Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

Australia’s Revolution: On the Struggle for a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party


Experience demonstrates that in Communist work terms are used about which there is confusion. A few notes are therefore added in explanation of some of these.

(a) Revisionism is the term used to describe the process of using Marxist terms but taking the revolutionary essence out of Marxism-Leninism. Some comments by Lenin illustrate this.

What is now happening to Marx’s teaching has, in the course of history, happened repeatedly to the teachings of revolutionary thinkers and leaders of oppressed classes struggling for emancipation. During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their teachings with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonise them, so to say, and to surround their names with a certain halo for the ’consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time emasculating the essence of the revolutionary teaching, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarising it. At the present time, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the working class movement concur in this ’doctoring’ of Marxism. They omit, obliterate and distort the revolutionary side of this teaching, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social chauvinists are now ’Marxists’ (don’t laugh!) . . . And more and more frequently, specialists in the annihilation of Marxism, are speaking of the ’national-German’ Marx, who, they aver, educated the workers’ unions which are so splendidly organised for the purpose of conducting a predatory war! (State and Revolution.)

In the domain of politics, revisionism tried to revise the very foundation of Marxism, namely, the doctrine of the class struggle. Political freedom, democracy and universal suffrage remove the ground for the class struggle – we were told – and render untrue the old proposition of the Communist Manifesto that the workers have no country. For, they said, since the ’will of the majority’ prevails under democracy, one must neither regard the state as an organ of class rule, nor reject alliances with the progressive, social-reformist bourgeoisie against the reactionaries.

It cannot be disputed that these objections of the revisionists constituted a fairly harmonious system of views, namely, the old and well known liberal bourgeois views. The liberals have always said that bourgeois parliamentarism destroys classes and class divisions, since the right to vote and the right to participate in state affairs are shared by all citizens without distinction. The whole history of Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the whole history of the Russian revolution at the beginning of the twentieth, clearly show how absurd such views are. Economic distinctions are aggravated and accentuated rather than mitigated under the freedom of ’democratic’ capitalism.

A natural complement to the economic and political tendencies of revisionism was its attitude to the final aim of the Socialist movement. ’The final aim is nothing, the movement is everything’ – this catch phrase of Bernstein’s expresses the substance of revisionism better than many long arguments. The policy of revisionism consists in determining its conduct from case to case, in adapting itself to the events of the day and to the chops and changes of petty politics; it consists in forgetting the basic interests of the proletariat, the main features of the capitalist system as a whole and of capitalist evolution as a whole, and in sacrificing these basic interests for the real or assumed advantages of the moment. And it patently follows from the very nature of this policy that it may assume an infinite variety of forms, and that every more or less ’new’ question, every more or less unexpected and unforeseen turn of events, even though it may change the basic line of development only to an insignificant degree and only for the shortest period of time, will always inevitably give rise to one or another variety of revisionism.

The inevitability of revisionism is determined by its class roots in modern society. Revisionism is an international phenomenon.

Passing to political economy, it must be noted first of all that the ’amendments’ of the revisionists in this domain were much more comprehensive and circumstantial; attempts were made to influence the public by adducing ’new data of economic development.’ It was said that concentration and the ousting of small scale production by large scale production do not occur in agriculture at all, while concentration proceeds extremely slowly in commerce and industry. It was said that crises had now become rarer and of less force, and that the cartels and trusts would probably enable capital to do away with crises altogether. It was said that the ’theory of the collapse’ to which capitalism is heading, was unsound, owing to the tendency of class contradictions to become less acute and milder. It was said, finally, that it would not be amiss to correct Marx’s theory of value in accordance with Bohm-Bawerk.

The fight against the revisionists on these questions resulted in as fruitful a revival of the theoretical thought of international Socialism as followed from Engels’ controversy with Duhring twenty years earlier. The arguments of the revisionists were analysed with the help of facts and figures. It was proved that the revisionists were systematically presenting modern small scale production in a favourable light. The technical and commercial superiority of large scale production over small scale production both in industry and in agriculture are proved by irrefutable facts. But commodity production is far less developed in agriculture and modern statisticians and economists are usually not very skilful in picking out the special branches (sometimes even operations) in agriculture which indicate that agriculture is being progressively drawn into the exchange of world economy. Small scale production maintains itself on the ruins of natural economy by a steady deterioration in nourishment, by chronic starvation, by the lengthening of the working day, by the deterioration in the quality of cattle and in the care given to cattle, in a word, by the very methods whereby handicraft production maintained itself against capitalist manufacture. Every advance in science and technology inevitably and relentlessly undermines the foundations of small scale production in capitalist society, and it is the task of Socialist economics to investigate this process in all its – often complicated and intricate – forms and to demonstrate to the small producer the impossibility of holding his own under capitalism, the hopelessness of peasant farming under capitalism, and the necessity of the peasant adopting the standpoint of the proletarian. On this question the revisionists sinned from the scientific standpoint by superficially generalising from facts selected one-sidedly and without reference to the system of capitalism as a whole; they sinned from the political standpoint by the fact that they inevitably, whether they wanted to or not, invited or urged the peasants to adopt the standpoint of the master (i.e., the standpoint of the bourgeoisie), instead of urging him to adopt the standpoint of the revolutionary proletarian.

The position of revisionism was even worse as far as the theory of crises and the theory of collapse were concerned. Only for the shortest space of time could people, and then only the most short-sighted, think of remodelling the foundations of the Marxian doctrine under the influence of a few years of industrial boom and prosperity. Facts very soon made it clear to the revisionists that crises were not a thing of the past; prosperity was followed by a crisis. The forms, the sequence, the picture of the particular crisis changed, but crises remained an inevitable component of the capitalist system. While uniting production, the cartels and trusts at the same time, and in a way that was obvious to all, aggravated the anarchy of production, the insecurity of existence of the proletariat and the oppression of capital, thus intensifying class contradictions to an unprecedented degree. That capitalism is moving towards collapse – in the sense both of individual political and economic crises and of the complete wreck of the entire capitalist system – has been made very clear, and on a very broad scale, precisely by the latest giant trusts. The recent financial crisis in America and the frightful increase of unemployment all over Europe, to say nothing of the impending industrial crisis to which many symptoms are pointing – all this is resulting in the fact that the recent ’theories’ of the revisionists are being forgotten by everybody, even, it seems, by many of the revisionists themselves. But the lessons which this instability of the intellectuals has given the working class must not be forgotten.

In the domain of philosophy, revisionism clung to the skirts of bourgeois professorial ’science.’ The professors went ’back to Kant’ – and revisionism followed in the wake of the Neo-Kantians. The professors repeated the threadbare banalities of the priests against philosophical materialism – and the revisionists, smiling condescendingly, mumbled (word for word after the latest Handbuch) that materialism had been ’refuted’ long ago. The professors treated Hegel as a ’dead dog,’ and while they themselves preached idealism, only an idealism a thousand times more petty and banal than Hegel’s, they contemptuously shrugged their shoulders at dialectics – and the revisionists floundered after them into the swamp of philosophical vulgarisation of science, replacing ’artful’ (and revolutionary) dialectics by ’simple’ (and tranquil) ’evolution.’ The professors earned their official salaries by adjusting both their idealist and ’critical’ systems to the dominant mediaeval ’philosophy’ (i.e., to theology) – and the revisionists drew close to them and endeavoured to make religion a ’private affair’ and not in relation to the modern state, but in relation to the party of the advanced class. (Lenin: Marxism and Revisionism, April 1908.)

(b) Imperialism: Lenin described it thus:

1. The concentration of production and capital developed to such a stage that it creates monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life.
2. The merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of “finance capital” of a financial oligarchy.
3. The export of capital, which has become extremely important, as distinguished from the export of commodities.
4. The formation of international capitalist monopolies which share the world among themselves.
5. The territorial division of the whole world among the greatest capitalist powers is completed.

Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of development in which the domination of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the partition of all the territories of the globe among the great capitalist powers has been completed.” (Lenin: Imperialism.)

(c) Subjectivism: This means political subjectivism, substitution of political wishes for facts, it means sheer blind enthusiasm. Mao Tsetung said:

When we say we are opposed to a subjective approach to problems, we mean we must oppose ideas which are not based upon or do not correspond to objective facts, because such ideas are fanciful and fallacious and will lead to failure if acted on. But whatever is done has to be done by human beings; protracted war and final victory will not come about without human action. For such action to be effective there must be people who derive ideas, principles or views from the objective facts, and put forward plans, directives, policies, strategies and tactics. Ideas, etc., are subjective, while deeds or actions are the subjective translated into the objective, but both represent the dynamic role peculiar to human beings. We term this kind of dynamic role ’man’s conscious dynamic role,’ and it is a characteristic that distinguishes man from all other beings. All ideas based upon and corresponding to objective facts are correct ideas, and all deeds or actions based upon correct ideas are correct actions. We must give full scope to these ideas and actions, to this dynamic role. The anti-Japanese war is being waged to drive out imperialism and transform the old China into a new China; this can be achieved only when the whole Chinese people are mobilised and full scope is given to their conscious dynamic role in resisting Japan. If we just sit by and take no action, only subjugation awaits us and there will be neither protracted war nor final victory. (On Protracted War, Selected Works, Vol. II, p.151.)

(d) Socialism and Communism: Many people ask what is the difference between socialism and Communism. In ordinary Communist work the terms are commonly used synonymously. But really socialism is the stage immediately after the overthrow of capitalism and it occupies a historical epoch developing to Communism. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx dealt with this matter. Here are some extracts from this book.

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.

But one man is superior to another physically or mentally and so supplies more labour in the same time, or can labour for a longer time; and labour, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labour. It recognises no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognises unequal individual endowment and thus productive capacity as natural privileges. It is therefore a right of inequality in its content, like every right. Right by its very nature can only consist in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are only measurable by an equal standard in so far as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only, e.g., in the present case are regarded only as workers, and nothing more seen in them, everything else being ignored. Further, one worker is married, another not; one has more children than another and so on and so forth. Thus with an equal output, and hence an equal share in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.

But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and the cultural development thereby determined.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour, from a mere means of life, has itself become the prime necessity of life; after the productive forces have also increased with the all round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be fully left behind and society inscribe on its banners: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” On this matter Lenin said: “If we were to ask ourselves in what way communism differs from socialism, we would have to reply that socialism is the society which grows directly out of capitalism, that it is the first form of the new society. Communism, on the other hand, is a higher form of society, which can develop only when socialism has taken firm hold. Socialism implies the performance of work without the aid of capitalists, it implies social labour accompanied by the strictest accounting, control and supervision on the part of the organised vanguard, the most advanced section of the toilers. Moreover, it implies that standards of labour and the amount of compensation for labour must be determined. They must be determined because capitalist society has left us such relics and habits as unco-ordinated labour, lack of confidence in social economy, the old habits of the small producer, which prevail in all peasant countries. All these run counter to a real communist economy. Communism, on the other hand, is the name we apply to a system under which people become accustomed to the performance of public duties without any specific machinery of compulsion, when unpaid work for the common good becomes the general phenomenon.

(e) Chartism – Chartist influences operated in Australia in the 19th century. The following is taken from Engels “Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844:

Chartism has proceeded from the Democratic party which arose between 1780 and 1790 with and in the proletariat, gained strength during the French Revolution, and came forth after the peace as the Radical party. It had its headquarters then in Birmingham and Manchester, and later in London; extorted the Reform Bill from the Oligarchs of the old Parliament by a union with the Liberal bourgeoisie, and has steadily consolidated itself, since then, as a more and more pronounced working-men’s party in opposition to the bourgeoisie. In 1835 a committee of the General Working-men’s Association of London, with William Lovett at its head, drew up the People’s Charter, whose six points are as follows; (1) Universal suffrage for every man who is of age, sane and unconvicted of crime; (2) Annual Parliaments; (3) Payments of members of Parliament, to enable poor men to stand for election; (4) Voting by ballot to prevent bribery and intimidation by the bourgeoisie; (5) Equal electoral districts to secure equal representation; and (6) Abolition of the even now merely nominal property qualification of 300 pounds in land for candidates in order to make every voter eligible.