Nowhere in Marx’s writings is there to be found a detailed account of the new social system which was to follow capitalism. Marx wrote no “Utopia” of the kind that earlier writers had produced – writings based only on the general idea of a society from which the more obvious evils of the society in which they lived had been removed. But from the general laws of social development Marx was able to outline the features of the new society and the way in which it would develop.
Perhaps the most, in a sense the most obvious, point made by Marx was that the organisation of the new society would not begin, so to speak, on a clearer field. Therefore it was futile to think in terms of a society “which has developed on its own foundations.” It was not a question of thinking out the highest possible number of good features and mixing them together to get the conception of a socialist society which we would then create out of nothing. Such an approach was totally unscientific, and the result could not possibly conform to reality.
On the contrary, an actual socialist society, like all previous forms of society, would only come into existence on the basis of what already existed before it; that is to say, it would be a society “just emerging from capitalist society, and which therefore in all respects – economic, moral and intellectual – still bears the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it sprung.”
In fact, it is the actual development within capitalist society which prepares the way for socialism, and indicates the character of the change. Production becomes increasingly social, in the sense that more and more people are associated in the making of every single thing; factories get larger and larger, and the process of production links together a very large number of people in the course of transforming raw materials into the finished article. There is greater and greater interdependence between people; the old feudal ties and connections have long been broken by capitalism, but in its development capitalism has built new connections of a far wider character – so wide that every individual becomes more or less dependent on what happens to society as a whole.
But although this is the steady tendency of capitalist production, the fact is that the product, made by the co-operative work of society, is the property of an individual or group and not the property of society. The first step in building up a socialist society must therefore be to give society the product which it has made; and this means that society as a whole must own the means of production – the factories, mines, machinery, ships, etc., which under capitalism are privately owned.
But this socialisation of the means of production itself takes place only on the basis of what the new society inherits from the old. And it is only the relatively large concerns which are so to speak ready to be taken over by society. Capitalist development has prepared them for this. There is already a complete divorce between the owners and the production process in such concerns; the only link is the dividend or interest paid by the concern to the shareholders. Production is carried on by a staff of workers and employees; the transfer of ownership to society as a whole does not alter their work. Therefore these large concerns can be taken over immediately.
The position is different in the case of smaller enterprises, especially in those where the owner himself plays an important part in production. It is obvious that the management of a large number of separate small factories is a very difficult thing – in fact, it is impossible in the early stages of a working-class government. What is essential is to prepare the way for the centralised management of these smaller enterprises, including both town industries and small farms.
What practical steps in this direction can be taken? The general method is to encourage co-operation, as a first step, so that these small producers learn to produce in common, and one productive unit takes the place of scores of smaller ones. Engels showed this in relation to small-holders, in regard to whom he wrote:
“Our task will first of all consist in transforming their individual production and individual ownership into cooperative production and co-operative ownership, not forcibly, but by way of example, and by offering social aid for this purpose.” (Handbook of Marxism, p. 564).
This transformation, “not forcibly, but by way of example, and by offering social aid,” is the essential basis of the Marxist approach to the building up of a socialist society. Of course, as shown in the previous chapter, Marx saw that the former ruling class would not quietly accept the changed conditions, and would carry on the class struggle as long as they could in the effort to restore the old order; the working class therefore needed a State apparatus of force to meet such attacks and defeat them. But the process, of building the new society was an economic process, not dependent on the use of force.
Hence it follows that, once the working class has broken the resistance of the former ruling class and has established its own control, it over the larger enterprises, the banks, the railways and other “commanding height:..” of industry and trade, but does not at once take over all and trade, and therefore does not force everyone ‘to accept socialism on the morrow of the revolution. What fire revolution immediately achieves therefore is not and could not be socialism, but working-class power to build socialism. And it must Le many years before the building is completed, and all production and distribution is on a socialist basis.
The first essential feature of socialism is that the of production are taken from private ownership and used for society as, a whole. But the Marxist basis or this is not any ethical “principle.” It is simply that private ownership of the means of production in fact checks production, prevents the full use of the productive powers which man has created. Therefore the transfer of ownership to society as a whole is only the clearing of the ground; the next step is the conscious, planned development of the productive forces.
It is a mistake to think that this development is only necessary in a backward industrial country such as Russia was in 1917. Marx was thinking of advanced industrial countries when he wrote that after taking power “the proletariat will use its political supremacy . . . to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.” And although these productive resources, for example in Britain, have increased enormously since Marx’s day, the fact is that they are still backward in relation to, what scientific knowledge today makes possible. They are backward because of the capitalist system – because economic crises constantly cheek production; because production is for the market, and as the market is restricted under capitalism, the growth of the productive forces is restricted; because monopoly buys up technical inventions, and prevents them from being widely used; because production cannot be planned, and so there is no systematic growth; because capitalism has kept agriculture separate and backward; because capitalism has to devote enormous resources for wars between rival groups, wars against the colonial peoples; because capitalism separates manual from mental work, and therefore does not open the floodgates of invention; because the class struggle absorbs an enormous amount of human energy; because capitalism leaves millions unemployed.
Therefore the factories and the mines, the power-stations and the railways, agriculture and fishing can and must be reorganised and made more up-to-date, so that a far higher level of production can be reached. What is the object of this? To raise the standard of living of the people.
One of the favorite arguments of the anti-socialists used to be that if everything produced in Britain was divided up equally, this would make very little difference in the standard of living of the workers. Even if this were true – and it is not – it has absolutely nothing to do with Marx’s conception of socialism. Marx saw that socialism would raise the level of production to undreamed-of heights. It is not merely because Tsarist Russia was backward that industrial production in the Soviet Union in 1938 was over eight times the pre-war level; even in industrial Britain an enormous increase could and would be made.
This increase in the level of production, and therefore in the standard of living of the people, is the material basis on which the intellectual and cultural level of the people will be raised.
But the whole development requires planned production. In capitalist society, new factories are built and production of any particular article is increased when a higher profit can be made by this increase. And it does not by any means follow that the higher profit means that the article in question is needed by the people. The demand may come from a tiny section of very rich people; or some exceptional circumstances may raise prices for one article. Where profit is the motive force, there can be only anarchy in production, and the result is constant over-production in one direction and under-production in another.
In socialist society, where production is not for profit but for use, a plan of production is possible. In fact, it is possible even before industry is fully socialised. As soon as the main enterprises are socialised, and the others are more or less regulated, a plan of production can be made – a plan that grows more accurate every year.
So we see that Marx saw socialism as implying, in the economic field, ownership of the means of production by society as a whole; a rapid increase in the productive forces, planned production. And it is the character of the plan of production that contains the secret of why there cannot be any over-production under socialism in spite of the fact that the means of production are always being increased.
The national plan of production consists of two parts: the plan for new means of production – buildings, machinery, raw materials, etc., – and the plan for articles of consumption, not only food and clothing but also education, health services, entertainment, sport and so on, besides administration. So long as defence forces are required, these must also be provided for in the plan.
There can never be over-production, because the total output of articles of consumption is then allocated. to the people – that is to say, total wages and allowances of all kinds are fixed to equal the total price of articles of consumption. There may, of course, be bad planning – provision may be made one year for more bicycles than the people want and too few boots. But such defects are easily remedied by an adjustment of the next plan, so that the balance is righted. It is always only a case of adjusting production between one thing and another – never of reducing total production, for total consumption never falls short of total production of consumption goods. As planned production of these rises, so does their planned distribution.
But they are not divided out in kind among the people. The machinery used is the distribution of money to the people, in the form of wages or allowances. As the prices of the consumption goods are fixed, the total wages and allowances paid can be made equal to the total price of the consumption goods. There is never any discrepancy between production and consumption – the people have everything that is available. Increased production means increasing the quantity of goods available and therefore the quantity taken by the people.
The part played by prices in socialist society is often misunderstood. In the capitalist system, price fluctuations indicate the relation between supply and demand. If prices rise, this means the supply is too small; if prices fall, the supply is too great and must be reduced. Prices therefore act as the regulator of production. But in socialist society prices are simply a regulator of consumption; production goes according to plan. and prices are deliberately fixed, so that what is produced will be consumed.
How is the total output of consumption goods shared out among the people? It is a complete misconception to think that Marx ever held that the products would be shared out equally. Why not? Because a socialist society is not built up completely new, but on the foundations it inherits from capitalism. To share out equally would be to penalise everyone whose standard of living had been above the average. The skilled workers, whose work in increasing production is in fact more important for society than the work of the unskilled labourer, would be penalised. Equality based on the unequal conditions left by capitalism would therefore not be just, but unjust. Marx was quite clear on this point; he wrote: “Rights, instead of being equal, must be unequal … Justice can never rise superior to the economic conditions of society and the cultural development conditioned by them.”
Men who have just emerged from capitalist society are in fact unequal, and must be treated unequally if society is to be fair to them. On the other hand, society only has this obligation to them if they serve society. Therefore “he that does not work, neither shall he eat.” And it follows also from this that the man who does more useful work for society also is given a higher standard of living. The distribution of the total products available for consumption is therefore based on the principle: from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.
But socialist society does not remain at the level inherited from capitalism; it raises production each year, and at the same time it raises the technical skill and the cultural development of the people. And the inequality of wages – the fact that skilled and culturally developed people get more than the unskilled – acts as an incentive to everyone to raise his or her qualifications. In turn the higher skill means more production – there is more to go round, and this enables everyone’s standard of living to be raised. Inequality in a socialist society is therefore a lever by which the whole social level is raised, not, as in capitalism, a weapon for increasing the wealth of the few and the poverty of the many.
Did Marx consider that this inequality would be a permanent feature of the future society? No, in the sense that a stage would be reached when it was no longer necessary to give people a share proportionate to the service they render to society.
After all, to divide up the product according to work done or any other principle is to confess that there is not enough to satisfy everyone’s needs. In capitalist society a family which is able to afford as much bread as all members of the family need does not share out a loaf on any principle: every member of the family takes what he or she needs. And when production in a socialist society has risen to such a height that all citizens can take what they need without anyone going short, there is no longer the slightest point in measuringand limiting what anyone takes. When that stage is reached, the principle on which production and distribution are based becomes: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
It is the point at which this becomes possible that distinguishes communism from socialism. Socialism, as Marx used the term, is the first stage, when the means of production are owned by the people and therefore there is no longer any exploitation of man by man, but before planned socialist production has raised the country’s output to such a height that everyone can have what he needs.
But the stage of communism implies much more than merely material sufficiency. From the time when the working class takes power and begins the change to socialism, a change also begins to take place in the outlook of the people. All kinds of barriers which under capitalism seemed rigid grow weaker and are finally broken down. Education and all opportunities for development are open to. all children equally, no matter what the status or income of their parents may be. “Caste” differences no longer count. Children learn to use their hands as well as their brains. And this equalisation of physical and mental work gradually spreads through the whole people. Everyone becomes an “intellectual,” while intellectuals no longer separate themselves off from physical work.
Women are no longer looked on as inferior or unable to play their part in every sphere of the life of society. Special measures are taken to make it easier for them to work. Creches are established at the factories, in the blocks of flats, and so on, so that mothers can have greater freedom. The work of women in the home is reduced by communal kitchens, laundries and restaurants. There is no compulsion on women to work, but they are given facilities which make work easy for them.
The barriers between national groups are broken down. There are no “subject races” in a socialist society; no one is treated as superior or inferior because of his colour or nationality. All national groups are helped to develop their economic resources as well as their literary and artistic traditions.
Democracy is not limited to voting for a representative in parliament every five years. In every factory, in every block of flats, in every aspect of life, men and women are shaping their own lives and the destiny of their country. More and more people are drawn into some sphere of public life, given responsibility for helping themselves and others. This is a much fuller, more real democracy than exists anywhere else.
The difference between the town and the countryside is broken down. The workers in the villages learn to use machinery and raise their technical skill to the level of the town workers. Educational and cultural facilities formerly available only in the towns grow up in the countryside.
In a word, on the basis of the changes in material conditions which socialism brings, vast changes also take place in the development and outlook of men and women. They will be people with “an all-round development, an all-round training, people who will be able to do everything.”
Above all, the self-seeking, individualist outlook bred by capitalism will have been replaced by a really social outlook, a sense of responsibility to society; as Marx put it: “labour has become not only a means of living, but itself the first necessity of life.” In that stage of society, Communist society, there will no longer be any need for incentives or inducements to work, because the men and women of that day will have no other outlook than playing their part in the further development of society.
Is this Utopian? It could only be regarded as Utopian by people who do not understand the materialist basis of Marxism, which has been touched on in Chapter II. Human beings have no fixed characteristics and outlook, eternally permanent. In primitive tribal society, even in those forms of it which have survived to recent times, the sense of responsibility to the tribe is very great. In later society, after the division of society into classes, the sense of social responsibility was broken down, but still showed itself in a certain feeling of responsibility to the class. In capitalist society there is the most extreme disintegation of social responsibility: the system makes “every man for himself” the main principle of life.
But even within capitalist society there is what is known as “solidarity” among the workers – the sense of a common interest, a common responsibility. This is not an idea which someone has thought of and put into the heads of workers: it is an idea which arises out of the material conditions of working-class life, the fact that they get their living in the same way, working alongside each other. The typical grasping individualist, on the other hand, the man with no sense of social or collective responsibility, is the capitalist surrounded by competitors, all struggling to survive by killing each other. Of course, the ideas of the dominant class – the competition and rivalry instead of solidarity – tend to spread among the workers, especially among those who are picked out by the employers for special advancement of any kind. But the fundamental basis for the outlook of any class (as distinct from individuals) is the material conditions of life, the way it gets its living.
Hence it follows that the outlook of people can be changed by changing their material conditions, the way in which they get their living. No example could be better than the change which has been brought about in the outlook of the peasantry in the Soviet Union. Everyone who wrote of the peasant in Tsarist Russia described his self-seeking, grasping individualism. Critics of the revolution used to assert that the peasant could never be converted to socialism, that the revolution would he broken by the peasantry. And it is perfectly true that the outlook of the peasantry was so limited, so fixed by their old conditions of life, that they could never have been “converted” to socialism by arguments, or forced into socialism by compulsion. What these critics did not understand, as they were not Marxists, was that a model farm, a tractor station near them, would make them see in practice that better crops were got by large-scale methods. They were won for machinery and methods which could only be operated by breaking down their individual landmarks and working the land collectively. And this in turn broke down the separatism of their outlook. Now they are settling down to a collective basis of living, and they are becoming a new type of peasantry – a collective peasantry, with a sense of collective responsibility, which is already some distance along the road to a social outlook.
When therefore the material basis in any country is socialist production and distribution, when the way in which all the people get their living is by working for society as a whole, then the sense of social responsibility so to speak develops naturally; people no longer need to be convinced that the social principle is right. It is not a question of an abstract moral duty having to establish itself over the instinctive desires of “human nature;” human nature itself is transformed by practice, by custom.
Up to this point we have not considered the implications of socialist or communist society covering the whole world. But Marx’s whole account of socialist society shows that it will mean the end of wars. When production and distribution in each country are organised on a socialist basis, there will be no group in any country which will have the slightest interest in conquering other countries. A’ capitalist country conquers some relatively backward country to extend the capitalist system, to open up new chances for profitable investments by the finance-capital group; to get new contracts for railways and docks, perhaps for new mining machinery; to obtain new sources of cheap raw materials and new markets. But for an advanced industrial socialist country to conquer by force of arms some backward country would be simply ridiculous; to extend the socialist system to that backward country would mean lowering the standard of living of the advanced socialist country. Once again, it is not a question of morals; socialist societies will not make war because there is nothing they, or any groups within them, can gain from war.
For the same reason no socialist State is in the least interested in holding back any backward country. On the contrary, the more every country develops its industry and cultural level, the better it will be for all the other socialist countries, the higher the standard of living throughout the world, the richer the content of life. Therefore those socialist countries which are industrially advanced will help the more backward countries to develop, not hold them back and, of course, not exploit them in any way.
In such a world socialist system the further advance that man could make defies the imagination. With all economic life planned in every country, and a world plan co-ordinating the plans of each separate country, with scientific discoveries and technical inventions shared out at once between all countries, with the exchange of every form of cultural achievement, man would indeed take giant’s strides forward.
Towards what? Marx never attempted to foretell, because the conditions are too unknown for any scientific forecast. But this much is clear: with the establishment of communism throughout the world, the long chapter of man’s history of class divisions and class struggles will have come to an end. There will be no new division into classes, chiefly because in a communist society there is nothing to give rise to it. The division into classes at a time when men’s output was low served to provide organisers and discoverers of higher productive forces; the class division continued to fulfil this function, and under capitalism it helped the concentration of production and the vast improvements in technique.
But at the stage when man has equipped himself with such vast productive forces that only a couple of hours’ work a day is necessary, the division into classes can well end, and must end. From that point on, man will resume his struggle with nature, but with the odds on his side. No longer trying to win nature with magic, or avert natural disasters with prayer, no longer blindly groping his way through class struggles and wars, but sure of himself, confident of his power to control the forces of nature and to march on – that is man in communist society as pictured by Marx.
Thomas Paine, with fiery passion and revolutionary fortitude distributed his literature throughout the first 13 colonies with the penalty of treason on his head. Agitation swept the American workers and farmers into a heap and energized them enough to take up arms in the ranks of a colonial militia against the world’s most powerful empire. Tom is mostly forgotten and only brought back to recollection with the ramblings of Glenn Beck and his knock-off cooption of Paine’s revolutionary pamphlet. Thomas Paine though, laid the foundations for American Democracy in its youngest form. In the modern USA it is obvious that the American rhetoric was owned by the landed interests and did not meet the stated assurances of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. As Communists, we are compelled to weigh the rhetoric of American Democracy against its realization in material ways. Marx explains:
People cannot be liberated, as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. ‘Liberation’ is a historical and not a mental act and it is brought about by historical conditions.
Looking at the statistics of atrocities the conditions seem bleak; over 20 transwomen were murdered in 2015, the rising rate of youth homelessness and intense wealth disparities, just to name a few, are telltale signs that the American experiment was not a result of a revolution carried out to its conclusion. But what if lying inside the many sectors of American liberal thought, resides a pure Democratic-Republican that sought collective unity and welfare, the state as an instrument of People’s rule in a very simplistic majoritarian sense and a conception of justice as equal right and opportunity to the world’s resources? This would break our dogmatic slumber away from the slave owning patriarchs of Washington, Hamilton and Madison.
Thomas Paine gave passionate words to the world’s peasants and poor and prophetically proclaimed that the American Revolution as the first of its kind and will roll violently into every Monarchial state and dismantle it acting in the spirit of the people towards a point of justice; seeing the great victory of the American merchants and peasants over the King. Paine was certainly correct about Democracy spreading and toppling Monarchy; the European reforms and the French Revolution were certainly a carryover of the Revolutionary American experience. Thomas Paine in Common Sense wrote to each common American, and explained the very heart of the problem of colonial tyranny. Hundreds of thousands of copies were read in coffee houses and taverns all over American, spreading the Democratic ideal to everyone and instigating a popular movement to establish a nation-wide consciousness and reveal to the people the real nature of the King and his parliament. Paine enticed the American population to take up arms and to use the power of the majority to move the hand of tyranny off their edge of the map. Marx and Engels said that the American Revolution had “initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class” and considered the American Civil War to be the continuation of the Democratic revolution of 1776. If Thomas Paine’s recommendations for a policy of human welfare and equal right had been implemented, and the Democratic revolution be felt by every citizen, maybe the contradictions between human rights and capital in the American Civil War would not have existed, and the USA could have progressed without the violent breaking point that cost so many millions of American and immigrant lives. This is all hindsight of course, but Tom Paine, long forgotten and not considered believed the American revolution had objectives and a positive responsibility to create Democratic-Republicanism in real, palpable way without the influence of Primogeniture and profit motive.
Thomas Paine then went to take on the slave-owners as a radical and claimed the issue should appeal to Justice and Humanity:
That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.
Thomas Paine interestingly enough precluded the ideas of the Great French Revolution and was even its root. He defended in his Rights of Man the radical idea that human rights are inalienable and that a sovereign has no right to dictate the amount nor degree of their realization; realization stemming from the collective power of people’s government. Paine even goes on to refute Hereditary rule by stating, much like Marx would, that the State apparatus is created by human beings and can bend to their liking, and fit into the most efficient manner so far as the collective had the knowledge of how to do it. Paine argued that humankind began without security but to assure individual power, formed into governments for the sole purpose of preserving humanity and justice. The idealistic opinions of Paine, nonetheless grew into more concrete policy recommendations. He went as far as to recommend subsidized schooling for the nation’s poor, a guaranteed welfare standard, maternity leave for mothers and the burden of taxation be shifted onto the capable backs of America’s merchants and land owners.
Thomas Paine also was a man of virtue and a steadfast revolutionary and American patriot. With echoes of Comrade Mao’s infamous statement “It is right to rebel”, Paine asserts the natural reaction of alienation and detachment from civil rights and welfare by saying
It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting, but it impossible to exclude them from the right of rebelling against that exclusion; and when other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect.
Paine throughout his life was an oppositional force. Even though Paine was an honorary French citizen and was presented symbolically with the Key to the prison Bastille; he served prison time in France for opposing the faction that executed the King of France and for denouncing the “reign of terror” on pacifist grounds. But even before that, in his early life, Paine began organizing a labor union in England and was eventually dismissed form his government position as tax collector for spreading and writing literature advocating better wages and conditions for his coworkers.
Thomas Paine is infamously called the Father of the American Revolution but he is peculiarly left out of the group of founders of the United States. The reason is obvious. In Thomas Paine’s day his radical ideas got overridden by the powerful bourgeois, moderate liberalism that dominated the politics of the early US period. His ideas were the very wind blowing into the forge of revolution, growing the fire and its violence and passion. He spoke the words the common American could not and this popular outcry against the King and his rich loyalists was convenient for the American Bourgeoisie who also allied against the King. But, as soon as Great Britain was driven from these colonies the interests of the rich took hold of the reins of government and established one in their own image. Paine’s ideas
were forgotten and the evils of slavery and patriarchy, the hegemony of the rich over the poor, the Anglos over the natives began, and this nation’s fathers stopped the momentum of the American revolution. Thomas Paine said fight till welfare and justice are won for every citizen regardless of race or gender. Until the Democratic ideal is realized in the lives of every person; when the Republic exists on peaceful terms internally and will work as a collective to prop up each other and progress the rights of humankind. Only till then can there be a proper government and only then will the revolution be finished.
Thomas Paine will leave us today with a reminder and insight into the nature of the State and what we know about governments. He said:
Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.
Engels said very much the same thing:
The state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another – no less so in a democratic republic than in a monarchy.
Once contradictions are resolved, and the antagonism and exploitation is abolished in the minds and the mechanisms of human kind, government will be relegated to the junkyard of history and Communism will be realized. The idealism of Thomas Paine still gives us hope as Americans and reminds us of the following:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.
It seems increasingly clear that a new government must be instituted and we evoke this sacred American document as its defense. Fight for a government that secures for each a job, an income, a home, insurance, food, water and all things essential to the flourishing of a just and dignified society. For Socialism and the finalization of the Democratic-American revolution!
Back in 2014, I was an ill-informed and opportunist anarcho-communist. I wanted to change the lives of the all oppressed and working people but I was skeptical of government, I aligned with the anarcho-communists only in that regard. However unlike the anarcho-communists I understood the importance of the transition state, aka socialism.
It would not be long I come in contact with the Party of Communists USA, and reached out with enthusiasm to the Secretariat. He tells me that the organization is a Marxist-Leninist (ML) organization and they hold to that line. However even despite such he still sent me an introduction package with ML literature, which, after taking the time to read, I started questioning and opposing my previous position as a anarcho-communist. As the Secretariat sent me more literature, and I took the time to study ML stances on my own, I soon started transitioning to becoming a Marxist-Leninist. I did what I did before, before I became a anarcho-communist, I spent probably close to 5 months just studying ML ideology, and sooner or later, I became a firm ML cadre member of the party. During this period I was also teaching two other friends of mine who basically labeled me their teacher, after a year they became a ML just like me. Now they organize alongside me.
After so long I continued to grow my knowledge and Marxist library, I started getting involved in commissions in my party and trying to produce for it what I could and do what I could to see it advanced. Truly I have watched the PCUSA grow to a strong, well principled cadre organization.
Now, today, I am part of its leadership and organizing activists seeking to not only strengthen it but push it forward as our political demographics in America change from the average centrist position. To make the PCUSA the leading anti-imperialist, anti-revisionist, Marxist-Leninist vanguard for the working class and oppressed people of America.
Now that I have explained my story, how do I know my party is on the right path, that it is principled and firm to its theory, that it takes care of its members and helps them learn and builds dedication in the cadre to the movement?
Because I am an example of it.
YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF AMERICA
The split of the Socialist Party of America in 1919 affected its youth section, the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL), as well. A segment of the organization departed its ranks amidst the controversy, while the organization attempted to steer to a position of neutrality between the warring factions of American Communism, the Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party of America. While both of those organizations approved the operation of a youth section in principle, in practice they had other pressing concerns and did nothing along that line. Loyalists to the SPA attempted to regain the organization for the mother organization, and amidst factional rancor and financial poverty, the national organization dissolved, as did most of the local units of the organization.
It was not until the 2nd Convention of the United Communist Party [Kingston, NY, Jan. 1921] that a serious effort was made to establish a Young Communist League of America. The convention resolution may be downloaded here. “H. Edwards” was appointed national organizer by the party, provisional rules and first leaflets were drawn up, and organizational work was begun in all the major cities in which the UCP had a presence. By April of 1921, the YCLA claimed that “about 20 groups” were “definitely organized.”
[fn. “H. Edwards,” Report to the 2nd World Congress of the YCi,” NARA M-1085, reel 939, doc. 122.]
1. Founding Convention YCLA — Bethel, CT — April 20, 1922.
It was not until April of 1922 — after the United Communist Party had joined the Communist Party of America to form the unified “Communist Party of America, Section of the Communist International” — that a convention was held for the YCLA. The underground gathering was held in Bethel, Connnecticut on April 20, 1922. The underground YCL remained in existence throughout 1922 and into 1923, duplicating the role of the underground CPA vis-a-vis its legal arm, the Workers Party of America.
[fn. Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (NY: Viking, 1957), pg. 344.]
YOUNG WORKERS LEAGUE OF AMERICA
1. First National Convention YWLA — Brooklyn, NY — May 13-15, 1922.
The Founding Convention of the Young Workers League of America approved a manifesto, program, a set of resolutions, and a constitution for the organization. Membership in the organization was open to “all proletarians” between the ages of 14 and 30. There were originally no constitutional links between the YWL and the Workers Party of America — ostensibly its parent organization.
The YWL was to hold annual conventions, governed in between these events by a National Executive Committee of 7, of whom at least 5 were to be residents of the city in which headquarters were located. Five alternates were also chosen, to be filled into the NEC as vacancies arose according to the order of votes received for each alternate. Chicago was chosen as the headquarters city by the founding convention and the group maintained its first headquarters at 1145 Blue Island Avenue, Room 9, Chicago, IL.
The 1st Convention elected the following officers:
National Secretary: Martin Abern.
National Executive Committee: ??? (x 7).
NEC Alternates: ??? (x 5).
The YWL published The Young Worker as its official organ. It also had a “Junior Section” for children between the ages of 8 and 14, for whom a small monthly magazine called The Young Comrade was published.
2. 2nd National Convention YWLA — Chicago, IL — May 20-22, 1923.
The 2nd Convention of the YWLA approved a set of resolutions on International Relations, the Economic Demands of Youth, Education, Miliatarism, Sports, Press, Foreign Language Sections, and the Relationship of the YWL to the Workers Party of America. It also adopted a “Thesis on the Organization of Shop Nuclei,” faulting the territorial form of organization for a failure to make connection with the masses of youth and calling for a restructuring of the organization on a shop basis.
The 2nd Convention elected the following officers:
National Secretary: John Williamson.
National Executive Committee: ??? (x 7).
NEC Alternates: ??? (x 5).
At the end of 1923, the YWL claimed (rather optimistically, it would seem) a membership of about 4,000, organized in 150 branches spread across 100 cities. A membership for the Junior Section of 2,000 in about 30 cities was also asserted. Both of these extremely round figures are to be regarded with suspicion until documentary evidence as to the actual size of the dues-paying membership comes to light.
At the end of 1924, the YWL claimed a membership of between 3,500 and 4,000 in 150 branches. The above caution as to the veracity of this number applies.
3. 3rd National Convention YWLA — Chicago, IL — Oct. 4-6, 1925.
The 3rd Convention of the YWL was marked by a severe factional split between supporters of William Z. Foster and of C.E. Ruthenberg that paralleled the split in the adult party. The report of the credientials committee seating a majority of the Ruthenberg groups delegates was approved by a margin of 29-20. In the debate on the report, Jack Stachel of the Ruthenberg group declared that the YWL had a membership estimated at between 1800 and 1900 and claimed majority support for his faction.
James P. Cannon spoke to the convention about his differences with Foster. William Z. Foster also addressed the gathering, concluding his speech with the words “I am for the Comikntern from start to finish… and if the Comintern finds itself cris-cross with my opinions, there is only one thing to do and that is to change my opinions to fit the policy of the Comintern.” Max Bedacht reported for the Ruthenberg majority group, which was the majority faction of the CEC of the WPA.
The 3rd Convention elected a 20 member National Executive Committee consisting of 10 members from each faction. The officers were as follows:
National Secretary: Samuel Darcy.
National Executive Committee:
Joseph Angelo, Samuel Darcy, Samuel Don, John Harvey, William Herberg, Nat Kaplan, Valeria Metz, George Papcun, H.V. Phillips, Max Salzman, Al Schaap, Max Shachtman, Peter Shapiro, Morris Schindler, William Schneiderman, Jack Stachel, Patrick Toohey, John Williamson, Sam Winocur, Herbert Zam.
During 1925 the Young Pioneers’ League of America was established for children under 14 years of age, replacing the Junior Section of the YWL. The YPLA’s magazine was a monthly entitled The Young Comrade.
YOUNG WORKERS (COMMUNIST) LEAGUE OF USA
Youth Conference — Bellaire, OH — Feb. 28, 1926.
Youth Conference — New York, NY — March 5, 1926.
Pioneer Camps and YWL Summer Schools
The Workers Party’s first youth summer school was held in 1925 at Waino, Wisconsin. About 50 students attended and the program lasted for four weeks.
The Finnish Federation, the largest in the WPA, adopted the summer schools as an important task. During the summer of 1926 the YWL ran a national school in Chicago, with 16 students, as well as three district schools, based in Waino, WI; Waukegan, IL; and Winchedon, MA. These schools conducted full-time 5 week program of courses at Waino, 4 weeks at the other schools. Approximately 140 youngsters attended.
The Young Pioneers, the junior section of the YWL, held three summer camps in 1926, in Chicago, New York City, and Boston, attended by 700 to 800 children.
During the summer of 1927 there were four district schools held — Boston, Ohio, Waino, WI, and Winlock, WA. The Wisconsin and Washington schools conducted an ambitious 6 week program, while the other two schools conducted a 5 week program. Approximately 160 young communists took part. As you may discern from the photos of Waino (above) and Winlock (below), the average age of participants varied substantially between specific summer schools. In an essay which he wrote for the 1927 Yearbook of the Winlock School, Director Oliver Carlson advocated a rather older rather than younger average age, stating that “the boy or girl of 14, 15, or 16 years who is still in school has not as yet been forced to shift for himself, to make his own living, and to feel the pressure of the class struggle. To such a one the class war and all other theories relating to it cannot be duly appreciated.”
The Pacific Northwest school was held at Winlock, WA from July 10 to Aug. 20, 1927 and was attended by 42 students — 24 girls and 18 boys. Age of participants ranged from 14 to 23, with the great bulk between 15 and 18. The students followed the following topics: Sociology, American Social and Labor History, Marxian Economics, Class Struggle History and Theory, Imperialism, Problems of Socialist Reconstruction, Cooperation, Current Events, Public Speaking, and Theory and Practice of Young Workers’ Organization. 28 of the students came from 15 towns in Washington state and 13 students came from 6 towns in Oregon. In addition, there was one participant from Rock Springs, WY. Of the participants, 23 were members of the YWL, 1 was a member of the W(C)PA, and 19 were non-party. As funding for the camp was raised through the pages of the Astoria, OR communist newspaper Toveri, it should come as no surprise that nearly of the participants had clearly Finnish surnames. Director of the Winlock school was Oliver Carlson, who had been involved in earlier party youth schools in New York, Chicago, and Wisconsin.
Classes began at 9 am and carried through until 2:50 pm, with an hour for lunch. Students had additional less formally directed activity, which included research, recreation, songs, and athletics until 4:30 pm. Monday Evenings were spent in YWL nuclei meetings, Friday evenings featured lectures, and plays and entertainment took place on other evenings.
The students elected a six member discipline committee, which set rules for the school, times that students were to be in their quarters, and so on. A chart headed “Roll of Dishonor” was posted to note rulebreakers and thereby maintain discipline.
Five Young Pioneers summer camps were held in 1927, located in the Boston, New York, Ohio, Detroit, and Chicago districts.
Information about 1928 is less complete. At a minimum, there was once again a party summer school held in Woodland, Washington attended by 54 students — 30 girls and 24 boys. The School was held from June 24 through August 4, 1928. The composition was rather older than the 1927 Pacific Northwest school, with 11 students between the ages of 25 and 34. Washington remained the home of the greatest percentage of students (21 of the 54), closely followed by a contingent of 20 from California (11 from Los Angeles, 9 from Northern California). An additional 12 students were from Oregon and 1 hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia. It seems that in contrast to 1927, almost all participants were members of the YW(C)L or the Workers (Communist) Party (35 and 15, respectively). Only a minority of participants had Finnish surnames, again in contrast to the 1927 school.
In addition to director Oliver Carlson, a cook and a technical manager, three instructors joined the faculty: Marion Gray (Agitprop Director of District 12), Al Schaap (District 12 Organizer), and Frank Waldron [Eugene Dennis] (Subdistrict Agitprop Director in District 13). Student committees were formed for athletics, entertainment, photography, library, publicity, wall newspaper, student annual, and discipline.
On the 4th of July, students were transported by truck to the opening of Tualatin Park, 8 miles south of Portland. Revolutionary songs were sung and public speeches were delivered by Henry Routtu (on the YWL), Fred Walker (on Workers Education), and Rose Rubin (on the significance of July 4th to the working class). The students also took a field trip to a non-union lumber mill in Longview, Washington on July 11th. A group of students also agitated against militarism at Vancouver, Washington that same day at a Citizens Military Training Camp.
Plans were set in motion to establish a similar school in California the following summer.
According to the 1930 edition of The American Labor Yearbook, the Young Communist League “based on dues payments” had a membership of about 500 in 1926, 700 in 1927, and 1,860 for the first ten months of 1928. As this is a hostile source, these numbers should be regarded with caution until verifcation with internal documents is possible.
4. 4th National Convention YW(C)L USA — New York, NY — October 30-XX, 1927.
A partial list of delegates published in The Young Worker issue of Nov. 1, 1927 included:
D1 (Boston): Kay, Shohan, Kangas. D2 (New York): Plot, J. Harrison, Miller, Rubenstein. D3 (Philadelphia): Bender, Feldman, Carroll. D5 (Pittsburgh): Minerich, Jaffe. D7 (Detroit): Joe Roberts. D8 (Chicago): Lurye, Glotzer, Green, Novack. D9 (Superior/Twin Cities): Tenhunen, Boverky, Bernick, Sankary. WPA: Bedacht, Wolfe, Stachel, Weinstone, Bittelman.
5. 5th National Convention YW(C)L USA — New York, NY — April 26-XX, 1929.
The 5th National Convention changed the name of the organization to “Communist Youth League of USA.” The change was short-lived, as by the 6th Convention the name of the organization had changed yet again, to “Young Communist League of USA.”
The main report was delivered by Herbert Zam, who spoke on “The Report of the NEC, the Struggle Against the Right Danger, the Position of the Young Workers, and the Tasks of the League.” An organizational report was also delivered by Sam Darcy.
YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF THE USA
6. 6th National Convention YCL USA — New York, NY — July 4-XX, 1931.
The 6th National Convention was attended by 63 delegates, 16 alternates, 17 members of the National Executive Committee, and 17 fraternal delegates. According to statistics published in The Young Worker, this group was said to include 69 members who were 22 years old or younger and to be comprised of 61 native-born whites, 10 native-born blacks, and 18 foreign-born.
“July Plenum” — New York, NY? — July XX-XX, 1933.
7. 7th National Convention YCL USA — New York City? — June 22-27, 1934.
8. 8th National Convention YCL USA — New York City — May 2-5, 1937.
9. 9th National Convention YCL USA — New York City — May 11-15, 1939.
sources: American Labor Year Book. (NY: Rand School of Social Science, various dates), 1923-24: pp. 166-167. 1925: pp. 165-166. 1926: pp. 254-256. 1927: pp. 135-136. 1930: pg. 142. 1932: pp. 116-117. The Young Worker (1927-1929), passim. Red Dawn: Commencement Annual of the Northwest Young Workers Summer School. (Astoria, OR: Pacific Development Society, 1927). Red Student: Commencement Annual of the Pacific Coast Workers Summer School. (Astoria, OR: Pacific Development Society, 1928).
New prospects read aloud the pledge when they become candidates in the LYCUSA.
“To create a better world, I now take my place in the ranks of the international communist movement and the Party of Communists USA, the Party of the American working class (and its youth group, the League of Young Communists USA).
I take this solemn oath to give the best that is in me to the service of my class. I pledge myself to spare no effort in uniting workers in militant struggle against war, imperialism and fascism.
I pledge myself to work unsparingly in helping the organized labor movement, in the shops, among the unemployed, to lead the struggles for the daily needs of the American working class, understanding fully that class struggle is the central ingredient in solving the oppression of working people.
I solemnly pledge to take my place in the forefront of the struggle for the rights of nationally oppressed groups; against racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia (anti-immigrant), homophobia, police brutality, anti-Sovietism, anti-communism, and against the chauvinist lies of the capitalist class.
I pledge myself to rally the American working class to defend the ideals of the former Soviet Union, and to support the former Soviet peoples in their struggle to reestablish the Soviet Union as a scientific socialist state.
I pledge myself to remain at all times a vigilant and firm defender of the Leninist line of our Party, the only line that eventually will insure the establishment of Scientific Socialism, which is the beginning of the transfer of power from the capitalist class to the working class.
I pledge to support the efforts of those in the international communist movement whose communist parties are centered on calling for the reemergence of Marxist-Leninist, anti-revisionist parties within the world communist movement. There is a need for a reinstitution of a center for coordination and strategisation of the world’s communist parties in their struggle against globalized capitalism.”
What deciding factors make protection and self-defense for leftists the most important?
• Local political demographics
• Size of city/town
• If there is other leftist organizations in the local area
If a lone leftist or small club of leftist live in either a dominantly conservative region, or in a place where conservative and liberal influence is equal, the subject of protection is at the highest importance.
If a lone leftist or small club of leftists live in a small town of a few hundred people, this could be a call to needing protection, depending on the political demographics.
If there is two or more leftist organizations in your general region, protection isn’t as much of an importance as long as leftist comrades stick to a squad of trusted leftist comrades.
Basic tips to help increase protection:
• Use a fake surname in case of hostile enemies finding your home or family’s home.
• Keep personal and political life separate.
• When outside of your home, always keep watch over your surroundings.
For leftist organizations:
Leftist organizations need to put a heavy focus in to protection and self-defense. Leftist organizations when out at rallies, must pull an old tactic from history, when the communist party use to have “Marshall’s” watching over their rally. Marshall’s being comrades dressed as regular civilians, who are either carrying or have quick access to a weapon, who would sit outside a rally. They would watch over the rally from the sidewalk in order to keep eyes out for right-wing extremists, or violent anti-communists. Being hidden among the crowd would make them unknown to the hostile opponent who would seek to harm those in the rally. This would ensure the safety of the comrades.
For the leftist organizations, the formation of a protection unit for comrades at a protest, strike, or rally, is the most important thing for the safety of our comrades in a reactionary society.
Those who are in such a protection unit must be well trained with a gun, legally carrying, and know basic hand to hand combat. They must also know how to use mace in times of less extreme confrontation.
For small leftist clubs:
Small leftist clubs, be it a club of 3 or 15 people, the subject of a protection unit isn’t assigned to a few specific comrades, but must be the majority of the club, if not the entire club.
Small clubs are very vulnerable and easy to be outnumbered by violent anti-communist and/or white supremacists. Thus, all within the small club must work together to learn how to protect themselves and their comrades. Subject like hand to hand combat must be learned. A workout plan for the club to put itself in shape. Possible gun training (If the club is of people over 18.) How to keep watchful eye over each others surroundings. It is also important to notice the body language of a hostile individual, watch his/her body language to make sure they aren’t going to reach for a weapon, or if they aren’t going to start punching, or otherwise. Doing this you can also mentally process if the individual has a bulged out section under the shirt, indicating the presence of a gun or knife.
For lone leftists:
For leftists who are basically by themselves with no club nor leftist comrades, it is important they find the best option to protect themselves from hostile violence. The best course of action for leftists who are by themselves in a hostile reactionary region, is to look for whatever someone left leaning organization is in their vicinity and try to form friends with their local members. This and/or seeking their family or best friends, people they can trust, to form a squad with. A protection unit of not really leftists, but trusted allies. It is also important not to leave by yourself without some kind of weapon for protection. Be it knife of gun (legally owned.)
The real enemy:
Many young people in the United States think that the main problem today is the fight between the growing ultraright and racist movements versus people with leftist politics. There are many questionable groups that create counterproductive situations. We urge leftists to study the events they are attending and all groups that are participating. Our goal is to bring socialism, to build a strong labor movement, a strong youth movement, and we must champion peace, respect and self-defense in these troubling times.