On Revolutionary Discipline

Discipline is one of the most important lessons for any person to learn, regardless of the work that is set before them. While the individual may at times be tempted to take the easy route in life, to do the minimum while expecting the maximum, rationality dictates that this is the wrong way to proceed for the achievement of important ends. To the revolutionary, discipline is vital for the continuation of revolutionary work. To be a revolutionary is to sacrifice, to continually expend one’s energies for the fulfillment of revolutionary goals, to adapt oneself to the needs of the revolution and the work set before them. Without a sense of discipline, the revolutionary can easily be thrown from this course, can shift from doing revolutionary work to doing no work or even to doing counterrevolutionary work.

Now, this is not to say that the revolutionary is not allowed to have a life outside of revolutionary work, and that the revolutionary is only allowed to expend their energies on activities outside of revolutionary work. To expect this of oneself and one’s comrades is to alienate them from their own humanity — an alienation which, not only harms the work of cadres in the short term, but also risks compromising one’s revolutionary capacity in the long term. Burning oneself out is not what makes a professional revolutionary. Instead, what makes a revolutionary a “professional” is their disciplined consistency of revolutionary action — that they uphold revolutionary ideas, attitudes, activity and perspective in their daily lives.

Ideological Discipline: First and Foremost

“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” — V.I. Lenin

One of the first, and most important, steps to attaining revolutionary discipline is a dedication to learning and applying revolutionary theory consistently. Marxism-Leninism is the highest development of revolutionary theory — it’s method of analysis provides a means of illuminating, deconstructing and solving the dilemmas of our day, of challenging the established injustices and facilitating the revolutionary transformation of the entirety of our society for the purposes of serving the laboring masses, destroying the chains that bind them both in the physical sense and in the ideological sense. Marxism-Leninism is our weapon, and in order to utilize this weapon effectively, the revolutionary must be dedicated to the study of theory.

Now, it must be noted that “to study” theory does not mean to merely “read about theory.” Reading theory, understanding theory and applying theory are three different, yet equally important things. To apply theory, one must understand theory, and to understand theory, one must read. At the same time, one must not overestimate their theoretical knowledge, to take for granted that their analysis is consistent and sound. The most practiced Marxist-Leninist is capable of error — this is not the fault of the science, but of the scientist. So, what the disciplined revolutionary must do is to take what is read, to do their best to apply that reading to the world around them and to seek help from one’s comrades when theoretical questions emerge.

Confront and Defeat One’s Shortcomings

One of the most important attitudes that a revolutionary must adopt on some level is humility. After all, when one examines our reality from a materialist perspective, it becomes evident that we are products of the world around us — a world which is flawed, which discourages revolutionary attitudes and encourages reactionary ones — and as a product of such a world the revolutionary must understand that they are not immune to ideas and attitudes that are mistaken or reactionary.

As such, the task of the revolutionary is to do the best that they can to confront and defeat the various attitudes and biases that they have which run counter to their revolutionary ideology and purpose, while remaining open to criticism and able to deliver self-criticism. Democratic-centralism and the sobriety that materialist analysis gives us are both essential to the maintenance of a revolutionary line and revolutionary action. To neglect one is to neglect both. Rather than see these as factors which “limit” the revolutionary, as those with undisciplined, anti-materialist, opportunist and ultra-left theories do, the disciplined Marxist-Leninist understands that the individual is imperfect, and that larger mechanisms to uphold discipline and encourage analysis and action consistent with scientific socialism are necessary.

Your Comrades Are Your Safety Net, and You Are Theirs

A vital point needs to be made that the revolutionary is not, and cannot, be alone in their work. Just as we understand that the individual has limits and, from their origins, is a flawed, we also must understand that our actions, our words, our perspective and our efforts are part of a larger mechanism. The revolutionary does not exist outside of revolution — on the contrary, the revolutionary is a vital part of it. Alone and isolated, the revolutionary is vulnerable to alienation, to mistaken ideas, to disillusionment and to inaction. Yet, with one’s comrades, the revolutionary participates in and benefits from a support system for the maintenance of revolutionary line and revolutionary action.

Communication, cooperation, criticism and collective work are vital features of a Marxist-Leninist organization. These things facilitate the achievement of revolutionary goals, the strengthening of cadres and forward motion on behalf of revolution. The organization of Marxist-Leninists is essential for the formation of a vanguard. As such, the duty of the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary is to work together with their fellow Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries for their common goals. This duty involves a willingness to work with others, to respect one another within and outside of the context of revolutionary activity, to offer criticism when the attitudes, ideology and activity of one’s comrades runs counter to revolutionary discipline and to take seriously criticism one is given. You aren’t in this alone, and have a duty to your comrades.

Don’t Be a Burn-Out

The duty to one’s comrades and to the revolution is the main reason why the disciplined revolutionary must conduct themselves in such a manner as to avoid burning out. When a person becomes a burnout, they not only squander their personal revolutionary potential, but work to damage the morale and activity of their comrades. Being overzealous and hyperactive in one’s revolutionary work to the point that it damages their sanity, their health and their morale is every bit as undisciplined as doing no work. This is not an easy lesson to learn, but it is essential to learn for one to become and remain a revolutionary.

A good metaphor for how one must go about being a revolutionary is one that is given for nutrition and personal wellness: to succeed, one needs to create a lifestyle. Just as it is important to maintain healthy eating and exercising by making it routine, rather than by following binges of exercise and starvation with overeating and lethargy, the revolutionary must endeavor to make their work a habit while, at the same time, knowing and respecting their limits, and doing what is necessary to take care of themselves.

Yes, the revolutionary has a duty to themselves, to their well-being and maintenance. This is a duty that is sometimes forgotten by zealous comrades, yet cannot be ignored because of the implications it has for the revolutionary and the movement in general. Every day, the revolutionary must try to find time to decompress, and when one reaches the breaking point — when one feels that there are too many demands being placed on them to the point where they cannot continue to do their work competently and without having a breakdown — the revolutionary’s duty is to not break but, instead, to work with his comrades to lessen the load and to take the necessary steps to take care of themselves.

The reason that the revolutionary must endeavor to take care of themselves is two fold: for their personal well-being, and for their well-being as a revolutionary and, by extension, the well-being of their comrades. The revolutionary is a part of a whole and, as a result, damage to them damages the whole.

Remembering the End in Everyday Life

The social implications of the revolutionary minded person go beyond their immediate circle of revolutionary comrades. The revolutionary is a son or a daughter, in many cases a brother or sister, father or mother, friend or relative, co-worker and neighbor. Just as the revolutionary is effected by their social circumstance, the revolutionary contributes to the social circles and broader society they live in. As such, the revolutionary must keep in mind how their activity and attitudes relate to the end of revolution in their everyday lives and must, on some level, endeavor to be a role model to others.

Being a revolutionary doesn’t end when you aren’t in the field doing political work — discipline must always be applied in every circumstance. Just as chauvinistic and reactionary rhetoric will not be tolerated amongst revolutionaries, the revolutionary must not adopt such rhetoric outside of revolutionary circles. To be a revolutionary sometimes and to be a reactionary other times is to be a fraud. At the same time, to be stubbornly incapable of taking criticism, to be self-righteous and pious, condescending and disrespectful in one’s everyday life is to be a poor representative of what a revolutionary is. All comrades must be careful of what face they are putting on our movement as they live and work outside of their political life.

Vigilance Tempered with Tact

At this juncture, it is important to make a distinction between being a revolutionary at all times and being an agitator at all times. While these may seem to be the same thing, they are in fact quite different. Being a revolutionary at all times means having a revolutionary mind-set and following revolutionary discipline in one’s everyday life, whereas being an agitator at all times means being the person who cannot, and will not, shut up about their politics.

Being “always on,” being “that guy” who no one wants to talk to because they’re incapable of talking about anything other than Marxism-Leninism, is not productive. In fact, it has the potential of being counter-productive by alienating those around you, giving the impression that those who follow your ideology are motor-mouthed blowhards and cultists. It also lends itself to burnout in that it forces the revolutionary to expend their energy talking down virtually everyone they come into contact with outside of their political circle, leading to increased alienation, stress and disillusionment.

Instead of being “always on,” the revolutionary must endeavor to be a courteous and tactful person, who is unafraid to offer up their opinion when asked but feels no need to shove their ideology down the throat of every passerby. If people want to talk about politics, allow them a chance to speak from their perspective, and offer your own, while being careful to not seem to be condescending or insulting. When you conduct yourself in a respectful manner, you maximize the potential for your ideas and perspective to be taken seriously by the people your are talking with, helping to avoid the emotional and irrational responses that we have been conditioned to have by prevailing society. The disciplined revolutionary serves as a role model in every setting, not by the virtue of constant political diatribes and browbeating, but by showing the world what a revolutionary is like.

What Makes a Professional Revolutionary?

We come now to the question of what makes a revolutionary a “professional.” We’ve established that it isn’t being a blowhard in every context, isn’t being the kind of person to work themselves into exhaustion and isn’t a “one man army” in the realm of political activism. So, disregarding these mistaken perceptions, what is a “professional revolutionary?”

The professional revolutionary is a person who makes revolution their profession, who upholds revolutionary ideology and discipline, who works for revolutionary goals and for the forward motion of themselves and their comrades, as part of the daily struggle of revolutionary movement. The professional revolutionary, like any person, fulfills multiple roles in their life, has a number of things that they must do on a daily basis, yet as they do these things they are guided by a purpose much larger than themselves. While their political activity isn’t constant, their dedication is.

Conclusion: You are the Means and an End

In the context of revolutionary social movement, the revolutionary is two things: the means to the end of a revolution and an end in of itself. While the revolutionary works and struggles on behalf of revolution, they must keep in mind their needs, the needs of their comrades and the needs of the revolution without forgetting any of them. It is revolutionaries — those who work now for revolution, those who will one day attain revolutionary consciousness and the revolutionaries who have yet to be born — who will lead revolution and will work to shape the society of the future. Our work must be to retain and strengthen the revolutionaries we have now while also working to increase our numbers. We must work to be role models for revolution in our daily lives, to be a safety net for our comrades and to be able to seek help and correction when we need it. These things are the hallmark of revolutionary discipline. It is our ability to conform our work to these needs of revolution that will decide whether we can call ourselves professional revolutionaries or not.

Categories: Revolutionary History, Theory, Workers Struggle

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