The Destruction of a Workers Paper. C. L. R. James 1962

Lenin on the Working Class

“... the dictatorship of the proletariat is not only violence against the exploiters, and not even mainly violence. The economic foundation of this revolutionary violence, the guarantee of its virility and its success is the fact that the proletariat represents and carries out a higher type of social organization of labor compared with capitalism. This is the essence. This is the source of strength and the guarantee of the inevitable and complete triumph of Communism.

“The serf organization of social labor rested on the discipline of the stick, while the toilers, who were robbed and tyrannized over by a handful of landlords, were extremely ignorant and downtrodden. The capitalist organization of social labor rested on the discipline of starvation, and, notwithstanding all the progress of bourgeois culture and bourgeois democracy, the vast masses of the toilers in the most advanced, civilized and democratic republics remained an ignorant and downtrodden mass of wage slaves, or oppressed peasants, robbed and tyrannized over by a handful of capitalists. The Communist organization of social labor, the first step towards which is Socialism, rests, and will do so more and more as time goes on, on the free and conscious discipline of the very toilers who have thrown off the yoke of the landlords and capitalists.

“This new discipline does not drop from heaven, nor is it born out of pious wishes; it grows out of the material conditions of large-scale capitalist production, and out of this alone. Without this it is impossible. And the vehicle, or the channel, of these material conditions is a definite historical class, created, organized, consolidated, trained, educated and hardened by large-scale capitalism. This class is the proletariat.

“If we translate the Latin, scientific, historical-philosophical term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ into simple language, it means the following.

“Only a definite class, namely, the urban and the industrial workers in general, is able to lead the whole mass of toilers and exploited in the struggle for the overthrow of the yoke of capital, in the process of this overthrow, in the struggle for holding and consolidating the victory, in the work of creating the new. Socialist, social system, and in the whole struggle for the complete abolition of classes.”

In that conviction and all that flows from it I founded the organization. In that conviction I now break all connections with those for whom this becomes a matter for discussion. Wherever a shred of Marxism remained the two articles would have been joyfully welcomed even by those who felt they had serious political differences with the organization. The casual manner in which they have been relegated to discussion shows what it is the new orientation wants to discuss. I will have no part of it.

With all those who still accept the foundations of Marxism and of our movement I continue to be not only a comrade (which, with all that it implies, counts first with me), hoping that nothing will ever make me depart from that comradely collaboration and personal sympathy with which I have always associated the practice of Marxism. I am not surprised that the brutality which always accompanies the departure from Marxism has struck this blow at our movement under such circumstances that every word I write is a blow at the recovery of my health and I am unable to assist those comrades who are so resolutely, unequivocally and calmly defending what we have inherited and what we have to contribute to the struggle for Marxism as the doctrine of international socialism. To them I say: the world around us is in social and spiritual torment precisely because of the abandonment of the idea that the proletariat is the only part of society which can give the impetus to the reorganization of society. Never has that truth been so amply demonstrated as in the Hungarian Revolution. To the realization of that truth humanity must come or perish. To all who adhere to that cause we are comrades, missing no opportunity to advance it. To those who do not know this but are drawn towards resistance to capitalism, we are friends. But to those who, having for years accepted it, are now determined to depart from it, we are enemies, outspoken and relentless. Even at this distance I am happy to note that the majority of the comrades utterly reject these presumably new discoveries or are deeply disturbed by them. Our greatest weakness so far has been the fact that membership in this organization has not been synonymous with a genuine, all-sided Marxist education, the development of individual capacities and the consequent expansion of theory and practice.

Decide for Yourselves

What you will do now is a matter for yourselves against what has proved itself incompetent, untrustworthy and unscrupulous leadership. What I have said here does not in any way affect your decision or plans to hold a convention. That is your affair. In all your difficulties, hold fast to the essentials both of ideas and of conduct. Be assured that all my energies and experience will be completely at your disposal far more than it has been in the years 1953-1961.

(signed) Yours faithfully,
J. R. Johnson