‘The Lenin School in Chicago’ by Thurber Lewis from Workers Monthly. Vol. 4 No. 7. May, 1925.

School students.
‘The Lenin School in Chicago’ by Thurber Lewis from Workers Monthly. Vol. 4 No. 7. May, 1925.

INTENSIVE training is always one of the attributes of war. By much the same token it must be one of the attributes of revolution. The difference is that training for war is a much simpler process. Training for revolution involves a curriculum far and away beyond the requirements of preparation for a mere career in arms.

Chicago C.P. headquarters.

Intensive training for the Class-war is novel. It is new because the Class-war itself, until recently, has not been intense. Or if it has been intense it has been confined to a guerrilla, pointless warfare.

The object of training for the class-war is to supply leadership. Not merely leaders, but leaders with a oneness of purpose. This latter is important: a dozen leaders leading in as many directions are worse than none at all. The history of the working class is a history of being afflicted by just this kind of leadership. That volume of its history is drawing to an end. The first chapter of a new volume is being written by the Workers (Communist) Party.

The Communist Party takes the revolution seriously. It has no doubt about its coming. It has very little doubt about how it will come. It is the only Party in America that is taking the trouble to prepare for its coming. It is the only party that is trying conscientiously to help it along. The business of accomplishing both these ends is not easy. Knowing this, the Party is doing what a good general always does; it has gone in for training.

On the morning of March 16th, forty students appeared in Chicago for a two-weeks’ course in the Intensive Training School of District Eight of the Workers (Communist) Party. The students were drawn from the coal fields of Southern Illinois, from the steel districts around Gary, from Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee and of course, from Chicago. The students were workers: coal-diggers, steelpuddlers, truck-drivers, machinists and carpenters. The first part of their training, and perhaps the most important, they had already gotten; the training that all proletarians get and that only the conscious ones profit by: the struggle itself. The students that came to Chicago were among the conscious ones. They came to round out their educations.

No time was wasted. The greetings were short. The student body went right to work. The usual class-room idiocy was strikingly absent. There was no frivolity about these students. They knew their time was limited; they knew what was expected of them.

The course was well laid out and those who were assigned the task of being teachers were well prepared. The teachers were Party workers, members of the executive committee, editors of party publications and local functionaries. For them, the school meant extra work. They were required to prepare themselves and teach in addition to their already heavy duties. They did it gladly. They knew what this school meant, they knew it marked an epoch, they realized that this beginning, however humble, held out inestimable possibilities for creating the stuff out of which will come the kind of Communist Party they all want.

Well, what was taught in this new kind of school? It is not easy to explain. There is one word, “Communism,” that will answer the question, but that word means more than it appears to at first sight. The point is, “Communism” is more than a mere “ism.” It is science, politics, history, strategy, tactics, economics, dialectics and action all at once.

Let us take the courses one by one. Marxian Economics. Here we lay the basis, we study the fundamentals of capitalist economy, we learn how, by virtue of ownership, capital exploits its slaves through the medium of surplus value. We look into the machinery of the system and see its contradictions, we see that the machinery is wearing out and that it will soon fall apart. And we see a new force appearing within the old economic system, one that is growing up and is destined to displace the old and to be guided by the hands of the very slaves exploited by the old. Marxian economics supplies the sound theoretical ground upon which we stand, affirms the correctness of our efforts to overthrow the old system, and proclaims the inevitability of the coming to power of the now exploited proletariat.

Leninism. Here we have something comparatively new, but vital and indispensable to the stock in trade of the Communist revolutionary. It is Marxism again, but the Marxism of a later day—Marxism in the epoch of imperialism, the age of international capitalism, intensive and gigantic concentration of industry, ceaselessly centralizing and expanding financial monopoly—the Marxism of our own day, the period that marks the last stage of capitalism and that witnesses the coming to power of the organized proletariat. In Leninism we find not only the key to the Marxian interpretation of capitalism as it is today, but as well the chart that indicates the trails that lead to working class power, a chart drawn in bold, clear lines by the hand of one who led the Russian workers and peasants to victory.

Next we learn the History of the International Labor Movement. The early struggles of the new proletariat, the First International, its glorious ten years and its dissolution, the rise and collapse of the Second International, the Russian revolution and the birth and growing power of the Third International. In this we broaden our vision and comprehend the cosmic significance of the movement we are a part of.

Then we take our own labor movement. It is traced for us from its earliest beginnings. We follow it closely through its stages of action and reaction. We see its mistakes and recognize its successes. Its full significance is brought home to us. We no longer look upon it as a thing in itself; we see it as a process and we are better able to calculate the tasks of the Communists within it.

The Communist Movement is passed in review before us. In studying its background, its painful birth, its struggles through the period of illegality, its many splits and controversies, we learn the lessons of its mistakes and are impressed by the fact that despite all its internal strife and all its numerous early errors, these served, together with it experiences in the struggle, only to clarify it and to make it a better and more efficient instrument of working class leadership.

We come now to the concrete business of party functioning and organization. What is the role of the party? How is it constructed? What are the duties of its members and officers? These questions are answered in detail. The functions and tactics of a Communist Party in action constitute no simple problem of two times two. It is a complicated business. But the unity of purpose of that business serves to blend all its many ramifications into a centralized whole.

A Communist always has a lot of talking to do. Inside and outside of his party the Communist must be prepared to make speeches on the most varied number of subjects and under the most varied conditions. We are taught not merely public speaking, but Communist public speaking. Begin well and slowly, speak deliberately, say something, know when to stop and stop, are the precepts. But that isn’t all. A Communist has a way of his own. We learn what that way is.

Such, briefly, is the curriculum of a Communist intensive training school. At least it was the curriculum of the one we are talking about. If the description were less brief it would still give you but an inadequate idea of its comprehensiveness. It is absolutely surprising how much information was crowded into the two weeks of the school. Let us admit that the students were a little jaded on the fourteenth day; let us admit that much must have passed a good many by; one thing is certain, those workers went back home ten times better fitted as working class fighters, as Communists and as revolutionary leaders than they were before they came.

No one is being fooled. Two weeks is a short time. The students were not geniuses, the faculty were not Lenins and Bucharins. No one expected to turn out full-fledged Radeks. But it was a beginning. It was a beginning in practical and systematic training of captains and generals for the class- war in America. Lord knows they are needed badly enough. We are satisfied if we have made corporals and sergeants of them. There will be more such schools.

Workers Monthly began publishing in 1924 as a merger of the ‘Liberator’, the Trade Union Educational League magazine ‘Labor Herald’, and Friends of Soviet Russia’s monthly ‘Soviet Russia Pictorial’ as an explicitly Party publication. In 1927 Workers Monthly ceased and the Communist Party began publishing The Communist as its theoretical magazine. Editors included Earl Browder and Max Bedacht as the magazine continued the Liberator’s use of graphics and art.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/wm/highres/v4n07-may-1925-6-gra-WM.pdf

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