parties must be carefully analyzed and taken carefully into account in determining the main blow.
Another major part of Leninist strategy is to win both working class and the popular and oppressed masses away from compromising parties and to unite them in the common battle against the bourgeoisie. Crucial in this regard is solving the problem of reserves of the proletariat . Proceeding from the general program of Marxism, the proletariat is viewed as the leading force of the revolution irrespective of the immediate objective. But the working class does not enter battle alone; it must rally and unite allies around its program and politics. Furthermore, it must exploit the contradictions that exist between other classes and the monopolists and among the monopolists themselves. The task of evaluating these direct and indirect reserves of the revolution is the prerequisite for wielding this weapon of Leninist strategy.
A clear picture of these reserves can only be gained by a scientific class analysis of society – no simple and easy task. Leninist theory, however, prescribes general criteria for identifying them. In the case of direct reserves or the possible allies of the proletariat, the following should be considered:
(a) small farmers, small proprietors, independent tradesmen, intellectuals, professionals, government employees
This section is comprised of the middle class and intermediate strata within the country, sometimes referred as the petty-bourgeoisie. It is a large, diversified section of the population which stands between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In the US this section has historically played a significant role in both progressive and reactionary political currents; therefore, no strategy can be viable without taking it into account. Either this section, or pasts of it, has to be won over into an alliance with the working class, or, if this is not possible, it must be politically neutralized so that it cannot become a reserve of the bourgeoisie.
(b) the proletariat of neighboring countries
Developing strong internationalist bonds with working class worldwide is a major responsibility and constant activity of all Communists, but the relations between the American proletariat and the proletariat of Canada and Mexico are of particular importance given their close proximity and the fact that their countries are under the jack-boot of US imperialist domination.
(c) the revolutionary movement of the oppressed nations, peoples, and dependent countries
Because of the US position in the world as a dominant imperialist power with a vast neo-colonial empire, this section of reserves must be viewed as an integral part of the proletarian strategy. Marxism-Leninism stresses that the interests of the proletarian movement in the imperialist countries and the national liberation and democratic movements in the neo-colonies require the union of these two revolutionary movements into a common front against the common enemy – imperialism. Victory of the revolutionary movements in the developing and dependent countries is deemed impossible without the formation and consolidation of this common revolutionary front . Thus it is crucial for the proletariat to actively support the genuine struggles of the nations and peoples for liberation, and the slogan of the right of nations to self-determination and secession, i.e., the right to existence as states independent of imperialism's neo-colonial tentacles.
How this common revolutionary front should be employed in the proletarian strategy for the US has presented itself as a vexed problem in our movement for a long time. To make matters worse, anti-Leninist theories have confused the issue. For example, the “theory of three worlds” completely negated the revolutionary task of the proletariat in the oppressor countries for socialist revolution by overemphasizing its role of support for “third world” struggles. On the other hand, social-chauvinist attitudes in our movement have downplayed the need for the US working class to militantly support the liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples. Both of these incorrect orientations work against the politics of the revolutionary front. Thus a solution to the problem requires a firmer grasp of the nature and role of this front and an objective assessment of the struggles for national liberation internationally. Moreover, it must also include a definitive, scientific position of the struggles of the oppressed peoples within US territory, viz., the struggles of the African-American, Chicano, Native American, and Puerto Rican peoples.
In addition to the direct strategic reserves, Leninism also considers the indirect reserves which consist of:
(a) the contradictions and conflicts among the non-proletarian classes within the country which can be utilized by the proletariat to weaken the enemy and strengthen its own reserves.
(b) contradictions, conflicts and wars, e.g. imperialist wars among the capitalist states that are used by the proletariat in its offensive or in its maneuvering in the event of a forced retreat.
The indirect reserves of both a and b are identified through an analysis of classes and their socio-political tendencies during a given stage of the revolution. For example, in applying the first category to US conditions we see that the petty-bourgeoisie democrats are in conflict with the financial oligarchy and its minion bourgeoisie over solutions to the all-sided crisis of capitalism. And category b points to the current sharpening contradictions and conflicts among the big imperialist states as the economic depression rapidly spreads and deepens throughout the world, the binary-superpower order weakens, and local wars erupt threatening to trigger larger inter-imperialist conflicts.
“The task of strategic leadership,” says Stalin, “is to make proper use of all these reserves for the achievement of the main object of the revolution at the given stage of its development ”( The Foundations of Leninism ). As for direct reserves, the Marxist-Leninists must decide what allies the proletariat must unite with and mobilize to forge the major revolutionary force that will effect the main blow. And to make proper use of the secondary reserves, we must know what contradictions and conflicts should be exploited among the non-proletarian classes and among the imperialist states that weaken the enemy and strengthens the proletarian reserves.
Determining the direction of the main blow, forming alliances and exploiting contradictions, organizing and leading the revolutionary forces to effect the main blow, are all part of the strategic plan. This means deciding in advance the nature of the operations for a whole stage of the class war during which this plan will remain operable. Strategic leadership must develop a battle plan, and the fight to carry it out is waged in accordance with the laws of the class struggle. A study and explanation of the laws of the class struggle and their application in the US warrants a separate discussion. But suffice it to say that the class struggle must always be waged on the ideological, political, and economic fronts simultaneously and in a planned way. It is through this scientific leadership embodied in vanguard organization that the proletariat and its Party will elevate themselves to the main and leading force for revolutionary change in society and be in a position to achieve the immediate political objective and the entire revolutionary program.
Leninist tactics are an integral part of strategy and are coordinated with and subordinated to it. While strategy remains constant throughout a given stage of revolution, tactics may change several times during the same stage depending on the ebb or flow of the movement. But what are tactics and how is tactical leadership attained? According to Stalin:
The task of tactical leadership is to master all forms of struggle and organization of the proletariat and to ensure that they are used properly so as to achieve, with the given relation of forces, the maximum results necessary to prepare strategic success ( The Foundations of Leninism ).
Mastering all forms of struggle and organization of the proletariat and utilizing them properly call for certain conditions to be met. The two most important are:
to place priority on those forms of struggle and organization which are most appropriate in the particular conditions during the ebb and flow of the movement and most effective in mobilizing the revolutionary forces into struggle. A cardinal aspect of this condition is to educate the masses through their own experience in the struggle.
To locate at any given moment, the specific task or “link in the chain of the process,” viz., the most immediate and central task whose successful fulfillment facilitates the accomplishment of all the other immediate tasks.
It is entirely clear, however, that little mastery of the forms and organization of struggle can take place in the strict sense if there is no working class vanguard: a compact group of proletarian leaders headed by professional revolutionaries, who are skillfully trained in the Marxist-Leninist theory and capable of applying this theory in practice to wage the class struggle, who, even though lacking in certain experience, are responsible and resourceful enough to assimilate the lessons of the struggle while they are waging it and hence grow into true leaders of the class on their feet!
We have been discussing the Leninist theory on program and strategy. There is hardly any doubt that the program for socialist revolution in the US as well as the revolutionary strategy can be worked out by a serious Marxist-Leninist group or even an individual possessing the necessary theoretic knowledge and the wherewithal to apply it correctly. But the fight to win the aims of the program by implementing the strategy and militating in the field of tactics requires much more than productive individuals or groups; it demands that the working class be organized under the banner of a strong and well-organized Communist Party. As mentioned earlier, the Vanguard must be reconstructed on the basis of a systematic plan. And here, I can draw attention to the fact that this plan itself must be considered from the standpoint of tactics, for the Party is a form of organization of the proletariat – indeed, its highest, most advanced and best organized form which, to rephrase Stalin's words, is absolutely crucial to achieve the maximum results necessary to prepare strategic success.
Therefore, Leninist tactics need to be applied in planning the reconstruction of the Party. First, the plan must be correlated to the particular conditions and existing ebb or flow of the working class movement. Additionally, the “link in the chain,” i.e., the specific task that must be identified and carried out which will drive the overall Party-building process forward.