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The vanguard party, also called the vanguard, is the political party that is the most able to organise the proletariat and other popular classes (such as the peasantry) into a revolutionary party, and thus bring socialism to their country.
The vanguard plays an important role in instilling revolutionary class consciousness amongst the proletariat and plays a critical role in the dictatorship of the proletariat in consolidating ties with the proletariat of other nations and maintaining the alliance of the workers and peasants.
The concept of the vanguard party is attributed to Lenin, and synthesized from his different writings. It was effectively used by the Bolsheviks, themselves firstly a wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, during and after the October Revolution.
While the vanguard party is most associated with Marxism-Leninism, it is possible to apply the concept of the vanguard to other parties and ideologies.
The vanguard party is usually composed of a central committee, which acts as the executive and (to an extent) the legislative branch of the party. The committee is composed of the most knowledgeable Marxists, and elected by the rest of the members.
See main article: Democratic centralism
Democratic centralism is the practice in which political decision are taken by the central committee inside the party after discussion, and expects that all members will follow these decisions even if they personally disagree with them. Unity in action is important for several reasons. First, it makes party work easier as it prevents sabotage or other difficulties from inside the party.
Second, the party needs to be flexible and react fast to events as they unfold, which is why these decisions must be taken quickly.
If there are disagreements, members can bring that up and bring a vote to change the decision later, after it has passed.
An example of democratic centralism would be the decision to show up and participate in a protest officially, as the party. Some members might disagree with that protest but if the decision is taken to support and participate in it, they are expected not to voice their disagreement in public.
Guiding the people
The vanguard party does not seek to establish itself as superior to the masses. Rather, it must guide the people. To do this, the vanguard party correctly identifies popular concerns and participates in them to guide the concerned people towards a socialist resolution and not a reactionary one. Through example and good behaviour (leading the people to a positive resolution of the problem), the party shows it is able to respond to popular needs and therefore becomes a vanguard.
For example, when a strike is being discussed by industry workers, it is possible to the party to show support in different ways:
- Publicise the strike and publish arguments for it.
- Educate the strikers in successful methods.
- Set up funds to help make ends meet while the strike is ongoing.
- Advise on how the strike is going and what more can be demanded.
However, the party does not take ownership of the strike and try to redirect its energy. The party must listen to the demands made by the strikers and advise them on this, but never decide for them.