The following Manifesto of the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries (OCR) is our indictment of US imperialism and the entire capitalist-imperialist system it is part of; our conception of the goal of communism and the socialist transition to get there; and our strategic thinking on making revolution in the US. It is not intended as a replacement or update of previous great works of communist theory and strategy, such as Marx’s and Engels’ Communist Manifesto; it is our attempt to apply such theory and strategy to the contemporary US. We welcome debate and discussion of this Manifesto and hope to learn from others who are attempting to figure out how to make revolution. We hope this Manifesto can provide inspiration and guidance to all those who hate the injustices of the present order and dream and struggle for a better world. And to those who agree with this Manifesto in whole or in part, we call on you to put these principles into practice, and to consider joining the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries.
Who Are the Greatest Criminals in the World?
No empire in human history has done more damage to the planet and inflicted more brutality on its people than US imperialism. Founded on the genocide of indigenous people, theft of their land, and the exploitation of slaves kidnapped from Africa, the US expanded through numerous trails of tears, blood, and exploitation, ultimately consolidating its North American territory through a war of aggression against Mexico. When the Spanish empire was in decline and besieged by revolts in its colonies at the end of the nineteenth century, the US ruling class took the opportunity to seize its first overseas colonies, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines, and decisively enter the ranks of the imperialist powers that dominated and exploited people outside their own countries.
From then on, the US has not brought “freedom” to the people of the world, but rained down bombs, engineered CIA-sponsored coups and death squads, and waged one imperialist war of aggression after another around the globe to expand its empire and destroy any potential threat to its dominance. In Vietnam, the US dropped napalm bombs and massacred entire villages, killing an estimated 3–5 million people, all in a failed attempt to stop a national liberation struggle from freeing the Vietnamese people from imperialism. In Chile in 1973, when President Allende attempted to enact social reforms that would hurt the profits of US companies, the CIA sponsored a military coup in which tens of thousands of people were imprisoned and tortured, thousands were executed, and General Pinochet was installed as dictator. More recently, Iraq, a key supplier of oil, was invaded and occupied in 2003 after Saddam Hussein ran afoul of US imperialism, with tens of thousands of Iraqis killed by US bombs and bullets and hundreds of thousands more dead from the economic disaster and sectarian violence unleashed by US war. These three examples are only a fraction of the long list of US imperialism’s crimes around the world. Moreover, the US military bases that span the globe and the warships that stalk the seas make clear that the masses of people around the world live under the boot of US imperialism and the threat of US military intervention.
All this bloodshed and military might enforces a vast empire of exploitation of the planet and its people. In sweatshops and “special economic zones” around the world, workers toil in the worst of conditions. If your clothes could talk, they might tell the story of how they were manufactured and stitched together by women and sometimes children slaving away for just a few dollars a day in countries like Bangladesh, where factory fires in buildings unfit for use regularly wipe out hundreds of garment workers. The electronic gadgets that have become “necessities” of life were likely made in “export processing zones” in China or elsewhere, where the manufacturers are allowed to pay the lowest wage possible and little taxes, and where worker suicide is common. Plantations worldwide serve up cash crops for US consumption while the people harvesting sugar and bananas survive on near-starvation wages. The coffee you drink—even if it’s labeled “fair trade”—likely came from farmers in a country like Ghana or Colombia, who, after all their hard work, had to sell their beans for a pittance on the global capitalist market.
As if this brutal exploitation of human labor wasn’t enough to quench captialism-imperialism’s thirst for profit, the system also thrives on the plunder of the Earth’s resources. Rainforests are cut down in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations. In Brazil, the Amazon is being encroached on and even burned down for cattle and other food production. Each new forest clearing diminishes the natural generator of the oxygen that human life depends on. Oil pumped from the ground fuels the capitalist mode of production while polluting the air. While oil continues to flow from the Middle East under tyrannical regimes like the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (a close ally of the US), new pipelines are being built and spilling oil on Indigenous land in North America, and new oil rigs sit atop the ocean floor and pollute the seas. These very seas are now full of plastic waste. The bauxite mines from Jamaica to Western Australia to India destroy soil and mountaintops, leading to droughts when the ground loses its ability to hold water, all to provide raw material for the manufacture of the aluminum we use every day in everything from soda cans to cars. In these and so many other ways, capitalism-imperialism, with the US leading the pack, has left a trail of environmental destruction that now threatens the very existence of life on Earth.
Since the end of World War II, US imperialism’s dominance in the world system of capitalism-imperialism has been a nightmare for most of the world’s people. While bringing so many countries under its political domination through military interventions, rigged elections, coups, and the brutality of local oppressors, the US, along with its imperialist allies, also set up a system of economic domination through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These global financial institutions dictate the economic policies of many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are oppressed by foreign imperialism. They do so through the mechanism of debt, with many oppressed nations spending more to pay off foreign debt than on providing basic services like healthcare for their populations, even when people in countries such as Uganda are suffering from AIDS epidemics and other public health disasters.
In the 1980s and continuing down to today, a whole series of “structural adjustment programs” forced nations oppressed by foreign imperialism to drastically cut infrastructure, education, and social welfare spending and allow foreign—especially US—capitalists free and unfettered access to their labor and markets. The result was nothing short of disaster in country after country from the Dominican Republic to Nigeria to the Philippines. Farmers were ruined as cheap foreign imports flooded their countries, and a massive rural to urban migration of people resulted in crowded city slums. Unemployment soared; many were forced to eke out a living in informal employment such as street vending, sifting through garbage dumps for anything that could be sold, or working as prostitutes in what is one of the greatest monstrosities imperialism has created: the sex tourism industry. Those who could find formal employment faced poverty wages, no job security, and repression against any attempts to unionize or otherwise resist their exploitation.
These are the brutal conditions of exploitation in the nations around the world oppressed by US imperialism. But how is life in the belly of the beast itself?
Many in the US live relatively comfortable lives consuming the spoils of US imperialism. They have nice houses and cars, can count on working roads, plumbing, and sanitation, and possess plenty of consumer items, from the latest electronic gadgets to closets full of clothes. Yet even this sizeable petty-bourgeoisie (or “middle class”) is plagued by grotesque social relations and a vapid existence. A culture of pervasive individualism and cutthroat competition extends from the workplace to romantic and sexual relations. Reality TV pumps people’s brains full of idiocy. The family has become not a source of collective support but often a site of abuse. The consequences of living within these social relations and this culture include widespread drug addiction and mental illness as well as profound alienation. Even the material benefits of being middle class in America are being eroded, with mounting debt and widespread loss of home ownership in recent years. Many youth in particular face a future of diminishing options, massive student debt accompanying college eduction, and earning less than their parents.
For those in the US who are given a lesser share of the plunder of imperialism and/or who are members of oppressed social groups, we can add prisons, police brutality, exploitation, poverty, and other more blatant miseries of living under bourgeois rule to the comparatively more mild maladies that the petty-bourgeoisie faces.
Black proletarians—coming from a long history of slavery, share-cropping, and the Great Migration to cities and to the North to escape Jim Crow and lynching only to be exploited and shoved into urban ghettos—face the worst of the US’s brutality firsthand. In recent decades, the US ruling class has decided that most Black proletarians are expendable since they can no longer be profitably exploited in the global economy. Thus the ruling class has enacted measures of vicious social control to prevent Black proletarians from breaking out in rebellion. Black proletarians are routinely harrassed, brutalized, and even murdered at the hands of the police. They constitute roughly half of the US’s prison population, which itself numbers over two million. And the ghettos that Black proletarians were forced to live in are now being gentrified to become the playgrounds of the young and mostly white petty-bourgeois new people, from Brooklyn to Detroit to Oakland. Those who lived there going back generations are pushed out to proletarianized suburbs and homelessness. The dire inequalities between Black and white Americans indicated by statistics on everything from healthcare to education, as well as the continual suppression of and theft from Black culture, reveal how white supremacy has been and remains the social glue that holds the capitalist-imperialist system together. And while Black proletarians face the worst oppression under this system, no Black person of any social class in the US is free from some form of discrimination, oppression, and cultural domination.
Immigrants, who are often driven to the US by the exploitation and devastation US imperialism has brought on their homelands, are slotted into social positions based on the structures of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation that define their lives in the US. Many are only allowed to enter the US so that they can be exploited in the most labor-intensive jobs, from working in the fields, slaughterhouses, and meatpacking plants that supply the US population with its food, to providing the services, from childcare to office cleaning to cooking and food delivery, that allow the financial centers of US imperialism in cities like New York and Los Angeles to function. Immigration from Mexico, the US’s neighbor to the south that has long been under US imperialist domination, has been one of the main sources of exploited workers within the US for decades. The substantially proletarian Puerto Rican diaspora in the US faces exploitation, discrimination, and brutality presided over by the very government that stands in the way of sovereignty and independence for its homeland. All immigrants coming from nations oppressed by imperialism face some degree of oppression in the US, such as the suppression of their languages and cultures. Many also face conditions similar to what Black proletarians face—police brutality, prison, and living in poverty-stricken ghettos. And undocumented immigrants, after having made the often deadly trek across the US border, live with the constant threats of ICE raids, detention, deportation, and violence by right-wing vigilantes.
The US government has barely even acknowledged, let alone sought to remedy, its long history of genocide and oppression of the original inhabitants of North America and the theft of their lands. Not only does this legacy continue to plague Native peoples of the US, but their cultures and languages are still suppressed, and most face poverty, police brutality, and neglect, whether living on reservations or in the ghettos of the cities. And from Standing Rock to Big Mountain, oil and mining companies invade Native territory, extracting resources from and polluting sacred lands while continuing the US legacy of trampling on Native peoples’ rights and sovereignty.
Women in the US face a culture of rape, sexual assault, and harrassment. Despite gains won by women’s movements over the last century, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens, paid less, worked more, and discriminated against even within the halls of power. The family remains an institution of patriarchy, from the daily oppression of women bearing the burdens of childcare and cleaning to the more dire threats of abuse, violence, and even murder of women by their husbands. For proletarian women, the daily burdens of exploitation at work while having to provide for families and take care of children are even greater obstacles to living a fulfilling life.
The deeply entrenched Christian fundamentalist movement in the US continues on its quest to reinforce and prop back up centuries-old forms of patriarchal authority that treat women’s bodies as the property of their husbands and fathers that exist for the purpose of breeding. Christian fundamentalists inside and outside of the halls of power continue to make considerable headway in restricting women’s access and legal rights to abortion and reproductive healthcare. Simultaneously, more modern forms of patriarchy bombard us with images that objectify women’s bodies and create a cuture that treats sex as a commodity and women as trophies in male sexual conquests. Contemporary feminism largely fails to offer a path out of this patriarchal hell, celebrating the small number of women in positions of power and promoting bourgeois notions of individual success on the backs of others.
In a patriarchal society such as the US, those who do not conform to traditional gender roles and sexuality norms are stigmatized, discriminated against, and subjected to violence at every turn. This can be seen in the high rates of suicide among gay teenagers, the epidemic of murder of transgendered people, and the sometimes legalized and always pervasive discrimination in areas of the country where Christian fundamentalism holds sway.
If we go on to examine all of the institutions of US society, we only continue to find a world of inequality, oppression, exploitation, and twisted social relations. The education system all too often and especially for the children of the oppressed enforces rote memorization and blind obedience with an emphasis on standardized testing, suppresses the cultures and languages of oppressed people, and systematically lies about the real history of the US and the world. The rebellious spirit, creativity, and critical thought of youth are routinely crushed.
The healthcare system is driven by the profit-making schemes of insurance companies, private hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies rather than the health and well-being of the people. In the process, diseases go undiagnosed, the causes of and treatments for the chronic health problems that plague tens of millions remain at best misunderstood but more often ignored, many people have to choose between living with a disease or the debt that comes from getting treatment, and those who cannot pay for decent healthcare are cast aside to suffer and die. As the threat and reality of pandemics accelerate, the healthcare system in the US—the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world—reveals itself to be woefully unprepared for current and coming public health crises, which has and will lead to countless unnecessary deaths.
The culture industry—movies, TV, music, etc.—mostly offers forms of culture that celebrate individualism and using women as sexual objects, inculcates people with idiocy, and distracts us from confronting the real horrors of our society. Some beautiful, uplifting, rebellious, intellectually challenging, and politically insightful culture does emerge, but is often swept under the rug or co-opted back into the functioning of capitalist culture.
The electoral politics machine never raises fundamental questions about the nature of the capitalist-imperialist system we live under. The scope of debate, the candidates you can vote for, and the laws on the ballot are all controlled in one way or another by the bourgeois class that rules society. Democracy serves as a means to bring the resistance and opposition that constantly breaks out in society back into safe and unthreatening channels. These and other institutions, while sometimes the sites of limited contestation of capitalist rule or mild reforms that temporarily improve some people’s lives, fundamentally serve to maintain the rule of the bourgeois class, reproduce all the oppressive social relations in society, and extract profit on the backs of the masses of people.
On the one hand, we find the obscene wealth of members of the US imperialist ruling class concentrated in their skyscrapers, bank accounts, mansions, and fancy apartments and the corporations and financial markets they preside over. Driven by the relentless pursuit of profit, whether or not they as individuals are “bad” or “greedy,” these capitalists must exploit the people and the planet’s resources in order to defend and advance their position and continue the expansion of the capital they possess. This incessant accumulation of wealth takes place through the chaotic motions of capital, where investments are moved from one corner of the globe and one enterprise to another in search of maximum profit while taking a brutal toll on the masses of people and the Earth itself.
On the other hand, we find the exploited and oppressed people of the planet, whose work and toil create the profits and wealth reaped by imperialism. While this exploitation and oppression takes many forms and affects many people, it has generated a social class—the proletariat—that is strategically positioned to lead the struggle that can not only overthrow the capitalist-imperialist system, but also uproot the foundations of all forms of oppression and move humanity to a whole new way of existence: communism. The proletariat consists of those who have been dispossessed of any means to make wealth except for their own labor, who labor in conditions of exploitation, who can only find work if and when they are needed by the capitalist class, and who work collectively, on a world scale, within socialized rather than individualized processes of production. Because they have nothing to lose but their chains and can only find liberation collectively rather than individually, their fundamental interest as a class lies in overthrowing the system of capitalism-imperialism, seizing and collectively running the means of production and all institutions of society, and moving society in the direction of communism.
In the US, the proletariat includes the immigrants exploited in the fields, food production facilities, and service jobs; the “surplus populations” whom the capitalist class has no productive use for and so are locked in prisons, confined to ghettos, and have no choice but to work in the illegal economy to survive; and millions of others slaving away in low-wage factory work, the service and food industries, transportation, shipping, and other economic sectors of harsh exploitation. The proletariat in the US numbers in the tens of millions. Though multinational, the proletariat in the US is disproportionately made up of Black, Latino, and other oppressed nationalities due to the crucial role of white supremacy in the foundation and functioning of capitalism-imperialism in the US. From the housing projects to the prisons to the fields, fast food restaurants, and factories, the proletariat can and must be organized as a revolutionary force capable of leading the overthrow of the US capitalist-imperialist ruling class.
While we have painted a bleak picture of the history and present state of our world under capitalism-imperialism, this history also includes resistance, rebellions, and revolutions that have challenged or even overthrown, in some places and for some time, that system. It is a testament to the masses of oppressed people that they have refused to accept this system of exploitation and oppression and demonstrated over and over their creative capacity to challenge its rule. Where the masses have been led by revolutionary and communist forces, they have accomplished tremendous things. They have stood up against foreign imperialism in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and even defeated the most powerful military machine in human history—the US military—in the course of the Vietnamese national liberation struggle. In the imperialist countries themselves, proletarians have broken out in powerful rebellions, especially against the brutality of the police, and during social crises, resistance has rocked the foundations of society and challenged imperialist wars. Most importantly, in the Soviet Union and China, hundreds of millions of people radically transformed their societies in the direction of communism for several decades, learning valuable lessons in the process which we shall return to below.
Ultimately, these rebellions and revolutions have faced defeat, betrayal, or obstacles for which they had no solutions or were unable to overcome due to the balance of forces at that time. As much as these setbacks have been deep disappointments and in some cases disasters for the masses of oppressed people, they have also provided us with profound insights into the challenges of the revolutionary struggle and the socialist transition to communism. And the achievements of these revolutionary struggles, most especially the socialist period in China from 1949 to 1976, continue to provide inspiration and important lessons for confronting the challenges facing us today. Although there are no socialist states in the world today, there are places where communists are leading the masses in revolutionary struggles, establishing initial forms of red political power, and developing new forms of economic and social relations. Our task is to develop a strategy for revolution in the US and a programme for the socialist transition to communism based on current conditions, real struggles, our own practices, and a sharp understanding of history. In this endeavor, the communist principles that have been developed by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, and others offer us crucial guidance, theoretical grounding, and a synthesis of prior experience that we can and must apply to our present circumstances.
Before explaining just how we see the possibilities and strategy for revolution in the US, let’s paint a picture of the ultimate goal of this revolution: communism.
Communism is not a utopia, but a real possibility based on the conditions we confront today and our struggles to transform these conditions. The productive forces that capitalism-imperialism has brought into existence—the machines, factories, tools, technology, transportation systems, etc.—could be used and transformed to feed, house, and create a life worth living for all of humanity while also repairing the damage that has been done to the environment. Moreover, these productive forces are social in character—they can only be put to use through the collective effort of humanity. What stands in the way of this collective use of the social means of production for all of humanity’s benefit is the private appropriation that governs the production relations in society. While virtually everything is collectively produced, members of the bourgeoisie—the capitalist-imperialist ruling class—control this production process, own the means of production, and appropriate the profits while only paying the proletariat what it needs to survive (and sometimes not even that).
Communism is the elimination of this private appropriation and its replacement with social appropriation for social needs and wants. All the means to make the things we need and want, the places we live and work, the research facilities and equipment, technology, healthcare and education facilities and resources, the institutions of cultural production, transportation systems, and more will not be owned by any individual under communism. They will be the collective property of humanity, and whatever institutions humanity comes up with to organize itself under communism will make collective decisions about how best to use this collective property.
Such a revolutionary, collective use of all that humanity has created will only be possible if the political and social relations as well as the culture and ideas in society are free from all inequalities and oppression. Thus communism is also about revolutionizing of our whole way of life—the way we relate to each other, the ideas that guide our actions, and the culture we all produce and take part in. There will be no class divisions, men over women, imperialist and oppressor nations over oppressed nations and nationalities, or any other oppressive divisions under communism.
Getting to communism will not only be a matter of ridding humanity of all forms of oppression and inequality; it will also involve digging up and destroying the roots of that oppression and inequality. As long as humanity engages in the production and exchange of commodities—in other words, producing products that are sold for a profit (or a loss) on the marketplace—inequality and oppression will continually regrow. This is because even if we all started out equally, some will always benefit (profit) from commodity exchange while others will lose, which will in turn create the basis for growing inequalities. Thus exchange in communist society will be done based on human needs and collective plans and allocation of resources—never for the benefit of one group or individual over another. And production will not be for the sake of making profits, but for meeting the collective needs and desires of humanity. There will be no money under communism, and nothing will be bought and sold. People will voluntarily work for the benefit of society, and society will provide people with everything they need: from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.
This might sound utopian, but it is similar in many respects to the way humanity lived for tens of thousands of years before social divisions emerged with patriarchy and class divisions. The communism of the future will be a new type, drawing on the technology and productive forces humanity has developed in class-divided society while discarding those technologies and productive forces that cause harm to the Earth. But the communism of the future can draw on the history and few present-day survivals of humanity’s communal origins, especially the capacity and means to live in harmony with nature.
While the philosophies that will guide the future communist society will likely be quite different from those of communists today, we do currently possess core ideas that offer insight into how people in that future will think. Communists today are guided by the philosophy of materialist dialectics. This means we seek to understand reality—the matter and energy that make up ourselves and our world—as best we can with a scientific approach while understanding that reality is always undergoing change driven by contradiction and struggle. This philosophy enables us to understand history, present-day society, and the means for society’s revolutionary transformation while learning from all different spheres of human practice and thinking, from the latest scientific discoveries to the productive labor that runs society to the art and cultural expressions of humanity.
Communism can only be achieved on a global scale, and getting there will take several generations of transformation after the proletariat has overthrown the bourgeoisie and taken power into its own hands. But the goal of communism and the communist world outlook must guide our struggle today if we are to get over the first great obstacle—the rule of the bourgeoisie.
Strategy for Revolution in the US
All societies that are divided into classes are dictatorships of the ruling class(es) over subordinate classes. There can be no democracy for all in class-divided societies; the class(es) that own and control the means of production and the dominant institutions make the major decisions concerning the direction of society. Elections in capitalist-imperialist society principally serve to legitimize bourgeois rule and channel the people into political activity that does not threaten bourgeois rule, and thus are not the means by which the proletariat can come to power.
Under capitalism-imperialism, the bourgeoisie—the owners and operaters of major corporations, business enterprises, banks, and financial institutions, as well as the top government officials who ensure the continued and smooth operation of capitalism-imperialism—rules society by virtue of its ownership of and control over the means of production, wealth, political power, and major institutions of society. The repressive state apparatus—the police, prisons, courts, immigration and border control, intelligence agencies, and military—serves to protect the rule of the bourgeoisie and preserve its social order.
Besides repression, the bourgeoisie maintains its rule by forging an alliance of classes under its hegemony and by deploying ideological state apparatuses—such as schools, universities, the entertainment and culture industries, professional sports, religious institutions, and nonprofit political reform and social service organizations—to inculcate the masses in bourgeois ways of thinking, ensure they provide their labor and allegiance to the bourgeoisie, and distract or deflect the masses from confronting the source of their oppression. Since the US bourgeoisie amasses obscene amounts of wealth through its imperialist plunder and exploitation of much of the world, it has been able to forge a strong alliance of classes under its rule by sharing a portion of its wealth with sections of the US population, in effect bribing them. The classes who receive more substantial portions of this imperialist plunder include the petty-bourgeoisie—people who own and operate small enterprises or who possess skills and education that enable them to sell their labor at a higher rate—as well as the labor aristocracy and bourgeoisified workers, whose work is more proletarian in character but who make substantial wages above what they need to survive and have significant job security and health and retirement benefits. In addition to and hand in hand with this class alignment, white people as a whole benefit to at least some degree materially, ideologically, politically, and culturally from the structures of white supremacy at the core of US capitalism-imperialism. However, among these middle classes and the ideological state apparatuses and political institutions of the US, there is always conflict and struggle with the bourgeoisie which at times becomes quite acute.
It is the mission and internationalist duty of the proletariat in the US to overthrow the rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie. This can only be done through a revolutionary civil war that destroys the repressive state apparatus and political institutions of the bourgeoisie and seizes the means of production and wealth which the bourgeoisie now possesses. Such a revolutionary civil war can only be initiated after the proletariat, led by communists, has built up the organized forces for revolution through a lengthy process of class struggle and creates and takes advantage of favorable conditions for the launch of an insurrection. The proletariat cannot do this alone, but must forge an alliance of classes under its leadership by taking advantage of the conflicts and struggles between the various middle classes and the bourgeoisie and within the bourgeoisie’s ideological state apparatuses.
To carry out this mission, the proletariat first and foremost needs a communist vanguard party. Such a vanguard must draw its membership from the most advanced elements among the proletariat as well as from those among other classes who betray their class interests and commit their lives to serving the revolution and humanity. This vanguard must be based on the principle of democratic centralism: rigorous discussion and debate over how to advance the revolution combined with unified action under a centralized strategy and leadership. The vanguard must be built and operate so wisely and so well that the bourgeoisie and its repressive state apparatus cannot easily destroy it or even know how it functions and who is part of it. Members of the vanguard must be trained in the most advanced revolutionary theory as well as rich and rigorous engagement with science, philosophy, different schools of political thought, and artistic expression. The vanguard must have a leadership capable of applying revolutionary theory to the challenges of making revolution in the US and synthesizing the lessons learned from practice into an effective strategy. The vanguard must have organization that is geographically spread across the US with deep roots among the proletariat and other classes. And it must have a programme with an analysis of US society and the various classes within it, a strategy for how to make revolution in the US, and policies that the proletariat would enact after it has seized power that will begin the socialist transition to communism.
The Organization of Communist Revolutionaries (OCR) exists to contribute to building such a communist vanguard party in the US. We recognize that revolutions do not happen; they are made by the masses and led by the most advanced among them. It is only through building the subjective forces for revolution—the organized forces in society consciously struggling for revolution—that communists can take advantage of the many conflicts and crises that emerge in society to further advance towards and eventually launch a revolutionary civil war.
A crucial starting point for building the subjective forces for revolution is the creation of communist-led mass organizations among the proletariat. Such mass organizations should be based among specific sections of the proletariat that are bound together through common antagonism(s) with bourgeois rule. Building mass organizations first and foremost requires social investigation—learning directly from the masses about their conditions of life, class positions, social ties, culture, conflicts, aspirations, struggles, and ideas. It is through this social investigation that communists can assess the particularities of class antagonisms, what immediate struggles can be waged around these class antagonisms, and how to mobilize the masses to wage such struggles. A mass organization provides proletarians with a collective framework through which to wage class struggle, and a training ground through which to see, through the advances and setbacks of the class struggle, the need for revolution and a communist vanguard to lead that revolution. Within and around mass organizations and struggles, communists must carry out consistent agitation and propaganda to expose exactly how the capitalist-imperialist system is at the root of the problems and injustices the masses face, propagate communist ideology and internationalism, and recruit the most advanced among the masses as communist cadre. Building mass organizations and struggles not only transforms the masses, but also transforms the communists leading them by virtue of integrating and fighting side-by-side with the masses.
Various forms of communist-led mass organizations will be necessary to organize the proletariat in its diverse manifestations and build the subjective forces for revolution. Some will be based not in a particular neighborhood or workplace, but around a common class antagonism, social condition, or conflict with the repressive state apparatus, such as the oppression, exploitation, deportation, and detention faced by immigrant proletarians; police brutality; the mass incarceration of “surplus populations”; unemployment; or homelessness. Others may bind together proletarians living in particular neighborhoods or housing projects. Such neighborhood-based mass organizations must not only find collective solutions to the problems people face and struggle against the oppression people suffer at the hands of their landlords and the police and the threats of eviction and displacement by gentrification. They must also popularize communist ideology, promote internationalism and anti-imperialism, and draw the masses in these neighborhoods into broader struggles over the direction of society while the best among them are recruited as communist cadre. In communist-led mass organizations within proletarian workplaces, struggles over the exploitation and oppressive conditions of labor should be pushed to sharpen the class antagonisms and be diverted towards larger revolutionary objectives, and communist ideology and politics must draw the masses’ attention beyond their immediate struggles against their employers towards the larger conflicts in society as a whole and the bigger questions of revolutionary strategy. Besides workplaces and neighborhoods, communists must also recognize and organize within other geographic sites of proletarian concentration, such as schools and prisons, as well as forms of work among the proletariat that do not concentrate large numbers within a single location, such as home health aids, childcare, and street vending.
As the membership and leadership capacity of the OCR expands, it must develop various spheres of political work which can sharpen the class struggle with the bourgeoisie, develop the subjective forces for revolution, recruit growing numbers of communist cadre, and put forward communist ideology, politics, analysis, and culture in a way that contends with the bourgeoisie’s ideological hegemony. This will include intervening within the various conflicts, debates, and movements of resistance that emerge within US society. From protests against government inaction on climate change to resistance against vicious attacks on immigrants, from rebellions against police brutality to opposition against attacks on women’s reproductive rights, communists must seek to divert these struggles towards revolutionary objectives and recruit the most advanced fighters within them as communist cadre. Such resistance movements also provide a means by which the OCR can develop allies among various classes, from progressive religious forces outraged by injustice to lawyers who stand with the people to political activists. Furthermore, communists must step into the cultural debates and political controversies that draw millions of people into questioning the injustices perpetrated by capitalism-imperialism with analysis that can move people towards a deeper understanding of the workings of this system and the need for revolution. The OCR will need to develop various forms of political propaganda and artistic expressions to accomplish this task, and strategically deploy some cadre to use openings for communist work within the bourgeoisie’s ideological state apparatuses.
Communists are internationalists, and communists in the US have a particular responsibility to oppose US imperialism and stand with the oppressed people of the world against the US imperialist bourgeoisie. Thus communists must expose the many crimes of US imperialism and develop anti-imperialist resistance “behind enemy lines,” especially against US military intervention and wars of aggression. Doing so can not only put a wrench in the functioning of the US war machine, but can also challenge the people of the US to oppose their own bourgeoisie and recognize that the privileges we have in the US rest on the backs and blood of the oppressed nations. Communists are revolutionary defeatists—we welcome the defeats suffered by “our” bourgeoisie and train the masses in internationalism. Besides opposing “our own” bourgeoisie, internationalism also means extending political support to and conducting propaganda among the people of the US about revolutionary struggles and people’s wars around the world.
In addition to mass organizations among the proletariat, the OCR will have to build organized ties among many other classes in society who can potentially be won over as revolutionary allies or in some cases recruited as communist cadre. This includes teachers, intellectuals, artists, professionals, unionized workers, and many others. The wider the net is cast for developing such organized ties, the greater the capacity for revolutionary advance. The proletariat in the US is far too isolated and not numerically large enough to make revolution on its own, and other class forces bring various strengths and resources into the revolutionary struggle.
Communist revolution in the US, as in all countries, must be made by a united front under the leadership of the proletariat. This alliance of classes is what possesses the various strengths and numerical force capable of defeating bourgeois rule. In the US, the solid core of the united front is the unity between the multinational proletariat and its goal of communism, on the one hand, and the struggles of the various oppressed nationalities and nation(s) within the US for their liberation. This is a strategic recognition of the fact that white supremacy, the genocide of Indigenous peoples and theft of their lands, the history and ongoing oppression of Black people from slavery down to today, the seizure of Mexican and overseas territories, and the oppression and exploitation of various immigrants are at the foundation and functioning of capitalism-imperialism in the US. Uniting with the struggles of the various oppressed nationalities and nation(s) within the US and diverting them towards revolutionary objectives will thus be a crucial means by which the united front under the leadership of the proletariat will be built.
In the US, communists do not have the ability to carry out military actions anytime in the near future for a number of reasons. One, the peasantry went out of existence in the US decades ago, and there is not the class or the social geography for carrying out rural guerrilla warfare. Two, the bourgeoisie has a highly developed repressive apparatus that can be quickly deployed in any geographic location. And three, imperialist plunder and the US bourgeoisie’s creation of a regime of preventive counterrevolution have enabled the bourgeoisie to create significant social stability in the US. Thus communists carrying out military actions in the current conditions would only invite harsh repression against communists and the masses and the destruction of organization among them. Premature military actions almost always result in severe setbacks for the revolution.
However, communists must not let these conditions, in which military action is at present impossible, prevent us from studying the historical experience of revolutionary warfare and considering how the lessons from this experience might apply to the US. And we must recognize that launching a revolutionary civil war aimed at overthrowing the bourgeoisie will have to be preceded by some development of revolutionary military organization and experience.
The above strategic thinking is based on studying the experience and strategic doctrine of past revolutionary struggles and communist organizations as well as the prior experiences of members of the OCR. Since the OCR has only existed for a short time with a small membership, it has much to learn and develop concerning revolutionary strategy. Moreover, a much larger membership of communist cadre is necessary to put the above strategic ideas into practice and further develop revolutionary strategy. We are committed to humbly learn from our ongoing experience and that of other revolutionaries, critically sum up our work, and strive to develop a strategy capable of bringing the subjective forces needed for making revolution into being. As we do so, we will synthesize what we learn into revolutionary theory that can guide the revolutionary struggle, train communist cadre, and answer the burning questions among the masses. However, a communist vanguard in the US will not come about solely through the work and quantitative expansion of the OCR, but also through dialogue and a process of unity-struggle-unity with other revolutionary organizations.
The Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Socialist Transition to Communism
Following the revolution, the future socialist state will take immediate measures to radically transform society and do away with oppression and inequality. US military bases around the world will be dismantled, the foreign debt of the oppressed nations will be canceled, and the new socialist government will renounce the US’s imperialist role in the world. The police, prisons, and other repressive state apparatuses of the bourgeoisie that currently brutalize, murder, and incarcerate proletarians and oppressed peoples will be destroyed. In their place, any security forces established by the socialist state will genuinely look out for the safety of the people. Incarceration of individuals among the popular classes will for the most part only occur in cases when their actions violently reinforce oppression, such as rape, and such measures will emphasize rehabilitation. Housing will be a right guaranteed to everyone, and empty buildings as well as real estate expropriated from the bourgeoisie will be used to eliminate homelessness immediately. The socialist state will allocate resources to ensure that everyone has their basic needs, such as quality food and healthcare, met, applying the principle of raising the bottom up.
Giving expression to the rights of autonomy and self-determination for the US’s Indigenous people and oppressed nationalities and nation(s) will be determined by the concrete demands, desires, and struggles of oppressed peoples and policies developed by the new socialist government. Within the multinational socialist state, all forms of discrimination will be banned and genuine equality between languages and cultures will be put in practice by government policy, and the principle of raising the bottom up will also guide the allocation of resources to oppressed peoples. The future socialist state will welcome any and all immigrants who want a fulfilling life within the new socialist society, and resources will be allocated especially for refugees escaping precarious situations caused by US imperialism.
There is nothing sacred about the current borders of the US. Puerto Rico, Guam, and other US territories will be granted immediate independence after the revolution. The borders of the new socialist territory, established by the outcome of revolutionary civil war, will only serve to defend the proletariat’s power against bourgeois forces seeking to bring back capitalism, and never to oppress other nations.
Women’s bodies will no longer be bought and sold as commodities in the sex industry or used in advertisements and mass media to sell products. Rape and other forms of violence against women will not be tolerated, nor will discrimination and violence that seeks to reinforce gender and sexual norms. Christian fundamentalism and patriarchal ideas will have no place in the education system. Women’s organizations will be established to struggle against and overcome the various forms of oppression women face in their communities, families, relationships, and other institutions. Reproductive health services and access to abortion will be provided to all.
These immediate changes show the radical transformations the proletariat can make as soon as it seizes power. Other changes will be more protracted in nature, but would begin right away by the proletariat seizing and controlling all major public and privately-owned institutions in society and using these institutions for the benefit of humanity and to advance the revolution. Transforming institutions of education, culture, media, healthcare, sports, and politics will require longterm efforts. Policies banning discrimination based on nationality, language, culture, gender, and sexuality will take immediate effect and be enforced by the socialist state. A scientific approach and the communist world outlook will be promoted within all these institutions, but an atmosphere of debate between different viewpoints will be encouraged. The proletariat and its vanguard must apply a united front strategy within these institutions. We recognize that petty-bourgeois professionals and experts, such as teachers, doctors, engineers, artists, researchers, and professors, are necessary to the functioning of society, will contribute various strengths to socialist society, and will have to be paid more for their skilled labor in the initial stages of socialism. But the class divisions that define expertise will have to be transformed over time, so that no longer is expertise something to lord over the masses or accrue material advantages from. Moreover, involving the masses of people in running all the institutions and supervising experts is a crucial means by which class divisions can be step-by-step eliminated.
Repairing the environment and living in harmony with nature must be immediate priorities of the socialist state. Oil and other fossil fuels will be replaced with renewable, environmentally friendly sources of power as soon as possible. Methods of production that damage the environment will have to be transformed or eliminated, and the vast amount of consumer goods Americans are so accustomed to would substantially diminish, while other, more fulfilling forms of cultural enrichment would be cultivated. Public transportation will quickly replace the atomized dependency on cars. And the massive amounts of waste produced by Americans will have to be immediately curbed and eventually eliminated with sustainable methods of consumption and sanitation. All this will require tremendous collective effort drawing on scientific innovations and expertise, the knowledge of peoples and societies living in greater harmony with nature, and, most importantly, mass participation. In the longer term, socialist society will need to restructure the way we live, doing away with large, unsustainable cities in favor of a balance between rural and urban life that would not only be in harmony with nature, but would also be a much more fulfilling existence for human beings.
Internationalism will guide the foreign policy of the new socialist state. Resources will be allocated to support revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggles around the world. Close relations of mutual support will be established with any other socialist territories. The socialist state will pull its economy out of the world capitalist-imperialist system. At the same time, the socialist state will not wall itself off from the rest of the world; it will welcome all possible forms of cultural exchange, enter into tactical diplomatic alliances to defend itself against hostile imperialist forces, and conduct limited economic exchange to keep the socialist economy functioning.
Carrying out these and other short-term and long-term revolutionary transformations can only rest on the proletariat as a class exercising dictatorship over the overthrown bourgeoisie and their diehard supporters. This means that not only will the bourgeoisie’s property be expropriated, but they as a class will not be allowed to occupy any positions of leadership or authority within society. Likewise for most members of the bourgeosie’s repressive state apparatus, such as the police, the intelligence agencies, and the military leadership. And Far Right and fascist organizations will be unequivocally crushed and banned from ever existing again. Members of the bourgeoisie and its repressive state apparatus who want to betray their class will be allowed to do so and find a place within socialist society, as long as they have not committed heinous crimes against the people. However, those who resist the revolution and proletarian rule or who have committed heinous crimes against the people will be placed in labor camps. Some will not make it that far. Labor camps will give these exploiters and oppressors the chance to productively contribute to society for the first time in their lives and to remold themselves, in ideology and practice, so they can enter socialist society if they so choose and have proven themselves capable of doing. Moreover, prisoners in labor camps will be treated humanely, with access to quality food and healthcare, and not be subjected to the inhumane conditions that pervade the bourgeoisie’s prison system (solitary confinement, inadequate food and healthcare, pervasive violence, etc.). While government policies and a legal process should guide the punishment and repression of class enemies, the masses must be mobilized to criticize and determine the fate of the overthrown exploiters and oppressors.
Exercising dictatorship over the bourgeoisie is the foundation that allows the masses of people to have the power to determine their lives and futures. This is because, as stated previously, in a society of class divisions and inequality, freedom for the exploiting classes always means domination of the exploited. Under proletarian dictatorship, the masses will finally be able to raise their heads, learn the truth in their schools and on the news, and collectively make decisions about the way not only their communities are run, but the entire socialist territory and ultimately the world under communism.
The leading role of the communist vanguard party is decisive in enabling the masses to exercise power. This is because the vanguard party is made up of people who have a deep understanding of the contradictions and struggles of socialist society and an ability to apply the mass line to learn from the masses and mobilize them to consciously make history in their interests. But in order for the dictatorship of the proletariat to be the rule of a class and not just its leadership, the vanguard party must find concrete means to draw the masses into running society. This will include developing mass organizations in all spheres of society that take increasing responsibility for running society; growing the ranks of the vanguard party and drawing more and more proletarians and formerly oppressed people into its leading levels; applying the united front and drawing elements from the middle classes into exercising socialist rule while transforming their class nature and outlook; and developing means for making decisions about the direction of society with the greatest degree of mass participation possible.
Though elections will play some role in all this, elections in socialist society will look radically different than the careerist, manipulative, and corrupt competitions people vote in under bourgeois-democracy. And while the proletariat and its vanguard will occupy many of the leading roles in all the major institutions of society and especially in the armed forces, there must be an atmosphere of rigorous debate, allowing and encouraging dissent so long as it is not an organized attempt to overthrow proletarian rule, drawing on the ideas and input of people and political forces outside of the vanguard party, and in general letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend. The proletariat’s commanding position and the communist direction of society, however, will not be put up for a vote.
Perhaps the most common apprehension to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the leading role of the communist vanguard party within it is: doesn’t power corrupt, and won’t the leadership inevitably betray the people? These are real problems socialist society will have to confront, and for this reason the vanguard party and its members must be subjected to the criticism and supervision of the masses, with concrete means and processes developed to ensure that this takes place. But by far the deeper problems are not the moral failings of individual communist leaders, but the difficulties of digging up the roots of inequality and oppression. Let us now consider these roots and the arduous process of digging them up.
All the many forms of oppression in society have both glaring brutalities—such as lynchings and rape—and more everyday forms that are deeply embedded in the thinking and practices of the people. While the violence of rape and lynching must be dealt with forcibly and unequivocally, more subtle but no less pervasive forms of oppression will take much longer to eliminate. Moreover, the use of force against every expression of oppressive behaviors and ways of thinking would fail to transform the masses of people and instead rely only on the dictates of leading members of society. Thus the masses will have to be mobilized and led by the communist vanguard party to transform their ways of thinking and everyday behaviors. This will involve lots of struggle and occasional violence, but has to be fundamentally driven by the need to persuade the majority of the people to transform themselves and only direct repression against the most diehard and unrepentant oppressors. The communist vanguard and socialist state must consistently side with the oppressed in these struggles while attempting to sort through the messy realities of radical change in a way that unites the greatest number of people possible in the course of those struggles.
The new socialist economy will need to carry out commodity exchange for some time, especially in the realm of individual consumption, even while the major productive enterprises of society will be immediately brought under state ownership. Attempting to prematurely do away with money and/or all commodity exchange would result in economic disaster, as has occured in attempts at building socialism in Cambodia under Pol Pot and Guinea under Sékou Touré. Thus socialist society must move not in one leap, but step by step to bring production and consumption outside of the realm of commodity exchange and make them collective functions, beginning with basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare and gradually extending to all realms of society.
Related to the persistence of commodity exchange is the persistence of bourgeois right, wherein the labor of those with skills and education—the petty-bourgeoisie—is worth more than the labor of those without such expertise—the proletariat. Immediately paying everyone the same wage would throw the economy into chaos by virtue of an equal exchange of unequal labor, and would also cause a large and unnecessary exodus of the petty-bourgeosie. Since the skills of doctors, engineers, scientists, and other members of the petty-bourgeoisie are crucial to the functioning of society, their exodus from socialist territory would lead to disaster and cause the masses to demand a return to the old society. Thus the socialist state will have to pay higher wages for skilled labor and expertise, even as it moves to restrict wage differentials and class divisions. In the longer term, specialized skills and education will be spread more or less equally throughout society, and instead of such skills and education being bought by individuals (through, for example, tuition payments), they would be provided for free by the socialist state. Selections for who should acquire specialized skills and education will be increasingly made collectively by the masses, and be guided by the principle of serve the people rather than careerist ambitions and individual gain. The socialist state will have to allow small businesses to continue both to keep the economy functioning and to not alienate large sections of the petty-bourgeoisie, gradually “buying them out” over time.
The persistence of bourgeois right under socialism points to one of the greatest divisions that thousands of years of class-divided society has created: the division between mental and manual labor. As much as we morally object to the majority of the population slaving away in physical labor while a small minority gets to work with ideas, this is not a hierarchy that we can simply wish away. Through a radically different education system and division of labor in society, socialism can move towards the conditions in which everyone more or less equally shares in mental and manual labor, leading fulfilling lives in which they can pursue their intellectual, cultural, and productive interests while contributing to humanity and fulfilling their obligations towards the ongoing productive capacity of humanity. Getting to that point, however, will require time and struggles against the use of mental labor to dominate over others.
All the above contradictions of socialist society point to the fact that class struggle does not end when the proletariat overthrows the bourgeoisie, but persists all the way through and drives forward the socialist transition to communism. That class struggle is no longer principally waged against the overthrown bourgeoisie, but against new bourgeois elements generated within socialist society due to the deep roots of inequality, oppression, and class divisions described above. This new bourgeoisie is concentrated within the vanguard party and its leadership in particular exactly because it occupies the commanding positions within socialist society. This problem cannot be solved simply by dispensing with the vanguard party under socialism, as doing so would deprive the masses of the farsighted and firm leadership they need to rule society, in effect opening the front door for the bourgeoisie to come back into power. Instead, two-line struggle must be continually waged within the the vanguard, with the lines and policies that will further the socialist transition to communism contending with and defeating those that rest content with the gains that have already been won, or worse yet move society back towards capitalism. Members of the vanguard party must continually ideologically remold themselves by integrating with the masses of people and developing their understanding of communist theory. And at crucial junctures in the socialist transition period, cultural revolutions must be launched that unleash the masses to overthrow new bourgeois elements and capitalist roaders within the vanguard party and further revolutionize the production and social relations as well as the culture and ideas in society as a whole. It is only through a process involving many “revolutions within the revolution” full of debate, struggle, and increasing mass participation that the restoration of capitalism can be prevented and humanity can reach the goal of communism.
Our understanding of the contradictions of socialist society and the means to advance through these contradictions towards communism comes from the historical experience of revolutionary societies and proletarian dictatorships, principally the Soviet Union from 1917–1956 and China from 1949–1976. In the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership, a lack of understanding of the persistance of class struggle in socialist society and the generation of a new bourgeoisie within the vanguard party led to a considerable and mistaken reliance on repression by the Soviet government to deal with dissent and purges within the Communist Party to deal with new bourgeois elements, rather than unleashing the masses to wage class struggle and revolutionize society. Moreover, Stalin and the Soviet leadership tended to overemphasize the development of the productive forces rather than the role of the masses in transforming the production and social relations as well as the culture and ideas in advancing the socialist transition to communism. These errors created fertile ground for capitalist roaders within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to consolidate power in 1956 and preside over a state-ownership form of capitalism-imperialism.
Those who denounce Stalin and the Soviet leadership for their substantial errors without recognizing the Soviet Union’s substantial achievements in establishing, defending, and developing the first socialist state fail to appreciate the very real and difficult challenges of the socialist transition to communism, and are thus doomed to repeat these errors or, more likely, never establish a socialist state to begin with.
Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Party of China, critically assessed the achievements and shortcomings of Stalin and the Soviet Union as well as the early years of socialism in China, and developed a radically different model for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist transition to communism. In Mao’s conception and in the practices he led, the masses played the decisive role in revolutionizing society. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) that Mao unleashed in socialist China in 1966 was a decisive battle against the restoration of capitalism in China that relied on the conscious participation of the masses. Though chaotic and full of mistakes and excesses, the GPCR was the furthest humanity has moved into the future, and provides valuable experiences in transforming production, the relations between people, art, culture, and ideas in the direction of communism. A new bourgeoisie within the Communist Party of China was ultimately able to seize power in a coup following Mao’s death in 1976 and restore capitalism, but the achievements of socialist China remain a beacon of hope and a valuable experience to learn from.
The above description of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist transition to communism is only an outline and declaration of intent. It is grounded in the history of socialist societies, a history which requires deeper study. The exact policies of a future socialist society within the territory of what is now the US need to be ironed out in a programme for a new communist party. This process will require thorough analysis of US society, debate and discussion with all those who desire and fight for radical change, and broad social investigation among the masses to understand their conditions of life and their dreams and desires for the future. The OCR’s Manifesto is but an initial contribution towards that process.
The Challenge Before Us
This Manifesto is above all a challenge to all those who hate the capitalist-imperialist order and dream of and fight for a better world. Join the OCR. Be a part of developing and putting into practice a strategy for revolution in the US. Deepen your understanding of not just the crimes of the US ruling class, but also the root causes of these crimes in the system of capitalism-imperialism. Use that understanding to expose this system and its crimes to the people, and develop resistance among them to every injustice perpetrated by this system. Study the history of socialist societies, analyze the challenges of transforming US society after the revolution, and be part of developing a programme for the future socialist society. Let’s work towards building the subjective forces for revolution, most especially a new vanguard communist party that can lead the revolutionary process. And whatever your disagreements with, questions about, and criticisms of this Manifesto are, we look forward to hearing from you and going through what we communists call a process of unity-struggle-unity to bring together all those who are determined to overthrow US capitalism-imperialism and embark on the socialist transition to communism.