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Where to Begin: Updated

In recent years the question of “what is to be done” has confronted the American left with particular insistence. It is not a question of what outcome we desire (overthrow of the oligarchy), but of what practical steps we must take toward the desired outcome. Perhaps the best program put forward is that which calls for the formation of a strong, well-organized party whose aim is not only to win isolated concessions but to storm the fortress of the autocracy itself.

The building of a fighting organization and the conduct of political agitation are essential under any drab, peaceful circumstances. Moreover, it is precisely in such periods and under such circumstances that work of this kind is particularly necessary, since it is too late to form the organization in times of explosion and outbursts. The party must be in a state of readiness to launch activity at a moment’s notice. Without a strong organization skilled in waging political struggle under all circumstances and at all times, there can be no question of that systematic plan of action, illumined by firm principles and steadfastly carried out, which alone is worthy of the name of tactics.

Our movement suffers from the almost complete immersion of the overwhelming majority of leftists in local work, which narrows their outlook, the scope of their activities, and their skill in the maintenance of secrecy and their preparedness.

Our immediate task is to concentrate all the elements of revolutionary political action.  This will vitalize the revolutionary movement of the proletariat. The oligarchy has taken the first step for us. They have aroused in the working class a passion for revolutionary action. The working class has demonstrated its readiness – not only to listen to and support the summons to political struggle, but boldly to engage in battle.

If we produce a revolutionary website, through it a permanent organization will naturally take shape.  Today we are faced with the relatively easy task of supporting demonstrations in the streets of big cities; tomorrow we may, perhaps, have the more difficult task of supporting, for example, the unemployed in some particular area, and the day after to be at our posts in order to play a revolutionary part in an uprising.

We must take advantage of the tense political situation arising out of the government’s campaign against immigrants; tomorrow we may have to support popular indignation against some action by Trump and help, by means of boycott, indictment, demonstrations, etc., to make things so hot for him as to force him into open retreat. Such a degree of readiness can be developed only through the constant activity of troops.

It is quite possible that the oligarchy will collapse under a turn of events sparked by spontaneous outbursts. However, no political organization that wishes to avoid adventurous gambles can base its activities on the anticipation of such outbursts and complications. We must steadfastly carry on our regular work, and the less our reliance on the unexpected, the less the chance of our being caught unawares by any historic turns.