Parties like the SWP are ‘tribunes of the people’

August 27, 2018

Below are excerpts from What Is to Be Done? by V.I. Lenin. It was published in March 1902 and discusses what kind of party is needed to lead the workers and farmers to overthrow the capitalist rulers and take political power, and why party members need to be “tribunes of the people.”

Lenin was the central leader of what became the Bolshevik Party, which led Russia’s workers and peasants to overthrow the czarist dictatorship, end their participation in the first imperialist world war, and take power into their own hands. This victory inspired toilers worldwide and spurred the building of working-class parties modeled on the Bolsheviks. The Socialist Workers Party is building on this continuity.

With the “SWP Speaks Out for Exploited, Oppressed” column in this issue, the SWP will describe its experiences working along these lines.

The Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all  his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all  and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. …

The Social Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organized political force. …

We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.