What does it mean to be a communist?
Revolutions do not happen, they are made, and communists, above all else, are makers of revolution. Revolutions are not a magical coming together of the objective situation, with people as pawns of the productive forces in contradiction with the relations of production. Revolutions are made when people, and especially the advanced class in any given society, step onto the political stage, take initiative, and make them happen in the midst of and by creating opportunities. What is expected of every member of the OCR is to be a maker of revolution, to be a leading force in the revolutionary process, and to take initiative to advance the revolution. Concretely, this means:
1) To struggle for the revolutionary line and program within and outside our organization at every step of the way. The “default mode” in a communist organization is revisionism—is waiting, is gradualism, is settling for what we have already achieved, is being passive. The revolutionary line always has to be fought for. And the revolutionary line has to be continually developed anew after each advance or setback of the revolution. This will always take place through a process of two-line struggle, where the revolutionary line contends with other lines. This means that each member cannot be passive, but has to actively dig into all the problems of the revolution, study communist theory to continually sharpen their ability to apply our philosophy and science, and sort out correct from incorrect lines.
2) A revolutionary line and program divorced from its implementation is its opposite. All members need to take initiative in putting revolutionary strategy into practice. This is never a matter of waiting for orders or expecting someone else to do it. Furthermore, a revolutionary line is simply the general path forward, and once we start moving on that path, we will encounter thorns, bushes, and bridges we need to construct to get over the chasms. Thus implementing the revolutionary line gives rise to more line struggle as we figure out how to overcome the obstacles, confront our own shortcomings, and correct the incorrect aspects of the general line.
3) The mass line is the means by which we continually and constantly learn from the masses, draw from their most advanced ideas and practices, and offer leadership not by proclamation but by integrating with the masses and struggling side by side with them. The mass line is the means by which we engage in and lead class struggle. The mass line is the main way to test whether the line and program of a communist organization is correct.
4) Besides applying the mass line and being engaged in the class struggle, communists must also continually study communist theory, on an increasingly higher level, and engage the intellectual life of society more broadly, in order to continue to advance their understanding of the world and be able to forge revolutionary strategy.
5) Being a communist is a matter of continual ideological remolding. Communists are not walled off from the impact of living in bourgeois society with all its oppressive social relations and reactionary ideas, and must continually contend with the ways that living in this society impacts our ways of thinking and being. Furthermore, ideologies and programs that fall short of the liberation of all of humanity will constantly crop up in the course of the class struggle and impact communists and communist organization; it is the responsibility of all communists to continually struggle against these ideologies and programs, including as they manifest in themselves. We can never rest on our revolutionary laurels.
6) Communists approach the class struggle from the standpoint of advancing the world revolution as a whole, not just in our particular country or sphere of political work. We must be willing to make all necessary sacrifices to advance the world revolution, up to and including death.
7) Being a communist means subordinating your life to the revolution and to the masses. This takes organizational expression in subordinating oneself to the communist vanguard and acting under the principles of democratic centralism.
8) Being a communist means always staying humble and constantly learning from our mistakes and from the masses, including their criticisms of us. Ego, arrogance, and careerism have no place in a communist organization
Being a communist means being a communist all the time, not just while doing political work. This means living by communist morality, which reflects the future we are fighting for. It means serving the people and a selfless spirit. Communist morality applies to our personal lives and to all of our interactions with people, and it should be upheld and modeled by our comrades in the places and organizations in which we lead the masses.
As communists living in the most brutal, oppressive, and extensive empire in human history, we have a particular obligation to uphold and practice proletarian internationalism. In the moral dimension, this means opposing all the ways chauvinism, imperialist ideology, and living off of the spoils of imperialism infects the ways people think and act.
Communists must respect people’s cultures, especially the cultures of oppressed people. We should always seek to learn about people’s cultures and learn their languages. While communists are atheists,1 we must respect people’s religious beliefs. Respect does not mean we do not criticize aspects of people’s beliefs and cultures that impede liberation, but, so long as these are not part of reactionary movements, we act to transform these beliefs through a protracted process of unity-struggle-unity.
Communist morality means equality between women and men. Communists must oppose patriarchy in all its manifestations, and respect and defend people’s sexual orientations and gender identities.
Communist morality must guide our romantic and sexual relationships. Our model of relationships should be mutual love, respect, and equality. Patriarchy and the oppression of women must be actively struggled against in personal and family relationships. Any sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, rape, or using one’s position of political leadership for sexual advantage, will not be tolerated.
As a new and small organization, our organizational structure is in development and shall need to be modified as we grow numerically and geographically. The following serves as an outline, initial way of functioning, and future projection for the beginnings of a communist organization.
The OCR operates under the organizational principles of democratic centralism. Above all, this means rigorous debate and discussion over questions of line and strategy, and firm unity in carrying out the organization’s line and strategy.
For a communist organization to be effective, its entire membership must enthusiastically unite behind its line and strategy and struggle to implement it in practice. Those members who disagree with that line and strategy should continue to develop their disagreements and debate them out inside the organization, including by writing position papers for internal-only debate. But they should not drag their feet or, worse yet, sabotage the implementation of the strategy that the organization has united behind.
To develop a revolutionary strategy and put it into practice, a leadership structure is necessary wherein those who have proven to be effective in applying the science of revolution to the class struggle occupy leading and key decision-making positions. Communists should have no problem taking leadership if that leadership is proving itself effective, and our methods of leadership must be those that enable communists and the masses to make revolution by putting the challenges before them, providing them with the necessary training, unleashing their conscious initiative, and enabling them to take ownership over their political work to the maximum degree possible.
Each member must have a willingness to do whatever is needed to advance the revolution. Our starting point is the needs of the revolution, not our individual desires or particular strengths. The OCR, and especially its leadership, must “use cadres well,” i.e., utilize the strengths and individual desires of all comrades to advance the revolution, but that is the secondary aspect of the contradiction.
There will be times when it is necessary to take orders, and there will be times when it is necessary to function on a war footing (politically and sometimes literally). Principally we rely not on orders, but on the principle of “grasp revolution, promote production.” Leadership needs to correctly distinguish between what is necessary in any given situation, but built into a communist organization is a chain of command and the ability to wield the entire membership towards our objectives, especially at times when quickly going into motion can mean rapid advances for the revolution
The leading core is the leadership body of the OCR in its present form. Its responsibilities include:
- Developing the line and making overall strategic plans for the organization as a whole.
- Summing up the work of the OCR as a whole.
- Leading and assisting in the ideological development and political education of all comrades.
- Overseeing and approving recruitment and organizational expansion.
- Communicating with and developing relationships with other revolutionary organizations.
- Overseeing all OCR publications and public representations.
- Making important strategic decisions in the midst of the class struggle.
- Convening larger OCR meetings and providing guidance for unit-level discussions as needed to ensure that the entire membership is involved in the process of debating out questions of line and strategy.
- Ensuring the security and integrity of the OCR, including through disciplinary action when needed.
Members of the leading core are held to the highest standard, and are elected based on their proven dedication to the revolution, ability to apply communist theory to the strategic problems of making revolution, and humility and desire to keep learning.
Units are the basic organizational form of the OCR, and should generally be made up of 3–7 members engaged in the same or similar sphere(s) of political work. Units will be led by a chair, elected by the unit and approved by the leading core. The chair is responsible for overall leading the unit and reporting to higher leadership.
Responsibilities of OCR Units:
- Develop and carry out plans in a particular sphere of political work based on assignments and guidance from higher leadership.
- Sum up their political work, with written reports at least every two months. Reports should include: Quantitative assessment (propaganda distributed, number of people reached, number of people at events, etc.). Qualitative assessment of political work, including advances and setbacks in the class struggle, development of the united front, what we learned through social investigation and class analysis, what are the questions and concerns of the masses and how did we address them, etc. Assessment of the advanced working under our leadership, including potential recruits.
- Internal and external ideological and political training and education.
- Annual review of the unit, its work, and of leadership; assessment of the ideological and political development of all unit members; and election of a new unit chair if necessary.
- Ideological and political education and training should be conducted regularly at unit meetings as well as among the advanced masses brought forward by the unit’s work, with the assistance of higher leadership
- Recruit new members, adhering to the recruitment procedures of the OCR and consulting with higher leadership about new recruits.
- The physical, mental, and emotional health of each unit member is the responsibility of the unit as a whole. The unit should assist comrades through personal and health problems, and should develop and carry out plans for maintaining the health and wellness of all its members.
- Major life decisions (jobs, living arrangements, relationship and family commitments, etc.) as well as physical absences (vacations, family obligations) of unit members should be discussed with the unit as a whole to ensure these decisions are the best ones possible under the circumstances to enable our comrades to serve the revolution and physical absences do not substantially hinder our political work. At the same time, people’s personal lives should be respected, and units should strive to enable comrades to have happiness and fulfillment in their personal lives.
- Last but not least, units are responsible for discussing and debating all line and strategy documents of the OCR and for being intellectually engaged in the questions confronting the revolutionary movement as well as the overall political situation, major events locally, nationally, and internationally, and developments in culture, art, science, and intellectual life.
In conclusion, units should be a place where comrades thrive together, have each other’s backs, support each other through political and personal struggles, and feel comfortable discussing all the questions, doubts, and confusions that come up in the course of the class struggle—all so we contribute the most we can to making revolution.
Generally speaking, the OCR does not allow for membership in instances when comrades cannot be part of the collective life of a unit. Exceptions will only be made for comrades with a proven record of dedication to the revolution and ideological firmness as communists, or in cases where it is necessary or favorable for advancing the revolution for a comrade to relocate to a place where there are no other OCR members.
At-large members will be assigned some form of collectivity within the organization and must submit reports to the leading core every two months that account for their political work. At-large members will also be assigned national tasks to advance aspects of the OCR’s work that are not bound by geographic location. At-large members are not “free agents,” but must carry out assignments in accordance with the OCR’s overall strategic plan
Recruitment into the OCR is a process of ideological remolding and political training; to join the OCR, you need to become a communist. The recruitment process cannot start until after a potential recruit has completed the OCR’s basic course and has been involved in mass work for at least six months. To begin the formal recruitment process, an individual must submit an application that explains why they want to join and the process they have went through to become a communist, as well as a political biography detailing how they got involved in political struggle, what organizations they have been a part of, and their political experience. Prospective recruits will be instructed how to write and submit the application; under no circumstances should applications be written on devices that connect to the internet. Units will designate a two-person recruitment team which will conduct the individual recruitment sessions and report to the unit. At the end of the recruitment process, new members must be approved by the full unit and approved by higher leadership.
Membership in the OCR is secret and must not be revealed to anyone without the approval of the leading core. Furthermore, the “need to know” principle is an important aspect of any communist organization, and OCR members will generally only know the membership and internal functioning of their own unit.
After a new member joins the OCR, their ideological remolding and political education shall continue within the collectivity of their unit. New members shall not occupy leadership positions until after they have been with the organization for at least one year, unless approved by the leading core. New members must review their social media presence with their units and adhere to whatever protocols are set
Once a comrade joins the OCR, they will have full voting rights, except in the following circumstance. New members coming from Leftist organizations will not have voting rights until they have been in the OCR for one year. In their first year in the OCR, members coming in from Leftist organizations will be aided in a process of ideological remolding by their unit, and must submit, towards the end of that year, a report on how they have ruptured with the line of their previous organization. If the unit and leading core consider this rupture to be in the main completed, the new member will have full voting rights. This policy is in place to prevent non-revolutionary lines from holding sway in the organization and to prevent opportunists from taking over units of the OCR. Any exemptions from this policy must be approved by the leading core.
Decisions in the OCR are made primarily through a process of discussion and debate aimed at achieving consensus. For communists, consensus is not a matter of procedures followed at a meeting, but arriving at overall (though not absolute) collective agreement. When decisions need to be made and a consensus cannot be reached, voting will be used. Important decisions should not be made without a two-thirds majority, and the leading core can act as a tie-breaker as needed. Members are expected to carry out the line and strategy of the OCR, as well as decisions made in their units and all assignments given to them.
All members have the right and duty to raise their disagreements internally up to the highest levels of leadership. Unit chairs are responsible for passing up these disagreements when a member under their leadership requests them to. Rigorous debate is a necessary part of a communist organization, and leadership positions must not be used to retaliate against any members of the organization for raising their disagreements.
Members have the right to take a leave of absence due to a serious personal or health crisis. During a leave of absence, an OCR member will be designated to stay in touch with you. A leave of absence may not be taken due to difficulties in carrying out political work or simply because a comrade wants to take a break from the class struggle. All leaves of absence must be approved by the member’s unit and by the leading core.
OCR members should always treat each other as human beings with contradictions who make mistakes. We should struggle with each other to rectify our errors, get to the ideological roots of our mistakes, and remold ourselves; this is the practice of criticism and self-criticism that fuels any communist organization. But we should do so with compassion and empathy for each other.
All members must adhere to the security protocols established by the OCR. Communists must always act with the understanding that we have an irreconcilable antagonism with the ruling class, and that the ruling class will use all repressive means at its disposal to destroy any serious revolutionary organization. Our security protocols are established to prevent them from doing so, and all members must be vigilant in developing and maintaining the security of our organization, reporting all instances of repression and the activities of the political police, and reporting any mistakes or breaches of protocol we make regarding security.
While we want all of our members to find happiness in their personal lives, we must also be conscious of how romantic and sexual relationships affect the functioning of our organization. We do not allow “hook-up culture” within our organization, nor by our members within mass organizations and political work, not as a matter of moral judgment, but because this results in personal tensions and distractions getting in the way of our political work and organizational functioning. There is a six-month waiting period before a member of the OCR can start dating another member of the OCR or someone in our mass organizations or met through our political work. This is to make sure that our political commitments come first, and that new members of the OCR and masses that come into our mass organizations are motivated first and foremost by political unity rather than romantic desires.
While every detail of each member’s personal lives need not be the business of their unit, comrades within the same unit should know each other well, and living a “double-life” is not acceptable for members of a communist organization. Important life decisions, including jobs, relationships, and having children, should be brought up and discussed in their units to ensure that these decisions will not negatively affect their dedication to the revolution.
The OCR shall only resort to organizational discipline of its members when serious errors are made, the same errors persist over time despite criticism, or when there is a refusal to rectify errors over a period of time. Probation shall be the first measure, usually applied for a period of six months, and will mean that a member cannot vote while on probation and must write a self-criticism during that period of time. Suspension shall mean a temporary suspension of membership, usually for six months, and the suspended comrade shall have to write a serious self-criticism and demonstrate ideological transformation for the suspension to be lifted. During a period of suspension, the suspended member shall not take part in the internal life of the OCR, and will be instructed on the ways they may take part in political activity under the OCR’s leadership. Suspension should only be used in cases of serious security breaches, misrepresentations of the OCR, violations of communist morality, or serious willful errors in political work. Expulsion shall be reserved for cases of counter-revolutionary activity or when a member demonstrates a refusal to remold themselves as a communist and serve the people and the revolution over a considerable period of time. All use of organizational discipline should be decided by the unit to which the disciplined member belongs, and must be approved by the leading core. Members and whole units can be subjected to organizational discipline by the leading core if absolutely necessary to protect the integrity of our organization.
If a member chooses to leave the OCR, they must submit a letter of resignation that states the reasons they have decided to quit and offers criticism and self-criticism, as well as attend an exit meeting with a delegation from the OCR. People who leave the OCR are expected to respect its security protocols and not reveal the OCR’s internal matters, membership, and organization publicly or privately. The OCR will not reveal the identities of former members, except when former members engage in counter-revolutionary activity or have committed crimes against the people.
Given that Spanish is spoken by large numbers of proletarians and oppressed people in the US, we strive to become a bilingual organization. All English-speaking members should at minimum learn some basic Spanish, and units should come up with collective plans for making that happen. We will need to develop further plans for developing bilingual practices within our organization and in all our publications. In addition to learning Spanish, units should make plans for how to interact with masses in their geographic area or sphere of work who speak other languages. We need to develop the ability to recruit people who do not speak English.
As communists, we serve the people and we love the people. There is no higher love than that.