CIRCULAR LETTER

ON FACTORY CELLS OF THE ORGANIZATION DEPARTMENT OF THE ECCI ENDORSED BY THE POLITICAL SECRETARIAT


December 1930 Inprekorr, x, 109, p. 2693; 110, p. 2717; 111-12, p. 2764, 19, 23, & 30 December 1930


EXTRACTS



In all communist parties, including even the strongest such as the KPD, the most serious shortcomings in factory-cell work are the following:

1.

There are very few factory cells.

(. . .)


2.

The majority of existing factory cells are concentrated in small-scale plants. There are very few in large plants, and these are as a rule numerically weak and politically with little influence.


3.

Existing factory cells are as a rule not active enough and have no contact with the daily life of the factories.


4.

Among the workers who are party members there is a strong tendency to evade factory-cell work, and consequently not all of them belong to the factory cell. The Czechoslovak CP, for example, stated that on 1 July 1930 57 per cent of its members were industrial workers, but only 14 per cent were organized in factory cells.


5.

The factory cells as a rule have no ties with the communist fractions in the corresponding trade union.


6.

The work of the factory cells is very bad, and frequently completely disconnected from the work of the party as a whole, in consequence of the inadequate attention paid to factory-cell work by the leading party bodies.
To change this state of affairs, to transform the factory cells into the real basic organizations of the communist party, all these shortcomings must be eliminated.

(...)


In the big political campaigns conducted by the party the factory cells as a rule take only a very minor part, sometimes none at all. Usually political campaigns are run in the old way, repeatedly condemned by the Communist International, inherited from the social-democratic parties—general agitation, popular meetings, participation by members in their home area but not where they work; the driving forces in the campaign are still the central party press and agitators sent out by the party centre.

(…)

It is said that the weakness of the factory cells makes it impossible to organize campaigns around them.

(. . .)

This means that in practice nothing is done to reorganize the party on a factory-cell basis, and that the party is not in a position to bring our slogans to the masses of workers and to expose the treacherous and counter-revolutionary work of the social-democrats, the reformists, and the fascists.

(.. .)
The central committees of the communist parties must take every measure to see that the entire system of party leadership must be turned to face the factories. Above all the entire party press must be recast for this purpose.

(. . .)

Articles must be written in simple language, so that the average workman, including the non-political workman, still unaccustomed to specific political expressions and formulations, can understand them.

(...)

In addition to articles of a general character, party newspapers must carry a great many letters from different districts and factories. Some intensive work must be done to create a network of worker correspondents, and to organize groups of worker correspondents in all factories; others as well as party members should be drawn into these groups—sympathetic workers belonging to no party, revolutionary social-democratic workers and members of reformist unions. Groups of 'friends of the party press' should also be set up, on the lines of the 'Friends of L'Humanite' groups in France.

(. . .)


What has been said here about the party newspapers applies completely, though in another form, to the party committees, particularly those which are directly responsible for work in the factories. Factory cells can grow stronger and become the decisive party units only if the party committees which guide their work give them constant daily help.

(. . .)

Instead of the present bureaucratic contact, maintained by circulars, the party committees must establish direct and lively contact with the factories and factory cells.

(. . .)


Members of communist trade union fractions must maintain the closest contact with the appropriate party committee and keep it regularly informed about what is happening in the factories and about the sentiments of trade union members.

(. . .)


One of the greatest difficulties in reorganizing the party on the basis of factory cells is presented by the problem of how to form cells in factories where there are no party members, or where there are at most only one or two.

(. . .)


The first step is to find out, from the fractions in the mass organizations (Young Communist League, trade union, Red Aid, sports organizations, delegate meetings) whether there are in these organizations members who are in the communist party or who sympathize with it. If no party members can be found by this means, the fractions in the mass organizations should be asked to suggest the names of sympathizing workers, through whom or with whose help the foundation can be laid for forming a factory cell.

(…)

It may be necessary to this end, in particular cases, to raise the question whether to direct some party members to seek work in a particular factory.
These methods might be employed with particular advantage on agricultural plantations, sugar-beet farms, potato distilleries, etc., which are usually remote from industrial centres and employ the more backward sections of the proletariat and semi-proletariat.
Help in forming factory cells should be given by the street cells in the neighbourhood of the factory concerned. The street-cell members should make contact with the factory workers, wait for them when they leave the factory, or catch them on their way to work, make their acquaintance in the local public-houses, or call on them in their homes.

(. . .)


Once contact has been established, by these or other means, with three to five workers in the factory, they must be immediately organized into a factory cell.
However weak numerically the cell may be, it must at once set energetically about establishing further contacts and recruiting new members into the ranks of the communist party, and do its best to establish connexions with departments of the factory where there are not yet party members. The party committee must pay most careful attention to this work and must give unceasing help to the comrades in correcting their mistakes and if necessary sending in some officials to help them in their work.

(. . .)


The primary link in the party factory cell is the shop cell. Some comrades believe that shop cells can be organized only in parties with strong and numerous factory cells. That is not correct. Party work in the factory always begins in the shop. A party member cannot be active in the factory as a whole, but only in one shift in one shop.

(. . .)

He must first find out all about the workers in his shift, whether there are any party members or sympathizers there (. . .) and with them create the core of the workshop party cell. With this basis established, they must ascertain the political colouring of their workmates, which of them are members of reformist unions, of the social-democratic party, of fascist organizations, etc. This knowledge is absolutely essential for every party member. When they art doing their party work in the shop, party members must first of all, naturally, establish contact with revolutionary-minded non-party workers, and also try to approach revolutionaryminded members of reformist unions and of the social-democratic party, and also individual fascist workers.

(. . .)


In all capitalist countries the factory cell can operate only as a con-spirative organization. Consequently its work, and the work of each member, must be conducted in such a way that the various police agents in the factory should as far as possible be unable to find out which of the workers are communists, and should in no case learn about the practical work done by the communist party, about its political propaganda and agitation among the factory workers, and the organizational consolidation of its influence in the factory. In its work, therefore, the factory cell must strictly observe the primary conspirative rules. This applies both to illegal and to legal communist parties. In countries where the communist party is illegal the maintenance of contact between the cell and the party committee is a complicated matter. It requires (in addition to the creation of a solid illegal apparatus and a particularly solid machinery of illegal contacts), the thorough utilization of all legal and semi-legal possibilities, in the first place the utilization of the party fractions in the legal and semilegal mass organizations, municipal councils, etc. But even in countries where the communist party is legal, the party committees which guide the factory cells in their work must instruct the cell members in the rules of conspirative work.


Examples of such rules are:


(1)

At meetings of the cell and in discussions of party affairs, and most particularly in drawing up minutes of proceedings and other documents, cell members must not use their correct names but make use of cover names.

(2)

As a rule party affairs must never be discussed in the presence of unknown persons, certainly not in the presence of those of whom there is some reason to suspect that they have connexions with the police.

(3)

As a rule party meetings and discussions should not be held in the presence of others. Therefore meeting places should be chosen which give the best guarantee that party questions can be discussed without risk of being overheard by outsiders. It follows that as a rule factory-cell meetings should be held not in the factory itself, although this should not change the character of its work as connecting link between the party and the workers in that factory.

(4)

Every member must carefully avoid bringing with him to the meeting party documents which would reveal, if the meeting were broken up, that it is a communist meeting.

(5)

In general party members working in a factory should not unnecessarily reveal to everybody that they are communist party members.
When instructing the cells in conspirative methods, party committees must at the same time explain that these rules should in no circumstances be applied in a way that cuts the cell off from the masses in the factory; that, while adopting conspiratorial methods in regard to the police and their agents, they must always make the workers aware of their existence, employing such means as leaflets and factory news-sheets, holding meetings, etc. The most important duty of a factory cell is to react immediately to every event in the factory and in the country, to issue appropriate slogans in the name of the party for organizing and conducting the struggle for working-class interests.

(…)

If conditions make it necessary (e.g. when there is great excitement among the workers because of a mine disaster), the cell must instruct the most active members to come out openly before the workers in the name of the party, without regard to the risk, to the possibility of arrest or dismissal.

(.. .)


In assigning duties to factory-cell members, provision must be made for work among juvenile and women workers.

(…)

In its day-to-day work the cell must rely on the various legal and semi-legal auxiliary organizations— trade unions, educational and sports associations, etc. Of these the trade unions are the most important, as the body in which the factory cell connects with the broad working masses of the factory. If the factory cell is to be able to get support from the trade unionists in the factory, the trade union itself must be reorganized according to its members' place of work, as outlined in the decisions of the fifth RILU congress. Party factory cells must take the initiative in getting this reorganization put through by the party members in the union. Within the factory trade union group, the factory cell must serve as an organizing centre. Using the trade union group as its point of departure, the party cell can extend its influence over the backward workers, win them for the struggle for immediate demands, and in the course of that struggle explain the general policy and aims of the revolutionary trade union movement and of the communist party.
If the workers become discontented with the way things are run in the factory, with the employers' attacks on wages, with the action of the bourgeois Government, the treachery of the social-democrats, etc., the party cell must take the initiative in establishing appropriate fighting bodies—to prepare for a strike, a fight against a lockout, organizing demonstrations, etc.

(. . .)

The cell's most powerful instrument, both for spreading the party's slogans among the workers in the factory and for mobilizing the masses behind them, is the factory news-sheet. Its importance is seriously underestimated in many communist parties. They are still poorly distributed, and in many cases, even where a factory cell has long been in existence, there is no news-sheet.

(. . .)

Factory news-sheets must be put out by the factory-cell members, and not by the party committee, which is what often happens now in a number of cases in all parties. The committees must, however, give careful and continuous guidance to the cells in regard to the news-sheets, and for this purpose assign to the cellsi politically capable members with literary ability. The party committees must keep the contents of the news-sheets under constant review and arrange discussions about it. (...) so that by means of self-criticism the news-sheets can be improved.

(. . .)


Red factory committees and revolutionary shop stewards can be of the utmost assistance to the factory cell in its work. The attention of the party factory newssheet must be concentrated on the question of winning over the factory committees and consolidating their influence when won.

(. . .)


The party cells must give particular attention to activities among socialdemocratic workers and members of reformist trade unions. This is of special importance at the present time because the treacherous social-fascist role of the leaders of the Social-Democratic and Amsterdam Internationals is being more and more clearly recognized by broad sections of the working class, who are consequently turning away in increasing numbers from their reactionary leaders.

(. . .)


One of the most important tasks of the fight against social-democratic and reformist influence in the factory is to expose those in the factory who are the vehicles of that influence. All those who directly carry the influence of social-fascism into the factory, all the social-democratic and reformist officials, must be kept under constant and sharp fire in the factory cell's day-to-day propaganda, through the party's fractions in those organizations, and particularly in the columns of the factory paper.


(. . .)

At the same time the cell must keep track of the growth of discontent among the members of the social-democratic party and reformist unions with the policy of their leaders, establish close contacts with these discontented elements, and draw them into various activities in defence of immediate working-class interests on the basis of the united front from below.

(. . .)

The chief job of the factory cells in regard to such workers is not to criticize them because they have not yet broken completely with their leaders, but to find a common language with them on those questions on which they are already prepared to break, in order to draw them through these questions into the struggle for immediate demands and in the course of that struggle to widen the breach between them and their reactionary leaders and in the end to detach them from those leaders.



 

Comintern

III. International