Palestine solidarity Bay Ridge Oct 2023

How to Be an Effective Communist at a Protest

You can be sure that whenever there is a protest or demonstration against injustice anywhere, the communists will be in the crowd. From the climate crisis to racist police brutality to imperialist war, there’s no shortage of causes pushing millions into the streets in this epoch of capitalist crisis and decline, and communists need to participate in these movements shoulder-to-shoulder with the broader working class and radicalized youth.

But when communists show up to a demonstration, we have certain duties that go beyond just adding another body to the multitude. As Marx explained in the Communist Manifesto: “In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, [the Communists] always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.”

In other words, as revolutionaries committed to achieving the overthrow of capitalism in our lifetime, we should see ourselves as a transmission belt for Marxist ideas, demands, and perspectives into the broader movement. After all, every protest against the symptoms of capitalist decline is really a stepping stone for people to draw the conclusion that the system itself must be done away with. We need to help people arrive at this realization! So how do we go about it?

When communists show up to a demonstration, we have certain duties that go beyond just adding another body to the multitude. / Image: Socialist Revolution

Understand your role as a communist

Being a communist means understanding that the working class is a historic force with the objective potential to transform society in a socialist revolution. But all of history proves beyond doubt that this can never happen without a mass communist party to lead the working class to power. Although such a party does not yet exist, the IMT has begun building its nucleus. This means that the duty of every communist is to help actively and urgently construct that party.

It is this understanding that allowed Lenin and the Bolsheviks to successfully lead the first socialist revolution in history. The Bolsheviks certainly participated in many strikes and demonstrations in the years leading up to 1917—but always as an organized Marxist contingent, with an understanding of the need to draw all the best class fighters into a cohesive party to lead the fight against capitalism as a whole.

From this point of view, each demonstration is an opportunity to discuss politics with a wide number of like-minded people, and to recruit the most determined of them to the communist movement. Our task is not merely to have lots of good discussions, or make a fiery speech, or hand out lots of leaflets, important as those things are. Above all, we need to help bring others into the work of building a communist party. Concretely, that means talking to people about politics, getting their phone numbers, and calling them immediately afterwards to talk more about the fight for communism and to start recruiting them to our ranks.

A small but sometimes rather vocal layer of activists might object to this approach on the grounds that it is somehow inappropriate to discuss ideas and recruit people to the cause of socialism at certain moments. But communists are impervious to these weak arguments, which reflect the influence of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie on the workers’ movement. After all, the capitalist class would love nothing more than for us to limit our political activity to occasional protests, without getting organized into a long-lasting workers’ organization that can go on the offensive and eventually topple capitalism altogether.

The most serious people out there understand that merely protesting is not enough. They want a serious explanation of how to fight capitalism and a long-term strategy that can actually deliver results. Only we can provide this!

Take some time to prepare politically in advance

Showing up to a demonstration with political clarity is the first task. You should take the necessary time to read up on the Marxist analysis of the question at hand. It’s useful to assume you will have the opportunity to address the crowd. What is the message you want to get across? What demands or slogans correspond to the immediate situation? What will help the movement advance to a higher level? How can we draw out the class struggle and the potential power that would be unleashed once the united workers decide to take matters into their own hands?

If you’re attending a protest with other comrades, get together before it starts and have a political briefing to discuss the main ideas you plan to put forward. The key is to keep it brief and focused. Marches and rallies are not conducive to long political discussions. What is your elevator pitch making a case for a socialist revolution in the most concrete possible terms?

Take, for example, the current movement in defense of Palestine. What should communists be communicating to the movement at this moment? We need to highlight the fact that the slaughter in Gaza would not be possible without the full backing of US imperialism. A brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing is taking place before the eyes of the world, and the only way to stop it is to put an end to US imperialism itself. The working class has the power to bring capitalist society to a halt, including arms shipments, if we organize and unite. That’s a big task, but we’re confident we can achieve it if we build a mass communist party for that purpose.

Make sure people can visibly spot you as a communist

It’s good to wear a Socialist Revolution shirt or a hammer and sickle shirt so that people can spot your politics right away. This is not only because “communists disdain to conceal their views and aims” (which is also true), but because we need to be magnets for other communists out there who are not yet organized. Sometimes the best conversations begin when someone in the crowd sees that you’re a communist and comes right up to talk to you.

More important than the t-shirt you’re wearing, however, is the political material you carry. So make sure you have a stack of relevant leaflets and booklets and Socialist Revolution magazines in your arms.

If you’re part of a contingent of comrades, bring plenty of red flags and print some matching protest signs with revolutionary slogans. We can provide you with the files for some professional-looking designs—just contact us at [email protected]. Set up a table, and designate some comrades to attend to the table while others go out in the crowd to talk to people. Then, once the march begins, if there is one, group together into a visible communist contingent and march together with flags behind a banner. If we have a bullhorn and can lead the crowd in chants, all the better. This way, our comrades will stand out as a communist block in the demonstration, and not just individuals in the crowd.

Be proactive about starting discussions with people, and follow through on recruiting them

Make sure to actively approach people in a friendly way. But don’t talk “at” people—ask questions and have a conversation. And make sure to connect the issue at hand to the broader need for a socialist revolution. Ask things like: Are you a communist? Do you want to overthrow capitalism? What made you a communist? Do you think we need a revolution? Did you see Biden’s comments giving unqualified support to Israel? Have you seen the videos of what Israel is doing?

Palestine demo London Oct 2023
Comrades of the IMT have been using these methods across the world to find and organize communists. / Image: Socialist Appeal

Finally, make sure to deliver a call to action: “If you’re a communist, you should really get organized! We’re part of a fast-growing movement that’s on a mission to transform society. The revolution needs you!” If you meet someone who is ready to get organized, it’s up to you to follow through on recruiting and organizing them. Collect phone numbers and call them later that same day, or the next day, at the very latest. Your task is to introduce and recruit them to the broader struggle for socialist revolution. It’s also a good idea to recap the event with the comrades who attended, to draw any lessons and make a plan for engaging the new contacts you’ve made.

Comrades of the IMT have been using these methods across the world to find and organize communists by the tens, twenties, hundreds, and thousands. It is in this way that we can begin to have a larger political impact. And the more we grow our ranks, the more we will start to stand out as the most revolutionary, unwavering, principled class fighters, who are providing a revolutionary socialist solution to all the pressing issues that are radicalizing workers around the world.

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