Vanguardism in political struggle

Since the Suruç massacre of 2015, the communist vanguard has fought tirelessly on the frontlines of antifascist resistance in Turkey and Kurdistan under increasingly tough conditions.

Let’s delve into the subject of vanguardism a bit. The vanguard Party is the leading fighting force of the workers and oppressed. Its place is at the forefront of all struggles, all demands and aspirations of the working class, the urban and rural poor, women and youth, Kurds, Alevis, and every other oppressed national, religious and sexual identity. Its function is to enlarge, combine and generalise all these struggles under the banner of socialism. Through political foresight, ideological analysis and varied forms of direct intervention, with revolutionary determination and a sacrificial spirit, it must hold the advance positions of every political battle. 

From this perspective, talk about vanguardism by those untested in real leadership is all bluster – the title can only be forged in the fire of revolutionary struggle.

As a foundational characteristic of the Party, the vanguard style must be exhibited in every form of thought and action. It is necessary for the realisation of fighting potential in the hearts of the masses, and must hold the masses in highest regard as the centre of political attention.

In the Party’s history we find many shining examples of the vanguard style: campaigns against kidnapping, hunger strikes, women’s congresses against sexual assault in detention, marches against slave labour laws and the youth’s campaign to rebuild Kobane. The successes of these campaigns were embodied in the vital role they played in positioning the masses in the trenches of popular struggle.

Of course, while the particular demands and forms of organised struggle differ from case to case, the vanguard style is a common feature of all of them. Indeed, the vanguard characteristic itself emerges, matures and is constantly strengthened and reproduced in each moment of active struggle. Whether in a single action or a long-term campaign, vanguard action serves both to strengthen engagement with the masses and to refresh the revolutionary energy of the organisation in question.

The practice of vanguardism in the current political struggle is subject to two main concerns:

The first is that vanguardism should not be allowed to become an end in itself. When detached from the purpose of drawing in workers physically and politically, instilling in them hope and determination; or when unprepared with slogans and actions suitable for a particular situation – political work loses its vanguardist character. This weakness is most strikingly reflected in the extent to which an organisation’s political action, based on its own existing forces, is disconnected from mass work. A few militants holding street protests on a particular agenda, but habitually neglecting to engage and mobilise the masses within the formula of agitation-action-organisation, are considered to have failed from the perspective of vanguard leadership.

The second problem is that vanguardism too often finds itself limited to a small range of activities and forms. A press release, for instance, made in the right circumstances, is a perfectly valid thing to do. But when applied to every political agenda without particular consideration; when not carefully prepared or targeted; when employed as part of a vicious cycle methodology, or simply the first thing that comes to mind – such repetitive tactics can hardly be considered pioneering breakthroughs in class struggle. Here, instead of employing a wide and colourful range of political action, revolutionary willpower and creativity are losing ground in the face of uninspired box-ticking and convenience. The vanguard character is again lost.

The above approaches are not only ineffective, but render revolutionary activity spiritually exhausting. Real vanguardism does not drain, but energises. Every action based on strong preparation and revolutionary purpose, executed in coordination with mass work, which truly amplifies the burning demands of the oppressed, constitutes a step forward in the process of fermenting and igniting the united antifascist resistance.

In today’s conditions, where the fascist regime is constantly intensifying repression and state terror, where the accumulated rage of the working and oppressed masses might finally be turned outward in organised violent resistance, the path to freedom needs more than ever to be clearly illuminated. It is therefore an absolute revolutionary imperative that the vanguard style is maintained, strengthened and combined with all forms of mass work.