The Day to Day Struggle
and the Revolutionary Goal

By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Central Committee,
Revolutionary Communist Party

[Originally published in Revolution, May 15, 1976, and reprinted with two other articles in the RCP pamphlet The Mass Line in 1976.]

Last October, at the time of the announcement of the founding of the Revolutionary Communist Party, I wrote an article in Revolution, focusing on the question "How does the Party carry out its central task today?"—"to build the struggle, class consciousness and revolutionary unity of the working class and develop its leadership of a broad united front against the U.S. imperialists, in the context of the world-wide united front against imperialism aimed at the rulers of the two superpowers."

In that article I noted that "The present struggles of the working class in this country are centered around wages and benefits, working conditions, against speed-up, lay-offs, compulsory overtime and other attempts by the capitalists to increase the exploitation of the workers."

This, I pointed out, forms at present the "center of gravity" of the working class struggle and the work of the Party. And (to quote again from that article) "it is mainly by building this struggle and bringing light into it...that the Party will be able to mobilize and unite masses of workers, link up struggles and make the greatest strides in broadening the workers' movement into the all-around fight against the imperialist system, uniting and leading all those who are oppressed under it" toward the goal of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and establishing socialism under the rule of the working class. This represents a summation of fundamental principles adopted by the Party at its Founding Congress.

Since that time, on the basis of carrying out this line, advances have been made in linking up with and leading mass struggles and some important questions have come more sharply into focus. In particular, the question of the relationship between this "center of gravity" and the central task of the Party, between the day to day struggles and the revolutionary goal of the working class, the question of how to advance the movement of the masses of workers from its present level into a revolutionary workers movement aimed at the overthrow and eventual elimination of the bourgeoisie and class society—this is a vital question to which the whole Party and all class conscious workers must consistently devote our efforts to solving, in the course of building struggle against the ruling class.

Fundamentally this is a question of mass line, of constantly concentrating the correct ideas of the masses and returning these to the masses in the form of lines and policies that will enable them to move forward in the fight against the bourgeoisie. But this will remain merely a slogan—"mass line"—and be reduced to reformism, to limiting the struggle of the working class to an attempt to improve its position under capitalism, unless it is really based on the application of the science of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought, unless it is guided by the basic truth which this science reveals: that capitalism is incapable of providing any real "improvement" in the position of the masses of workers, that it is based on exploiting the working class as wage-slaves and oppressing the great majority of society, that it stands as the direct barrier to the development of society, and that the working class must and will lead the masses of people in sweeping it aside and replacing it with a higher form of society.

In noting where the struggle of the working class is mainly concentrated today, and determining on that basis the "center of gravity" of the Party's work at present, we are taking stock of where things actually stand and stressing the importance of linking up with and leading these struggles, involving literally millions of workers. But, as the Party's Programme states, this means striving to fulfill three main objectives in these—as in all—struggles: "to win as much as can be won in the immediate battle and weaken the enemy; to raise the general level of consciousness and sense of organization of the struggling masses and instill in them the revolutionary outlook of the proletariat; and to develop the most active and advanced in these struggles into communists, recruit them into the Party and train them as revolutionary leaders." It must be emphasized that all three of these objectives must be carried out, that they are dialectically related and it is impossible to correctly carry out any of them except by carrying out all three together.

How to Move Forward

But in taking stock of where the struggles of the workers are presently concentrated and stressing the need to link up with and lead these struggles as summarized just above the point is not to say that we want the working class movement to remain at this level, for that would mean in fact continuing to condemn the workers to wage-slavery.

Besides, as I wrote in the previous article, many workers are already involved in fighting on various battlefronts against the ruling class, and not only around wages, working conditions, etc. But as I pointed out in that article, while "many workers are actively involved in these battles... [this is] generally not in an organized, class conscious way."

That is, these workers together with others who are hit by particular attacks, fight back against them spontaneously, and still largely without a class conscious understanding of the nature of the fight and its relationship to the overall struggle against the capitalist enemy. To put it simply, in fighting on these various battlefronts the workers involved do not, as a rule, do so consciously as workers, as part of a class, which must take up and lead all these battles in its own class interest.

It is the case that today it is mainly in the fight around wages, working conditions, etc. that workers fight with a beginning, an elementary and only elementary, sense of fighting together as workers. It is extremely important to work to raise this embryonic sense of common bond as workers into more developed class consciousness through the course of all these basic day to day battles. But these struggles, and the work of communists in them—even if carried out in the most correct way—will never in and of themselves lead to the achievement of the revolutionary goal of overthrowing capitalism and establishing socialism, nor establish in the understanding of the workers involved in these struggles the need to build their fight toward this goal. It is only as they learn to take up every major question, every important battle against the enemy, and to take them up as part of their own class struggle against this enemy, with the aim of overthrowing it, that the workers raise their consciousness to class consciousness in the fullest sense and develop their movement into a revolutionary struggle.

The point of noting where the workers' struggles are mainly concentrated now is to be able to unite with them and lead the masses of workers in broadening their movement into the all-around struggle against imperialism, the revolutionary struggle to overthrow it. In order to achieve this, the Party, through the application of the mass line, as stressed before, must carry out the principle of developing "fighters on one front against the enemy into fighters on all fronts." (Party Programme)

This means especially working to arm the masses of workers with an understanding of the class basis of all events in society and enable them to draw the links, in their understanding and actual struggle, between all the different battles being waged throughout society against the common enemy—the capitalist class.

It means keeping firmly in mind and applying in practice the strategic understanding that "Only by uniting with all social forces fighting imperialism can the working class develop consciousness of its own historical role as capitalism's gravedigger," and that through this process "the working class not only wins allies in the course of building the united front, but learns why it alone can lead them to overthrow the monopoly capitalists." (Party Programme)

Draw Out Real Connections

How do we resolve this contradiction—that today the actual struggle of the masses of workers is concentrated in the fight around wages, working conditions, etc., but that in order to develop its revolutionary consciousness and play its revolutionary role, the working class must build and lead a broad united front against the monopoly capitalists, must act as the vanguard fighter against all oppression? The answer lies in approaching every struggle of the working class—and for that matter every struggle involving different strata and social forces—as part of the political objective of building a revolutionary movement, led by the working class, aimed at overthrowing and eliminating capitalism.

The connection between a fight, for example, against layoffs and the fight against the imperialists' aggression and war preparations, is not that we want "jobs not war"—for to put this forward under capitalism is merely to spread illusions about the nature of the system, which inevitably produces war and unemployment—but that both of them are directed against the "same dark forces," against the ruling class of capitalists, and that in the long run, in order to do away with both unemployment and war, it is necessary to do away with their source, the bourgeoisie and the imperialist system. The same applies for the real links between all the different struggles in society.

We cannot carry out this kind of political work, and build a revolutionary workers movement, if we try to show how every event in society relates to the "center of gravity" of the present workers' struggle. We can only do it by showing, in a living way, how every event, every struggle, including those concentrated now in this present "center of gravity," relate to what they all, in fact, do have in common: that every attack people are forced to fight, that every abuse and outrage, all oppression, is rooted in the capitalist system of exploiting the working class as wage-slaves, in the fundamental contradiction between socialized production and private ownership, which can only be resolved through socialist revolution, led by the working class and its Party.

These questions are, of course, not new ones in the history of the working class movement in this country or internationally. In fact, V.I. Lenin spoke directly to these same problems in developing the revolutionary movement of the working class in Russia at the beginning of this century. "There is nothing more warranted," Lenin wrote, "than the urging of attention to the constant, imperative necessity of deepening and broadening, broadening and deepening, our influence on the masses, our strictly Marxist propaganda and agitation, our ever closer connection with the economic struggle of the working class."

Note that Lenin emphasizes "our strictly Marxist propaganda and agitation." And he goes on to say that "Because such urging is at all times warranted, under all conditions and in all situations, it must not be turned into special slogans, nor should it justify attempts to build upon it a special trend in Social-Democracy [Communism]. A border line exists here; to exceed the bounds is to turn this indisputably legitimate urging into a narrowing of the aims and scope of the movement, into a doctrinaire blindness to the vital and cardinal political tasks of the movement." And Lenin concludes that "We must educate the whole class of wage workers to the role of fighters for the emancipation of mankind from all oppression. We must constantly teach more and more sections of this class; we must learn to approach the most backward, the most undeveloped members of this class ... to raise them steadily and patiently to the level of Social-Democratic [Communist] consciousness without making a dry dogma out of our doctrine—to teach them not only from books, but through participation in the daily struggle for existence of these backward and undeveloped strata of the proletariat."

Once again, it is important to stress, as Lenin does, that the key to this is to carry out "strictly Marxist propaganda and agitation" in connection with these struggles, to base ourselves on this revolutionary science and apply the mass line as the revolutionary weapon that it is, on this basis. (Quotes above from Lenin are from his article "On Confounding Politics With Pedagogics," written in 1905, Vol 8 of his Collected Works.)

Already, as I noted earlier, there are both advances and also sharp questions that have arisen in the work of the Party in carrying out the correct line adopted at its Founding Congress—questions that have been pin-pointed here. Experience should be summed up with these points in mind.

There have been cases, for example, where we have led large numbers of workers in fighting against particular attacks, and in large-scale, even sometimes protracted struggle, yet we have failed through the course of this to carry out "strictly Marxist" political work. There are even cases where, for example, in the period building up to May Day, we have united with advanced workers to lead masses of workers in hard fought crucial battles, and yet few, and sometimes none, of these workers have been involved in building for May Day, or even in attending the celebration itself. In this case, what is the purpose of building the day to day struggle?—unless as an end in itself, in which case it can only lead to a dead-end.

The same applies to work—and weaknesses in our work—in building for the July 4th demonstration in Philadelphia. Again, we can only draw the real links between the "daily struggle for existence" and other events and struggles—including especially major political events like May Day and the Bicentennial demonstration—if we draw out, in a living way, the links that both have to the larger question of building the movement of the working class as a whole, and its allies against the bourgeois rule, against the imperialist system. And again, if we don't draw the links in this way and build for these important political events in this way, then what—other than reformism—can be the purpose of our work?

The point is not that the daily struggle of the workers around wages, working conditions, etc. is unimportant or should not be concentrated on—it is, in fact, the present "center of gravity" of the workers' struggle and the Party's work. The point is that we must build these and all struggles in a revolutionary way. We must keep in mind, at every step in developing these struggles, and in building and linking up every major battle against the imperialist rulers, the revolutionary goal. We must work painstakingly and consistently to continually raise the level of the workers' movement, to raise ever broader sections of the working class to the conscious struggle against capitalism and for socialism, to rally the greatest number of allies of the working class in the fight against the capitalist enemy and enable the working class to lead a broad united front to overthrow this enemy and achieve the goal of emancipating mankind from all oppression and finally eliminating the bourgeoisie and class society altogether.

[ End of third article. ]

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First RCP Article on the Mass Line
Second RCP Article on the Mass Line

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