An Introduction to What Is Meant by Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action
The notion of objective forms of revolutionary action originates in a materialistic and political appreciation of the experience historically accumulated by the international communist movement. Class struggle has produced an impressive amount of activist experiences, forms of struggle, and means of combat. Indeed, there exists a series of distinct means of action such as agitation, leaflets, newspapers, graffitis, communist nuclei, sabotage, guerilla warfare, industrial implantation, strikes, kidnappings, insurrections, barricades, journals, conferences, rallies, all sorts of clandestine work, armed struggle, seizure of power, arming the masses, or still yet the organization of political power. These different forms of struggle make up what we call the spectrum of revolutionary action. Their common trait is that they concretely appear in the history of class struggle and that they can be repeated in practice in today’s prevailing conditions. In other words, they were not abstract inventions and they are not fixed in the past.
Organizations who aspire to lead proletarian revolution must imperatively seek to appropriate this vast accumulation of experience. To do this, they must politically evaluate each of these forms of struggle and discern their similarities and differences. In doing this, our organization came to consider that all of these forms of struggle could be classified into four general categories (the objective forms of revolutionary action): classical propaganda, revolutionary action among the masses (RAM), armed propaganda and protracted people’s war (PPW). In this way our organization also came to adopt its program and fix its goals, consisting in putting everything into practice that is necessary to the overthrowing of the imperialist Canadian bourgeoisie and its reactionary State by protracted people’s war. This protracted confrontation must be preceded by a period of political and strategic preparation affording for the deployment of all the means and apparatuses necessary to undertake forms of revolutionary action that are constantly more complete. It is this organic and totalizing conception of the revolutionary process in Canada, as well as its practical implications, that were at the heart of our line struggle with the Canadian opportunists. We denounce that they negate RAM and replace it with reformist, economist work, that they prefer to build anti-party intermediate organizations rather than adequate apparatuses, their negation of the principle defining the initiation of People’s War as a politico-military initiative of the Party and not a defensive reaction, that they abandon our conception of the accumulation of forces (resumed in the slogan “fight and confront the enemy”) to instead propagate a revisionist orientation of the mass line, and lastly that they refuse to equip the Party with the means of assuming all of the forms of revolutionary action. These erroneous perspectives were the cement preserving the opportunist organizational gains made outside of Quebec and more particularly in Ontario from 2011 to 2017. The quantitative progression of our Party inevitably led to practical questions that were at the root of its split into a revolutionary fraction and a revisionist one. Our conception − of the objective forms of revolutionary action and of the party that builds itself by assuming them − had the merit of forcing the opportunists to act against this conception and unmask themselves. The camps are thus demarcated: continue, or stop halfway; prepare to pay the price of revolution, or seek refuge in bourgeois legality and hide behind the forms of practice it consents to.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers there exist today 4 objective forms of revolutionary action: classical propaganda, revolutionary action among the masses, armed propaganda, and protracted people’s war.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers it must engage in each of them. Every communist party that succeeded in making revolution engaged in all of the objective forms of practice existing in their time.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers a complete communist party to be the only type of party that engages in all of the objective forms of revolutionary action − the only type of party that can manage to make revolution.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers People’s War to be the form of revolutionary action that subsumes all the others, allowing for a sustainable commitment to the four of them in order to prevail in the conquest of power.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers the task of communists to be the building of a complete communist party. The success or the failure of this operation is determined by the ability or the inability to initiate People’s War and ultimately conquer political power.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers the task of the current historical period to be the political preparation of People’s War via the deployment of ever more complex and complete forms of revolutionary action.
The Birth of Marxism and Actual Communist Action
What we name revolutionary action today appeared at the birth of Marxism. The numerous political battles of Marx and Engels made way for the foundation of historical materialism and dialectical materialism. Their struggle resulted in great political revelations regarding the capitalist mode of production as well as the first historical and materialist analyses of the issues of class struggle: State and class power, political struggle and economic skirmishes, the trade union movement and the action of communists with in it, the workers’ movement and national movements, etc. The major political battles associated with the emergence of Marxism allowed for the triumph of scientific socialism over utopian socialism, the birth of the social-democratic movement under the slogan of fusion of scientific socialism with the workers’ movement, as well as the first great international advances of the revolution (the Communist League, the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA), the Paris Commune, the translation of guiding works in several languages, etc.)
If one observes the path taken by Marx and Engels, it is clear that Marxism was constituted in action. The material basis of their genius was their concrete participation in the real movement against capitalism, their contributions to the revolutionary struggles of their day, and their resolve to accomplish the immediate tasks required by these struggles. Their clarity of view was illustrated for the first time in the polemics they undertook in the Rheinische Zeitung and the German-French Annals. The 1840s constituted a great political and philosophical laboratory in which Marxism was developed. In this period, the tenants of Marxism led the first battles against idealists and partisans of utopian socialism. Their political clarifications were contained in the Manifesto of the Communist Party. This work was created for the occasion of one of the international proletariat’s first attempts at political regroupment. It was adopted as the central document of the Communist League, which in turn concluded a series of victories against the utopic conceptions of the first socialist currents, conceptions which would progressively lose influence in the following years.
In a time when the consolidation of capitalism in Europe was still recent, the dominant positions in the revolutionary movement were held by utopian currents. Characterizing these first socialist tendencies was their adoption of a class position that was foreign to the proletariat. Indeed, the theoretical propositions of utopian socialists reflected their own class position. They were not part of the proletariat (being artisans, petty-bourgeois, etc.), but they were nonetheless placed in confrontation, to varying degrees, with the new capitalist relations of production. The utopian socialists formulated and proposed ideas for projects (cooperatives, mutalism, multiplication of small property, ahistorical returns to savage feudalism, etc.) that would secure them an improvement of their own material conditions of existence, but that constituted a political cul-de-sac for the proletariat, whose central role they denied. Utopian socialism shared a serious problem with a great number of movements (political, philosophical, economic, etc.) and fashionable bourgeois theories: idealism. Indeed, each of these theories refused in their own way to apprehend material reality and its transformation. The idealism of the utopian socialist currents limited itself to inventing imaginary worlds, cut off from experience and social class. The development of the scientific categories of historical materialism (mode of production, social classes, surplus value, relations of production, labour power, infrastructure, superstructure, etc.) was the product of this struggle against the idealism that rattled the socialist movement of the time. The center of gravity of this process was to understand how to realize the act of transformation of material reality. Such was the mindset in which the great political and economic analyses of the following years were carried out.
It is remarkable to note how much the notions of deed, actual action, and revolutionary praxis were at the heart of the work of Marx and Engels in the 1840s. In their struggle against the petty-bourgeois conceptions of utopian socialism, Marx and Engels defended that communism was not an abstract creation on paper, but indeed that it was based on the historical development of society and its material contradictions: “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.” (German Ideology). It is in the existing conditions that the premises of revolution and its objectives were to be found. In writing this, Marx and Engels refrained from sticking to a simply contemplative postulate which would have been out of phase with the actual existence of classes, their struggles and their action. Hostile to every kind of mechanicism and spontaneism, they pronounced on the necessity and the importance of the action of communists: “In reality and for the practical materialist, i.e. the communist, it is a question of revolutionising the existing world, of practically attacking and changing existing things.” (German Ideology). It is through the struggle to develop, conquer and dominate the objective movement of social development using subjective action that one succeeds in revolutionising the existing world. Revolutionaries must understand and master the means of action needed in order to act within this real movement if or they will be condemned to observe it from afar.
In criticizing the limits of metaphysical pre-Marxist materialism, Marx and Engels situate political subjects (social classes) in the objective world and demonstrate that the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are in fact interdependent components of the same material reality. “The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included – is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively.” (Thesis no. 1 on Feuerbach). According to mechanical materialists, objective reality is a fixed, immutable object. Conversely, for Marx and Engels, it is constantly in movement and transforms itself with the ebb and flow of class struggle. As for metaphysicians, they do not conceive of the possibility of modifying this objective reality. Also, they deny the strategic importance of human action in the real movement, in other words the importace of a Communist Party and its revolutionary action to lead the process of social transformation.
Developing a theory of knowledge, Marxism in its early days postulated that practice was the criterion of truth. “The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice.” (Thesis no. 2 on Feuerbach). It is anti-materialist to consider knowledge as detached from the act of transformation. It is by one’s scientific mastery of the revolutionary action deployed to transform society that one may come to validate analyses of reality. It is in this way that we can claim Marxism is a science of revoltuion. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” (Thesis no. 11 on Feuerbach)
If the point is to change the world and not only interpret it, there is yet another form of idealism that must be surmounted. One does not transform reality with ideas, intellectual speculations and imaginary projects: one transforms reality with actual communist action. In order to determine how to undertake this action, Marx and Engels developed their grasp of the constitutive elements of class struggle: the proletariat as revolutionary subject, the importance of seizing power to be able transform society, the political objectives of the workers’ movement, etc. “In order to abolish the idea of private property, the idea of communism is quite sufficient. It takes actual communist action to abolish actual private property.” (1844 Manuscripts)
The Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action Regroup All of the Forms of Struggle Produced by History
Making Revolution is a Conscious and Scientific Process
Revolution is a fight between preparation and uncertainty, between control and chaos. Proletarian revolution is the most conscious revolution there is, the one that must leave as little space as possible to the unforeseeable. As Maoists aiming to deploy an actual communist action, we accord a great importance to the notions of mastery, consciousness, acquisition of capacities, reproducibility, accumulation of experience and scientifically controlled progression.
Marxism is above all a science of revolution: It aims to accumulate knowledge regarding the objective laws of the development of revolutions and thus develop a proper understanding of the manner in which revolutionary action must be taken. In this way, communists seek to master their own experience by acquiring the ability to politically and scientifically evaluate in which manner to intervene in the working class, to set their forces in place, to develop and to build a revolutionary vanguard party capable of formulating a strategy, elaborating tactics and putting them into practice. Marxism, as a science of revolution, aims to master the act of material transformation of society.
Revolutionary action is the central element of the revolutionary experience a Communist Party needs to master scientifically. Too often, the scientific character of Marxism is reduced to a simple and banal analysis of objective reality. For example, social phenomena are quantified and qualified, as if it were possible to do even this while cut off from social practice. A rupture between theory and practice takes place when Marxism is confined to a purely contemplative and intellectual aprpoach. But the sum of analyses of material reality must be used to understand the concrete objectives of a revolution, to progress consciously and to reach People’s War. All of the practical arsenal and all of the theoretical wealth of Maoism disappears as soon as it is separated from revolutionary action. The point here is not to reduce the importance of political economy or great analyses, but to correctly situate them in their relationship to revolutionary practice.
In Lenin’s book What Is To Be Done? and in the political progression towards the second congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), there occurred something eminently revolutionary, something scientifically mastered. The theses advanced in this book were not simply analyses of political situations (the history of strikes in Russia, the historical notion of the fusion of scientific socialism and the workers’ movement, the material conditions of existence of the proletariat and their impact on class consciousness, artisanal localism and social-democratic circles in Russia). Indeed they were used as considerations in deciding how a revolutionary party should act. They were exact because they were products of a scientific method. The struggle against economists was the result of a political and scientific appreciation of the way to intervene in the struggle of the masses in order to progress towards seizure of power. In the same way, the scientific evaluation of the ensemble of characteristics and limits of the Russian revolutionary movement led to the launching of a Bolshevik political newspaper for all of Russia. This in turn gave birth to the notions of the newspaper as a collective organizer as well as ideological leadership, notions we still use today. Such a conscious proficiency in revolutionary action requires naming embryonic forms of political work, adopting a common language: tactics, agitation, propaganda, leaflet, meeting, circle, antenna, or party, united front, soviet, red army, seizure of power, dictatorship of the proletariat. These words refer to objective realities that communists must understand in order to succeed in scientifically mastering and summating the indirect experience of the international proletariat.
Distinguishing Between the Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action
Throughout various environments, periods and situations, certain forms of struggle appear and disappear, are repeated or modified, go from secondary to principal, attain unprecedented and historic levels, complement each other and trigger attempts to rise to power. They are the fruit of the objective development of the proletariat’s struggle for emancipation. They constitute the experience, triumphs and heritage of this struggle. Just like the technical developments in production and the process of labour in society, they represent potential tools to be mastered, whose use is renewable. Together they make up the objective entirety of the historical revolutionary praxis of the international proletariat. For instance, the first sabotages, the strikes, bargainings and the sum of struggles led by the burgeoning working class. Or the transformation of economic strikes into political strikes, the first demonstrations, the barricades or street fighting. The first forms of groupings of guerrillas, bank robberies, political terrorism and the destruction of infrastructure dear to the bourgeoisie. Occupations, sequestrations, and the taking over of productive forces abandoned by the bourgeoisie. Graffitis, newspapers, illegal leaflets, public agitation, calls for strikes and rally agitation. Creation of fake passports, clandestine networking and detecting informers. The first forms of civil war, the art of insurrection, manoeuvre warfare, guerrilla warfare and attrition warfare. And beyond! These forms were developed out of all of the great experiences of our movement, whether the first skirmishes of the workers’ movement, the associative movement and trade unions, the European revolutions of 1848-1850, the barricades of the 19th century, the Paris Commune, economic and political strikes in Europe, the 1905 revolution in Russia, the October 1917 Insurrection, the civil war in Russia, the urban insurrections in Germany, Hungary and Italy, or the construction of socialism in the USSR, the work of the Komintern, the birth of a veritable legion of Communist Parties all throughout the world, the struggle against fascism, the People’s War in China, United Fronts in America and Europe, national liberation wars, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the fight against revisionism and the combatant praxis of communist organizations in imperialist countries. And beyond! All of these experiences illustrate the audacity and genius contained in the new propositions emerging from the struggle of the masses. These propositions are systematized and led by the greatest vanguards of our class.
Among all of these forms of struggle, some are greatly different from one another while others are sufficiently similar to afford their being grouped into one and the same category. Today, in order to navigate this vast repertoire, it is necessary to properly understand the materialist conception of fundamental categories. For materialists, categories are not a product of the mind: They exist objectively, no matter the subjective appreciation that is made of them. Also, some are more authoritative than others. For example, Lenin characterizes the history of all philosophy as a struggle between materialism and idealism, the two highest and most substantial categories of this domain. All of the forms of struggle contained in the revolutionary experience accumulated up until today correspond to one or another of the categories we name objective forms of revolutionary action. Indeed, these manifest themselves differently depending on the context (for example, the propaganda of communists in China was not the same as that of communists in Russia, the RAM of the 3rd International was different than that of the Bolsheviks, the PPW in Peru was different than the current one in India). They make room for a good number of sub-methods and sub-actions. Interconnecting them are common goals (uniting the proletariat, seizing political power, transforming reality), but taken separately, they do not have the same specific strategic goals.
The Four Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action
Propaganda is the objective form of revolutionary action that regroups all the methods that propagate, synthesize, and intelligibly expose ideas and perspectives. It provokes adherence to a political line, in other words a revolutionary conception of the world. It supplies the masses with political revelations regarding capitalism and revolution. Propaganda allows a party to unite, to formulate a program and to develop its political and ideological leadership. It allows, among other things, to manage ideas, what one thinks, the point of view one adopts, the analyses one defends, language that is accepted and the contemplation of one’s own action. It aids in metabolizing the living and complex problems of class struggle, of party-building, of People’s War, and of the seizure of power. It generates revolutionary action, entrenches political gains, produces adherence and creates the political environment allowing for united action. Notions objectified by different historical experiences of classical propaganda include the collective organizer, the central organ, political revelations, demarcation, ideological cohesion, the unification of the subjective forces of the revolution, ideological leadership, theoretical struggle, general calls, dialogue in class struggle, transmission to the masses, political-ideological initiative and metabolization of the questions of class struggle. In short, propaganda is the political cement of revolutionary activity. It takes on different forms, aims to produce different effects and receives different adjectives throughout the history of the communist movement. Among the historical forms of classical propaganda can be included, newspapers, programs, polemics, leaflets, books, speeches, presentations, drawings, posters, film, song, etc. The specific manner in which to propagate slogans and analyses of the Party within the masses depends upon the period in which the revolutionary period is taking place.
As is the case with a good number of organizations, propaganda was the first center of gravity of the struggle around which our Party had to build itself. Propaganda’s ability to generate the other objective forms of revolutionary action must attain its climax in the practical realization of the Party’s political-ideological initiative, intended to prepare and support the proposition of rising to power, submitted by the vanguard to the People with the launch of People’s War. This initiative must bring about a permanent discussion between the vanguard and the proletariat concerning the forms and the characteristics of the emerging new People’s power. This great dialogue must aim to progressively win support from an ever greater number of sectors of the proletariat for the general progression of the revolution.
Revolutionary Action Among the Masses (RAM)
Revolutionary action among the masses is the objective form of revolutionary action regrouping the sum of methods employed by Maoist organizers within the masses to lead them in action. It aims to develop sustainable and genuine revolutionary links between the vanguard and the proletariat, to raise the abilities and class consciousness of the latter and to make it actively participate in revolutionary struggle. This active presence is not a simple mirror-presence: It is the conscious intervention of the Party in the real movement, an intervention which, through well-demarcated discourse and action, brings the proletariat to participate massively in the revolutionary process and to confront the bourgeoisie and its State. Revolutionary action among the masses is the intervention of communists that brings their party to exist on a daily basis within class struggle and that transforms protest movements into political struggles for proletarian power. In sum, revolutionary action among the masses aims to produce revolutionary action of the masses. We therefore add to this category the collection of forms of struggle and of methods of fighting used by the international proletariat to resist capitalism, whether strikes, sabotage, barricades, demonstrations, occupations, etc. Here, revolutionaries’ task is to systematize the new forms of struggle of the masses, while using the heritage of forms of struggle already accumulated. It is revolutionary action of the masses that is the inexhaustible source of new forms of struggle and new methods of fighting.
A Party with a practice of revolutionary action among the masses prevents itself from becoming an isolated group, devoid of actual existence in the concrete political reality of class struggle. It is active, omnipresent and at the heart of the action of the masses. By developing its participation in struggles and its ability to lead the masses, it operates the fusion of its direct experience with the direct experience of the proletariat in the struggle for political power, making them organic and inseparable. An organization that undertakes RAM rises to its vanguard role by permanently introducing a revolutionary conception of the world into the spontaneous battles of workers.
Included within the different historical experiences of RAM, we can name notions such as contact with the masses, agitation, mobilizing for action, participation of the masses, mass work, sectors of intervention, tactics, working methods, permanent contact, actions within the movement, actions outside of the movement, punctual actions, communist nuclei, industrial implantation, revolutionary action of the masses, systematization of fighting methods developed by the masses, physical manifestations of the masses’ power, confronting the enemy, provoking adherence by action provoking political revelations by action.
The history of the communist movement reveals multiple ways to go about RAM which are rich in teaching and which must be studied. History tells us also that there has never been a Communist Party that did not have a generalized practice of revolutionary action among the masses.
Using Revolutionary Action Among the Masses to Operate the Fusion of Scientific Socialism and the Workers’ Movement in the Second Half of the 19th Century
In the 19th century, partisans of scientific socialism and emerging workers’ parties led an implacable struggle to break with the parallelism that held them outside of the workers’ movement. They struggled for the fusion of scientific socialism with the workers’ movement. They undertook a systematic and resolute struggle to move in to the working class and organize it. Through active participation in the movements of workers and the introduction of perspectives that were still outside of its immediate goals, they engaged in one of the first major experiences of revolutionary action among the masses. From thereon, the workers’ movement began to master the question of political power and party organizing.
The Struggle Against Economism and the Varying Methods of Agitation and Mobilization for Action of the Bolsheviks
The Bolsheviks were exemplary in their ability to mobilize the masses for action. The varying methods of agitation used by the RSDLP allowed it to link itself with the masses in different ways. One may point to illegal leaflets, public agitation, spectacular political action in factories, punctual actions in the daily life of the masses, practical leadership of massive and combative demonstrations, creation of combat groups, leadership of a number of political strikes, etc. The Bolsheviks were in every battle and made themselves into an organic component of the people’s struggle against tsarism.
The struggle against economism and opportunism constituted one of their first great schools for mastering the goals of their action among the masses. They managed to establish the adequate link between the political struggle, the spontaneous protest movement, the intervention of the vanguard and mobilization for action. They developed the notions of political revelations on the seizure of political power and the mobilization of the masses for revolutionary action. In the days of Tsarist Russia, it was not possible to agitate and mobilize the masses for revolutionary action without assuming the confrontations and the backlashes which followed, without paying with their person. The Bolsheviks had no choice but to be consequent, since the masses actively replied to their calls (for example, resisting tsarism and the Black Hundreds).
The 3rd International’s Communist Nuclei in Trade Unions
Faced with the challenges posed by the development of world revolution, the 3rd Communist International elaborated theses on the correct method of linking up with the masses in the global context following the 1917 Revolution. The prevailing conditions in the beginning of the 1920s were those of the regrouping and consolidation of capitalism the world over. The internal situation of emerging bourgeois democracies were no longer the same as that of autocratic Russia where revolutionary action among the masses had prospered. The 3rd International adopted a specific tactic of RAM, devoting a great part of revolutionary activity towards the creation of communist nuclei in real organizations, more particularly in the existing unions. This method of work was considered necessary in light of the struggle’s new centers of gravity and the new concrete situation. The emphasis was on long-term action within the workers’ movement. Building solid foundations and anchorage for emerging Communist Parties everywhere in the class, revolutionaries aimed to preserve themselves rather than immediately mobilize for action. In short, the wager was laid on the building of a permanent link.
Party Work Among the Masses for the Building of the New Power During the People’s War in China
The Protracted People’s War in China gave birth to a quite precise practice of RAM aiming to develop the New Power within the masses. This practice, characterized by the idea of serving the people, was crucial in a context where it was especially important to demarcate politically, given that armed struggle was also waged by reactionary organizations (warlords and the Kuomintang). Moreover, this practice was necessary for the Communist Party of China (CPC) to replenish its supply and preserve armed forces. As well, the building of the New Power, necessary to the Chinese Revolution, called for meticulous and permanent work of linking up with the masses, bringing the latter to recognize this Power, participate in it, and lead the process of social transformation.
This historic practice of RAM, in the context of the People’s War in China, is generally qualified as Party work among the masses. This work took on varying forms: It allowed Party activists to understand the daily life of the masses, to intervene in this daily life correctly, to make contact with the population, to learn to politically solve the living problems of society, to map a territory, to investigate on a given milieu in order to understand its dynamics, to engage in offensive political actions, to unite the masses around the Party and to isolate its enemies. Among the means employed were scouts, public agitators, representatives, etc. RAM during the People’s War equipped the CPC to massively launch the peasantry into revolutionary action, to develop the production and political economy of People’s War, to sustainably recruit forces for the Red Army and to preserve combatant forces.
The New and Original Forms of RAM That Allowed for the Practical Rupture With Revisionism in Europe at the Beginning of the 1960s
In the 1960s in Europe, newly appeared communist organizations were faced with the necessity of rebuilding the camp of revolution. It was in this way that a new type of RAM was developed. The strong competition of revisionist organizations, the confusion generated by their propaganda and their historic betrayal forced revolutionaries to give confidence back to the proletariat and to rupture in practice with revisionism. As a point of fact, great and powerful Communist Parties were abandoning the revolutionary path in deed and continuing to call themselves revolutionary. Demarcation from revisionism in words was thus not enough: it had to be illustrated in practice. In imperialist countries, factory work was grueling, the working class had become massive and struggle had reached a tremendous level. More than ever, RAM needed to seek to build a political leadership that could be welcomed and acknowledged by the masses. For this it was necessary to act consequently. Revolutionary practice would take on unheard-of forms, offensive and politically solid. Activists renewed the experience of the Bolsheviks by paying with their person. Wildcat strikes, commandos against foremen, rebellion in factories, disciplined and combative demonstrations, popular requisitions, factory occupations, sequestration of bosses, actions with the masses in support of strikes or protracted occupations of urban zones after demonstrations constitute examples of these new practices. These forms of struggle were supported by a living and permanent effort to link up with the working class. The tactic of industrial implantation and workers’ inquiries was developed and would become a renewed version of the tactic of communist nuclei.
RAM for the Winning of the Massive Participation of the People in the People’s War in Vietnam
The impressive RAM deployed during the People’s War in Vietnam led to the organizing of an important part of the People. The breadth of the abilities obtained by the revolutionary camp is illustrated by numerous examples. Some of these are the heroic defense of Hanoi at the start of the war against French imperialism, victorious battles such as that of Dien Bien Phu − made possible by the unrelenting effort of the masses to prepare and dominate the confrontation −, the ingenious building of the Ho Chi Minh trail, or still yet the massive participation of the People in the long-term struggle against American imperialism. The Vietnamese Communists established implements and organizational forms (the United Front, People’s Militias, Self-Defense Groups) that were used to massively sway the People towards People’s War.
The RAM of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) and the Notion of Maoist Organizers and Versatile Activists
The PCP developed an impressive apparatus of Maoist organizers within the masses. They were trained to be versatile activists, in other words, activists who ensured a permanent and active presence within the Peruvian People without neglecting the process of concentric building around the Party. The Party targeted leaders of spontaneous movements and rallied them to Maoism so as to have them better sway important sectors of the People into the camp of revolution. Peruvian Maoist organizers demonstrated a superior ability to create points of contact and to sustainably mobilize the masses for revolutionary action, all the while surmounting the challenges of territorial defense and armed struggle. This practice of RAM allowed the New Power to develop alongside the unfolding of the Protracted People’s War.
Armed propaganda is the objective form of revolutionary action that regroups the totality of armed methods employed before People’s War and which contributes to its political preparation. It is directed against assets, instances, organized apparatuses, means and instruments of the bourgeoisie to cause their partial or total destruction. Above all, it serves as a carrier or vehicle of revolutionary discourse in the class struggle. It expands the reach of revolutionary propaganda by speaking to the whole society and to the entire nation, to an otherwise unreachable level. Its message is comprehensible for all of the strata of the people. It educates all classes with regard to the contradictions and political issues of society. Armed propaganda stimulates proletarians’ class consciousness. It materially validates the People’s potential of victory. Its goal is to liberate the political expression and activity of communists. Armed propaganda principally has a political function in class struggle. The content propagated by it is more important than the means employed. It is the superior and necessary form of propaganda. It has the potential to speak to the masses better than a million leaflets. It unveils the positionings of all political forces. It gives confidence to the proletariat while giving mobility back to revolutionary forces in conditions where everything is rigid.
There have been a diversity of experiences of armed propaganda in imperialist countries (the Red Brigades, the Communist Combatant Cells, the Quebec Liberation Front, the Communist Party of Spain (Reconstituted), the Red Army Faction, etc.) as well as in dominated countries (the actions that served the political preparation of the resistance war in Vietnam, the practice of the Tupamaros in Uruguay, etc.). Armed propaganda likewise includes multiple embryonic and spontaneous experiences within the masses, experiences consisting in the attacking of political representations of the class enemy by armed means.
Today, in a country like Canada, denouncing bourgeois democracy must be the main goal of armed propaganda actions. Politically revealing bourgeois democracy with classical propaganda has become insufficient, whereas in the days of the autocracy − where democratic rights were inexistent and open repression reigned −, the journalistic form was enough. Bourgeois democracies in our days have become experienced and time-tested. Even if journalistic revelations are still necessary, they are no longer alone capable of politically preparing the terrain of People’s War and bringing the class struggle to be a struggle to overthrow the bourgeois State. The means employed must dispose of the strength necessary to force the whole population to decide itself in favour or against the seizure of power and the collectivization of the means of production.
Protracted People’s War
Protracted People’s War is the objective form of revolutionary action regrouping the totality of wars of the People led by the proletariat and its Party to vanquish and annihilate the bourgeoisie. It politically synthesizes all of the other forms of revolutionary action and all of the initiatives of a social class and its vanguard. Armed struggle is its principal form of action. Every class conducts war differently and thus the proletariat has its own way. People’s War is a politically-led war that must allow for the arming of the proletariat and its allies, for the building of New Power and the simultaneous disarming and destruction of the reactionary bourgeois State. It is to be noted that the initiation of People’s War is politico-military initative triggering a rise to power. It is a conscious declaration that signals the first strategic victory against spontaneism and uncertainty.
Actual Communist Action Today: Assuming the Four Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action
In the 21st century, Communist Parties must imperatively attempt to master the four objective forms of revolutionary action. Whether they are assumed or dismissed, asserted or neglected, they exist as historical forms objectified by the experience of the international proletariat. Assumed and asserted, they are possibilities and abilities for revolution. Dismissed and neglected, they are abilities for initiatives and resistance that are abandoned to the bourgeoisie and its political allies. A great part of the success in building and the strategic progression of a revolutionary party in the 21st century depends on the ability to propose adequate goals for each of these forms that are materially and politically founded, neither too bold or irrational nor too weak or conciliatory.
Possessing a correct understanding of objective and historical forms is especially important for communists in imperialist countries, since the historical strength of revisionism and bourgeois democracy made us blind to the revolutionary experience accumulated by our movement. There exists, even in urban environments, a great number of combative and sophisticated experiences of revolutionary action among the masses. They are however outrageously disavowed as adventurism, left-opportunism, and voluntaryism by petty-bourgeois intellectuals. In truth, these intellectuals only seek to hide their own opportunism. More particularly, here the Canadian opportunists make a rigid assessments of the experience of communists. Their inability to differentiate revolutionary action among the masses from reformist work and to differentiate armed propaganda and People’s War is a telling sign of this. An analogous situation is that of the partisans of the RCP-USA, who, refused to consider any form of action exterior to ideological struggle, condemning revolutionary progress to the confinements of metaphysic stageism.
Revolutionaries must learn lessons from the combatant practice and the guerrilla war of the Russian Bolsheviks, the urban guerrilla of European Communist Parties during the Second World War, the creative linking up to the masses of the organization Gauche Prolétarienne in France, the armed actions waged by the Red Brigades in Italy, the multifaceted armed struggle of the Chinese communists, the armed propaganda of the FLQ in Quebec, or the militarization of the Communist Party of Peru. It is important to properly grasp the differences as well as the similarities between these experiences. Especially, we must enact their teachings in practice in our context.
The Considerable Political Distinctions Between the RCP and the Canadian Opportunists
The Canadian opportunists maintain an enormous amount of confusion with respect to the objective forms of revolutionary action. Among other things, they criticize the communist movement’s experiences of armed propaganda, particularly those having taken place in imperialist countries since the 1970s. They disavow them completely, wrongly viewing them as vain attempts to initiate People’s Wars and not as what they really were. These experiences were, in point of fact, experiences of armed propaganda, whether or not the organizations undertaking them considered them as such. The erroneous summation defended by the Canadian opportunists objectively results in the enforcing of the following revisionist conceptions:
The use of armed methods prior to People’s War and serving its political preparation is rejected;
Irregular warfare and multifaceted armed struggle at the beginning of People’s War is dismissed − or at least its importance is greatly diminished − to the benefit of purely defensive actions or actions in support of economic struggles, actions that in reality can largely be classified as RAM which precedes People’s War;
Strategic defensive comes to represent the quasi-totality of People’s War and is confined to an interminable period of time during which armed struggle is practically inexistent (a disguised version of the insurrectional cul-de-sac);
A series of unattainable strategic prerequisites to the initiation of People’s War are invented under the pretext of not repeating the errors of the past and in the name of the impossibility of initiating People’s War without the support of the majority − or at least of a very broad section − of the People.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers the use of armed methods, in a well-defined political and practical form, to precede People’s War and prepares it politically.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers People’s War to be a War, in other words a sustained military confrontation and not simply a more intense period of struggle than usual.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers armed struggle to be pivotal in the development of strategic defensive, and considers that if this stage must be protracted in time, it essentially serves to prepare strategic equilibrium, the progressive passing to regular war and the development of the New People’s Power.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers that at the moment of initiating PPW in Canada, the Party will not yet have obtained the support of the majority of the People (not even a high percentage), that no Party in history has ever had such a support from the masses at the moment of initiating PPW, and that to affirm otherwise is contrary to the principle of unequal development of the revolution and to the notion of politico-military initiative.
Our evaluation is that the principal problem with the experiences of armed propaganda in the 1970s was that the revolutionary organizations who instigated them conceived of them as moments of historic subjective rupture. Conversely, we consider armed propaganda to be simply an objective dimension of practice existing among other aspects of revolutionary struggle. The most important mistake of the organizations who undertook armed propaganda in imperialist countries is not the fact that they engaged in these actions, which is on the contrary to their honour, but much rather the fact that they excessively specialized themselves in a particular form of practice. Without necessarily intending to, they restrained ever more the spectrum of their revolutionary practice to this sole form of action instead of expanding it to other dimensions of struggle. We consider that in order to sustainably assume armed propaganda, we must possess the political maturity necessary to make it resonate consequently and daily within the masses by the means of other forms of revolutionary action. It is the collection of forms used permanently that allows for the political preparation of the working class and its allies by giving them experience and forces and by producing political revelations. It is thus that adherence to the initiation of an open war with the Canadian State is generated, and it is thus that the foundations are laid for the rise of the working class to power. Moreover, we consider that despite People’s War and armed propaganda sharing the common aspect of the utilization of armed means, they are clearly different in their goals. People’s War is a form of action characterized by its military aspect, aiming to arm the People, to disarm the bourgeoisie, to build the New Power and to destroy the reactionary capitalist State. Armed propaganda is a method marked by its political aspect, completely absent of a military dimension, and aiming to propagate revolutionary politics to the entire People. It allows for the political preparation of People’s War by making the reality of class struggle limpid and by forcing its interlocutors to choose a side. It puts the question of revolution on the agenda. It extends the reach of other forms of revolutionary action. Politically assuming armed propaganda necessitates clear perspectives and having taken the first steps in resolving the practical and strategic problems of the Party’s link with the masses.
The goal of RAM, in today’s context, is to create revolutionary links with the masses, links of a new type and not simply copied from those that are continuously produced by the spontaneous movement. These links must allow the Party to be solidly anchored in the workers’ movement as well as in the general proletariat. It is their soundness that eventually allows for the mobilization of large sections of the masses under the slogans of the Party. They allow for the resonation of other forms of Party action within the masses. From the initiation of People’s War up until the seizure of power, it is the strength of these links in the basic groups of the proletariat that guarantees the swaying of the People towards People’s War.
The Canadian opportunists defend an opposite position which is the building of intermediary organizations parallel to the real mass movement, entering into competition with the latter and adding yet another obstacle between the Party and the People. For them, our conception of small-movements (the instruments of the Party acting within the broad movements) is a bureaucratic conception. According to them, to say that the Party must possess organization control over the instruments it generates is a rejection of the need to develop political leadership. This is why they defend the idea that organizations founded by the Party must remain formally autonomous. However, the manner in which the Party builds itself must allow it to know and to be certain of the way in which the organizations that deploy its RAM will react once new forms of action are assumed (armed propaganda and People’s War). We believe, for example, that the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) founded by the opportunists will do everything in its power to publicly distance itself from these new forms of action. In this way, the opportunists place before themselves a supplementary strategic prerequisite which is to convince the RSM to act in support of these new forms of action, when the urgent task should be the convince the broad masses of the necessity of revolution. To attain this objective, the Party must judiciously dispose of its forces within the basic groups of the proletariat and the varying real movements, forces upon which it must have a centralized and tightly-knit control. On the contrary, the founding of an organization upon which one oneself decides to abstain from centralized leadership, is to choose to ignore real and concrete obstacles which will face revolutionaries in the coming years.
The opportunists thus consciously opt for an avenue sheltering themselves from the problems provoked by consequent revolutionary practice. The organizations they build are configured to serve as pretexts for the rejection of new forms of action. Considering that the simple combative rallies we currently organize are criticized by the opportunists as adventuristic and counter-productive, we can barely imagine how they will view more striking forms of combat! Of course, we recognize the necessity of political leadership and the general influence of communists upon the masses. We categorically reject bureaucratic methods of leadership. However, this persuasion and this general influence must be of the Party upon the broad masses and not upon its own forces! All the cells and organizations, all the committees and instruments the Party founds, must be subjected to the greatest possible centralism in action. Evidently, this subjection must be conscious and voluntary. To pretend our Party is unable to exercise political leadership is to claim our activists subject themselves to such a discipline without being politically convinced of its soundness, which, considering the number of dangers along the path of revolution, is nonsensical. Furthermore, it is absurd to think communists, in an advanced capitalist country, in time-tested bourgeois democracies, could be able to organize, as we do, rallies attacking the bourgeoisie without any link to the masses and without exercising authentic political leadership.
Holding revolutionary and combative marches, as we do on March 8th, May Day, and many other occasions, is already in and of itself a way to exercise political leadership upon the masses. In this particular practice of RAM, we aim to converge a part of the masses toward a politically important event in class struggle. An exercise of the sort calls for preparation within the masses and permanent action in working-class neighbourhoods and industrial zones. One of the greatest current lessons of the Maoist movement in Canada is that it is possible to hold this type of march anywhere in the country, in all of its primary economic hubs, so long as the preparatory political effort is accomplished and so long as one accepts to pay with his person. The ability to hold combative rallies is the result of a permanent revolutionary link with the masses. As a faint-hearted justification for their dismissal of this type of demonstration, the opportunists claim the political conditions in Quebec are objectively different from those prevailing in the rest of Canada. The truth is, there is no such difference, neither in the historical period nor in general objective conditions, between Quebec and the rest of the country. The sole difference resides in the permanent and genuine revolutionary work of our Party among the masses which allows us to realize this type of demonstration! In fact, it is in the street, in confrontation, that we validate the progressive acquiring of political leadership over the masses. What is more, it is important to note that these revolutionary marches are a form of struggle which awards the political leadership of the Party with credibility among the working class. For example, the action undertaken against the headquarters of Bombardier during May Day 2017 allowed us to win leadership over the workers who already considered the corporation’s leaders to be enemies of the People and who reclaimed we take action against them. If this leadership is still emergent, if we are still in our first steps with these forms of action, and if we do not yet have the ability to make them known everywhere and abundantly, initiatives of the kind are no less important!
These combative rallies are only one method among others for incarnating a conception of RAM, in other words a way to actively link up with the masses and to mobilize them to action. Currently, we must develop other concrete and systematic ways to activate this conception of RAM and more precisely to point it towards the working class. The endeavour of RAM must reach a practical solution in the coming months and years. This uninterrupted endeavour implies different tactics at every stage of our progression. The current stage of this controlled progression, which we call the Revolutionary Workers’ Movement (RWM), is to surmount the first level of difficulty that confines revolutionaries to a presence that is essentially outside of the workers’ movement. Escaping this confinement must set the stage for action at the level of industries and unions. The moment when the Party manages to have a sizeable collection of communist nuclei within factories marks the last stage of this process, since it is the most difficult level of contact one can attain: It subsists entirely inside of the movement and the reality of the working class. This stage coincides with the initiation of People’s War, since the Party has managed to master the different dimensions of progression of action within the real workers’ movement (from outside to inside; from workers’ zones to the different industries, unions and factories).
The engaging of People’s War is a politico-military initiative allowing to take the initiative in class struggle and to preserve gains (such as indispensable communist nuclei) arduously won over several years of struggle. A cruel lesson of history teaches that it is impossible to accumulate and conserve revolutionary forces without putting them into action, without fighting and confronting the enemy! This conception is notably the source of the experience of the militarization of the Party in Peru. Any other perspective of the accumulation of forces results in the liquidation of growing revolutionary forces by confining them to forms of struggle allowed by bourgeois democracy and its legality.
Objectively speaking, all the revolutionary forces in Canada are at the stage of ending their exclusion from the workers’ movement. The arrogance of the opportunists prevent them from acknowledging this; this is why they choose to criticize us by saying we are isolated from the masses (when in fact, it is them who are completely cut off from the working class!). Indeed, to this day, the RCP has succeeded in rallying and organizing workers, in deploying revolutionary propaganda and action within the class, but the strategic progression of the RWM is only at the beginning of its process, which is perfectly normal for the current stage of preparation of People’s War in Canada. What is not normal is to act as the Canadian opportunists do and to undertake no effort towards the working class, all the while telling oneself that the adoption of an economistic strategic perspective and the artificial creation of unionist and reformist links with workers (links that already exist by the thousands in bourgeois society) will allow for a shortcut around this necessary methodical progression. In practice, it has been proved time and again that links of this kind are useless in our context. The collection of links produced by the spontaneous movement are, and will always be, unable to satisfy the strategic tasks required for the launching of People’s War.
Leninism teaches the Party must manage to develop the whole set of links − in other words concrete forms of practice and organization − of the chain connecting the vanguard to the proletariat. In the current historical period, in imperialist countries, the Communist Party is the weakest link in this chain. Bourgeois democracy repatriated a great number of political forces which vanguards formerly were able to rely on, making it so that today an initial group is much more reduced in its number, abilities and resources. Bourgeois democracy legalized the whole set of spontaneous links (unions, associations, etc.) which organize and connect proletarians to one another. On the other hand, the one and only form bourgeois democracy will never tolerate is the Party form! However well-intended, the replicating of permitted, dominant, reformist and economistic links with the addition of labels such as “red” or “revolutionary” results in the reinforcing of the spontaneous historical movement that weakens the Party. The last thing the Party needs is yet another intermediary between itself and the masses, reinforcing the state of isolation bourgeois democracy already placed it in!
The opportunists consider neither the historical period that gave birth to revolutionary unions, nor the material basis from which they emerged. For our part, we consider it to be People’s War that, when the time comes, forces all existing organizations to choose sides in the rise to power of the working class. It is only in this context that one can speak of revolutionary unions, in other words the collection of unions who support the rise to power. To imagine unions could, preceding such a context, be anything else than more or less efficient instruments of economic defence is tantamount to assigning them tasks which are those of the Party! The existence of revolutionary unions in history was the product of the seizure of power in Russia, a seizure of power which ushered in a new historical period and launched a vast movement of rises to power on the whole planet. It was this movement that constituted the material basis upon which revolutionary unions developed at the beginning of the 20th century. Also in recent history, the fact that revolutionary unions saw the light of day in countries such as Peru and Nepal is due to People’s Wars that obliged existing organizations to choose a side on revolution. It is the historical period that determines the combativity of organizations. It is the power of the revolutionary movement that allows communists to unite the collection of existing organizations around themselves. It is the task of revolutionaries to struggle for the positioning of organizations in favour of the revolution and to build a united front around the Communist Party. This task begins today with the development of ever-stronger, permanent sequences of RAM within the masses and with the development of the Party’s small-movements within the broad movements. The complete Party produces revolutionary impulsion and its small-movements are the daily sounding boards of this impulsion. To want to build revolutionary trade unions today is to want to qualify a purely economistic project as revolutionary. The truth is, by developing nominally revolutionary trade unions, the opportunists, faced with the results of their practice, will be forced to choose between becoming an unambiguous small economistic Party, or an actual trade union.
The Objective Forms Unify the Direct and Indirect Experience of the International Proletariat
Our Maoist movement is currently weak and dispersed. It is as if the long series of struggles, transformations and advances that marked the last two centuries never happened. Despite ourselves we suffer the impression of having been sent back to square one, as if the proletariat had never put its hands on State power, as if communists had not fashioned the world as we know it today by leading all of the historical and political action of our class. To rid ourselves of this illusion, we must assimilate indirect revolutionary experience. The deepness and the strength of this heritage offer all of the clarity necessary in the matter of principles, strategy and revolutionary action. Without this assimilation, we are condemned to end up like the Canadian opportunists, elaborating metaphysical and idealistic political propositions or copying the reactionary ideas of the postmodern petty-bourgeoisie.
One of the contradictions the communist movement must resolve is the dissonance between its current weakness and the wealth of its accumulated experience. We must grab on to the thread connecting the beginnings of Marxism and the workers’ movement with today. It is this common thread of the class struggle that revisionism wants us to lose sight of. Without surprise, revisionism rejected that which is at the heart of all communist experience: the physical, armed confrontation with the bourgeoisie. Revisionists refuse to leave the sphere of ideology and reformism, akin to the Mensheviks, social-democrats, the rightist fringes of the 3rd International Parties and revisionist organizations since the Second World War.
The fusion of direct experience (acquired on one’s own by struggling to transform the world) and indirect experience (accumulated historically and internationally) is made possible by the fact that communism has been, since its emergence, one and the same movement intending to transform material reality. It is by one’s own material struggle against today’s prevailing situation that one becomes able to assimilate, metabolize and synthesize the indirect experience of revolutionaries and the international proletariat. It is by participating in the revolution and by building the Party in one’s own country that one creates the material basis allowing to fuse indirect experience with the praxis that is concretely deployed. If anything, this is the first principle of actual communist action. The material basis of the political line of the RCP has been the fusion of Maoism with the state of the revolution in Canada in the 21st century. In other words, at the moment of our foundation, we anticipated the centers of gravity which would be lined up before us in the development of a Party such as ours, building itself up in a stronghold of imperialist reaction.
Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action at the Heart of the History of Our Movement
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers the Leninist position on the varying forms of struggle generated by the objective reality of class struggle to be the acknowledgement they are necessary and they must be understood as a whole for the revolutionary movement to come to power.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers this Leninist position to be a development from the basic Marxist position on the evaluation of forms of struggle.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers this position of unity of all forms of struggle to be inherent to the conception of a complete communist Party, which corresponds to an extension on that which Lenin defines as a vanguard Party.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers Lenin’s conception of the vanguard Party to itself be an extension upon the conception of the Party defended by Engels: “[…] the struggle is being so conducted that its three sides, the theoretical, the political and the practical–economical (opposition to the capitalists), form one harmonious and well-planned entity. In this concentric attack, as it were, lies the strength and invincibility of the German movement.” (1874 Addendum to the Preface of The Peasant War in Germany)
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers that this Leninist conception of a complete Party that must unify and summate the forms of revolutionary action takes into account a historical reality: revolution and class struggle tend towards a civil war where the victory of the proletariat requires all practical abilities.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers Maoism develops this position when it affirms that People’s War unites in practice all of the forms of struggle necessary to seize power and that it is at the centre of revolution.
The Revolutionary Communist Party considers that this political progression regarding the objective forms of revolutionary action as well as the the complete Party that assumes them totally is the modernization of the striking Marxist summation of the 1848-1850 revolutions in Europe. Faced with a powerful and united enemy, a revolutionary Party finds itself forced to take charge of People’s War and to lead it until victory. In other words, the maturity of a complete communist Party resides in its ability to progressively master all of the objective forms of revolutionary action.
The Relationship Between the Different Objective Forms
Today, a revolutionary communist Party must take into account the practical accumulation of forces as a function of strategic progression towards the initiation of People’s War. We examine this question under three prisms:
The unity of all forms of struggle as a prerequisite to carrying a revolutionary movement to power;
The question of the center of gravity of the struggle in the context of the building of a communist Party and of the strategic progression towards People’s War;
People’s War as the fundamental element of Maoism, as the principal challenge of our historical period, unifying all revolutionary practice and summating the revolutionary process.
The Unity of All Forms of Struggle as the Prerequisite to Carry a Revolutionary Movement to Power
In the 20th century, no proletarian Party managed to take power without taking charge of all of the forms of struggle existing in its time. To this effect, the October Revolution taught us the construction and development of the instruments of the revolutionary proletariat does not progress vertically or due to the disposition of forces in one single area. On the contrary, it is through the multiplication, completion, and unification throughout time and space, of political battles and initiatives that one can succeed in overthrowing the reactionary State. More still, Leninism teaches us a Workers’ Party is not the simple sum of a number of groups circumscribed to the limits of a factory or a locality. The revolutionary proposition of a workers’ Party must be propelled very far and propagated all throughout the people. This is the gage of the real unity upon which is founded an organization that actively struggles for revolution. A communist Party is the antithesis of a federation, a mechanical and inorganic collection of disparate revolutionaries. The vanguard makes the political synthesis of the victories of a social class. All the historical battles of the proletariat are in this way unified in the building of a revolutionary Party. It is this synthesis which enables the People to develop the political strength necessary for triumphing over a strong and powerful adversary. Only by these means can revolutionary action be fortified, without forever having to start again and again from scratch. Otherwise and so long as its experience is in shambles and disorganized, the proletariat will be condemned to lose.
The relationship between propaganda and revolutionary action allows us to observe, even at a small scale, to which point the unity of forms of action produces a result greater than the sum of its parts. Let us again take the example of the revolutionary May Day demonstrations. When we develop RAM in an economic centre of the bourgeoisie and subsequently provoke the action’s resonance within the working class, our propaganda acquires renewed strength. By making the action widely known, by showing its justification, and by explaining how to reproduce it in a stronger manner, we spread the idea that it is concretely possible, ultimately, to vanquish the bourgeoisie. By the same stroke we offer a qualitatively greater resonance to our RAM, which, without propaganda, would remain confined to the memory of those workers who participated directly in it or who witnessed it. This effect must be heightened with the development of the forms of action in use and with the increasing number of proletarians joining into action under the slogans of the Party.
It is impossible to provoke the fall of a social class and its reactionary State without the deploying of a long, persistent and disciplined struggle. There exists no means of action which, alone, is able to vanquish the bourgeoisie, in other words, to disarm it, to progressively destroy its State, to politically isolate it, to strike down the masks of bourgeois democracy and to undermine its abilities of action and initiative. It is only by the unity of all the available methods that the People can liberate itself and conquer political power in a controlled and prepared process.
The Question of the Center of Gravity of the Struggle in the Context of the Building of a Communist Party and of the Strategic Progression Towards People’s War
The Example of the Assessment of the 1905 Moscow Insurrection
Every time new concrete forms of revolutionary practice emerge in history, they make waves within the communist movement and they force organizations to assume them or to dismiss them. The new forms of struggle that appeared with the Russian Revolution were subject to debates that still today are rich in teachings. The Moscow insurrection in late 1905 was the tipping point of the revolutionary ascent. Its failure marked the beginning of a reflux in 1906 with the defeat of the first Russian Revolution. Intense debate was waged between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks over the assessment of this experience. The crux of the argument was the development of class struggle into civil war. The Bolsheviks, with Lenin at their head, defended the emergence of a new form of struggle in the Moscow insurrection, which they characterized as guerrilla struggle. The Mensheviks, for their part, defended the return to the barricades − experienced a few decades earlier in Europe − in the Russian context.
Civil war, as Lenin conceived of it, was upheld by a portion of revolutionary forces ever since Marx and Engels had assessed bourgeois revolutions and failed revolutions in Europe. Engels developed the argument that the old tactics of barricades had expired as a principal means for overthrowing the reactionary power, as it were, in light of society’s technical and military progress. The tactics of barricades are a form of struggle that only functions if the great majority of the People confront an infinitesimal minority of oppressors. To the contrary, continued Engels, the contemporary framework of revolution was that of a civil war in which armed struggle and the fight to unite forces around oneself had acquired a great strategic importance. The armed encounters led by small groups of guerrillas during the Russian Revolution constituted a new form of struggle, adapted to new circumstances. Lenin defended that street fighting, during the Moscow insurrection, was constitutive of civil war between classes in Russia. The Mensheviks on the other hand denied this experience and qualified it as unproductive, affirming it to be akin to the worst anarchistic practices. One of Lenin’s most important interventions to this subject are contained in the text “Guerrilla Warfare”. The following is a brief excerpt:
“Let us begin from the beginning. What are the fundamental demands which every Marxist should make of an examination of the question of forms of struggle?
In the first place, Marxism differs from all primitive forms of socialism by not binding the movement to any one particular form of struggle. It recognises the most varied forms of struggle; and it does not “concoct” them, but only generalises, organises, gives conscious expression to those forms of struggle of the revolutionary classes which arise of themselves in the course of the movement.
Absolutely hostile to all abstract formulas and to all doctrinaire recipes, Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the mass struggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class-consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defence and attack.
Marxism, therefore, positively does not reject any form of struggle.
Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at the given moment only, recognising as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation, changes.
In this respect Marxism learns, if we may so express it, from mass practice, and makes no claim what ever to teach the masses forms of struggle invented by “systematisers” in the seclusion of their studies.
We know—said Kautsky, for instance, when examining the forms of social revolution—that the coming crisis will introduce new forms of struggle that we are now unable to foresee.
To treat this question apart from the concrete historical situation betrays a failure to understand the rudiments of dialectical materialism.
At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of struggle undergo change in their ·turn.
To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon the Marxist position.
These are the two principal theoretical propositions by which we must be guided.“
In this text, Lenin reminds us of two fundamental theoretical principles. Revolutionaries must summate forms of struggle (refuse the confinement to a single fight, allow the greatest possible variety of forms, refuse to repudiate a single form) and must learn to evaluate them according to the center of gravity of the struggle. The political evaluation of forms and means of struggle is anything but abstract. It is a question of context and political situation. The center of gravity of the struggle is the term that has long since been used by revolutionaries to designate the first problem to be resolved in class struggle, the one that prevents sustainable accumulation of revolutionary forces. All other secondary problems gravitate around this urgent question. For example, propaganda has a predominant importance at the beginning of a revolutionary process. However, eventually, as any form of action, it comes to reorganize itself around armed struggle. The importance of propaganda does not disappear during the revolution, but its objectives and impacts transform themselves along with the advance of the working class to power.
In the same line of thought, during the genesis of the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin criticized the practice of anarchist terrorism (an irreproducible and uncontrolled manner of conducting armed methods, isolated from the masses). Lenin considered this form of struggle to be foreign to a context which rather required strong classical propaganda. He analyzed the problems of revolution in Russia to define the center of gravity as the necessity of a collective organizer to lead, among other things, the struggle against economism on questions of tactics and RAM −, particularly with the goal of politically unifying revolutionaries around a coherent and lasting action. This analysis, situated in its context, was not an eternal rejection of armed means, but their postponing to a later stage of development of the revolution; a stage in which the center of gravity would require the generalized and organized usage of armed means − in other words the complete opposite of isolated anarchist acts, completely exterior to the practice of revolutionary action among the masses.
The Centre of Gravity of Struggle in the Context of the Building of the Party of People’s War
To unify the objective dimensions of practice and the varying means of struggle in today’s context, one must situate them in the context of the complex and fertile historical period of political and strategic preparation of People’s War. One must return to the two Leninist principles that are the summation of all forms of struggle and the mastering of the question of successive centers of gravity in the revolutionary progression. In the current period, the Party builds itself through the great political initiatives and offensives as well as through an ever more complete command of the different forms of revolutionary action. The centers of gravity are the great links of the chain connecting the moment of constitution of the first nucleus of the Party all the way to the launching of People’s War. They are not determined by the vicissitudes of the spontaneous movement, but rather by the needs of armed struggle.
The international proletariat has accumulated a rich indirect experience. We are not at square one. We have at our disposition a heritage of means of struggle. At the beginning of the 20th century, inversely, this heritage was only beginning to accumulate; the struggle then was to fight to make new propositions to still hesitant revolutionaries! To deny this heritage is to move in the opposite direction to History, to reject political gains! As revolutionaries we need not wait nicely and passively for the collection of forms of struggle we have already known in the past to spontaneously and sustainably emerge in the struggle of the masses before we allow ourselves to use them! To the contrary, the task of revolutionaries is to propagate Maoism and to introduce indirect revolutionary experience within the masses and their movements. This does not mean we are not mindful of the new propositions that may still emerge from the struggle of the masses! This does not mean we do not have the duty, as a vanguard, to continue to examine the different ways in which the proletariat fights and resists! This means we have the historical role of reclaiming the common thread of the communist movement and fusing it with the masses and the new practices they develop!
People’s War Summates and Unifies the Objective Forms of Revolutionary Action
People’s War is the fundamental element of Maoism and its realization is the principal task of our historical period. All other questions are, near or far, related to its initiation and its progression up until the seizure of power. It is People’s War that summates the current revolutionary process and the entirety of revolutionary practice accumulated up until today.
In the history of the workers’ movement in Canada, the three first objective forms have a spontaneous existence. Their emergence, even embryonic and confused in its objectives, obliges us to assume them. For example, a few years ago in Quebec, proletarians on strike began to sabotage the cables belonging to their employer, Videotron. More recently, during the crane operators’ illegal strike, a crane belonging to a construction capitalist was burned. Whether or not the Party foresees the action of the masses spontaneously resisting capitalism, it must take it into account, defend it and aim to lead it. Classical propaganda, revolutionary action of the masses and armed propaganda may appear spontaneously. However, People’s War must mandatorily be initiated by a vanguard. This is a fundamental distinction. Never in history has a People’s War spontaneously resulted from class struggle. Every one of them was the product of a vanguard. They are difficult to initiate since they mark the beginning of armed confrontation, of the rise of the working class towards power and of the restless activity of the exploited to annihilate their adversary. The initiation of People’s War in Canada shall not be a secondary and imperceptible event. To get there, the Party must act consequently in class struggle.
The role of the Party is to lead the initiation of PPW without halting its perseverence in revolutionary action. It is not an insurmountable task. It is a goal which must not terrorize revolutionaries. However, without a Party accumulating centralizing forces, this process is impossible to initiate. Launching People’s War requires of the Party the assuming of all means that can be subjectively used to its advantage. In the same way, the preservation of revolutionary forces and the perpetuation of revolutionary action necessitate the initiation of a war against the bourgeois State. The launching of war allows for the continued accumulation of forces through fighting the enemy at a time when revolutionary forces are still too weak to immediately to seize power. People’s War allows a political force aiming to overthrow the bourgeoisie to develop by weakening its adversary. Without assuming People’s War, it is impossible to build a Communist Party that does not fall to opportunism or that does not aim to preserve its forces by means tolerated by the bourgeoisie.
Assume or Refuse Revolutionary Heritage
Making revolution is a living, complex process, full of ebbs and tides, victories and defeats, trials and errors. We consider the notion of objective forms of revolutionary action to be an important tool for seeing clearer into this process and for consciously mastering the revolutionary process. It allows one to evaluate practice within a concrete context, to name it and to submit it to the test of history. The historical forms of revolutionary action are not a simple vestige of the past. They are not metaphysical tools. They result from the practical reality of revolution and its progression. They are constitutive of the current reality of class struggle. Every one of them is linked to a current political question upon which a Communist Party must position itself. They represent a formidable weapon for revolutionaries and a danger for the bourgeoisie. The commanding of the different forms is a practical question of sequence and progression and not of subjective will. It puts into relation the building of the Party and the speed with which it metabolizes the different aspects of revolutionary struggle. It allows for the concrete solving of political and organizational problems.
The question is not to accept or refuse one or another form, since that would be accepting or refusing the heritage of the international proletariat. The question is to determine how, today, a small group of communists can solve the sum of the problems of the undertaking of all the objective forms of revolutionary action, in order to allow the working class to begin a new rise towards power.