The role of a revolutionary Marxist party

Jun 1, 2007

A revolutionary party is a party of political struggle. It is a party of militant action.

It is also much more than that. It is a party that seeks to lead our class—the working class—in the revolutionary struggles ahead, toward the creation of a new society based on the interests of the vast majority.

We in the Party for Socialism and Liberation recognize that there is a dialectical relationship between the class struggle and political consciousness. Without mass struggle, there is no hope for real change. But activism alone is not enough to develop a class-conscious socialist movement. That requires the intervention of a revolutionary Marxist party.

A model for seizing a revolutionary opportunity and winning the workers’ confidence was the work carried out by the Bolshevik Party in Russia, led by V.I. Lenin. In 1917, the Bolsheviks led the first successful insurrection by the working class that took and held state power, organizing a workers’ state in the interests of the vast majority of workers rather than the rich.

This victory was only possible because of the guidance and organization of the Bolshevik Party. But the Bolsheviks had not always been the leading party or the most influential political organization in Russia.

Other parties, including many calling themselves socialist, were larger and legal under czarist rule. But the Bolsheviks earned the growing trust and confidence of the working class by their uncompromising anti-capitalist political line. They were the only party in Russia that opposed World War I from the outset. Other so-called socialists capitulated to the capitalist and patriotic war hysteria.

After the February 1917 revolution swept the czar out of power, the Bolsheviks were the only party to not collaborate with the newly empowered capitalists. The other socialist parties were working with the capitalists, attempting to “pressure” them to move more to the left.

Independence from capitalist politics

Although we are not in the same situation here in the United States today, the lesson of not working within the confines of capitalist politics and instead organizing independently is just as important today. We have witnessed the initial euphoria after the Democratic Party’s victory in the 2006 mid-term elections and what has happened since.

Had Lenin and the Bolsheviks just “worked within the system,” history would have been much different. Certainly there would have been no socialist revolution in Russia in 1917.

If a party seeks to make a revolution in the United States, should it support the Democratic Party, an imperialist party that gives a certain amount of lip service to the needs of the masses of poor and working people? We say no.

Lenin did too. Instead of collaborating with the capitalists, Lenin advocated continuing the revolution beyond democratic goals toward socialist objectives, including uprooting capitalist economic relations. The Bolsheviks had earned the workers’ and peasants’ trust and were able to put forward strategies, tactics and slogans that could advance the struggle for socialism.

Right now, despite the tremendous problems of poverty, unemployment, racism and war, there is no revolutionary crisis in the United States. We know, however, that there will be a deep radicalization in the future.

What do we do right now? Do we just wait for a revolutionary crisis to appear?

As Lenin said, we should build a revolutionary party. If we wait, it will be too late.

Preparing for the revolution is what a revolutionary party does. That is what we are doing today and in everything we do.

It is why we have organizing meetings, classes in Marxism, protests and street meetings. It is why we sell magazines on street corners. It is why we are here at a conference on socialism today.

We are learning the lessons of past movements and revolutions while being involved in the most critical struggles of the day—where there is class struggle and deepening conflict. We are fighting hard to promote a revolutionary outlook in the democratic and reform movements that respond spontaneously to the crises that our class faces—like the anti-war movement, the immigrant rights movement and the struggles against racism, sexism, LGBT oppression and all other forms of oppression.

We are also organizing to meet the many challenges that lie ahead. As a revolutionary party, the PSL is working hard to find people like all of you who want to be revolutionaries and fight for workers’ power.