First Published: The Worker, Vol 11, No 10, June 14, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
– a continuation of the critique of the US Progressive Labor Party’s “general line,” – Road to Revolution III (RTR III)
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The thinking behind the RTR III attack on the Bolshevik United Front Policy had been current within PLP since the withdrawal from the anti-Vietnam War committees back in 1967. But by crystallizing this thinking in RTR III, PLP sealed its isolation from progressive movements in the U.S.
Referring to the Bolsheviks, RTR III says they made “a wrong analysis of the bourgeoisie ...” dividing “the bourgeoisie into a ’left’ and a ’right’ camp,” and called for an alliance with the ’left’, certain privileges such as immunity from expropriation, etc...”
This alliance is maintained after the revolution, and the privileges granted to the ’good’ wing of the bourgeoisie are expanded. The rationale is that the party and the masses are too weak politically, economically, administratively, and ideologically for the revolution to survive without the active collaboration of ’friendly’ bourgeois forces... As part of this deal, communists make the biggest concession of all by renouncing the struggle to win the masses to a socialist program.
Furthermore, Lenin is charged with viewing the united front “exclusively or primarily as an alliance between themselves (i.e. the Bolsheviks) and the ’better’ section of the bourgeoisie.” According to a recent PLP article the slogan “Bread, Land and Peace” was the root cause of modern revisionism.
What is wrong with this anarchist thinking, outside of the typical RTR III dishonesty in implying that Lenin or the Bolsheviks used the terms “better” or “left” bourgeoisie? Everything! PLP has not the most elementary understanding of united front work. Nor do they even begin to comprehend what a mass line is or how it differs from, yet contributes to the realization of the maximum program, the socialist revolution.
The mass line changes and the united front around the mass line changes with changing objective conditions. The Bolsheviks never put aside the goal of proletarian state power. During the revolutionary year of 1917 the mass line changed frequently but the Bolsheviks were always mindful of their duty to head the proletarian dictatorship. This was their dual responsibility. Thus, on the one hand, the Bolsheviks put forward the mass line, “Bread, Land and Peace” while at the very same time as calling for “All power to the Soviets.” And in that period Lenin wrote State and Revolution which was the clearest Marxist exposition of the concepts of the dictatorship of the proletariat. How was this “renouncing the struggle to win the masses to a socialist program”? Only single-minded anarchists cannot understand that a communist party can and MUST do both these things at once. Anarchists are only capable of simple sloganeering and are not able to think of gaining leadership of the workers’ mass movement, which necessarily involves mass reform demands as well as complex and changing allegiances. (Nor are they capable of a scientific exposition of the dictatorship of the proletariat, such as State and Revolution.) It is the anarchists who renounce “The struggle to win the masses to a socialist program,” because their sectarian, purist strategy necessitates that they keep themselves distant from the masses and far from the center of the struggle for power.
There were quite a number of anarchists, considerably more numerous and more capable than PLP, in the field in Russia in 1917. They had the RTR III line; or better – RTR III has rediscovered their line. The question the authors of RTR III should have pondered is – What became of the Russian anarchists? Why did they prove themselves so irrelevant to the masses during the Revolution of 1917?
The PLP anarchists continue their “analysis” with an attack on the New Economic Policy, that the Bolsheviks, on Lenin’s initiative, promulgated after the Civil War in order to reconstruct the economy and lay the basis for socialist construction. According to RTR III, “communists were placed in the impossibly contradictory position of building capitalism. Profits and therefore exploitation were allowed. High living was tolerated. The equalitarianism that Lenin had admired in the Paris Commune and that he had called an indispensable aspect of socialism in State and Revolution never truly came into being.” Aside from the slanders about “high living” the implication here is: better to let the economy collapse than take the admittedly backward step that NEP implied. But could the Bolsheviks or any Party have retained state power in the midst of collapse and starvation without trying wholeheartedly to reverse the economic catastrophe? The political necessity of NEP follows if the goal is to retain workers’ power. The Bolsheviks knew that by retaining their hold on the dictatorship even while retreating, they, at least, had a chance of containing the bourgeois penetration and reversing it in time. This is precisely what occurred. And later the historical responsibility fell to Stalin to end the Bolshevik retreat around NEP when material conditions permitted, to recapture the positions the bourgeoisie had won and to lead the successful struggle to build socialism in the USSR.