What is a Marxist-Leninist party?
This is a slightly edited version of a talk given during a discussion with members and candidates of Workers World Party on May 17.
Many parties calling themselves Marxist and Leninist have come and gone. WWP is here and growing, after more than 60 years of struggle. This is due to our general program, our militancy in practice and our internal structure.
Now we’re entering a new period of crisis and class struggle, unlike any we’ve ever seen before. Capitalism is always anticipating growth — more production, more exploitation of labor, more profits. But instead, the capitalist economy is imploding as we speak. Debt is overwhelming the existing structures and institutions. Suddenly everything has gone into reverse, and tens of millions of workers are being thrown over the cliff.
In order to fight for the workers and the most oppressed, this party has to be both strong and flexible. We have to be able to “spin on a dime.” When something happens, we can’t wait for others to move.
So how do we decide what to do and how? How do we function?
WWP is a Leninist party, meaning we practice democratic centralism. How does that work? It’s simple. When decisions have to be made or actions taken, the majority decides. Then it’s the responsibility of all members to carry out the decision.
At this point, we’re not so large that we should be overburdened with formalism. Nor can we take a vote every time something needs to be done. We can’t let formality consume our attention and hinder our ability to act. When a consensus can be arrived at, we should move forward. This happens all the time.
We have an elected Interim Central Committee that discusses our program and actions. Each branch has a steering committee, as well as members on the ICC.
It’s the job of leaders to convince and win over other comrades to new concepts or strategies. But the leaders must also learn from the members. Older members have experience, but newer members bring fresh insights into the party.
Our party tradition is strong on making sure the most oppressed are represented at all levels of leadership. A leading body composed only of straight white men is inconceivable in this party.
Another aspect of this is the role of caucuses in the party: There is a caucus for women and people of oppressed genders; a people of color caucus; an LGBTQ2+ caucus; and a people with disabilities caucus. These caucuses discuss what actions to take regarding their special oppression, and also what needs to be explained about these oppressions to the whole party and the movement.
There’s an old saying: Theory is gray, but the tree of life is green. WWP is alive and green, gearing up for the struggles that are sure to come while solidly based in Marxism and Leninism.
Griswold is one of the founding members of WWP, which formed in 1959. She has been the editor of WW newspaper since the early 1970s. Griswold represented the party on the steering committee of the Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal in 1966-67, was the party’s first candidate for president in the 1980 U.S. elections, and has represented the party in relations with socialist Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.