Communists and elections: parliament, positions, and the party

In the British general election, the Revolutionary Communist Party, only 8 weeks after its founding, ran the most successful revolutionary communist election campaign in decades. Fiona, candidate of the RCP, received 1,791 votes for an openly revolutionary programme. This is an excellent result, but the reason communists participate in elections is to raise their programme and to build the revolutionary party. In this article, Daniel Morley delves deeper into the theoretical underpinnings of communist strategy and tactics in elections.

[Originally published at]

Soon after Rishi Sunak announced the snap election, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) took the historic and exciting decision to stand a candidate: Fiona Lali.

Running such an election campaign under our own banner, with a bold, openly communist programme, is a huge step forwards.

This move clearly raises questions of a fundamental nature. What attitude do communists take towards Parliament? How do we put our ideas into practice and build a genuine vehicle for communism?

Why did we decide to launch an electoral campaign under our own banner? What do we hope to achieve from this?

There are many factors behind this decision, including some that are accidental and very specific to the moment in time. Finding the right time and the right slogans on which to campaign is an art – the art of exploiting opportunities.

This is all true. But it is also true that accidents express necessity. The general context for this campaign is the decisive fact that there is a deep and long-term crisis of capitalism, which in turn has caused a crisis in bourgeois democracy and, in particular, reformism.

Lenin himself pointed out that “history knows all kinds of transformations”; that parties can be turned inside out by earth-shattering events.

The truth is that, for the time being, the Labour Party is deeply unpopular with most workers and youth, who rightly do not see it as ‘their party’.

The tactics of a communist organisation must be concrete, not immutable and abstract. We must start out from a clear grasp of the objective situation in the class struggle and where it is going, instead of rigidly adhering to timeless classifications of parties and tactics. In this way, we gain a sense of proportion.

Perspectives for the class struggle are a working hypothesis, and must be constantly tested and adjusted based on empirical evidence.

Crisis of reformism

In the past, reformist parties like the Labour Party commanded a certain amount of loyalty from the working class. The postwar boom meant it was possible for Labour to carry out reforms that benefited the working class.

But that boom was historically exceptional. Since the mid-1970s, there has been no such boom. Instead, there have been economic crises. And what little growth there has been has been based on speculation, privatisation, and deregulation. Inequality has grown year after year. This process was accelerated by the 2008 crisis.

This has meant that reformism, which bases itself on capitalism and dares not challenge the capitalist class, has not been able to really offer the working class anything.

By and large, the programmes of the reformist parties of Europe, including Labour, have been largely indistinguishable from those of the openly capitalist parties. Even where they have had more left-wing manifestoes, they have generally capitulated to the ruling class once in power and abandoned their promises.

The enormous capitalist crisis that began in 2008 caused politics to become much more polarised. But the main reformist parties were completely incapable of reflecting this anger. In fact, they wanted to have nothing to do with it.

As politics has polarised, these leaders have actually tended to play the role of the ruling class’ most reliable representatives.

The anger of the working class and youth cannot be permanently suppressed. Nor will it express itself, as a mass force, through the tiny sects of the far left.

Corbyn Tsipras Image fair useCapitalism is in a deep, organic crisis. It has reached its limits. That is why reformism of all its stripes is in crisis / Image: fair use

Instead, it was initially expressed through well-known individuals who launched new parties – such as Pablo Iglesias and Podemos in Spain, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France – or, as in Greece, through an existing, albeit smaller, mass organisation: Syriza.

The only exception to this was in Britain, where the change did take place through the main reformist party, in the form of the Corbyn movement.

What is striking about all of these left reformists who rose to prominence on the back of mass anger is how tepid, how feeble an expression they gave to this anger, despite the depths of the crisis.

In fact, their feebleness was not in spite of, but because of the severity of the crisis. That can most clearly be seen with Syriza.

Betrayal is inherent in reformism, especially left reformism, which promises more.

Syriza rose to power promising to abolish austerity. But they capitulated to the banks and the EU at the first opportunity. Faced with the acute crisis of capitalism in Greece, they simply had no alternative but to do what the banks told them.

Capitalism is in a deep, organic crisis. It has reached its limits. That is why reformism of all its stripes is in crisis. It has been decades since there has been a reformist government that has carried out serious reforms in the interests of the working class.

No trust in bourgeois democracy

Bourgeois democracy is for that reason also in crisis. Unable to grant reforms, the reformist leaders have become more and more openly bourgeois in their style, as well as their substance.

Politicians have come to be seen as all the same: liars and empty suits who have no interest in – or understanding of – the problems of ordinary people.

At the end of 2023, Ipsos Mori’s Veracity Index, a yearly poll, revealed that just nine percent of British people trust politicians – the lowest level in the survey’s history (which goes back to 1983). This trust fell to just two percent amongst those aged 25-34.

Other institutions, such as the police and the media, had also fallen to their lowest ever trust rating.

Many on the left look only at the surface of society, at election results and the like, and interpret these in the most formal manner. They see a big rise in support for the far right, and conclude that class consciousness of the masses is very low, and that the situation for the left is therefore hopeless. They accept the ruling class’ propaganda that left-wing ideas can no longer be popular.

But the far right has been much better than the left at appearing anti-establishment and angry. The left reformists, on the other hand, come across as afraid of their own shadow, always apologising for having offended someone.

That is partly why these ‘right populist’ parties have had success. Beneath this appearance of mass support for the far right, a great deal of class anger bubbles away.

One example will serve to illustrate the point. In January 2024, the Guardian interviewed supporters of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK in the north of England. This is what they reported:

“Immigration was not their top concern. For this group, as with almost every other, it was the cost of living that dominated…Energy costs had become so bad that Dale, a train supervisor, and Steve, a pensioner, had taken to living as much as possible from their beds to reduce heating costs. Jordan worried at the end of almost every month whether his salary would last.

“There was real anger towards those profiting from misery. Jordan said: ‘When you see the record-breaking profits [of energy companies] it’s like a kick in the nuts.’ Darron fumed at ‘multinational corporations making billions and billions in profit and hiding their money offshore’ and Dale said the public suffer while politicians’ ‘mates are doing well’…

“On Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, they were unsparing, questioning how someone ‘worth a billion dollars’ could understand working people’s concerns…they dismissed Keir Starmer as ‘more of the same’, a ‘Red Tory’.” (The Guardian, 12.1.24)

In Britain, we would not be at all surprised to see the sudden emergence of an explosive anti-political movement like that of the yellow vests in France.

This sprang up almost overnight, becoming a vast movement with mass support in French society. It expressed a general desire to kick all the politicians out, with a clear ‘people versus politicians’, plebeian spirit.

As well as this, there is an unprecedentedly large generational divide. Never before has the gap in voting intention between young and old been so great. Several opinion polls have revealed that around a third of young people think communism is a better system than capitalism.

Looming over this already febrile atmosphere is the threat of another enormous economic crisis. The world economy is on fundamentally unsound foundations. This is an explosive combination that will only further radicalise the youth and the working class.

Connecting with the mood

It is this objective situation, combined with the rapid growth of our organisation amongst the youth, and the increase in its profile, that makes it the right time to launch an electoral campaign under the banner of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

There is an enormous political vacuum on the left, particularly amongst the youth. We are not big enough yet to fill that vacuum. And yet no one else seems capable of doing so.

Fiona Lali’s election campaign has put the RCP, and communism in general, on the map. In a modest, partial way, we have managed to tap into the widespread anger in society – both in the constituency in question, and beyond.

Because of our understanding of the depths of this anger, it was clear that this could not be run as a ‘normal’ campaign. Only a bold and directly revolutionary campaign, full of energy, would connect with this mood, which is being ignored by everyone else.

Fiona Lali Image The CommunistFiona Lali’s election campaign has put the RCP, and communism in general, on the map. In a modest, partial way, we have managed to tap into the widespread anger in society / Image: The Communist

Watering down our ideas in the hope of more easily winning support is not only wrong in principle; it would not even work on its own terms in today’s conditions.

The effect would be to make us sound just like the discredited and uninspiring reformists. And what is the point of that?

Is it really the case that we can gain support more easily by sounding like a slightly more left-wing variant of established, boring, and discredited mass parties? Isn’t it better to make bold revolutionary demands that stand out as refreshingly different; as a fundamental break with the hated status quo?

Marxist approach

No less important is our grasp of the revolutionary communist attitude to electoral work, which goes all the way back to Marx and Engels.

The Marxist approach to this question has always been characterised, not by the need to hide communist ideas in the hope of winning votes, but precisely to make the case for these ideas.

Marx and Engels understood that the working class often looks to elections as a means of resolving their problems and fighting for their interests. As a result, communists can hardly afford to turn up this opportunity of addressing larger numbers of workers than they usually can.

“The general franchise…became our best means of propaganda…During the election agitation, it furnished us a means, such as there is no other, of getting in touch with the masses of the people that are still far removed from us, of forcing all parties to defend their views and actions against our attacks before all the people; and, in addition, it made accessible to our representatives in the Reichstag a tribune from which they could speak to our opponents in Parliament, as well as to the masses without, with much greater authority and freedom than could be done in the press and at meetings.” (Engels, Introduction to Marx’s Class Struggles in France, 1895)

Note that in this comment by Engels, the election campaign is seen as a means of spreading revolutionary propaganda further and more authoritatively.

As far back in 1850, Marx understood exactly this point:

“Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election, the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength, and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention.” (Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, 1850).

Lenin based the tactics of the Bolsheviks regarding elections on the above understanding of Marx and Engels.

The Bolsheviks launched the Communist International in 1919. By this time, they had several decades’ worth of experience regarding electoral and parliamentary work. They had successfully utilised elections to the Russian parliament (the Duma) to build a revolutionary party that overthrew and disbanded this very same bourgeois parliament.

So it is fair to say that when Lenin and his comrades launched the Communist International, they knew a thing or two about this question.

lenin Image public domainLenin based the tactics of the Bolsheviks regarding elections on the above understanding of Marx and Engels / Image: public domain

At its second congress, in 1920, the Communist International drafted and approved its Theses on the Communist Parties and Parliamentarism. These can be taken as the most authoritative summing up of communist tactics and principles regarding work connected with bourgeois parliaments. They sum up how communists should campaign in elections and why.

“Election campaigns should not be carried out in the spirit of the hunt for the maximum number of parliamentary seats, but in the spirit of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses for the slogans of the proletarian revolution …

“Parliamentary activity is the direct opposite of that petty politicking done by the social democratic parties of every country, who go into parliament in order to support this ‘democratic’ institution, or at best to ‘take it over’.”

Our starting point is this attitude and approach. We have used the campaign as a lever with which to mobilise wider and wider layers around our party and its revolutionary programme. And we have been having a lot of success with it.

Such is the crisis of bourgeois democracy and the disgust at all the main parties, it is not ruled out that we could win. We certainly aim to.

As our party grows, it can – and will – become a real point of reference for many workers, especially young workers, who are repelled by the main parties and are looking for an organisation that fights for working-class people.

Opportunism and ultra-leftism

This poses the question of what our attitude to the institution of parliament itself is. What can communist MPs achieve? What happens to a communist once they become an MP? What can we learn from the history of communists and parliament?

One notable example is the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which was founded in the late 19th century as a Marxist organisation.

Over a period of decades, the SPD grew rapidly and became the mass party of the German working class. As a result, it won many seats in parliament, and it used this as a vehicle to fight for reforms that improved the material conditions and rights of the German working class.

In itself, this was the right thing to do. Any positions we can win, we can and must use to fight for real gains for the working class.

Over time, however, the party changed on the basis of this successful activity. They got used to the boom that made these reforms possible, and lost sight of the fact that capitalism would enter a crisis, which would make the granting of further reforms virtually impossible, and which would provoke revolutionary explosions on the streets.

SPD Image public domainWhen push came to shove, the SPD betrayed the working class by voting for the war credits to finance the imperialist slaughter of the First World War / Image: public domain

When push came to shove, they betrayed the working class by voting for the war credits to finance the imperialist slaughter of the First World War. They valued their respectability as parliamentarians too much to use their seats to mobilise workers against the war and for the overthrow of German capitalism.

We cannot afford to repeat any such illusions that we can just win seats and reform capitalism away bit-by-bit. That was never possible.

In today’s epoch of organic capitalist crisis, any reforms that can be won will only be gained as a by-product of mass revolutionary activity that threatens the ruling class. And even these would be temporary unless capitalism was overthrown.

As Marx concluded, “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes”, but must instead break it up.

The Communist International was founded as a decisive break from the opportunism that had engulfed the workers’ movement.

Because of this, however, many in its ranks initially swung over to the opposite extreme and adopted an ultra-left, sectarian attitude towards parliament.

They outright rejected any participation in parliament. They believed that this would not only spread illusions in it, but would inevitably corrupt the communist parties that won parliamentary seats, as they had seen with the SPD.

As one of these ultra-lefts, Herzog, stated at the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1920:

“In these republics and democracies, the possibility of improving the life of the proletariat existed. It was possible there, with the help of parliamentarism, to achieve many good reforms for the proletariat…

“This revolutionary activity [within parliament], however, was soon transformed into opportunism and reformism, because the possibility for it existed, and now the Social Democratic Party is an open party of social traitors.”

Formalism and sectarianism

There is no doubt whatsoever that parliamentary work presents dangers and pressures to a revolutionary party. It certainly can breed the illusion that parliamentary positions are a goal in themselves, because they enable the party to take credit for having made this or that improvement to workers’ lives.

Soon, revolutionary principles can be traded away to help the party keep its position, so that it can keep on claiming to have won improvements.

The revolutionary overthrow of parliament seems distant and impractical to the party’s MPs, who feel they are doing important work here and now. Behind this, of course, lurks the cultivation of a desire for prestige and privileges amongst these MPs.

It was not some mystical power of parliament that somehow forced the SPD to degenerate, however. As if sitting in parliament by itself automatically would turn even Marx and Lenin into reformists!

There are dangers of political degeneration in all fields of work for communists. Trade union work carries similar dangers. The work of organising and leading street demonstrations can also lead to the party hiding its revolutionary programme, in order to more easily mobilise large numbers of people.

Although parliament can be a very powerful catalyst for degeneration, the real source of these dangers is in general the pressure of capitalist society, and the fact that, for most of the time, the working class is not in a state of revolutionary ferment.

This often leads to a search for shortcuts to success, or to demoralisation over the lack of mass working-class political activity.

If you are doing day-to-day work as a trade unionist, without pressure from below, perhaps you start to see yourself as an arbiter between the workers and the capitalists. Your position might appear indispensable to winning this or that concession for the workers. You become more concerned with the trade union work here and now, and less with building the party dedicated to overthrowing capitalism.

But it is not the institution by itself that does this. Rather it is the absence of open class struggle for a period of time, combined with the short-sighted impatience of the activists in question.

The solution is not to run away from parliamentary work (or trade union work, for that matter), but to build a solid organisation of educated Marxists who will not succumb to short-sightedness and pressures.

Herzog’s blanket rejection of parliamentary work as the direct and unavoidable cause of degeneration is typical of sectarianism – not just because it is ultra-left, but also because it is so formalistic. The hallmark of sectarian thinking is the mistaking of form for content.

Sectarians tend to think a party cannot be opportunist if it is formally opposed to parliamentary work, or if it never supports reformist organisations in any way. Conversely, they think a party cannot possibly be revolutionary if it ever participates in and offers any support to reformist organisations.

This formalism often blinds them to the real content of their work. It is not uncommon for a sectarian to make a speech at a demonstration for, say, Palestine, and totally fail to make any revolutionary points. They adapt all too easily to the pressure of the crowd, or the demonstration organisers, and only say things that everyone already agrees with (that Israel is bad and must be stopped, etc).

They don’t seem to notice the opportunism they practise here, simply because – formally – they reject parliament or reformist parties.

This mistake comes down to a lack of a genuine Marxist understanding, which causes the sectarian to cling to formal positions as a substitute for consistently advocating a revolutionary programme.

Sectarians who think in this way see the flexibility of genuine Marxist organisations as proof of their hypocrisy. If such an organisation at one time worked within a mass reformist organisation, and then didn’t, or vice-versa, this for them means it has betrayed its principles.

They don’t seem to realise that such things are tactical questions. And tactics must respond flexibly to changing circumstances.

Accusations of hypocrisy would only truly be valid if the party failed to make the case for revolution in whatever work it is doing; if it genuinely abandoned its political principles.

Parliamentary cretinism

The break with the Second International in 1919 was not conducted in an ultra-left, sectarian way. Millions of workers throughout Europe still looked to these parties, and the communists could not simply cut themselves off from them. In fact, most of the new affiliates to the Third International were formed via massive splits within the old social democratic parties from the Second International.

This did mean that many of the opportunist methods of the Second International found their way into the new international.

This parliamentary cretinism, as Marx called it, had to be ruthlessly purged from the organisation. It was particularly rife in the French party, because that had been formed by a split in the reformist Socialist Party all too easily and quickly.

This split gave the impression that the new French Communist Party had rejected opportunism, when in reality the deep-rooted habits and mentality of it were still there. All that had split away were the most brazen opportunists.

In 1922, Trotsky waged a campaign to drive out this tendency in the French party. He wrote a letter to Lucie Leiciague, one of the leaders of the party, excoriating it for its adaptation to the bourgeois environment of the French parliament:

“Through parliamentary reports our aim is to show the workers the real role of parliament and of the parties represented there. However, in my opinion, this department is at bottom incorrectly organised in l’Humanite’ [the paper of the French Communist Party].

“The debates are treated in a light journalistic vein, with quips, jokes, sly hints, etc. No mention is ever made of the party to which this or that orator belongs, nor is it pointed out just what class or sectional interests he happens to represent; the class character of the espoused ideas is never laid bare; neither speeches nor proposals are ever reduced to their essentials, but everything is slurred over in catching up superficial contradictions, and in making puns, jokes, etc…

“In a workers’ newspaper it is impermissible to write about the parliament and its internal struggles in the style of journalists discussing among themselves in a cloakroom in parliament.”

If today’s left reformists want to revive their fortunes, they should start by jettisoning their “style of journalists discussing among themselves in a cloakroom in parliament”.

The ‘lefts’ today are hopelessly infected with parliamentary cretinism: thinking the route to success lies in the machinations and rules of the ‘house’, and not in addressing the working class – who generally despise parliament – as rebels who share the masses’ contempt for parliament.

Nevertheless, the conclusion of the leaders of the Communist International was not to ban parliamentary activity, for fear of succumbing to the smug atmosphere that prevails there, but to build organisations of militant communists able to withstand such pressures.

Trotsky brilliantly answered the sectarian formalism on parliament in a session of the Communist International’s Executive Committee in late 1920:

“Comrade Gorter thinks that if he keeps a kilometre away from the buildings of parliament that thereby the workers’ slavish worship of parliamentarianism will be weakened or destroyed…

“The communist point of view approaches parliamentarianism in its connection with all other political relations, without turning parliamentarianism into a fetish either in a positive or negative sense.

“The parliament is the instrumentality whereby the masses are politically deceived and benumbed, whereby prejudices are spread and illusions of political democracy maintained, and so on and so forth. No one disputes all this.

“But does the parliament stand secluded by itself in this respect? Isn’t petty-bourgeois poison being spread by the columns of the daily newspapers, and, first and foremost, by the Social-Democratic dailies? And oughtn’t we perhaps on this account refrain from utilising the press as an instrument of extending Communist influence among the masses? Or does the mere fact that Comrade Gorter’s group turns its back upon the parliament suffice to discredit parliamentarianism?…

“Yet what conclusion does he draw? That it is necessary to preserve the ‘purity’ of his own group, i.e., sect. In the final analysis Comrade Gorter’s arguments against parliamentarianism can be levelled against all forms and methods of the proletarian class struggle, inasmuch as all of these forms and methods have been deeply infected with opportunism, reformism and nationalism…

“Such a denial resembles a virtuous man’s dread of walking the streets lest his virtue be subjected to temptation. If you are a revolutionist and a communist, working under the genuine leadership and control of a centralised proletarian party, then you are able to function in a trade union, or at the front, or on a newspaper, or on the barricade, or in the parliament; and you will always be true to yourself, true to what you must be – not a parliamentarian, nor a newspaper hack, nor a trade unionist, but a revolutionary communist who utilises all paths, means, and methods for the sake of the social revolution.” (Trotsky, On the Policy of the KAPD, November 1920)

Lenin similarly derided these ultra-left fears of parliamentary work in his famous Left-Wing’ Communism: an Infantile Disorder, also published in 1920:

Left wingLenin derided ultra-left fears of parliamentary work in his famous ‘Left-Wing’ Communism: an Infantile Disorder / Image: Wellred books

“You want to create a new society, yet you fear the difficulties involved in forming a good parliamentary group made up of convinced, devoted and heroic communists, in a reactionary parliament! Is that not childish?…

“It is only from within such institutions as bourgeois parliaments that communists can (and must) wage a long and persistent struggle, undaunted by any difficulties, to expose, dispel and overcome these [i.e., support for or illusions in parliament by masses] prejudices.” (Lenin, ‘Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, 1920)

Programme and discipline

How can we guarantee that revolutionary parties conducting parliamentary work will not succumb to the pressures of parliament and adapt to it? How can we make sure such a party’s MPs do not see themselves as ‘members of parliament’, but as committed revolutionaries fundamentally opposed to parliament?

As the saying goes, if you are looking for guarantees, you should buy a washing machine. There can be no guarantees in the real class struggle.

The closest thing to a guarantee against such degeneration, however, is the revolutionary programme and ideas of the party.

The lesson of Bolshevism is the need to build a communist party as a disciplined, dedicated revolutionary party. This party is fundamentally its ideas, its programme, and its methods – that is, the ideas of Marxism.

Opportunist parties, on the other hand, start out as vehicles designed to win nebulous influence and positions for themselves. And their ideas are cobbled together to suit this purpose.

There are no shortcuts or easy ways to build this organisation. But it can and must be done.

A powerful organisation of comrades who can apply the Marxist method to the changing dynamics and events of the class struggle, is capable, as Trotsky said, of knowing how to intervene not only in parliament, but also in the trade unions, at the front in wartime, at the barricades, or in any other environment – all of which will have their own pressures.

Thanks to the high political and theoretical level of the members and leaders of such an organisation, genuine discipline and centralisation is achieved.

In other words, the leadership can maintain a revolutionary political line, and demand it is followed by its activists in different conditions, even when it is difficult for them to do so, because this leadership has won genuine support for its ideas.

Should a healthy party like this win a seat in parliament, a council, or a trade union, its representatives would resist the pressures of these institutions. Instead, they would be like a scout for the organisation in the enemy camp, knowing how to use their platform to mobilise people around revolutionary ideas.

There are many ostensibly Marxist organisations that have sought shortcuts to growth. Instead of placing their ideas first and foremost, they have participated in broader electoral coalitions with a vague, watered-down programme, in order to hopefully win a seat or position, and thereby gain influence and the ability to recruit.

When such parties do manage to win positions, these ‘representatives’ tend to become independent of the party’s discipline. They chase after ‘influence’ and take decisions on the basis of boosting their own prestige. And they eventually succumb to the outlook of the establishment, since the whole idea behind their electoral campaign is based on downplaying revolutionary ideas for the sake of winning a seat.

What such figures start to think, and sometimes even say out loud, is something along these lines:

“Marxist theory is interesting, has a lot of important points, but it is old and not that relevant to most people. At the end of the day, we’ve got real work to do here and now. We’ve got real campaigns to win; real parliamentary seats to gain and maintain, which can make a real difference to people’s lives. That’s what counts.”

As if Marxist theory has nothing to tell them about the nature of the state and the economic constraints in which they are operating, or of the consequences of the economic crisis that is around the corner!

Art of agitation

These lessons apply to all campaigning work and struggles for various demands. As stated earlier, such work is an art – the art of exploiting specific opportunities that arise from the objective situation, and from the size and strength of the party.

The same basic considerations apply to knowing how and when to make the most of an opportunity to go on television; to ‘go viral’ on social media; to exploit this or that contact with prominent individuals, etc.

The same can be said for knowing how to speak to different kinds of people the party comes into contact with, thanks to its campaigning work.

It is obvious that as a revolutionary party grows and is able to launch different campaigns, it will need to address people from different backgrounds. It must make whatever adjustments it needs to make in order to remove any obstacles to speaking to such people. It would be absurd to launch a campaign and then cut ourselves off from the very people the campaign needs to reach.

But if the organisation itself is a strong one, clear in its revolutionary ideas, it will know how to connect its ideas with the experiences and interests of working-class people from all backgrounds. It is not so much where we recruit people from that matters, but the political character that our organisation nurtures and maintains.

Fiona rally Image The CommunistIt must be ABC for party members that any opportunity to address large numbers of workers and youth must be seized – whilst also being used to explain the need for revolution / Image: The Communist

Sectarians could raise similar objections here as they might do to parliamentary work. “You mustn’t go on right-wing or bourgeois TV shows, or appear on a platform with reformist traitors!”

But to refuse such opportunities for raising our ideas is tantamount to boycotting oneself, leaving the platform to be dominated by reformists and reactionaries.

Yes, here too there is a danger of adapting to the environment; of failing to make the case for revolution, or of hiding one’s affiliations, in the hope of continually being invited onto such platforms.

And it is certainly true that some ‘communists’ can develop something of a media career, coming to sound rather chummy with the right-wingers they regularly sit round the table with, oblivious to how smug they come across as. Step by step, their ‘communism’ fades away.

That is why it is not enough to master the art of exploiting these opportunities. The more fundamental thing is, of course, to master the ideas and methods of Marxism, so that one does not ‘forget’ to use these platforms to advocate for revolution in the right way.

With all campaigning work – be it running an electoral campaign, leading a trade union struggle, or anything else – we cannot lose sight of the fact that our main aim is not simply to win the position or reform in question (though obviously we do think our ideas are the best ones for winning such struggles), but to use the concrete questions of the campaign as a means to explain the wider need to overthrow capitalism.

If a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party speaks to a pro-Palestine demonstration, the point is not to please the crowd by simply denouncing Israel, but to show how Israel’s actions are an expression of imperialism, and why we must therefore build a revolutionary party.

If we are involved in a strike for higher pay, we must know how to also explain that it is the crisis of capitalism that drives down wages, and why the only way to guarantee a suitable living standard for workers is to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ control.

And finally, if we are running an electoral campaign, the point is not to spread illusions in the power of parliament to solve workers’ problems, but to show how corrupt capitalist parliaments and the capitalist state are.

The party must be steeped in this understanding. It must be ABC for its comrades that any opportunity to address large numbers of workers and youth must be seized – whilst also being used to explain the need for revolution.

The communists are coming!

You cannot run before you can walk. Our recent election campaign around Fiona does not represent some ‘Damascene conversion’; some change of principles. It merely represents the fact that we are in a new period politically, combined with the fact that – over a number of years – our organisation has been transformed.

This is only possible because the whole work of the party, consistently over decades, has been dedicated to explaining Marxist ideas and the need for revolution, and to the education of more and more members in these ideas and methods.

It is this solid bedrock of comrades – steeped in the ideas and methods of Marxism – that allow us to be flexible and adjust dynamically to the changing situation.

comrades Image The CommunistOur recent election campaign around Fiona does not represent some change of principles. It represents the fact that we are in a new political period, and that our organisation has been transformed / Image: The Communist

Having forged solid political foundations through educational work, communists not only can, but must take advantage of the opportunities that exist to spread our ideas and build a more powerful organisation.

Such opportunities include the fight for positions, including winning seats in parliament – a distinct possibility in the coming period, as a result of capitalism’s crises and the disgust towards the main parties.

In this way, our electoral campaigning is in the fine tradition of the revolutionary communist principles outlined by Marx, Engels and Lenin.

In the words of Lenin: “The substance and mainspring of the Social-Democratic [revolutionary Marxist] election platform can be expressed in three words: for the revolution!” (Lenin, The Election Campaign and the Election Platform, 1911)

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