Founding Principles of the Workers Party (1940)

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The Workers Party

1. The party aims at the achievement of
state power by the American workers as
part of the international proletarian revo-
lution and for the purpose of establishing
a claselcss socialist society. It bases itself
on the revolutionary traditions of Marx,
Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, whose funda-
mental ideas are crystallized in *he pro-
gram of the Fourth International. The aim
of overthrowing the mightiest imperialist
power in the world and reorganizing society
on socialist foundations determines the na-
ture, the task and the activities of the
party.

2. The party bases itself unequivocally
on the principles of Marxism, that is, the
theory and practice of the proletarian revo-
lution. Marxism is not a finished and im-
mutable dogma, but a guide to action of
the militant working class. Marxism, far
from having been "refuted" by modem so-
cial developments and conflicts, has been
confirmed by them—if it is understood as
a means of Interpreting and changing so-
ciety—and remains the only means where-
by these new developments and conflicts
can be understood. Since Marxism is by its
very nature a revolutionary, living theory
and not a set of stone tablets, it most be
constantly enriched and modified, in the
spirit in which it has been developed up to
now by its greatest proponents, and in the
light of new events and experiences. In
this sense, the party considers itself an ag-
gressive champion of Marxism, a defender
of its principles from the attacks ot all its
enemies.

3. The party emphasizes that, as a party
of the international revolution, its main
task is the organization and leadership of
the struggle for socialism in the United
States. Preoccupation with the position and
problems of the labor movement in other
countries has only too often meant ignoring
the position and problems of the labor
movement in this country and has been the
pretext for not analyzing and participating
actively in the class struggle here. The
party aims to break with this spirit of
pseudo - internationalism. True internation-
alism means the application of the lessons
learned from the world-wide struggle against
capitalism to the struggle against the main
enemy of the working class at home as the
best means of advancing the interests of
the international revolution. The real test
of the American revolutionist is not so much
his opposition to British, French or Ger-
man capitalism, or even to Stalinism, but
to the ruling class and its social system in
the United States.

4. In the sense indicated above, the party
does not hesitate to call itself an American
party, the party of the American working
class fighting for the revolution in the
United States. This demands, however, that
the party have or acquire a thorough knowl-
edge of the economic and political situation
in the country in order that it may be able
effectively to center its main activities in
the American class struggle. The move-
ment in this country has all too often dis-
played a more intimate knowledge of the
situation in the Soviet Union or China or
France than of the United States. It is im-
perative to make a radical change in this
respect. If the party is to gain the confi-
dence and leadership of the American work-
ers, it must root itself in the American scene.
It must study and analyze the history and
the economic position of American impe-
rialism; it must study and analyze Amer-
ican politics not only in general, but in
their concrete and daily development; it
must study and analyze the American la-
dot movement, incae studies ana analyses,
however, are worth while from only one
standpoint, namely, that they will enable
the party to take active, intelligent and ef-
fective part in the class struggle in this
country, to intervene promptly and directly
in American politics, and not merely to
write about them as literary observers.
What is said about the problem on a na-
tional scale applies with equal force to the
problem on a local scale. The party must
train its membership that its knowledge of
the situation "abroad" is surpassed by its
knowledge of the labor movement and the
political situation locally, so that in each
locality the party is able to participate di-
rectly and in time in the local labor move-
ment and in local politics. From the lowest
unit to the highest, the party must learn
to react with fully energy to the needs and
struggles of the American working class.
The respect, confidence and support of the
American masses can be won in no other
way.

5. Participation in the class struggle as
an effective force is possible for the party
only if it is imbued with a spirit of action
and combat. The working masses will not
come to the party if it confines itself to
telling them what they ought to do. It must
show by example, by its own militant ac-
tivity in the midst of the workers and side
by side with them, that its program and
leadership are worthy of their support.
There is no other way for a propagandist
group to develop into a party of the masses.
This dictates an overwhelming emphasis
upon party activism, day in and day out,
and not limited to rare and isolated spec-
tacular occasions. This means a constant
training of the new (and old) members to
the conception that the party demands of
each and every comrade a basic minimum of
activity on party assignment. This means
a constant selection and advancement of
the active party members and a sifting out
of purely book members who retard the
work of others. A party facing such enor-
mous tasks, as ours does, must place cor-
responding responsibilities before its mem-
bership from top to bottom. It must be the
aim of every branch to assign each mem-
ber a specific task each week, thus doing
away with the paralyzing division between
"doers" and "non-doers." It is not necessary
to approach every comrade, especially the
new recruit, with such an attitude as will
result in alienating him from the party im-
mediately. But the orientation of a party
of action and of individual responsibility
must be kept firmly in mind until it is
thoroughly established that the party is a
serious organization of combat and not a
casual discussion club for passing visitors.
Otherwise the party will surely decline ink
a futile reformist sect.

6. The party cannot grow out of its pres-
ent stage of a propagandist group unless
its ideas, its prugrara, it3 slogans arc
adopted by wide sections of the working
class. Our party is the party of the work-
ing class. The socialist revolution is the
revolution of the working class. The party
can exert no influence at all in the Amer-
ican class struggle unless it exerts an in-
fluence in the working class. Hence, its
main efforts must be directed toward win-
ning workers to its ranks, primarily from
the trade union movement. The proletarian-
ization of the party is not only one of the
most important guarantees of its revolu-
tionary integrity, but is indispensable to its
development as a decisive political factor
in the country. The problem of acquiring
an overwhelming working class predomi-
nance in the party is not to be solved me-
chanically or by the mere repetition of the
wish. It is in the first place a political
problem. It is solved by the political activity
of the party. If the activity of the party,
its slogans and campaigns, correspond to
the needs and interests of the workers, the
workers will respond to the appeals of the
party. But this activity, these slogans and
campaigns must be directed consciously and
deliberately to the workers—primarily to
those organized in the mass organizations,
although not to the exclusion of the unor-
ganized. Systematic, planned efforts must
be made in every locality for members to
establish contacts with individual workers
and groups of workers. Every party mem-
ber must consciously direct his efforts to-
ward becoming a propagandist and organ-
izer of his fellow workers in the shop and
neighborhood. Every party unionist must
understand that his duty in the union—best
fulfilled by being the ablest, most active
and most class-conscious union militant—
is to advance the influence and forces of the
party in his organization. The party as a
whole must concentrate on helping each in-
dividual member solve the problem of win-
ning to its ranks those workers with whom
he has contact. Experience, especially of
the Stalinist party, shows that the initial
isolation of the party from the workers in
a given locality can be overcome by the se-
lection of concentration points—factories
and unions in the locality—at which a de-
termined and systematic campaign of agi-
tation and propaganda is conducted. A se-
rious party of action must establish a net-
work of such concentration points through-
out the country. Without it proletarianiza-
tion remains an empty phrase.

7. A revolutionary party functioning in
present-day United States must direct its
attention for the whole next period to two
of the most down-trodden and dispossessed
sections of the American working class: the
Negro masses and the "loeked-out genera-
tion," the youth, each of which occupies a
special position in the country and must be
treated as a special problem. The neglect of
the Negro problem is the disgrace of the
American revolutionary movement. The ex-
tremely modest efforts made up t*> now
show what a vast reservoir of recruitment
and revolutionary potentialities is repre-
sented by the Negro masses. A branch func-
tioning in a city with a Negro population
is not worthy of the name of a revolution-
ary organization unless it recruits Negro
workers into its ranks. Special attention
must be devoted to this problem by the
press, literature, agitators and organizers
of the party. Similarly with the youth. The
unrelieved crises show them that they have
literally nothing to gain by maintaining
capitalism and everything to gain by over-
turning it. A party branch which does not
have a youth organization functioning side
by side with it is only half a branch. The
youth, combining studies with activity in
the class struggle, is the most important
single reserve of the party and its indis-
pensable auxiliary. The party must root
out the rotten reformist attitude toward the
youth expressed in a contemptuous superi-
ority, in the attitude of seeking to confine
the youth to doing the "dirty work" of the
party and nothing more. At the same time,
the party must help the youth organiza-
tion overcome the tendency to decline into
a sectarian "super-political" movement and
aid it to become a broad mass movement of
militant youth, a training ground for the
party and the class struggle. The party
must give special assistance to the youth
in establishing contact with industrial
workers and the mass labor organizations,
where the talents and energies of the young
militants best serve the movement. It is
most significant that, except for the Stalin-
ists, ours is the only organization that has
a youth movement of any importance. This
is a precious revolutionary acquisition
which must be constantly expanded.

Danger of Bureaucratism
8. The tragic experiences of the interna-
tional labor movement, and in the Soviet
Union particularly, with the ravages of bu-
reaucratism, have made all workers rightly
concerned with the problem of workers' de-
mocracy. Bureaucratism is the product of
the social influence, ideology and pressure
of the bourgeoisie in the labor movement,
undermining, corrupting and demoralizing
it. As an unrelenting fighter against class-
collaborationism, the party must at the
same time become the outstanding enemy
of bureaucratism in the working class
movement. Opposition to bourgeois democ-
racy in nowise signifies opposition or indif-
ference to workers' democracy; on the con-
trary, opposition to bourgeois democracy
without counterposing workers' democracy
is only grist to the mill of fascism. It must
not allow the slightest taint of bureaucrat-
ism or tolerance toward bureaucratism to
stain and discredit its name. Above all, it
must relentlessly combat the pestilence of
Stalinism, which darkened the inspiring
beacon light of the Russian Revolution and
which has alienated millions of workers
from the revolutionary movement and the
cause of socialism. The socialist movement,
socialism itself, cannot be built by bureau-
crats or by bureaucratic methods, but only
be destroyed by them. Socialism must be
and can only be the achievement of the dem-
ocratically-organized, class conscious action
of the working masses in power.

9. The party, therefore, is organized on
the basis of democratic centralism. True
party democracy is possible only on the
basis of an active membership able to and
capable of controlling its leadership, and a
responsible elective leadership which justi-
fies itself by the correct policies it pursues
and the activities which it itself engages
in. A party fighting the class war must be
a centralized and disciplined organization,
which demands unity in action on the basis
of democratically determined policies. This
concept must not, however, be debased into
the bureaucratic dogma that since the party
"is at war," a regime of military-bar racks-
discipline must prevail. The right of dis-
cussion and of free criticism of the party
leadership and policy is a membership right,
at all times, to be modified only by the
strictly imposed requirements of party ac-
tivity. Without a rich, free and variegated
internal life, party democracy (and, in the
long run, the party itself) is made impos-
sible. A leadership which is satisfied with
obedience, regardless of how obtained, has
already abandoned the most elementary
conceptions of party democracy. A member-
ship which gives such obedience simultane-
ously surrenders party democracy.
Party Education

10. An ignorant and uninformed member-
ship is the bureaucrat's paradise. The first
prerequisite of party democracy is an in-
formed membership. An indispensable ele-
ment of such information is a regular, all
year-round bulletin in which the party lead-
ership gives a regular accounting of its
stewardship, informs the membership of its
important decisions and motivates them, in-
forms the membership about important dif-
ferences in the leadership or the ranks,
and permits the free discussion of problems
of party organization, activity and current
policy. However, the discussion of impor-
tant political questions is caricatured and
rendered meaningless if it is carried cn by
an "educated caste" on the one side and an
uneducated membership on the other. The
training of every party and youth member
in the fundamental principles of Marxism,
in the main elements of international and
American politics, becomes, therefore, one
of the best assurances for the preservation
of meaningful party democracy. The arm-
Jng of the party membership with the the-
ory of Marxism is meant not only to equip
it for more effective participation in the
"lass strugle, but also for more effective
oarticipation in the inner life of the party,
in the development of its policies, in con-
stantly improving the relationships between
the leadership and the ranks. A party mem-
ber indifferent to continually learning more
about the fundamental theoretical princi-
ples of the movement is a party member
who will be tolerant toward bureaucratism,
or rather, who will become an easy victim
of a bureaucracy, not only in the labor
movement as a whole, but specifically, in
his own party.

11. From this follows the need of con-
stant attention to the theoretical develop-
ment of the party. Every new member of
the party, and especially all of the youth,
must pass through at least an elementary
series of study groups. Every branch of the
party must set aside regular periods for
educational discussion, either on a theoreti-
cal question or a problem of current poli-
tics. The educational work of the party
must be guided and centralized by a special
national department. The regular publica-
tion, distribution and study of the party's
theoretical organ must have the attention
of the entire party and youth, and not mere-
ly of a select group of "specialists." This
organ must be one of the strongest pillars
of the party. It must treat the fundamental,
theoretical problems of the movement from
the Marxian standpoint. It must deal main-
ly, however, with the problems and position
of American capitalism and the American
labor movement, and demonstrate that the
new generation of Marxists in this coun-
try are not only capable of repeating what
Marx and Lenin said but of conducting in-
dependent and much needed investigations
and analyses of new problems, of new po-
litical and social phenomena. It must not
fear the discussion of new or even old prob-
lems on the ground of an "orthodoxy" which
has more in common with divine revelation
than with genuine living Marxism. It should
rather seek to continue the really best tra-
ditions of the Marxist movement, and its
theoretical discussions, of the pre-war days
in Germany and Russia which made possi-
ble the enrichment of the arsenal of Marx-
ism by such thinkers as Mehring, Luxem-
burg, Lenin and Trotsky.
Party Press

12. Just as the theoretical organ of the
party must devote itself mainly to propa-
ganda, so the popular political press and
literature of the party must devote them-
selves mainly to agitation, i.e., to concen-
tration on the immediate political slogans
and campaigns of the party. If these cam-
paigns are to mean anything, however, it is
necessary to make a sharp turn from the
old, humdrum propaganda methods. The
press must truly be a popular political
press for the American worker. If it is to
influence and to be read by the American
worker, it must be written in a style and
a language that will make our ideas acces-
sible to him. That means, firstly, an end
to the "professional jargon" of our move-
ment which is unintelligible to him. It
means an end to long and unread articles
and to heavy, obviously labored propaganda
efforts. It means writing about questions
which not only concern him but in which
he is interested — questions of American
politics and the American labor movement,
not to the exclusion of international ques-
tions, to be sure, but nevertheless with the
main emphasis on what he sees about him
and what he knows about. It means, also,
a paper to which the workers and worker-
readers contribute, the adoption and exten-
sion on a large scale of that "correspond-
ence to the editor" which features all the
popular bourgeois papers. It means the at-
tempt to center and continue the agitation
of the paper on a central campaign for a
given period of time, as contrasted to desul-
tory, fitful agitation from week to week.
This applies even more strongly to pam-
phleteering. The bulk of the party's pam-
phlets must be extremely cheap in price,
extremely popular in presentation, devoted
always to a single question, in most cases
a question that is topical and Telated to
the American scene. The party can well af-
ford to model itself, in this field, on the best
examples of agitational work in the pre-
war socialist and syndicalist movements in
this country. The lecture tours of party
speakers, which must be systematically con-
ducted, should also be arranged in the same
spirit. In all its agitational and organizing
work, the party must emphasize to the
American workers that it is not a move-
ment concerned primarily with things and
problems which they now feel to be alien
or remote from them, but primarily with
the things and problems he feels are most
acutely his, that it considers it to be, in a
word, its task as internationalists to lead
in the struggle for the revolution in America.

April, 1940.