Further Reading

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On the Party

Hal Draper, ”The Myth of Lenin’s ‘Concept of The Party’” (1990)

Hal Draper argues that Lenin’s What is to Be Done? is commonly misread as a manifesto for a new type of party, when in fact it was part of Lenin’s attempt to adapt the German SPD model to the conditions of Tsarist Russia. He argues against common readings of the text, including Lenin’s supposed disdain for spontaneity.

Salar Mohandesi, “All Tomorrow’s Parties: A Reply to Critics”, Viewpoint Magazine (2012)

Mohandesi argues for a conception of the party-form as a “binding element” of the disparate layers of the working class through what he calls “articulation”. Articulation is the idea that the party (1) expresses the “content” of revolutionary proletarian politics and (2) forges the proletariat into a political bloc with a common goal. This conception of the party allows for more flexible organizational forms to fit a given conjuncture than the cookie-cutter approach of miniaturized Leninism.

Adriano Sofri, ”Organizing for workers’ power” (1968)

In this article written for the local Potere Operaio group in Pisa, Adriano Sofri criticizes the Leninist conception of a “cadre party”, arguing instead for a mass party. Sofri argues that we must build “an organized political leadership” within the mass struggle rather than “to ‘win’ the masses to a pre-existing revolutionary leadership.” This conception of party-building can help us critique sectarianism and miniaturized Leninism by looking to build organic working-class leadership rather than imposing it through an external, self-described “vanguard”.

On Democratic Centralism

Étienne Balibar, “(The Right to) Tendencies, or the Right to Set Up Organized Groups Within the Party”, Viewpoint Magazine (1982)

Balibar traces the history and debates around the right to form tendencies, or “factions” within party organizations. He argues that a “right to tendencies” historically was not a distinguishing factor between communists and social-democrats.

Scott Nappalos, ”Democratic centralism in practice and idea: A critical evaluation”

Nappolos presents a historical critique of the Leninist conception of “democratic centralism”. While his anarchist perspective offers little by way of solutions, we believe this pamphlet presents criticisms of democratic centralism that are worth considering.

On Base-Building

Communist Labor Party, “Dual Power FAQ”

In this document, the CLP outlines their “dual power” strategy, which is closely related to the base-building trend. They detail the basic ideas behind building “dual power institutions,” which they position as an alternative to endless protesting.

DSA Refoundation Caucus, “Base Building and Refoundation” (2018)

As the base-building trend is quite new, very little literature on its politics exist. In this document, DSA Refoundation outlines some key points around the base-building strategy. They position themselves in opposition to both miniaturized Leninism (which they call “vanguardism”) and “unity at all costs” socialism.

Tim Horras, “Base-Building: Activist Networking or Organizing the Unorganized?”, The Philadelphia Partisan (2017)

Tim Horras of Philly Socialists juxtaposes the base-building strategy with the common practice of “activist networking”.

On the Micro-Sect

Hal Draper, “Anatomy of the Micro-Sect” (1973)

Draper provides a theoretical conception of the “micro-sect”, a political organization which “presents itself as the embodiment of the socialist movement, though it is a membership organization whose boundary is set more or less rigidly by the points in its political program rather than by its relation to the social struggle.” Instead, Draper argues that we should seek to build a political center within the mass movement itself.

Hal Draper, “Toward a New Beginning – On Another Road: The Alternative to the Micro-Sect” (1971)

This article pairs well with “Anatomy of a Micro-Sect”, as it makes similar arguments while expanding on certain points.

Matthijs Krul, “Some Critical Notes on the Fetishism of the Party, or: Why I am Not a Trotskyist” (2012)

Krul criticizes the micro-sect behavior common within the Trotskyist tendency, arguing that most Trotskyist groups have a dogmatic reading of the Russian Revolution and misguidedly seek to recreate the Bolshevik party.

On the New Communist Movement

Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air (2002)

Elbaum documents the history of the New Communist Movement in the United States. It is considered the authoritative text on the NCM and provides not just history but also critical analysis. In particular, Elbaum’s concept of “miniaturized Leninism” and his critique of dogmatism and sectarianism is pertinent to our project of developing a critique of the present-day Marxist-Leninist trend.

Paul Saba, “Theoretical Practice in the New Communist Movement”, Viewpoint Magazine (2015)

Asad Haider of Viewpoint interviews Paul Saba of the NCM Theoretical Review and currently the archivist behind The Encyclopedia of anti-Revisionism Online. Saba discusses the weaknesses of the NCM, particularly his view that it was theoretically underdeveloped, with an overemphasis on practical work and obligatory readings of a few ML classics. Saba also argues that a key opportunity was missed to move Marxism forward, and that the choice to frame Maoism in that period as a defense of “correct” Marxism-Leninism against “revisionism” had deep repercussions for decades to come.

Albert Szymanski, “The New Communist Movement: An Obituary” (1981)

Sociologist and longtime Marxist activist Albert Szymanski documents the collapse of the New Communist Movement, in particular the “anti-dogmatist, anti-revisionist trend” which includes the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC). Szymanski argues that NCM militants held a dogmatic conception of party-building based on mythology around the October Revolution. Szymanski argues that the way forward in 1981 is to build autonomous local groups with loose association with other groups instead of building micro-parties and rushing to found a national party by decree.

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