It is easy enough to declare oneself a Communist. It is also quite understandable to do so as a political statement in response to the increasing disparity and hardship faced by working people. Such declarations, however, do not on their own make a person a Communist. Instead of talking about what a Communist is, we put forward the question, where are the Communists? The ‘where’ is important because it provides the answer to what a Communist is.
The great revolutionary leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, explained what a revolutionary is, by telling us where they are:
“How should we judge whether a youth is a revolutionary? How can we tell? There can only be one criterion, namely, whether or not he is willing to integrate himself with the broad masses of workers and peasants and does so in practice. If he is willing to do so and actually does so, he is a revolutionary; otherwise he is a non-revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary. If today he integrates himself with the masses of workers and peasants, then today he is a revolutionary; if tomorrow he ceases to do so or turns round to oppress the common people, then he becomes a non-revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary.”
It is not a matter of having revolutionary thoughts or sympathies, a revolutionary is someone who is found among the people, in their struggles and so they are regarded by their actual practice. Those who do not go among the struggles of the people are non-revolutionary and in some cases counter revolutionaries. To be a Communist already presupposes being a revolutionary. A Communist is found among the struggles of the people, and furthermore is found at the head of these struggles. This is a far more valuable way to look at it than basing the matter on an individual’s political sympathies or declarations.
This is not to discourage the countless young people who have spoken up in defiance to declare “I am a Communist!” but to stress to them the vital importance of making this declaration a reality, by going among and gaining leadership in the mass struggles. No one can qualify without this.
Furthermore, a Communist is found inside of Communist organizations, they cannot become one outside of such an organization. Organization overrides self-identification. The reality is that many comrades are not yet Communists; they are supporters of Communism, on their way to becoming Communists.
Communist is a title earned in struggle and through sacrifice, and it is this process of transformation which must be promoted among all those who casually claim the title. American authors of the book Prisoners of Liberation, Allyn and Adele Rickett expressed this principle. The Ricketts, who spent years in a Chinese prison after the revolution, remarked that upon their return to the West they were greeted with hostile and redbaiting reporters:
“Finally one reporter said in a cold voice, ‘your wife said when she came out that she was not good enough to be a Communist. What do you think about that?’… I angrily turned on him, saying, ‘I’ll stand by what my wife says. I just came from a country where it takes a damned good man to be a Communist.’”
Even after being discharged from prison in revolutionary China for espionage, the Ricketts had developed the correct understanding of where the communists are and what a Communist is. Their reverence for the title speaks for itself.
Everyone must see the importance of the process of becoming a Communist, in an effort to safeguard the trust and admiration historically earned by Communists from the masses of struggling people. Regarding this, Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru explains that:
“How does this process take place? It starts with how each of the future cadre is forged in the class struggle before joining the Party. Each one participates in the class struggle, advances, and begins to work more closely with us until the time comes when that person on their own makes the big decision of asking to join the Party. The Party analyzes the person’s situation, their strengths and weaknesses– because we all have them–and if worthy, accepts them into the Party. Once in the Party, systematic ideological training begins. It is in the Party that we transform ourselves into communists. It is the Party that makes us into communists.”
First, Communists are found in the front of the revolutionary struggles of the people, you will not find them online or through easy applications. If you seek to become a Communist, go among the struggles of the people. It is not until they have entered the Party that these people are transformed into Communists proper.
The individualism of capitalist society, fosters the culture of self-identification, found especially on social media platforms. It trivializes the people engaged in revolutionary work, taking real risks and facing state repression, who do not declare themselves revolutionaries through Twitter bios, but prove it with their life’s activity. Their work alongside the masses and within their struggles is what affirms them as revolutionaries.
Revolutionaries may be found everywhere, but must especially struggle outside of the rules and institutions of the imperialist system, such as its low-level counter insurgency in the form of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) or the bankrupt election process. The gap between the masses and the capitalist state is where revolutionaries flourish. Revolutionaries go against the tide and take action further, alongside the masses, while reformists and revisionists will police and prohibit from the sidelines.
Across the world, in places like Peru, India, Turkey, and the Philippines, Communists are found engaged in People’s Wars – waging revolution for a better world. Everywhere without exception, supporters of revolution must link up with revolutionary organizing in their communities, or seek struggle where it is already happening among the people, to learn from them, teach them, and unite their work with revolutionary ideas.
By taking up class struggle, those who may declare themselves Communists or supporters of Communism can start to understand the sacrifices necessary to fight for revolution and build a new society. Chairman Mao ultimately tells us that a Communist should serve the people via the leading vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party. Chairman Mao explains that a Communist “should be more concerned about the Party and the masses than about any individual, and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered a Communist.”
Take up these principles and transform revolutionary declarations into revolutionary action. This is what is necessary in our times – which day by day are becoming more favorable conditions for revolution. In the days to come, it is necessary that people not only be transformed into revolutionaries, but into Communists, along the lines laid down by those who have come before us. This means putting revolution and the masses before all other things, and truly leaving fear behind. As Chairman Gonzalo tells us, “Being communists, we fear nothing. Moreover, our Party has steeled us to challenge death itself, and to carry our life on our fingertips so that we may give it whenever the revolution demands it.”