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Updated: Apr 28, 2022

When I was a teenager in the 2000s I was in a Marxist-Leninist party, an offshoot from the old Soviet-orientated Communist Party of Great Britain—a “tankie” party (how strange it is to see this term for Communists who supported Soviet interference in Czechoslovakia applied across social media in the 2010s). I wasn’t in the Party—always with a capital “P”—for very long, but while there I learned a little about subversion and helped to take over a minor organisation or two. Indeed, members from this party still crop up in senior state positions from time to time, or close to men like Labour’s Corbyn.

Let’s imagine you want to take over your local anti-war group and use it as a front to promote your ideas and so influence the public indirectly in a Communist way. The anti-war group is a mixed bag: it contains pacifistic Labour members, genuine religious pacifists, hippies, unattached leftists and anarchists, and members of the general public who care about this issue.

The right often says the left is lazy, but this is not so. The first key when you take over an organisation is to become the most devoted activists within it. Numbers are unimportant—quality is more important; and a Marxist-Leninist will express this with a little dialectic from Engels: “Quantity has its own quality; quality has its own quantity”. Just as with a job, if you work hard and become indispensable you gain power; people are naturally lazy and if you volunteer for all the dirty work you accrue power—even people who are anti-Communist cannot gainsay you if you work like a dog; and they’ll be glad if you do the dirty work. So a real Leninist—who is disciplined and an activist, there are no “paper members” in a Leninist party—will be a tireless worker for the cause. He’ll stand in the rain for hours and hand out anti-war leaflets, do the printing, make the banners—he’ll be the backbone.

Ironically, this confirms the right’s contention that success comes from hard work and elitism, but Marxist-Leninists use elitism—they are self-consciously elitist—and hard work to change the wider social context, so the common-sense position from the right is negated by the wider beliefs about systemic change.

You want to be able to use the organisation’s name to endorse points put forward by other Party members in, say, a trade union—or to support a campaign for solidarity with Cuba; and there will be a national line the Party works towards on the war, and there will be others—anarchists, social democrats—who push the line in a different direction; perhaps you want to use the local branch to feed pro-Party resolutions to the national conference. What do?

Take over the committee that runs the organisation. With determined activists in place this isn’t hard. You also have the advantage that you have a disciplined party: the Party decides it wants this organisation to be a front; it can tell its members to join the organisation and they all will, not like a mass “paper” party. The Party can also discipline these people to turn up all at once at the annual general meeting where officials are elected. As a disciplined unit the strategy within the meeting can be pre-caucused and other members will not know who is a Communist. Further, you can mobilise “fellow-travellers” from Labour, people who like Cuba—dubbed “Cubaphiles”—are a common type; they like the revolutionary romanticism, but they’re not hardcore enough to be Communists. However, they’ll work with you and they’re useful because they provide deniable cover—Corbyn is such a man. He writes for a newspaper, the Morning Star, and promotes it—and yet that newspaper is a Communist paper, except it’s technically owned by a co-op; and the co-op is run by the Communists—Corbyn is a fellow-traveller who caucuses with the Communists, but it is all arranged to be deniable.

You want to capture two posts on the committee: treasurer and secretary—these posts are where real power lies. Treasurer is important because then you control the organisation’s finances—not to abuse those finances, actually Communists are very keen on probity (that’s why the Italian Communists always won local elections in Italy; they were the only gang tough enough to beat out the politicians the mafia bought off—being ideologues, the Communists were relatively incorruptible and so the dustbin service was kept on the road).

The secretary is important because the secretary writes the minutes for each meeting, handles the membership list, and handles the general administration. Stalin was a “secretary” for the Russian Communists—so you see how important this role can be. If you control the minutes you control the organisation history: you can delete or alter the points to be raised at the next meeting as you wish—people easily forget when it’s not written down. You can also set the agenda. With this contextual power, the committee—even with a Communist minority—can have its information environment altered to accommodate the Party’s view.

A role like president or chairman is relatively unimportant and it’s better not to appoint a Communist to the role—put a nice old Quaker or a Labour-supporting doctor up there. Put someone respectable or likeable. Most people assume “the president” runs the organisation—and if people claim the Communists run the organisation it helps to have a gentle old Quaker to wheel out. Often these people will be ignorant as to how far the organisation they nominally “lead” has been puppeted; they’re not professional activists, for most people anti-war activism is a spare-time activity whereas Party activists give their life to the organisation.

It helps to have a majority on the committee, but it’s not essential—if you have treasurer and secretary plus the key activists you have control, much in same the way that if you control the Federal Reserve and The New York Times you basically run America. However, if you wish to have a majority it helps to arrange it this way: a committee is usually composed from a chairman, a treasurer, a secretary and perhaps five other non-portfolio roles. You can form a majority with other Communists elected to the committee or fellow-travellers—at a pinch non-Party girlfriends or friends of friends who will follow your lead from friendship can be used.

With all this in place you can use the organisation to issue statements, press releases, and so on that endorse the Party position; and when the branch relates to its wider organisation you can act with other parasited branches to pass resolutions and elect national officials—you’ve the advantage because you’ve a national network that caucuses all your local efforts; other national caucuses will exist, but they lack the Leninist structure, basically a para-military structure, where a decision from the top is implemented uniformly.

Often there will be internal criticism and more alert activists with an anti-Communist view (e.g. some Christian pacifists) will object to the takeover. This is why it’s useful not to have a Communist majority on the committee and not to have the Chairman as a Party man. If the accusation is levelled you can point out that Communists are a minority on the committee and don’t even hold the chairmanship (naturally, you’ll emphasise how important this role is and be incredulous that anyone could think “chairman” meant anything less than “total leader”). Then you scream that this is McCarthyism and neo-fascism.

If the heat intensifies, you can pass a few benign and unimportant non-Party resolutions through the committee to reduce interest—emphasise cooperation with the Quakers for a month and keep everything overtly religious. “Look, Communists are atheists—yet we just had six meetings in churches!” Communists are also total materialists who think the ends justify the means, so they’ll work with a church or a mosque if it suits them. In the current environment, I would hold meetings at the local mosques and cry racism if it were said the organisation was run by Communists.

Ultimately, you want to replicate this at a national level; so the Party brings all its local groups into alignment for the national conference and the same process happens again. At this stage there are positions like “Election Observer” due to the scale—again you must use the same techniques to ensure Party cadres or fellow-travellers hold these positions. You absolutely never “rig” an election through ballot stuffing—only conspiracy theorists think that way.

You control the poll monitors for this reason: usually, the votes will be geographically distributed with different regions “red” or not—what you want to do is make sure that when the votes are counted all the rules about valid votes are applied with maximum firmness in “non-red” regions (i.e. so ballots in the enemy’s favour are discarded). When it comes to “red” regions you become relaxed and let spoiled ballots in your favour through. If the election is tight, the election officials will consider marginal ballots; if you control the officials you can make sure these marginal votes are adjudicated in your favour, so tipping the balance at a crucial moment.

Actual invention is a crude way to go about it—much better to manipulate the rules in your favour in a deniable way. After all, you’re just applying the rules. “The Communists rigged the election.” Real question: “Why do you want to stop us discarding these marginal ballots, are you trying to rig this election?” If you have advance warning you can say: “The racists want to interfere with neutral election monitoring to deprive minority voters of their rights. They’re trying to rig it. Racism!”

The ultimate prize is to control the organisation’s national office. Activist organisations usually have a small paid staff; if you can get a Party member hired to be a staff member with the tricks described above then you can control the times ballot papers go out and all manner of vital information. Again, no criminality is involved—it’s just you now get information before your enemies about national plans and can restrict information from the centre.

The above is the broad outline, there are many particular tricks and psychological persuasion techniques that can be used. It still works, it’s how tiny organisations like the one I belonged to could influence Labour policy; the Party took over trade union branches and the unions are organically linked to Labour. The Party could then drive Communist policies into Labour, even though Labour is hostile to Communism. While there are many formal Leninist organisations still in operation many people have learned the Leninist way; so you should be very cautious as to who “really” runs an organisation—it’s probably not the president. The zombies are out there. Stay paranoid.


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