29 July 2009


[CU for Thursday 30 July 2009]

Whatever may have been the origin of the word “vanguard” in politics, it means the professional force, or human framework, or “cadre”, which can lead the mass movement of the people on a revolutionary path.

The relationship of the revolutionary vanguard to the mass organisations of the people is similar to the relationship of a doctor to the people, or of accountants and lawyers to businesses, or of an architect or an engineer to builders and their clients.

In all cases, including the vanguard party of the working class, the revolutionary vanguard is a servant, and not a master.

The working-class vanguard party, the communist party, is not separate from the mass movement. It is intimately involved with the mass movement at all times and at all levels. To be a vanguard at all, it must study, and in particular it must study the workings of the mass movement.

The vanguard party educates, organises and mobilises. As a vanguard, it must have expert knowledge how mass movements in general, and especially about how the primary mass organisations of the working class which are the trade unions, work.

To deal with this crucial matter in the Communist University’s Basic Communism “course”, the CU first chose a text from the Marxists Internet Archive’s Encyclopaedia of Marxism written by Brian Basgen and Andy Blunden, two comrades who clearly have vast experience of what they are writing about.

This text is empirical and experiential and there is nothing wrong with that, because experiential is exactly what trade unions and other mass organisations are. Trade unions arise out of the existing consciousness of workers as they are under capitalism. In many ways they emulate capitalist forms of organisation, and their initial purpose is to get a better money deal in exchange for the workers’ labour-power in the capitalist labour market.

Trade unions are in the first place reformist, and not revolutionary. Nor do trade unions become revolutionary without the assistance of professional revolutionaries, organised separately as a communist party. This is basic. Lenin (pictured) dealt with this relationship in “What is to be Done?

Trade unionists who think that they can dispense with the assistance of a communist party are on a road to ruin.

Click on this link:

Trade Unions, Brian Basgen and Andy Blunden, MIA, 2003 (5317 words)


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