Tag Archives: marxism

Left for Dead

It’s been a while. My original plan for “coming back” was to wait until immediately after the election, so I could write according to the outcome. But that didn’t work, because as I tried to write, more and more shit kept happening. Now, it would take a novel for me to give my thoughts on everything that has happened since my last entry. What I can do is give a run-down of events and try to find the thread I want to pluck that runs through it all.

First things first, we elected the fascist. Well, “we” didn’t, the bourgeoisie did. Well, maybe not even that, since it seems that big chunks of the bourgeoisie didn’t want him. What appears to have happened is, the Democrats failed miserably, so the other guy took the win. Because liberalism has never been capable of combating fascism properly.

Secondly, the “reasonable Left” immediately decided to bow down to and open their arms for the new administration. Even the “radical” Bernie Sanders has followed the Democrat establishment’s lead in this. This isn’t a surprise to the (actual) radical Left, as liberals have historically tried to work with fascists, especially when it came to putting down revolutionary movements, which have been growing here in the US. But it did come as a surprise to many liberal voters, who are now seeing the weakness in their once-beloved party. The amount of questions and comments I’ve received regarding Marxism over the past 2 weeks has been staggering.

Next, Trump began to pick out his cabinet. Judging from the words of most news outlets, many in this country are “shocked” that the fascist is doing fascist-y things, like appointing a white nationalist to be his chief strategist. But after the initial shock began to wear off, the media and the liberal leaders started the process of normalizing this behavior. Fascists aren’t called fascists, they’re the “alt-right,” in the same way a billionaire isn’t a billionaire, he’s an “outsider.”

I want to emphasize that I am not trying to be an alarmist. Yes, this should all be taken very seriously, but we can’t panic. We must prepare. Taking advice I and others have received from comrades abroad, who are currently dealing with fascist regimes in their respective countries, we need to keep our heads cool and our eyes wide open. We have to see how the various groups of people react, how they handle themselves. We need to build alliances with those groups which show that they are willing to pull their weight in the struggle and adapt to these new circumstances.

We need to separate the wheat from the chaff. By this I mean, there will be some on the Left who will be all too willing to play by bourgeois rules. The majority of liberals will show their true colors–they will, once again, prove themselves to be agents of the bourgeoisie. As I mentioned above, many will turn further Left after witnessing the failures of their former leaders to properly represent the people. But most will stick to the most reactionary tenants of modern liberal ideology: pacifism, rejection of class struggle, divisiveness, chauvinism, ultra-reformism.

Pacifism is nothing short of kneeling while the ruling powers oppress everyone around you. The rejection of class struggle is ultimately just unquestioning loyalty to bourgeois rule. Divisiveness is a by-product of the rejection of class struggle–rather than organizing along class lines and bringing the workers together, the liberals further divide the working class by organizing along racialist lines, or some other bourgeois concept of “otherness.” (You know, the same things right-wingers and white nationalists actively condone). Chauvinism is displayed in their mistrust of the average worker to be capable of accomplishing anything without the Democrats or liberal academics. And the proponents of reformism tell us to simply wait another 2 years, because surely the Democrats will make a comeback in the midterms (ignore the fact that their track record for “taking back control” in recent elections hasn’t been great, and even if they did succeed, there is no way for them to make sure that their control will last).

The aftermath of election day has been heavy (and, sadly, it’s only a taste of things to come), but there has been an effect that I didn’t consider before–the chaff is separating from the wheat all on its own. It is becoming clearer every day who is genuinely concerned with the liberation of the oppressed, and who is more attached to abstract, immaterial principles that all boil down to an attempted justification of the dictatorship of capital, imperialism, and bourgeois rule. The latter group has not been subtle in their disapproval of everything that runs contrary to their ideals. Judging from what I’ve heard and witnessed, they’ll storm out of meetings when they don’t get their way, they’ll shut down conversations if it seems to be veering outside of liberal dogma, they’ll even aid the police in arresting the more “rowdy” protesters.

These are the bearers of the liberal banner, and they are losing credibility to their own followers. Prior to the election, liberals talked a lot about the impending destruction of the GOP (and for good reason, it really did appear that the Republicans were imploding), but now it is the Democrats who are scrambling to keep their establishment together. Their tactics in doing so are only further alienating them from what used to be their base. In their eagerness to be “pragmatic” and cater to the new regime, they’re turning their backs on those who will be most oppressed in the coming years. The liberal activist groups are now losing ground as well, from what I can tell.

They may be desperate, but liberalism still controls Leftist dialogue and action, even after it blatantly revealed its bourgeois nature post-election. In fact, it is a heavier yoke now than it ever was. Desperate times, desperate measures.

The election fallout is not the only example of liberal treachery, though. The event that drove me to write this was the death of Comrade Fidel. The liberal reaction to this may be even more obvious than their reaction to a fascist coming to power. Pro-imperialist, chauvinistic, and reactionary.

You see, these liberals don’t come out and say “I support the US in its attempts to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments in Latin America.” What they do is use the proper American Leftist language to mask these imperialistic stances. Over the past 2 days, the trendy way of talking about Fidel Castro is for white American liberals to say “Listen to the Cubans,” which sounds fine and dandy (if you want to ignore the very racial undertones and the implication that all Cubans think alike), but it quickly became clear that the white liberals really mean “Listen to the few hundred Cubans celebrating in Miami, not the millions mourning in Cuba.”

The defense of this line comes in the form of claiming that those of us who are fond of Fidel Castro and Revolutionary Cuba are “silencing” the voices of Cuban immigrants. This defense of imperialism portrays itself as considerate and caring, while it silences the voices of an entire country. It is doing the very thing it claims to be opposing, and on a larger scale.

Another fallacy of this line is that it is just as weak as a racist saying that they have a Black friend. The white liberals might know a Cuban person, so they believe that this one person’s stance is the correct one and it cannot be questioned. Well, I know a few people from the island as well, and they don’t have a negative word to say about Fidel. Are you going to silence them, or try to de-legitimize their experiences?

cuba-mourns

Cubans mourning the death of Fidel Castro

I may be getting off track by now, but the point is that this is an example of liberal treachery. Masking pro-imperialist stances in Left-sounding lingo. They say they want to listen to “Cuban voices,” but only those voices which are already in agreement with the pre-constructed liberal ideas and stances. How convenient. When all is said and done, the current liberal stance on the issue of Cuba is that it was wrong for Cuba to gain independence, and things were “better off” when the US puppet regime was still in power in that country. It all boils down to the belief that the Cuban people only deserve a voice if they’re saying things that paint US imperialism in a good light. The entire country rose up and made their voices heard in 1959, but the American liberals have refused to listen.

This is the cancerous thread that runs through the Left: liberalism. To be clear, there are those who claim to be liberals who actually do fight for the people with all their strength, however misguided. I have worked and will continue to work with them, out of necessity. But that does not mean liberalism is not dangerous, and those who push for its control of the Left are continuously proving themselves to be traitors to the people. Traitors to the Left itself. They’ll concede to the most vile reactionaries, they’ll stomp on the images of those who risked their lives fighting US imperialism (often while claiming to be anti-imperialist), they’ll trade in the well-being of the people in favor of ensuring the continuance of bourgeois rule.

It is important to note that liberalism is not a line exclusive to members and supporters of the Democratic Party. Many self-proclaimed revolutionaries hold these traits just as closely as the mainstream liberals do. The traits of liberalism are found in the claim that “socialism has never existed.” Liberalism is present in anti-communist propaganda being accepted in “communist” groups. It is present in Utopianism and in holding every revolution to impossible standards, resulting in the liberal condemnation of every successful revolution. It is Right-deviationism and the Putinite trend.

How do we fight it? Well, I’m no theoretician, and I think that is obvious. There are thousands of others who have lived and fought and explained this all better than I ever could. The simplest way I can put it is: We need to engage with those willing to work through disagreements, because these are dangerous times we are entering. Those who are not willing are literally and figuratively walking out the door. However, working alongside those who disagree with the theories of Marxism-Leninism does not mean we need to be quiet. Some will try to silence us, but we will not let that happen.

The heart of liberalism is the defense of capital–that is what it has always been. Liberals will not hesitate to leave us for dead, whether they be pro-US anti-communists, or Putinite ultra-revisionists; capitalism-imperialism is the side they have chosen. This is an ideological battle we must fight, while also remaining practical in the bigger fight against fascism.

We will march with them against the rise of fascism, but we will not put down the banner of Marxism-Leninism. We must prove to all that we are more than willing to dive onto the frontlines of this struggle. We will risk our necks for the people. Fear is natural, but it is also a reminder of why this fight is necessary. Fascism cannot remain in power, and we must expose the fact that, at the end of the day, liberalism cannot save us. It never has.

“Liberalism stems from petty-bourgeois selfishness, it places personal interests first and the interests of the revolution second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational liberalism.

People who are liberals look upon the principles of Marxism as abstract dogma. They approve of Marxism, but are not prepared to practice it or to practice it in full; they are not prepared to replace their liberalism by Marxism. These people have their Marxism, but they have their liberalism as well–they talk Marxism but practice liberalism; they apply Marxism to others but liberalism to themselves. They keep both kinds of goods in stock and find a use for each. This is how the minds of certain people work.

Liberalism is a manifestation of opportunism and conflicts fundamentally with Marxism. It is negative and objectively has the effect of helping the enemy; that is why the enemy welcomes its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, there should be no place for it in the ranks of the revolution.

We must use Marxism, which is positive in spirit, to overcome liberalism, which is negative. A Communist should have largeness of mind and he should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of the revolution as his very life and subordinating his personal interests to those of the revolution; always and everywhere he should adhere to principle and wage a tireless struggle against all incorrect ideas and actions, so as to consolidate the collective life of the Party and strengthen the ties between the Party and the masses; he should be more concerned about the Party and the masses than about any private person, and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered a Communist.

All loyal, honest, active and upright Communists must unite to oppose the liberal tendencies shown by certain people among us, and set them on the right path. This is one of the tasks on our ideological front.” -Mao Tse-Tung, Combat Liberalism

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Pseudo-Leftism and Ignoring the Class Struggle

 

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”

-Karl Marx, German Ideology

 

In his brilliant book, Black Shirts and Reds, Michael Parenti dedicates a section to observing and defining what he calls the “ABC Theorists” among the “left”. Here, “ABC” means “Anything-But-Class”. These theorists of which he speaks – centrist liberals posing as “progressive” scholars, the shallow and vague “social justice warriors” – are those who erect a facade of what they cautiously term “progressivism” around their somewhat hidden opposition to class consciousness and fairly blatant bourgeois bias.

“Many who pretend to be on the Left are so rabidly anti-Marxist as to seize upon any conceivable notion except class power to explain what is happening in the world. They are the Anything-But-Class (ABC) theorists who, while not allied with conservatives on most political issues, do their part in stunting class consciousness.” -Michael Parenti

These are class enemies posing as “leaders of the Left”. They will speak forever regarding the injustices of racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry, etc., but never will they get to the root of these issues. It is right to oppose oppression on all fronts; racism, sexism, homophobia are all oppressive and should be combated. But simply saying you are against these things does not make you a fighter for liberation or progress. Attempting to find a true answer to these horrendous problems is what is needed, not the simple verbal support of some overpaid pundit. And by ignoring the issue of class, by sweeping class struggle under the rug, so to speak, even outright ridiculing those calling for a wider class consciousness, these watered-down self-proclaimed “progressive” liberals(liberal is another word for capitalist, by the way) don’t do any help for the causes which they claim to support, and in fact hinder them by avoiding the class roots of all reactionism.

To ignore the class struggle, to shrug it off as a non-issue, is to stagnate the movement for progress. For every form of modern oppression and exploitation stems from the system of class antagonisms. Racism is a product of the bourgeois class and its domination. It was created as a means to garner support for chattel slavery, in the name of profit and bourgeois class interests. The abolition of slavery, enforced by the people themselves, not some “golden-hearted” bourgeois “progressives”, did not mean the abolition of racism, which will always exist as long as the capitalist class has power and needs to disrupt any form of working class solidarity and unity. Racism is a tool of class warfare used by the exploiting class. Sexism is the oldest form of exploitation and also has an important place in the bourgeois arsenal of class war. Homophobia is a propaganda tool for the same reasons. Scapegoating, the delusion of cultural division, taking the aim of the people away from their oppressors and making them point their weapons at each other.

If we are to ignore the class nature of these injustices, we ignore the roots of the problem and do nothing for the abolition of these oppressive ideologies and practices. Therefore, these liberal and ABC commentators are not in true opposition to these ideas and policies, but are doing almost all they can to prevent the people from attacking the roots of these inhumane practices and institutions.

“The ‘left’ ABC theorists say we are giving too much attention to class. Who exactly is doing that? Surveying the mainstream academic publications, radical journals, and socialist scholars conferences, one is hard put to find much class analysis of any kind. Far from giving too much attention to class power, most U.S. writers and commentators have yet to discover the subject. While pummeling a rather minuscule Marxist Left, the ABC theorists would have us think they are doing courageous battle against hordes of Marxists who dominate intellectual discourse in this country—yet another hallucination they hold in common with conservatives.” -Michael Parenti

But the problem is not solely in the liberal camp, even so-called “communists” and “revolutionary socialists” fall into this anti-Marxist, non-class rhetoric. As the wave of Marxism-Leninism rises more and more every day, as more and more comrades are coming out against the plague of revisionism and becoming more militant and hardline both in theory and practice, the revisionist, bourgeois-in-denial elements within the socialist movement are being ever more reactionary and hardline in their own anti-proletariat stance. They are attempting to replace the theory of national self-determination with national chauvinism. To replace genuine anti-imperialism with shallow and simplistic anti-Americanism.  To replace class struggle and class analysis with identity politics and liberalistic reformism.

In this, they share several similarities with conservatives and the class-ignorant liberals, they simply turn these trends on their heads. They do not see culture as a class phenomenon, but base culture on “race”, just as conservatives and bourgeois media does. To them, “white culture” is the problem, not bourgeois culture. This is a profoundly segregationist attitude, and, just as the bourgeoisie wants, it divides the working class along racial/ethnic lines. They put proletarian revolution – the only true cure for racial and any other kind of discrimination – on the back-burner. They do not analyze material conditions, class antagonisms, or the nature of racism, but run with emotionalism and shock-value instead, and in most cases openly support racism in their own way(i.e. in the notion that one race or another is inherently “bad” and that all of society’s contradictions and culture stem from “race”).

These are, indeed, very complex situations. On the one hand, racism in today’s society is geared towards white supremacism, and that means people with white skin are taught that they are somehow “superior”. But again, this ideology does not come automatically to those born with white skin, but is a learned concept taught by bourgeois society and culture, not “white culture”. It is a tool to divide the proletariat, to make it more difficult to build class unity. But in reality, class, not “race”, determines a society’s functionality. A white agricultural worker living in the countryside slums of Alabama does not share the same culture or class interests as a white member of the bourgeoisie. The worker may indeed be effected by the racism created by the bourgeoisie, but the worker is not the creator of racism, nor is racism truly in his/her interests as a member of the working class, even if that worker is duped into agreeing with bourgeois racist hegemony.

None of this is to say that racism, sexism, etc. are not true material forms of oppression. Indeed, they are very real and very reactionary. But they cannot be defeated one at a time while the bourgeoisie still holds political, economic and cultural power, as they are consequences of bourgeois cultural hegemony and sociopolitical dictatorship.

We cannot fight racism by upholding segregationist theories. We cannot defeat sexism while ignoring the system of exploitation. We cannot end homophobia without destroying bourgeois-conservative traditionalism and the system that gives it power. These issues, indeed, must be confronted on all sides, but we must also remember that they cannot be fully eradicated until this system of exploitation of one class by another is overthrown and smashed. Working class solidarity, and the realization of its own interests as a class, is the only way to defeat these social oppressions.

 

“Class gets its significance from the process of surplus extraction. The relationship between worker and owner is essentially an exploita­tive one, involving the constant transfer of wealth from those who labor (but do not own) to those who own (but do not labor). This is how some people get richer and richer without working, or with doing only a fraction of the work that enriches them, while others toil hard for an entire lifetime only to end up with little or nothing.

Both orthodox social scientists and ‘left’ ABC theorists treat the diverse social factions within the non-capitalist class as classes unto themselves; so they speak of a ‘blue-collar class,’ a ‘professional class,’ and the like. In doing so, they claim to be moving beyond a ‘reductionist,’ Marxist dualistic model of classes. But what is more reductionist than to ignore the underlying dynamics of economic power and the conflict between capital and labor? What is more misleading than to treat occupational groups as autonomous classes, giving attention to every social group in capitalist society except the capitalist class itself, to every social conflict except class conflict?

Both conventional and ‘left’ ABC theorists have difficulty understanding that the creation of a managerial or technocratic social for­mation constitutes no basic change in the property relations of capitalism, no creation of new classes. Professionals and managers are not an autonomous class as such. Rather they are mental workers who live much better than most other employees but who still serve the accumulation process on behalf of corporate owners.”

 -Michael Parenti

 

We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.”

-Fred Hampton

 

“Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement, the only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology).”

-V.I. Lenin

All Parenti quotes from: http://www.skeptic.ca/C_Word_Class.htm

 

-SFB

 

 

Stalin on the Vanguard Party

Lenin and Stalin

[In contemplating the present tasks of the communists of the United States – that of building a true revolutionary vanguard party to sit at the helm of the working class movement, which opposes the plague of revisionism that is currently paralyzing the communists within this movement – and in re-reading Stalin’s “Foundations of Leninism”, I find it fitting to share what this revolutionary leader has to say regarding this issue. Enjoy.]

 

From “Foundations of Leninism” by Joseph Stalin

Chapter VII. The Party

 

In the pre-revolutionary period, the period of more or less peaceful development, when the parties of the Second International were the predominant force in the working-class movement and parliamentary forms of struggle were regarded as the principal forms-under these conditions the Party neither had nor could have had that great and decisive importance which it acquired afterwards, under conditions of open revolutionary clashes. Defending the Second International against attacks made upon it, Kautsky says that the parties of the Second International are an instrument of peace and not of war, and that for this very reason they were powerless to take any important steps during the war, during the period of revolutionary action by the proletariat. That is quite true. But what does it mean? It means that the parties of the Second International are unfit for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, that they are not militant parties of the proletariat, leading the workers to power, but election machines adapted for parliamentary elections and parliamentary struggle. This, in fact, explains why, in the days when the opportunists of the Second International were in the ascendancy, it was not the party but its parliamentary group that was the chief political organisation of the proletariat. It is well known that the party at that time was really an appendage and subsidiary of the parliamentary group. It scarcely needs proof that under such circumstances and with such a party at the helm there could be no question of preparing the proletariat for revolution.

But matters have changed radically with the dawn of the new period. The new period is one of open class collisions, of revolutionary action by the proletariat, of proletarian revolution, a period when forces are being directly mustered for the overthrow of imperialism and the seizure of power by the proletariat. In this period the proletariat is confronted with new tasks, the tasks of reorganising all party work on new, revolutionary lines; of educating the workers in the spirit of revolutionary struggle for power; of preparing and moving up reserves; of establishing an alliance with the proletarians of neighbouring countries; of establishing firm ties with the liberation movement in the colonies and dependent countries, etc., etc. To think that these new tasks can be performed by the old Social-Democratic parties, brought up as they were in the peaceful conditions of parliamentarism, is to doom oneself to hopeless despair, to inevitable defeat. If, with such tasks to shoulder, the proletariat remained under the leadership of the old parties, it would be completely unarmed. It scarcely needs proof that the proletariat could not consent to such a state of affairs.

Hence the necessity for a new party, a militant party, a revolutionary party, one bold enough to lead the proletarians in the struggle for power, sufficiently experienced to find its bearings amidst the complex conditions of a revolutionary situation, and sufficiently flexible to steer clear of all submerged rocks in the path to its goal.

Without such a party it is useless even to think of overthrowing imperialism, of achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This new party is the party of Leninism.

What are the specific features of this new party?

1)The Party as the advanced detachment of the working class. The Party must be, first of all, the advanced detachment of the working class. The Party must absorb all the best elements of the working class, their experience, their revolutionary spirit, their selfless devotion to the cause of the proletariat. But in order that it may really be the armed detachment, the Party must be armed with revolutionary theory, with a knowledge of the laws of the movement, with a knowledge of the laws of revolution. Without this it will be incapable of directing the struggle of the proletariat, of leading the proletariat. The Party cannot be a real party if it limits itself to registering what the masses of the working class feel and think, if it drags at the tail of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to overcome the inertia and the political indifference of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to rise above the momentary interests of the proletariat, if it is unable to raise the masses to the level of understanding the class interests of the proletariat. The Party must stand at the head of the working class; it must see farther than the working class; it must lead the proletariat, and not drag at the tail of the spontaneous movement. The parties of the Second International, which preach “khvostism,” are vehicles of bourgeois policy, which condemns the proletariat to the role of a tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Only a party which adopts the standpoint of advanced detachment of the proletariat and is able to raise the masses to the level of understanding the class interest of the proletariat-only such a party can divert the working class from the path of trade unionism and convert it into an independent political force.

The Party is the political leader of the working class.

I have already spoken of the difficulties of the struggle of the working class, of the complicated conditions of the struggle, of strategy and tactics, of reserves and manoeuvring, of attack and retreat. These conditions are no less complicated, if not more so, than the conditions of war. Who can see clearly in these conditions, who can give correct guidance to the proletarian millions? No army at war can dispense with an experienced General Staff if it does not want to be doomed to defeat. Is it not clear that the proletariat can still less dispense with such a General Staff if it does not want to allow itself to be devoured by its mortal enemies? But where is this General Staff? Only the revolutionary party of the proletariat can serve as this General Staff. The working class without a revolutionary party is an army without a General Staff.

The Party is the General Staff of the proletariat.

But the Party cannot be only an advanced detachment. It must at the same time be a detachment of the class, part of the class, closely bound up with it by all the fibres of its being. The distinction between the advanced detachment and the rest of the working class, between Party members and non-Party people, cannot disappear until classes disappear; it will exist as long as the ranks of the proletariat continue to be replenished with former members of other classes, as long as the working class as a whole is not in a position to rise to the level of the advanced detachment. But the Party would cease to be a party of this distinction developed into a gap, if the Party turned in on itself and became divorced from the non-Party masses. The Party cannot lead the class if it is not connected with the non-Party masses, if there is no bond between the Party and the non-Party masses, if these masses do not accept its leadership, if the Party enjoys no moral and political credit among the masses.

Recently two hundred thousand new members from the ranks of the workers were admitted into our Party. The remarkable thing about this is the fact that these people did not merely join the Party themselves, but were rather sent there by all the rest of the non-Party workers, who took an active part in the admission of the new members, and without whose approval no new member was accepted. This fact shows that the broad masses of non-Party workers regard our Party as their Party, as a Party near and dear to them, in whose expansion and consolidation they are vitally interested and to whose leadership they voluntarily entrust their destiny. It scarcely needs proof that without these intangible moral threads which connect the Party with the non-Party masses, the Party could not have become the decisive force of its class.

The Party is an inseparable part of the working class.

“We,” says Lenin, “are the Party of a class, and therefore almost the whole class (and in times of war, in the period of civil war, the whole class) should act under the leadership of our Party, should adhere to our Party as closely as possible. But it would be Manilovism and ‘khvostosm’ to think that at any time under capitalism almost the whole class, or the whole class, would be able to rise to the level of consciousness and activity of its advanced detachment, of its Social-Democratic Party. No sensible Social-Democrat has ever yet doubted that under capitalism even the trade union organisations (which are more primitive and more comprehensible to the undeveloped strata) are unable to embrace almost the whole, or the whole, working class. To forget the distinction between the advanced detachment and the whole of the masses which gravitate towards it, to forget the constant duty of the advanced detachment to raise ever wider strata to this most advanced level, means merely to deceive oneself, to shut one’s eyes to the immensity of our tasks, and to narrow down these tasks” (see Vol. VI, pp. 205-06).

2) The Party as the organised detachment of the working class. The Party is not only the advanced detachment of the working class. If it desires really to direct the struggle of the class it must at the same time be the organised detachment of its class. The Party’s tasks under the conditions of capitalism are immense and extremely varied. The Party must direct the struggle of the proletariat under the exceptionally difficult conditions of internal and external development; it must lead the proletariat in the offensive when the situation calls for an offensive; it must lead the proletariat so as to escape the blow of a powerful enemy when the situation calls for retreat; it must imbue the millions of unorganised non-Party workers with the spirit of organisation and endurance. But the Party can fulfil these tasks only if it is itself the embodiment of discipline and organisation, if it is itself the organised detachment of the proletariat. Without these conditions there can be no question of the Party really leading the vast masses of the proletariat.

The Party is the organised detachment of the working class.

The conception of the Party as an organised whole is embodied in Lenin’s well-known formulation of the first paragraph of our Party Rules, in which the Party is regarded as the sum total of its organisations, and the Party member as a member of one of the organisations of the Party. The Mensheviks, who objected to this formulation as early as 1903, proposed to substitute for it a “system” of self-enrolment in the Party, a “system” of conferring the “title” of Party member upon every “professor” and “high-school student,” upon every “sympathiser” and “striker” who supported the Party in one way or another, but who did not join and did not want to join any one of the Party organisations. It scarcely needs proof that had this singular “system” become entrenched in our Party it would inevitably have led to our Party becoming inundated with professors and high-school students and to its degeneration into a loose, amorphous, disorganised “formation,” lost in a sea of “sympathisers,” that would have obliterated the dividing line between the Party and the class and would have upset the Party’s task of raising the unorganised masses to the level of the advanced detachment. Needless to say, under such an opportunist “system” our Party would have been unable to fulfil the role of the organising core of the working class in the course of our revolution.

“From the point of view of Comrade Martov,” says Lenin, “the border-line of the Party remains quite indefinite, for ‘every striker’ may ‘proclaim himself a Party member.’ What is the use of this vagueness? A wide extension of the ‘title.’ Its harm is that it introduces a disorganising idea, the confusing of class and Party” (see Vol. VI, p. 211)

But the Party is not merely the sum total of Party organisations. The Party is at the same time a single system of these organisations, their formal union into a single whole, with higher and lower leading bodies, with subordination of the minority to the majority, with practical decisions binding on all members of the Party. Without these conditions the Party cannot be a single organised whole capable of exercising systematic and organised leadership in the struggle of the working class.

Formerly,” says Lenin, “our Party was not a formally organized whole, but only the sum of separate groups, and therefore no other relations except those of ideological influence were possible between these groups. Now we have become an organized Party, and this implies the establishment of authority, the transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority, the subordination of lower Party bodies to higher Party bodies” (see Vol. VI, p. 291).

The principle of the minority submitting to the majority, the principle of directing Party work from a centre, not infrequently gives rise to attacks on the part of wavering elements, to accusations of “bureaucracy,” “formalism,” etc. It scarcely needs proof that systematic work by the Party as one whole, and the directing of the struggle of the working class, would be impossible without putting these principles into effect. Leninism in questions of organisation is the unswerving application of these applications of these principles. Lenin terms the fight against these principles “Russian nihilism” and “aristocratic anarchism,” which deserves to be ridiculed and swept aside.

Here is what Lenin says about these wavering elements in his book One Step Forward:

“This aristocratic anarchism is particularly characteristic of the Russian nihilist. He thinks of the Party organisation as a monstrous ‘factory’; he regards the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the majority of ‘serfdom’…, division of labour under the direction of a centre evokes from him a tragi-comical outcry against people being transformed into ‘wheels and cogs’…, mention of the organisational rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous grimace and the disdainful…remark that one could very well dispense with rules altogether.”

“It is clear, I think, that the cries about this celebrated bureaucracy are just a screen for dissatisfaction with the personal composition of the central bodies, a fig leaf….You are a bureaucrat because you were appointed by the congress not by my will, but against it; you are a formalist because you rely on the formal decisions of the congress, and not on my consent; you are acting in a grossly mechanical way because you plead the ‘mechanical’ majority at the Party Congress and pay no heed to my wish to be co-opted; you are an autocrat because you refuse to hand over the power to the old gang” 1 (see Vol. VI, pp. 310, 287).

3) The Party as the highest form of class organisation of the proletariat. The Party is the organised detachment of the working class. But the Party is not the only organisation of the working class. The proletariat has also a number of other organisations, without which it cannot wage a successful struggle against capital: trade unions, co-operatives, factory organisations, parliamentary groups, non-Party women’s associations, the press, cultural and educational organisations, youth leagues, revolutionary fighting organisations (in times of open revolutionary action), Soviets of deputies as the form of state organisation (if the proletariat is in power), etc. The overwhelming majority of these organisations are non-Party, and only some of them adhere directly to the Party, or constitute offshoots from it. All these organisations, under certain conditions, are absolutely necessary for the working class, for without them it would be impossible to consolidate the class positions of the proletariat in the diverse spheres of struggle; for without them it would be impossible to steel the proletariat as the force whose mission it is to replace the bourgeois order by the socialist order. But how can single leadership be exercised with such an abundance or organisations? What guarantee is there that this multiplicity of organisations will not lead to divergency in leadership? It may be said that each of these organisations carries on its work in its own special field, and that therefore these organisations cannot hinder one another. That, of course, is true. But it is also true that all these organisations should work in one direction for they serve one class, the class of the proletarians. The question then arises: who is to determine the line, the general direction, along which the work of all these organisations is to be conducted? Where is the central organisations which is not only able, because it has the necessary experience, to work out such a general line, but, in addition, is in a position, because it has sufficient prestige, to induce all these organisations to carry out this line , so as to attain unity of leadership and to make hitches impossible?

That organisation is the Party of the proletariat.

The Party possesses all the necessary qualifications for this because, in the first place, it is the rallying centre of the finest elements in the working class, who have direct connections with the non-Party organisations of the proletariat and very frequently lead them; because, secondly, the Party, as the rallying centre of the finest members of the working class, is the best school for training leaders of the working class, capable of directing every form of organisation of their class; because, thirdly, the Party, as the best school for training leaders of the working class, is, by reason of its experience and prestige , the only organisation capable of centralising the leadership of the struggle of the proletariat, thus transforming each and every non-Party organisation of the working class into an auxiliary body and transmission belt linking the Party with the class.

The Party is the highest form of class organisation of the proletariat.

This does not mean, of course, that non-Party organisations, trade unions, co-operatives, etc., should be officially subordinated to the Party leadership. It only means that the members of the Party who belong to these organisations and are doubtlessly influential in them should do all they can to persuade these non-Party organisations to draw nearer to the Party of the proletariat in their work and voluntarily accept its political leadership.

That is why Lenin says that the Party is “the highest form of proletarian class association,” whose political leadership must extend to every other form of organization of the proletariat. (see Vol. XXV, p. 194)

That is why the opportunist theory of the “independence” and “neutrality” of the non-Party organisations, which breeds independent members of parliament and journalists isolated from the Party, narrow-minded trade union leaders and philistine co-operative officials, is wholly incompatible with the theory and practice of Leninism.

4) The Party as an instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Party is the highest form of organisation of the proletariat. The Party is the principle guiding force within the class of the proletarians and among the organisations of that class. But it does not by any means follow from this that the Party can be regarded as an end in itself, as a self-sufficient force. The Party is not only the highest form of class association of the proletarians; it is at the same time an instrument in the hands of the proletariatfor achieving the dictatorship, when that has not yet been achieved and for consolidating and expanding the dictatorship when it has already been achieved. The Party could not have risen so high in importance and could not have exerted its influence over all other forms of organisations of the proletariat, if the latter had not been confronted with the question of power, if the conditions of imperialism, the inevitability of wars, and the existence of a crisis had not yet demanded the concentration of all the forces of the proletariat at one point, the gathering of all the threads of the revolutionary movement in one spot in order to overthrow the bourgeoisie and to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat needs the Party first of all as its General Staff, which it must have for the successful seizure of power. It scarcely needs proof that without a party capable of rallying around itself the mass organisations of the proletariat, and of centralising the leadership of the entire movement during the progress of the struggle , the proletariat in Russia could not have established its revolutionary dictatorship.

But the proletariat needs the Party not only to achieve the dictatorship; it needs it still more to maintain the dictatorship, to consolidate and expand it in order to achieve the complete victory of socialism.

“Certainly, almost everyone now realises,” says Lenin, “that the Bolsheviks could not have maintained themselves in power for two-and-a-half months, let alone two-and-a-half years, without the strictest, truly iron discipline in our Party, and without the fullest and unreserved support of the latter by the whole mass of the working class, that is, by all its thinking, honest, self-sacrificing and influential elements, capable of leading or of carrying with them the backwards strata” (see Vol. XXV, p. 173).

Now, what does to “maintain” and “expand” the dictatorship mean? It means imbuing the millions of proletarians with the spirit of discipline and organisation; it means creating among the proletarian masses a cementing force and a bulwark against the corrosive influence of the petty-bourgeois elemental forces and petty-bourgeois habits; it means enhancing the organising work of the proletarians in re-educating and remoulding the petty-bourgeois strata; it means helping the masses of the proletarians to educate themselves as a force capable of abolishing classes and of preparing the conditions for the organisation of socialist production. But it is impossible to accomplish all this without a party which is strong by reason of its solidarity and discipline.

“The dictatorship of the proletariat,” says Lenin, “is a stubborn struggle-bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative-against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit of millions and tens of millions is a most terrible force. Without an iron party tempered in the struggle, without a party enjoying the confidence of all that is honest in the given class without a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, it is impossible to conduct such a strategy successfully” (see Vol. XXV, p. 190).

The proletariat needs the Party for the purpose of achieving and maintaining the dictatorship. The Party is an instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But from this it follows that when classes disappear and the dictatorship of the proletariat withers away, the Party also will wither away.

5) The Party as the embodiment of unity of will, unity incompatible with the existence of factions. The achievement and maintenance of the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible without a party which is strong by reason of its solidarity and iron discipline. But iron discipline in the Party is inconceivable without unity of will, without complete and absolute unity of action on the part of all members of the Party. This does not mean, of course, that the possibility of conflicts of opinion within the Party is thereby precluded. On the contrary, iron discipline does not preclude but presupposes criticism and conflict of opinion within the Party. Least of all does it mean that discipline must be “blind.” On the contrary, iron discipline does not preclude but presupposes conscious and voluntary submission, for only conscious discipline can be truly iron discipline. But after a conflict of opinion has been closed, after criticism has been exhausted and a decision has been arrived at, unity of will and unity of action of all Party members are the necessary conditions without which neither Party unity nor iron discipline in the Party is conceivable.

“In the present epoch of acute civil war,” says Lenin, “the Communist Party will be able to perform its duty only if it is organised in the most centralised manner, if iron discipline bordering on military discipline prevails in it, and if its Party centre is a powerful and authoritative organ, wielding wide powers and enjoying the universal confidence of the members of the Party” (see Vol. XXV, pp. 282-83).

This is the position in regard to discipline in the Party in the period of struggle preceding the achievement of the dictatorship.

The same, but to an even greater degree, must be said about discipline in the Party after the dictatorship has been achieved.

“Whoever,” says Lenin, “weakens in the least the iron discipline of the Party of the proletariat (especially during the time of its dictatorship), actually aids the bourgeoisie against the proletariat” (see Vol. XXV, p. 190).

But from this it follows that the existence of factions is compatible neither with the Party’s unity nor with its iron discipline. It scarcely needs proof that the existence of factions leads to the existence of a number of centres, and the existence of a number of centres means the absence of one common centre in the Party, the breaking up of unity of will, the weakening and disintegration of discipline, the weakening and disintegration of the dictatorship. Of course, the parties of the Second International, which are fighting against the dictatorship of the proletariat and have no desire to lead the proletarians to power, can afford such liberalism as freedom of factions, for they have no need at all for iron discipline. But the parties of the Communist International, whose activities are conditioned by the task of achieving and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat, cannot afford to be “liberal” or to permit freedom of factions.

The Party represents unity of will, which precludes all factionalism and division of authority in the Party.

Hence Lenin’s warning about the “danger of factionalism from the point of view of Party unity and of effecting the unity of will of the vanguard of the proletariat as the fundamental condition for the success of the dictatorship of the proletariat,” which is embodied in the special resolution of the Tenth Congress of our Party “On Party Unity.” 2

Hence Lenin’s demand for the “complete elimination of all factionalism” and the “immediate dissolution of all groups, without exemption, that have been formed on the basis of various platforms,” on pain of “unconditional and immediate expulsion from the Party” (see the resolution “On Party Unity”).

6) The Party becomes strong by purging itself of opportunist elements. The source of factionalism in the Party is its opportunists elements. The proletariat is not an isolated class. It is consistently replenished by the influx of peasants, petty bourgeois and intellectuals proletarianised by the development of capitalism. At the same time the upper stratum of the proletariat, principally trade union leaders and members of parliament who are fed by the bourgeoisie out of the super-profits extracted from the colonies, is undergoing a process of decay. “This stratum of bourgeoisified workers, or the ‘labour aristocracy,'” says Lenin, “who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook, is the principal prop of the Second International, and, in our days, the principal social (not military) prop of the bourgeoisie. For they are real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class…, real channels of reformism and chauvinism” (see Vol. XIX, p.77)

In one way or another, all these petty-bourgeois groups penetrate into the Party and introduce into it the spirit of hesitancy and opportunism, the spirit of demoralization and uncertainty. It is they, principally, that constitute the source of factionalism and disintegration, the source of disorganisation and disruption of the Party from within. To fight imperialism with such “allies” in one’s rear means to put oneself in the position of being caught between two fires, from the front and from the rear. Therefore, ruthless struggle against such elements, their expulsion from the Party, is a pre-requisite for the successful struggle against imperialism.

The theory of “defeating” opportunist elements by the ideological struggle within the Party, the theory of “overcoming” these elements within the confines of a single party, is a rotten and dangerous theory, which threatens to condemn the Party to paralysis and chronic infirmity, threatens to leave the Party a prey to opportunism, threatens to leave the proletariat without a revolutionary party, threatens to deprive the proletariat of its main weapon in the fight against imperialism. Our Party could not have emerged on to the broad highway, it could not have seized power and organised the dictatorship of the proletariat, it could not have emerged victorious from the civil war, if it had had within its ranks people like Martov and Dan, Potresov and Axelrod. Our Party succeeded in achieving internal unity and unexampled cohesion of its ranks primarily because it was able to in good time to purge itself of the opportunist pollution, because it was able to rid its ranks of the Liquidators and Mensheviks. Proletarian parties develop and become strong by purging themselves of opportunists and reformists, social-imperialists and social-chauvinists, social-patriots and social-pacifists.

The Party becomes strong by purging itself of opportunist elements.

“With reformists, Mensheviks, in our ranks,” says Lenin, “it is impossible to be victorious in the proletarian revolution, it is impossible to defend it. That is obvious in principle, and it has been strikingly confirmed by the experience of both Russia and Hungary…. In Russia, difficult situations have arisen many times, when the Soviet regime would most certainly have been overthrown had Mensheviks, reformists and petty-bourgeois democrats remained in our Party…in Italy, where, as is generally admitted, decisive battles between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie for the possession of state power are imminent. At such a moment it is not only absolutely necessary to remove the Mensheviks, reformists, the Turatists from the Party, but it may even be useful to remove excellent Communists who are liable to waver, and who reveal a tendency to waver towards ‘unity’ with the reformists, to remove them from all responsible posts….On the eve of a revolution, and at a moment when a most fierce struggle is being waged for its victory, the slightest wavering in the ranks of the Party may wreck everything, frustrate the revolution, wrest the power from the hands of the proletariat; for this power is not yet consolidated, the attack upon it is still very strong. The desertion of wavering leaders at such a time does not weaken but strengthens the Party, the working-class movement and the revolution” (see Vol. XXV, pp. 462, 463, 464).


Notes

1. The ‘gang’ here referred to is that of Axelrod, Martov, Potresov and others, who would not submit to the decisions of the Second Congress and who accused Lenin of being a “bureaucrat.”-J.St.

2. The resolution “On Party Unity” was written by V.I. Lenin and adopted by the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.), held on March 8-16, 1921 (see V.I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 32, pp. 217-21, and also Resolutions and Decisions of C.P.S.U.(B.) Congresses, Conferences and Central Committee Plenums, Part I, 1941, pp. 364-66).