The DSP’s Movement Work Perspectives and Tasks DSP
The Activist ‑ Volume 6, Number 1, 1996
By Doug Lorimer
[The general line of this report was adopted by the DSP National Committee on December 30, 1995.]
Our strategy for achieving socialism is to build a mass revolutionary workers' party on the Bolshevik model, which can imbue the working class with revolutionary consciousness and thus lead the masses in carrying out a proletarian revolution and the construction of socialism. Without the leadership of such a party the workers, no matter how massive or militant their struggles, will not be able to achieve decisive victory over the capitalist rulers.
Building such a party has always been our strategic orientation, and it remains our strategic orientation. But in deciding our immediate tasks we have to start from the recognition that we are not yet such a mass party, or anything approaching it. We are a small, but growing, "nucleus" of that future mass revolutionary workers' party ‑‑ the cadre, or leadership, core of such a party. The immediate and central task that confronts us is to recruit, educate and train more Marxist cadres. This is the indispensable precondition for building a mass revolutionary workers' party.
Our immediate, central task
Strengthening our nucleus of Marxist cadres has been the central task facing us since the formation of our party organisation 24 years ago and there are no tactical rules or blueprints on the ways and means to accomplish it. These depend upon the objective stage of development of the class struggle, the degree of radicalisation or conservatism of the working class and its potential allies, and the size and experience of our own forces.
Many different tactics have been used in the history of our movement: entries, splits, fusions, regroupments, and colonisations of cadres into promising political situations in various sectors of the mass movement. Today our tactical goal is to recruit more of the young militants radicalised in the current social and political struggles, and to transform these recruits through education and experience into Marxist cadres.
What we will be able to accomplish in the future, as the radicalisation deepens and broadens to encompass decisive numbers of workers and students, will depend upon what we are able to achieve in the construction of the cadre nucleus, the leadership core, of the future mass Leninist party, in this preliminary period.
This is the central fact that we must begin with.
There are two possible sources that can give rise to confusion about this. One comes from the fact that we act like a mass party in certain ways. For example, we carry out propaganda and agitation that addresses the problems that face the mass of working people, not limiting ourselves to the problems of the radicalising elements or of the socialist movement itself. We are a nucleus ‑‑ but one that intends to become a mass party.
Of course, given the limited resources at our disposal, the audience for our propaganda and agitation is not the mass of working people, but the radicalising elements among them. But we seek to win these radicalising elements to revolutionary politics not by focussing on their own narrow concerns but by illuminating from a Marxist, that is, a scientific socialist, perspective the problems that confront the masses as they arise in the concrete course of development of the class struggle.
A second possible source of confusion about where we are at lies in the fact that we are involved in building actions such as rallies, street marches, and strikes that can involve thousands of people outside our own ranks. This year, for example, in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra we led several thousand high‑school students in protest actions against French nuclear testing. In the past we have been, and hopefully in the not too distant future we will again be, part of the leadership of actions that begin to approach a truly mass scale ‑‑ actions involving tens and even hundreds of thousands of people.
But neither of these two things should be allowed to blur the reality that we are not a mass party or anything approaching it. This reflects an objective fact about the stage of development of anti‑capitalist consciousness among the overwhelming mass of workers and students in this country, that is ‑‑ to employ a formulation used by Lenin in his pamphlet "Left‑Wing" Communism ‑‑ "the broad masses are still, for the most part, apathetic, inert, dormant and convention‑ridden." This objective fact cannot be overcome by the subjective action of a few hundred revolutionary‑minded militants. Neither we nor any of our opponents on the revolutionary left have massive forces under our influence and at our disposal, whose actions in and of themselves can alter this objective situation.
This is one of the key blunders continually repeated by our major opponent on the revolutionary left ‑‑ the ISO. They repeatedly act as if they do dispose of massive forces, by thinking that the actions of a tiny militant minority can effect events like a mass party.
Our approach is quite different. We make no pretense to be able to affect the class struggle like a mass party. We champion every progressive struggle as it arises. We fight to keep them heading in an anti‑capitalist direction; to have them orient toward independent mass action and avoid being channeled into class collaboration or derailed by ultraleftism. We inject our socialist politics into these struggles and seek to recruit from them militants who can be educated and trained as Marxist cadres. This orientation is the source of the necessary experience, testing of program, and training of our members as revolutionary cadres.
But this does not mean that we have to have comrades involved in building each and every one of these social and political struggles. Given our size, this is simply not possible. How then can we carry out this orientation in relation to each and every progressive struggle? The fundamental means to do this is through Green Left Weekly.
Green Left Weekly
Given the short‑lived nature of big national campaigns like the campaign against woodchipping old growth forests or the campaign against French nuclear testing, and the wide variety of localised struggles today, Green Left Weekly is the most resource‑efficient tool we have to relate to these localised struggles.
The need for us to cover struggles occurring only in one state or city puts greater importance on the role of political leadership in the branches in thinking through and writing articles for the paper. The question of Green Left copy, just like the question of Green Left sales and subscription work, should be thoroughly discussed at every branch executive and fraction meeting.
That, of course, doesn't mean that we expect an article on every single meeting or small rally, or an article on each local campaign each week. But it does mean that if a sustained local campaign ‑‑ whether it is around a local environmental issue or a union struggle or a campaign against a state government austerity or privatisation measure ‑‑ isn't reflected in Green Left, then we are missing a big opportunity. It means we are missing an opportunity to win new readers to the paper by covering the struggles that they are involved in.
People are interested in reading about the things that affect them directly, especially if they are involved in a struggle. We know that from our own experience with Green Left. When the bundle comes in one of the first things that comrades look for is to see what's in the paper that week from their city, reporting on their activities, on the struggles they're directly involved in. And it's a safe bet that one of the best ways to sell a Green Left to a worker on a picket line or a protester at a rally is to be able to show them an article on their struggle.
If we're not covering sustained local struggles in the paper then we're also missing an opportunity to reach the activists involved in these struggles with our proposals for how to advance the struggle, our analysis of the issues and problems they are grappling with, and to give them a picture of what we stand for. We're also missing an opportunity to convey to our readers around the country the lessons of these local actions. Taken together with similar reports coming in from other cities, they can provide a truly national picture of the state of and emerging issues in the class struggle.
Continuing to improve Green Left copy from the branches requires better and closer collaboration between the Green Left staff and the branches. There are a lot of problems that have to be dealt with ‑‑ everything from the technical problems of deadlines and the length of articles to the difficulty of editing material when the editors can't sit down and discuss articles with the writers.
Political reporting for Green Left from the branches is an important leadership responsibility, an integral part of the political life and activity of comrades in all areas of movement work. When the leadership in the branches takes responsibility for looking at the articles whenever possible, and for the political content and factual accuracy of the articles sent in, we make a lot fewer mistakes and we get a lot better articles.
But this leadership responsibility doesn't reduce the responsibility of each and every comrade to suggest ideas and to send material for articles, and to take the initiative and with the collaboration of the branch leadership to write up articles and letters for the paper.
We could use more letters from comrades on incidents that highlight some aspect of the oppression or irrationality of capitalist society, or that tell readers about the response of people to the last issue, about a discussion that got started on the job or street corner where you are selling. And it would be helpful to us if sellers would let us know how people we're working with react to the paper, to the paper as a whole and to particular articles on particular subjects.
Lenin wrote a lot about the need to develop "worker correspondents" for the revolutionary paper. He viewed it as the fundamental requirement of a real workers' paper, and he repeatedly stressed the need for all members of the party, especially the workers, to send in articles, material for articles, letters for publication and letters to the editorial staff. The same goes for Green Left Weekly.
The stress we put on producing and distributing Green Left Weekly reflects the stage we're at in building the party, that is, we are still at the stage of being a propaganda nucleus. This means that we put the priority in our activity on propaganda and on our propaganda tools, particularly our press. It means that all our activities, including the actions we build, are propagandistic in their goals ‑‑ that is, they are aimed at reaching out to radicalising workers and students with our program and our perspectives, and winning them to our ranks.
This does not mean in any way that our role is limited to commenting on events from the sidelines. Or that our involvement in building rallies, street marches, strikes and strike support activities isn't important. To the contrary, the only way our propaganda can be effective is if we are involved in such actions.
What it means is that we recognise that we are too small to alter the course of the class struggle directly, to alter the alignment of class forces. We cannot call into being massive street marches or a gigantic strike wave. What we can do, and what we must do, is respond to events and work within the alignment of class forces that confronts us, with the goal of strengthening our party. That's why the aim of the actions we build ‑‑ whether it's organising a support rally for a strike, or building a street march in support of East Timor's right to national self‑determination, or helping lead a campus occupation against the introduction of fees ‑‑ is propagandistic.
Our goal in all of these actions is to explain our ideas, including our ideas about how to advance and win these struggles, to draw the lessons of victories or defeats, and to set an example where we can; that is, to show in practice the correctness of our program by demonstrating our capacities as organisers and leaders of real social and political struggles.
While we cannot directly alter the objective political situation by calling into being mass struggles, the actions we build can have an impact, even if only a modest one, on the class struggle. They can achieve modest victories and thus set an example to broader forces. For example, when Prime Minister Keating denounces the "East Timor lobby" in Australia for causing "hiccups" in the Labor government's relations with the Suharto dictatorship, we know that our work in building actions that raise the issue of East Timorese self‑determination has had an impact on these relations. Of course, we also know that this is not just because of the still very modest actions we have built. It's because the great majority of Australians disapprove of the Keating government's support for the Indonesian military occupation of East Timor, and the actions we have built have forced the government to address that mass sentiment.
We know that the scale of the actions we are able to build around the East Timor issue are not yet sufficient to force the government to abandon its policy on this issue. While there is mass sentiment against the government's policy, there are not yet masses of people who feel the need to take direct action on this issue. The actions we build around the East Timor issue, however, are aimed at deepening the mass sentiment against the government's policy and therefore help to draw more people into action against it. In doing so, they also help to create a broader milieu that will be receptive to our ideas, to our program and perspectives, and thus help us to recruit people to our party. Through involvement in building these actions our members can gain experience in leading a real political struggle, thus helping to educate and train them as Marxist cadres. That is why the actions we build around the East Timor issue are propagandistic in their goal.
Recognising that we are a propaganda nucleus and that all our activities have a propagandistic goal is not just a matter of being conscious of the objective limits of what we can do as a party. It is also key to understanding what types of actions are a priority for us. That is, we put a premium on actions that address the issues which are politically central to the tasks and line of march of the working class in its struggle for socialism; that have the potential to draw broader forces into anti‑capitalist political action; that provide us with opportunities to convince radialising elements of the correctness of our program and perspectives; and which therefore help us to recruit, educate and train revolutionary cadres. And in those actions, we put a priority on explaining and popularising our ideas, in particular on winning new readers for our most effective propaganda tool, for Green Left Weekly.
This is the general framework that we have to be conscious of in deciding what actions we commit comrades' time and energy to building.
Prioritising our movement work
Because there are no big, sustained, nation‑wide campaigns today, branches have to make decisions about their movement work priorities in the context of a variety of purely local campaigns or even just one‑off events. Given our size, it is essential that branch leaderships make these decisions on the basis of what will best maximise the recruitment, education and training of party cadres. Of course, when a big, nation‑wide campaign or potential campaign does emerge then branches must be prepared to reassess their movement work priorities and to reallocate their resources to building that campaign. That was the situation we found ourselves in during 1995 with the campaign against woodchipping in the early part of the year and the campaign against French nuclear testing in the second half of the year. Branches responded quickly to those developments, which we had not and could not have predicted at our 16th National Conference, in January of this year.
We don't know if we will face a similar situation in the coming year. What issue will impel masses of people into action, into struggle, is something we cannot predict. This is not due to some weakness on our part. As Lenin pointed out, referring to the situation in Britain in his pamphlet "Left Wing" Communism:
``We cannot tell ‑‑ no one can tell ‑‑ ... what immediate cause will most serve to rouse, kindle, and impel into the struggle of the very wide masses, who are still dormant... It is possible that the breach will be forced, the ice broken, by a parliamentary crisis, or by a crisis arising from colonial and imperialist contradictions, which are hopelessly entangled and are becoming increasingly painful and acute, or perhaps by some third cause, etc.’’
While we cannot predict what immediate cause, what spark, will generate a big, nation‑wide campaign, there are some one‑off nationally coordinated events that we know have the potential to mobilise several thousand people around the country, and which provide us with definite opportunities to advance our propagandistic goals ‑‑ events such as the International Women's Day marches or the November 12 East Timor actions. In addition there are some actions that we ourselves can initiate on a national scale that will advance these goals. I'll return to these at the end of this report.
In general, however, we face a situation where the issues that spark or have the potential to spark broader forces into action are localised. It may be the introduction of a fee for a course on a particular university, or the withdrawal of a service provided by a student union on a university or TAFE college as a result of a Liberal state government's VSU legislation, or the threat of big job losses in the public service as a result of a Liberal or Labor state government's budget cuts, or the destruction of a wilderness area due to a state government's approval of a tourist project. In most cities, branches face a variety of these sorts of localised campaigns or actions. Some mobilise quite large numbers of people, others only modest forces.
There is no recipe that we can provide each branch with to determine which of these local campaigns or actions they should allocate comrades to build and seek to be part of their leadership. Each branch has to think through and decide that itself, within the general framework which I have already outlined, that is, what will best help advance our central task of recruiting, educating and training cadres.
Of course, there are some questions that branches need to consider in thinking through what local campaigns or actions they will get involved in and build. Firstly, will allocating comrades to build a particular campaign or action help us to come into contact with newly radicalising elements that we can recruit to our organisation, by demonstrating our capacity as organisers and leaders? The organising committee of the campaign or action might be so dominated by our opponents that it discourages any newly radicalising forces from participating. But this, in and of itself, should not be the basis on which we decide whether or not we get involved. Secondly, does the action or actions being built by the organising committee have the potential to draw broader forces into motion and to develop their consciousness in an anti‑capitalist direction? And will our involvement in the organising committee help to ensure that the actions have this character?
In many cases prospects for recruiting directly out of the organising committees will be negligible. But that should not necessarily rule out the allocation of comrades to work in the organising committee, if it will help promote their education and training, give them experience in leading an action, in battling our opponents, etc. But maybe the comrades will gain this more quickly in some other area of movement work. Branch leaderships should also throw into the equation whether or not a comrade's education and training as a Marxist cadre will be accelerated more by involvement in an internal class series, or taking on some organisational assignment in the party or Resistance, than by being involved in building a particular campaign or action.
These are all questions that must be carefully considered by branch leaderships in thinking through the assignment of comrades to build local campaigns and actions. Each branch has to figure out exactly what to do ‑‑ and what not to do ‑‑ within the framework of our immediate, central task of strengthening our Marxist cadre force and our national campaign priorities.
Main task of socialists in the trade unions
I now what to spend a fair bit of time discussing our work in the trade unions. Our work in other arenas of the class struggle has been, or will be, addressed in other reports. Comrade Peter Boyle's report has already outlined the perpectives and plans we have for work in the electoral arena. The youth work report will address our work on the campuses and in the high schools.
In this report I will not be discussing the particular detail of our national trade union work, since, firstly, there are no big, sustained national campaigns currently underway in this arena; and, secondly, we have national implantation in only one union, the CPSU. Detailed discussion of our work in this union will be taken up at the national CPSU fraction during the education conference next week. Rather, I will outline our general perspectives for work in the trade‑union movement.
As with our work in every other arena of the class struggle (whether it be the universities and TAFE colleges, the high schools, or the electoral arena), our activities in the trade‑union movement have propagandistic goals, that is to recruit, educate and train Marxist cadres by explaining and popularising our ideas and, wherever we can, demonstrating in practice the correctness of those ideas by showing our capacities as effective leaders of the movement. In carrying out this work we therefore give priority to the development of our propaganda institutions.
When we think of our propaganda institutions we usually think about Green Left Weekly, about our public forums and bookshops. But we need to broaden that concept out. We need to think about our trade union fractions as "propaganda institutions" ‑‑ as vehicles to spread our ideas; to sell Green Left subscriptions on the job; to get people to our public forums; to get across our ideas during strikes and other industrial disputes; and to demonstrate the correctness of our ideas in practice.
This also means learning to "talk socialism" on the job, learning how to explain our ideas, who we are, what we stand for, in ways that can be understood by radicalising workers. James P. Cannon put it this way:
``Our task in the unions is not simply to play high politics. The main task of a party member in the union is to get acquainted with another worker beside him in the shop, and convert him to our ideas, and get him into the party. Unless we do that, unless we recruit continually to the party, we can never influence the trade unions, and without decisively influencing great masses of workers in the unions we can never lead the revolution.’’
These remarks are contained in a speech given by Cannon to an SWP NC plenum in 1941, which we have reprinted in a short collection of Cannon's speeches from the 1920s, '40s and '50s on Revolutionary Marxists and the Trade Unions. All comrades, and particularly our comrades working in the unions, should read and study these speeches. Branches and branch union fractions should consider holding discussion classes around them. They contain invaluable guidelines for Marxist work in the unions.
Recruitment to the party ‑‑ our main task in the unions ‑‑ cannot be accomplished without properly functioning fractions, that is, fractions that meet regularly, and discuss not only what Cannon called the "high politics" of the union but how to carry into the unions all of our national movement work campaigns, the movement work campaigns decided on by the branch, the distribution of Green Left Weekly, the political content of articles on union questions for the paper, for our industrial bulletins and leaflets, as well as the recruitment of union militants to the party. Cannon correctly stressed that discussion of recruitment must be on the agenda of fraction meetings not as a general question but concretely, that is, how the collective work of the fraction can draw into the party particular militants who are friendly to us.
Viewing our fractions as propaganda institutions is key to successful party work in the trade unions because, as Cannon explained in his 1954 speech "Preparing for the Next Labour Upsurge," "all‑sided activity of the party is the secret of revolutionary trade‑unionism" in this sort of preparatory period. It is only through the all‑sided propagandistic activities of the party ‑‑ our movement work campaigns, our electoral work, distributing Green Left Weekly, holding forums and educational class series, etc. ‑‑ that we can recruit union militants to the party, and also educate and train them as revolutionary cadres.
Viewing our fractions as propaganda institutions also helps us to understand another point that Cannon made in that speech, that is, "The party press will be our chief instrument to recruit new cadres of revolutionary trade unionists from a new generation."
Now, of course, Green Left Weekly is not a party organ. It is an independent socialist weekly that is sponsored by the party and Resistance. DSP members are the main contributors of articles, provide the main production staff and are the main distributors of the paper. Without a Marxist cadre organisation like the DSP supporting and leading it, such a paper could not have come into existence or be sustained. It is therefore natural that our politics has a hegemonic position in the political content of Green Left Weekly and the paper provides us with our main propaganda tool.
However, because it is not an official party organ, in carrying out our movement work the party, and Resistance, needs to supplement Green Left Weekly with its own official propaganda material ‑‑ broadsheets for wide distribution at politically significant movement events, bulletins and leaflets for wide distribution on campus, in the high schools or in the trade unions.
This year the National Office has taken the initiative to start up an official DSP industrial bulletin ‑‑ Dare to Struggle. This will help us to raise the party's profile in the union movement, to explain and popularise the ideas of revolutionary trade unionists, to present our proposals for action during strikes and other disputes, as well as taking our movement work campaigns into the unions. When circumstances warrant it, the National Office will produce copies of the bulletin for national distribution. In general though, the content of the bulletin will be decided locally, by each branch and branch union fraction, for intervention into the unions in which we have members and the local union movement as a whole.
I want to return for a moment to Cannon's point about the "main task of a party member in the union" being to recruit to the party, and the centrality of properly functioning fractions to accomplishing this task. Of course, Cannon's comments apply not only to comrades working on the "shopfloor", but equally to comrades who hold official positions in a union.
In his 1941 speech "It is Time for a Bolder Policy in the Unions" Cannon related the experience of a young comrade who was offered a union organisers' position. Cannon's comments have relevance to the situation we are increasingly finding in our union work today:
``He first inquired of the Political Committee whether he should accept the post. It is one of those jobs which come up so frequently, of an appointment being made by a reactionary officialdom with a double purpose: one purpose being to try to win over to the machine a young militant who has been making a little trouble, put him on the payroll, soften him up a little bit, and integrate him into the machine; the other is, get him out of the field of activity, get him removed from his base in the rank and file, and if he doesn't go along a little later, throw him out [of the union]. That is the way the wise labour fakers figure, and that is the way they ruined and demoralised many and many young militants who didn't have the advantage of a party education and party support. But in that case, as we almost always do with a comrade we trust, we said, go ahead and take the strategic position. Let them play their game with you, but you play your game with them. Use your position, however restricted the opportunities are, to acquire experience and to serve the party.’’
Cannon went on to observe:
``This comrade has now been promoted to a higher post and he again came to New York to consult us whether he should accept the higher position to which he was promoted. In the course of the conversation, he expressed great satisfaction One thing he was sure he had done which he counted more important than the organisation of 10,000 workers was that he had gotten two of the organisers to join the party and he had a plan to collect some money out of his wages and the wages of the members he had recruited, to pay the expenses of a party organiser to go into that field and devote full time to the chasing down of contacts that he had secured for them. He, himself, naturally, because of his position, couldn't work in the open. But when one is really loyal to the party and when he understands that every time he does a job in the mass movement there has to accrue a benefit to the party in order for the work itself to be permanent; when you have that kind of attitude, you find a way to do the political work, to do the fraction work, and so on.’’
Given the crisis of leadership in the trade unions in this country, of their inability to even generate competent organisers, many of our comrades in the unions will find themselves being offered such posts. At our last plenum, in June, we decided that our general approach to such offers would be to take them up. The union organisers' positions a number of our comrades already hold have helped the party to gain greater collective knowledge of the union movement and have helped enrich our collective experience in carrying out our work in the unions. Our experience with these union posts has also highlighted the centrality of properly functioning fractions to making these and other union posts serve the party's aims.
Properly functioning fractions are crucial to educating and training comrades to operate as Marxist cadres in the union movement, and to enable them to accomplish our propagandistic goals in the trade‑union movement. To achieve these goals, there are some basic things working comrades need to do. These include:
* Getting to know their workmates, in particular, their level of political consciousness.
* Trying to interest them in buying Green Left Weekly, and better yet, a subscription to the paper.
* Distributing copies of Dare to Struggle.
* Assessing the political value of the job they're in, and whether they should seek another job.
* Taking on job delegate positions to gain experience as a union activists.
* Bringing any problems they have on the job back to the branch for collective discussion.
None of these basic tasks can be effectively carried out without comrades being able to have regular fraction meetings to discussion their work or, where we do not have enough comrades in a particular union to constitute a fraction, regular discussions with the branch executive, or a subcommittee led by the branch executive.
Politics and the trade‑union movement
I now want to outline our general approach to what Cannon called "high politics" in the unions, and come back to our basic tasks within this framework. As more comrades become actively involved in the life of the trade unions either at the workplace level or in organisers' positions, or on the executive bodies of individual unions, having a clear grasp of the Marxist approach to this question will become crucial to our work in the trade‑union movement.
The first thing to recognise is that the trade‑union movement functions according to certain objective laws, laws which operate independently of the will or even the participation of revolutionary socialists. These laws reflect both the particularity of the trade‑union movement as a distinct arena of the class struggle, as well as its existence within the framework of the broader economic and political contradictions of Australian capitalism. The task of Marxists is not to try to overturn or deny the existence of these laws, but to understand them, and learn to interact with them in such a way as to transform the activity of the working class into a conscious revolutionary struggle. This is the standpoint of historical materialism.
These objective laws of motion fundamentally reflect themselves in terms of politics ‑‑ in this case, the dynamics of Australian trade‑union politics.
The trade‑union movement is a profoundly political movement, and its development and destiny are indelibly shaped by the type of politics that becomes dominant within it.
Empirically, the existence of a complex system of trade‑union politics in this country is readily apparent. The workplace has its political dynamic, the local union branches have their internal politics, national unions and state trades and labour councils are up to their necks in politics, and the ACTU executive is a profoundly political body with no small import in the overall political life of the country. The "business" of the union movement, particularly as we go up the organisational ladder, is increasingly concerned with government legislation, foreign policy, and candidates for political office, with managing large sums of money (superannuation funds in particular), and with political relationships with other organisations that affect the Australian political scene. The positions taken on these matters determine to a large extent the gains made by the labour movement, as well as the careers of union officials.
This system of trade‑union politics is thoroughly interwoven with the politics of that sophisticated instrument of capitalist rule, the Australian Labor Party. Direct representatives of the labour movement play a crucial role in that party, making up a significant number of delegates at ALP state and national conferences. In this manner (among others) the inter‑relationship between official bourgeois politics and trade‑union politics is closely maintained, and the integration of the labour movement into the system of bourgeois politics is strengthened.
More theoretically, the all‑pervasiveness of politics in the trade‑union movement flows from the fact that, as Lenin put it, "politics is the most concentrated expression of economics." In other words, the trade unions' role in conducting the economic struggle leads inevitably to a corresponding set of trade‑union politics. These are, in general, the politics of immediate defence of the workers' economic interests within the framework of capitalism ‑‑ in contrast to the socialist movement's politics, which represent the overall interests of the working class with the perspective of organising and leading a proletarian revolution.
Grasping the distinct laws of motion of the trade‑union movement, then, involves understanding what political trends arise spontaneously in the trade‑union movement, how the struggle between these trends is crystallised and waged, and how the alignment of forces between political trends affects the unions' conduct of the economic struggle and its accompanying political battles.
Two main political trends in union movement
In the course of development of the trade‑union movement in this country, almost every political notion and ideological viewpoint that it is possible to find in a spontaneous movement has appeared at one time or another. However, since the transformation of capitalist Australia into an imperialist power in the early part of this century, two main political trends have taken relatively coherent form in the Australian labour movement. The on‑going contention, polarisation and realignment between these two trends has shaped the dynamic of Australian trade‑union politics.
At one pole stands the trend historically characterised by Marxists as class collaborationist, that is, the perspective which views the interests of labour and capital as fundamentally harmonious, not antagonistic. The political and economic policies advocated by this political trend seek to promote the expansion of Australian capital domestically and internationally, while trying to ensure that the workers, or more accurately, a minority section of the working class ‑‑ its upper strata ‑‑ get their "fair share" trickled down to them. This general perspective has expressed itself in somewhat different concrete policies in different historical periods, but its basic outlook has remained consistent. In particular, it has been characterised by a pro‑imperialist patriotism and a blindness to the particular conditions faced by ethnic and racial minorities in Australia. Even on the occasions when collaborationist forces have taken militant action against employers, it is invariably in defence of only a small stratum of workers, sacrificing the interests of the class as a whole, or even only in defence of the bureaucratic interests of the union officialdom.
The class‑collaborationist political trend has dominated the Australian labour movement throughout this century. In part, this is due to the conscious promotion of the collaborationist line by the massive ideological apparatus of the bourgeoisie. However, the principal material base for the existence of a class‑collaborationist tendency in the labour movement lies in a more objective phenomenon resting on the overall political economy of Australian monopoly capitalism. That is, the existence of an "aristocracy of labour" in Australia, an upper stratum of the working class that is the social base for the perpetuation of the class‑collaborationist line within the working class.
This stratum is created by monopoly capital's use of part of its superprofits to grant more secure conditions of employment to a minority of workers. This layer of workers is therefore relatively cushioned from the shocks of the capitalist business cycle and has enjoyed material advantages over the mass of workers in the competition among workers to sell their labour power ‑‑ material advantages that are reinforced by the oppression of women, and discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities.
While the actual membership of the labour aristocracy has encompassed wider or narrower sections of the working class in different historical periods, its permanent core is relatively small, confined largely to the Australian‑ or British‑born, white, unionised, skilled male workers.
The labour aristocracy provides the social base for the conservative, consciously class‑collaborationist bureaucracy that dominates the leadership of the trade‑union movement. The class‑collaborationist political trend in the labour movement, which is headed by the labour bureaucracy, is crystallised through support for the pro‑capitalist, pro‑imperialist policies of the ALP, and for union affiliation to this instrument of capitalist rule.
There is, of course, is no simple and direct relationship between the labour aristocracy and the political trend of class collaborationism. Not every "protected worker" supports the expansion of capital and labour's surrender to it, just as not every trade‑union official is a petty‑bourgeois careerist, a bureaucrat. Nevertheless, the "protected" upper layers of the working class, because of the crumbs they receive from the Australian monopoly capital's privileged position within the world imperialist system, constitute a relatively stable social base for the spontaneous generation of class‑collaborationist political views.
It is also important to emphasise that the petty‑bourgeois careerists who constitute the trade‑union bureaucracy do not simply "represent" the spontaneous class‑collaborationist politics of the labour aristocracy. The labour bureaucracy functions as the conscious and professional agents of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement. When the material basis for the existence of a broad labour aristocracy within the workers' movement contracts, that is, when monopoly capital's superprofits decline, the labour bureaucracy will collude with the monopolists and the capitalist state to attack not only the wages and conditions of the "unprotected" majority of the working class, but even the relatively high wages and secure conditions of employment enjoyed by its "protected" upper strata. The ACTU bureaucracy's collusion with the ALP government's wholesale sacking of domestic airline pilots in 1989 is a graphic case in point.
The other pole of the trade‑union movement is a political trend which can be characterised as class‑struggle unionism. This term is accurate as long as it is clearly understood to mean class struggle in the non‑revolutionary, trade unionist sense.
This pole of the labour movement grasps the inherent antagonism between labour and capital, recognising that the working class has never and will never get anything from the capitalist class without a fight. But because it is generated spontaneously within the labour movement, that is, out of the direct and immediate experiences of the "unprotected" majority sections of the working class, this pole does not have a scientific understanding of the antagonism between capital and wage labour and therefore does not consciously seek the revolutionary overrthrow of the capitalist system of exploitation. It seeks only to improve the position of the working class within the framework of the capitalist system. It, therefore, represents the more consistent trade unionist consciousness in the working‑class movement.
Revolutionary politics and spontaneous class‑struggle unionism
It is vitally important for us to clearly understand that there is a qualitative distinction between the politics of this spontaneous class‑struggle tendency and scientific socialism, that is, conscious class‑struggle politics. We should remember that when, in his book What Is To Be Done?, Lenin described spontaneous trade‑union politics as reformist politics, as "working‑class bourgeois politics", he was not referring to either the conscious class‑collaborationist politics of the labour bureaucracy or the spontaneous class‑collaborationist politics of the labour aristocracy. Rather he was referring to the non‑revolutionary consciousness that characterises spontaneously generated trade‑unionist consciousness, that is, spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics.
What Is To Be Done? was written by Lenin in 1902, more than a decade before he made a scientific analysis of the imperialist stage of capitalism and of its impact on the labour movement, that is, of the emergence of a labour aristocracy as the material basis for the existence of a consolidated class‑collaborationist political trend within the working‑class movement.
The sharp distinction Lenin drew in What Is To Be Done? between spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics and Marxist, that is, revolutionary working‑class, politics has even more significance in the context of the political dynamics of the trade‑union movement in the imperialist era.
In What Is To Be Done?, Lenin argued that the working class could not acquire revolutionary consciousness simply through revolutionary socialists welcoming spontaneous class‑struggle consciousness on the part of the workers and attempting to push it to become more militant. To the contrary, he warned that even the slightest blurring of the ideological, political or organisational distinctions between revolutionary Marxism and the spontaneous consciousness of the mass movement represented a step toward adapting the socialist movement into an instrument of bourgeois politics.
"any subservience to the spontaneity of the mass movement and any degrading of [socialist] politics to the level of trade unionist politics", Lenin wrote, "mean preparing the ground for converting the working‑class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy."
Indeed, this has been the role played by spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics from the end of the 19th century until today.
Because it seeks to organise the workers to fight the capitalists only for reforms within the boundaries of the capitalist system, spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics, no matter how militant, does not seek to replace bourgeois democracy with workers' democracy. While such class‑struggle trade‑union trends may proclaim socialism as their ultimate goal, in practice they do not seek to organise the working class to overturn the capitalist system, but only to reform it.
At most, class‑struggle trade‑union politics strives to win over and utilise the institutions of the bourgeois‑democratic state, such as parliament, in the interests of the working class. On the central question of politics, that is, on the question of state power and how the working class can attain it, spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics is therefore inconsistent in its opposition to class‑collaborationism, and manifests itself, in the arena of politics proper, as radical reformism, as left social‑democratic liberalism.
In the imperialist era, this fundamental weakness of spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics prepares the ground for the consciously class‑collaborationist forces within the trade‑union movement to convert the movement into an instrument for the defence of the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie against not only revolutionary working‑class politics, but even against non‑revolutionary class‑struggle trade‑unionism itself.
The Builders Labourers Federation under Norm Gallagher's leadership provided an example of these weaknesses of spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics. Within the trade‑union movement as a whole, the BLF leadership, despite its militancy, did not wage a consistent struggle against the class‑collaborationist political trend. It sought to defend and advance its position through opportunistic "backroom" deals with the both ALP "left" and right‑wing union leaderships. It initially did not oppose the ALP‑ACTU Prices and Incomes Accord, and thus unwittingly helped the ACTU bureaucracy prepare the ground for the Labor government's destruction of the BLF.
Lenin's points about the distinction between revolutionary politics and spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics need special emphasis today when the influence of revolutionary politics in the trade‑union movement is minimal. In Australia today, even a mass‑supported set of non‑revolutionary class‑struggle trade‑union politics, of working‑class reformist politics, would be a giant leap forward for the labour movement, saturated as it presently is by class‑collaborationist trade‑union politics, that is, by the petty‑bourgeois reformist politics of the labour bureaucracy.
Under these circumstances, there can be an enormous pressure upon socialists in the trade unions to lower their sights to something that seems "realistic", that is, to limit their activities in the unions to the level of spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics. Comrades who take on job delegate positions, for example, will find themselves under pressure from their workmates, including those who have a militant trade unionist consciousness, to simply be a good "trade union secretary" rather than a "tribune of the people"; that is, to limit themselves to militantly fighting on behalf of the workers for their immediate economic interests and to drop the task of attempting to get them to think socially and act politically. However, if we allow any such pragmatism to muddy the crucial distinction between spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union politics and revolutionary politics we will fail not only in building a bigger nucleus of revolutionary cadres in the trade unions. We will also fail in promoting the development of a consistent class‑struggle trend in the unions.
Without the leadership of a growing nucleus of Marxist cadres organised into a Leninist‑type party, the non‑revolutionary class‑struggle tendency in the trade unions cannot acquire a consistently progressive dynamic, be crystallised into a coherent current, and make solid advances in taking the leadership of the unions out of the hands of the class‑collaborationist labour bureaucrats. This is why any union official ‑‑ like CPSU ACT branch secretary Kath Garvan ‑‑ who opposes the domination of the class‑collaborationist forces, but who also opposes the work of revolutionary trade unionists to win workers to their party ‑‑ out of a misconceived and ultimately utopian desire to "free" the unions from politics ‑‑ is simply playing into the hands of the class‑collaborationist political trend.
Building a consistent class‑struggle current
In the main, the spontaneous development of the trade‑union movement in Australia has been shaped by the contention between varying expressions of class‑collaborationism and spontaneous class‑struggle unionism. In some periods, this contention has remained dormant, hidden beneath the surface, while in others it has broken open into a major polarisation, with the large‑scale realignment of forces that inevitably accompanies such major political breaks. However, it is always present and operating. This is a fundamental feature of the Australian labour movement, based upon the stratification of the working class in the era of imperialism and the ongoing ebb and flow of the class struggle, a feature that is independent of the will and activity of revolutionary socialists. In short, this dynamic, this objective law of motion, is part and parcel of the distinct existence of the "spontaneous workers' movement."
Revolutionists can, if we scientifically understand this process, influence its development and use its potential for building a coherent revolutionary class‑struggle current in the unions, a current that strives to win workers to see the trade‑union struggle as part of the broader revolutionary struggle. This current can only be built by revolutionary trade unionists forming united fronts with the spontaneous class‑struggle trend against the class‑collaborationist trend and by seeking to lead this class‑struggle trend in the direction of conscious class‑struggle politics, that is, toward revolutionary politics.
However, to be effective in doing this, we must go beyond grasping the general laws of development of the labour movement to understanding that there has never been, and never will be, a polarisation in the trade‑union movement between the class‑collaborationist trend and the spontaneous class‑struggle trend in the abstract, on the sole basis of their differing outlooks on how to relate to capital. On the contrary, each struggle between these two trends, each small skirmish in a particular union, and each major realignment of forces in the entire labour movement, takes place over concrete issues in a concrete situation, time, and place.
This is the basic flaw in all generalised "class struggle programs" put forward by small socialist forces in the unions as the basis for cohering the spontaneous class‑struggle trend into a permanent, organised current. Even if such programs grasp the need for a realignment of forces in the labour movement, they miss the crucial point that this always occurs in the concrete, not the abstract, in the particular, not the general.
The history of the labour movement shows that major polarisations occur when the movement is faced with new conditions of struggle and past policies are incapable of confronting new realities. The polarisation then gets focussed on one or a few crucial issues which affect the great bulk of the workers, both organised and unorganised, issues which show the two major spontaneous trends in sharp relief and fully expose their underlying assumptions and premises. Thus, in the early 1980s such a polarisation occurred in the labour movement around the crucial issue of whether or not the unions should endorse the ALP‑ACTU wages Accord. Later, in the mid‑'80s, a polarisation occurred in the union movement over whether or not the unions should support or oppose the Labor government's deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation. In both cases the spontaneous class‑struggle trend proved to be inconsistent in its opposition to the class‑collaborationist trend, and suffered defeat.
In any polarisation between the two main political trends in the labour movement, the principal determining factor will be the maturation of the objective class contradictions of capitalism, not the will and plans of revolutionists. Because of this, it is not our task to attempt to predict the single crucial issue or few issues around which such a polarisation will emerge. Rather, it is our responsibility to recognise that some sort of polarisation will emerge, and to prepare for it by increasing the forces that can lead an alignment with the class‑struggle trend in that political process, and thereby maximise the vantage point for revolutionary politics within the class‑struggle trend.
While we cannot predict the crucial issue or issues around which a polarisation between the two spontaneous trends will emerge within any individual union or the trade‑union movement as a whole, conducting consistent socialist propaganda and agitation for demands that address the objective needs of the working class is essential for winning over and preparing the forces that can provide consistent leadership to the class‑struggle trend in such a polarisation.
The objective conditions confronting the trade‑union movement today, which Comrade Peter Boyle has outlined in his report, are increasing the tension between the class‑collaborationist policies of the labour bureaucracy and the objective needs of the trade‑union movement. The most obvious manifestation of this tension is the massive decline in the percentage of workers organised by the unions since the early 1980s ‑‑ from just over 50% to a projected figure of 35% by the end of 1996.
As the tension between the class‑collaborationist policies of the labour bureaucracy and the objective needs of the union movement increases, dissident forces are beginning to emerge within the unions, including at the lower echelons of the union officialdom ‑‑ dissident forces which are attempting to mount some opposition to the class‑collaborationist line. Our task in this situation is to interact with these spontaneous developments, and on that basis, recruit, educate and train Marxist cadres within the unions.
A key part of that interaction is to forge united fronts with these dissident forces. But in doing so, we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that any united front we form with such forces today ‑‑ for example, PSU Challenge ‑‑ is the embryonic organisational embodiment of a future mass‑based, consistent class‑struggle current. The possibility of such a current arising will only occur in the context of a major polarisation in the labour movement. Precisely because that has not occurred yet the dissident forces we may be able to form united fronts with today are inconsistent in their opposition to class collaboration. The united fronts we forge with them will therefore be limited in scope and time, based upon mutual agreement on definite, immediate objectives such as mounting a challenge to class‑collaborationist forces in a union election. When the basis upon which that united front was formed has ceased to exist, either as a result of its immediate objectives having been attained or there no longer existing mutual agreement on the objectives, we should not make a fetish of its organisational form.
As we work in the trade unions to strengthen every spark of resistance to capital and its conscious class‑collaborationist agents, our task is to bring a Marxist political line and perspective to this work. Through propaganda and agitation for this political line and perspective we can begin to gather the strands of resistance, forge them into a coherent class‑struggle current, and link it to the broader social movement fighting the interests of capital. An integral and central part of this task it to give particular attention to winning the most advanced elements to revolutionary socialism, of taking the most militant workers beyond spontaneous class‑struggle trade‑union consciousness to revolutionary consciousness, to understanding the need to build a revolutionary Marxist party.
In order to do that we must carry out our work in the trade unions in a conscious, that is, in a planned, manner. Properly functioning fractions are the key to giving our trade union work this character. As Cannon observed in his 1941 speech on revolutionary trade union work: ``the fractions are no panacea; they are simply the Leninist mechanism of working in a mass movement. That is the whole thing. And the more formalised it is, the more the comrades get in the habit, whenever they have anything serious and important under consideration, of meeting together and talking it over and working out a policy and a decision ‑‑ in preference to the informal, lackadaisical method which is so easy to fall into in the trade‑union movement ‑‑ the more success we will have.’’
This point, of course, applies not only to our work in the unions but also to every other area of our movement work. Wherever we have a consistent, on‑going intervention in the spontaneous movements, the effective implementation of our tasks requires formally constituted meetings of the comrades involved in this work.
National movement campaign priorities
I now want to turn to the national movement work campaign priorities that the National Executive is proposing for the first part of 1996. By "national movement work campaign priorities" we mean campaigns that all branches should give precedence to in their work over any purely local campaigns. Of course, if a local campaign emerges that a branch believes should take precedence in its work over any of our national campaigns, then the branch must seek the approval of the National Executive before reordering its priorities.
What, then, are the national campaigns we propose? Firstly, of course, there is the Democratic Socialist federal election campaign. Peter has already outlined the plans for this in his report. The other national campaigns the NE proposes we work on in 1996 are, in order of priority, (1) the East Timor campaign, (2) building the International Women's Day rallies and marches, and (3) promoting solidarity with the Cuban Revolution. Our perspectives for each of these campaign priorities will be taken up in detail at the respective fractions during the educational conference next week, that is, at the Asia/Pacific solidarity, women's liberation and Latin America solidarity fractions. Here I will simply present the main lines of what we want to do.
First, on the East Timor campaign. Opposition to the Australian government's support for the Indonesian military occupation of East Timor has broad public support. With resistance to the Indonesian occupation on the rise in East Timor, and with our revolutionary collaborators in the growing democratic movement in Indonesia making it a central issue in the struggle against the Suharto dictatorship ‑‑ and with Australian imperialism desperate to cement its political alliance with Jakarta in order to secure privileged access to the Indonesian market and investment opportunities ‑‑ we can expect the issue to continue to grow in the public's consciousness. This issue has the potential to draw many workers and students into action against Australian imperialism. It also provides a concrete issue around which we can expose and explain the imperialist nature of the Australian state, the reactionary character of the ALP's politics and the pro‑imperialist, anti‑working class nature of the ACTU's class‑collaborationist policies.
The work we have already done around this issue has placed us in a good position to play a leading role in organising this campaign:
* We have a working relationship with all the local East Timor solidarity committees, except in Perth.
* We have good working relations with Fretilin and have established working relations with CNRM, including Jose Ramos Horta, who is now willing to speak at any East Timor meetings sponsored by Green Left Weekly.
* We are the only group in Australia that has political links with the pro‑East Timor independence forces in Indonesia.
The biggest weakness in the East Timor solidarity movement is the inadequacy of leadership among the independent activists within the existing East Timor solidarity committees. To help overcome that weakness, the NE proposes that we change our orientation to AKSI, that we make a shift away from using it as simply a front for our party's intervention into the East Timor solidarity movement and transform it into a national network of united front solidarity committees that seeks to draw in as many of the independent East Timor solidarity activists as possible. This will give us a better opportunity to convince many more of these activists of the correctness of our perspectives for the movement, including the need for East Timor solidarity activists to support the Indonesian revolutionary movement. It will also place us in a better position to demonstrate our capacity to organise and lead the movement.
To assist this process, we propose that AKSI:
* Change its name to Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET).
* Campaign for members, politicised around Indonesia and East Timor.
* Begin producing a national monthly newsletter, in a similar form to Party Campaigner.
* Continue the production of dossiers on Indonesia, but add to these dossiers on the East Timorese struggle.
* Place prominent advertisements for ASIET materials, membership and activities in Green Left Weekly.
* Distribute in Australia the monthly English‑language magazine that the People's Democratic Union in Indonesia is planning to produce in cooperation with us.
* Building ASIET committees in each city where we have a party branch as the main East Timor solidarity campaign organisation will require that each party branch devotes serious cadre resources to this work.
We also propose that ASIET take the initiative to be the main organiser and builder of a broader united‑front coalition based on agreement to hold a national day of action on August 18 ‑‑ the 10th anniversary of the Hawke Labor government's de jure recognition of Indonesia's annexation of East Timor; that this action be organised to demand the immediate withdrawal of Australian recognition of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, using the slogans "Free East Timor!" and "No recognition of annexation!"
The idea of such a national day of action has already been agreed to by AETA, CISET, Fretilin and by Horta. The call for it will be issued from Sydney in late January. Building it should be helped by the media coverage of a major international conference on East Timor that will be held in Sydney from June 21‑24, and which Comrade Max Lane has been given central responsibility for organising. The University of Oporto in Portugal, as well as UTS, and the universities of Sydney and NSW, have provided a budget to build the conference of just under $100,000 ‑‑ most of it for international air fares.
The role and specific tasks of Resistance in building the August 18 action will be taken up in the youth work report tomorrow.
The next priority I mentioned is to build the IWD rallies and marches.
A central goal of the capitalist austerity drive is to throw the burden of essential social responsibilities onto working‑class families and thus onto working‑class women. As part of this assault on the working class the capitalist rulers have fostered an ideological backlash against the gains made by the second wave of feminism. The aim of this ideological offensive is to make women more willing to accept attacks on wages, working conditions, social services, and equality on the job ‑‑ to be unpaid domestic labourers, workers in lower‑paying jobs, and foot‑soldiers in the reserve army of unemployed labour. The capitalists want women to blame themselves or men in general, rather than the private profit system, for the economic and social problems they confront every day.
This ideological counter‑attack on the advances made by women in the 1960s and '70s takes many forms ‑‑ from denouncing young women who make use of the laws against sexual harassment as Helen Garner did in her widely publicised book The First Stone; to glorification of the "supermum" who has a full‑time job, but who realises that her "real" responsibilities and her "true" possibilities for fulfilment only begin when she comes home to do the housework and look after the kids; to making women feel guilty that their children are allegedly suffering permanent psychological damage by being "abandoned" in child‑care centres (if they exist, or can be afforded).
The oppression of women and the sexist prejudices that are used to justify it are a key weapon used by the employers to pit male and female workers against each other, weakening the ability of the working class as a whole to resist the capitalists' attacks on its living standards. The acceptance of discrimination against women helps the capitalists' prevent the labour movement from thinking about and acting politically on issues broader than narrow trade union concerns, to fight for the interests of all the oppressed and exploited, not just those of the predominantly male labour aristocracy.
The IWD rallies and marches give us one of the few opportunities to reach out to and draw women students and working‑class women into an action directly targetted against the central goal of this ideological offensive. In 1996 the slogan we are proposing be adopted by the IWD collectives around the country is, "Stop the attacks on women!" Each branch should discuss out and decide on proposals for specific demands related to this theme that our comrades can suggest be adopted by the collective in their city. We are proposing that the IWD collectives will pay for a broadsheet in Green Left to publicise and build the IWD actions. The political content and production of this broadsheet will be coordinated through the Sydney IWD collective, in which our comrades play a leading role.
Before moving on to our final national campaign priority, I want to say a few words about the other main national feminist mobilisation ‑‑ the Reclaim the Night marches. The NE has decided not to make building this action a national campaign priority. The extent of our work in building these actions should therefore be assessed on a branch‑by‑branch basis, in the context of giving preference to our other national campaign priorities.
In carrying out our women's liberation movement work, we give national priority to building the IWD actions over the Reclaim the Night marches because the latter does not provide us with the same opportunities to reach out and draw women into action against the central thrust of the capitalist ruling class's attacks on women. The RTN actions focus on a by‑product of those attacks, manifested in acts of violence committed by individual men against individual women.
However, even if branches decide not to allocate cadre to building the RTN marches, we should still ensure that we have a major propaganda intervention into the marches themselves, in order to explain the social causes of acts of violence by individual men against women. This year most branches missed the opportunity to do this, by failing to order more than a token number of the Resistance broadsheet that was produced for wide distribution at the marches. We should not repeat that mistake next year.
Our third national campaign priority is build the "Lift the blockade against Cuba" campaign that will be run in 1996 by CISLAC. We propose that this culminate in rallies or pickets on Friday, July 26 or Saturday, July 27. Where we are not able to initiate and sustain viable local CISLAC committees, these protest actions should be initiated and organised directly by DSP and Resistance branches.
Defence of revolutionary Cuba is not only an elementary internationalist duty for revolutionary Marxists in this country and around the world, it is also an important means by which we can raise the theoretical understanding of our members about the complex tasks involved in making and defending a proletarian revolution in today's world.
In conclusion, comrades, we must have no illusions that the scale of the struggles we can lead today can, in and of themselves, fundamentally alter the objective political situation we face. Rather, our initiatives for action and our involvement in actions initiated by or in collaboration with others, have as their central purpose recruiting, educating and training Marxist cadres.
Impatience in seeking to close the gap between the pace of the radicalisation of the broad masses on the one hand and the small size and limited influence of the revolutionary vanguard, on the other, can lead not only to ultraleft sectarian errors, but also to opportunist errors.
The former manifests itself as attempts to substitute the actions of the revolutionary vanguard for the actions of mass forces. The latter manifests itself in various attempts to efface or collapse the crucial ideological, political and organisational distinctions between the socialist movement and the spontaneous movements of the masses.
We have generally avoided either of these errors. As a result, we have succeded in assembling a small but strong nucleus of disciplined, politically homogeneous, professional revolutionaries, with some collective experience in leading real social and political struggles. The immediate, central task ahead of us is to continue to strengthen that nucleus of Marxist cadres, the leadership core that is indispensable to the construction of the future mass Leninist party.