First Published: The Forge, Vol. 1, No. 24, December 16, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Right opportunism constitutes the principal danger, the principal obstacle to the development of communist work among the masses at the present time. The League is not invulnerable to right opportunism. That’s why at its First Congress a resolution was unanimously adopted to wage a determined fight against this danger. But right opportunism is not always easy to identify – it takes various forms. Very often it takes the form of vulgar economism while at other times it takes a more disguised form. This article will deal with one of these hidden forms which right opportunism takes in the Marxist-Leninist movement – intellectualism.
Our Canadian Marxist-Leninist movement is still young and its ties with the working class are not strong. It is having trouble accomplishing its principal task – to create the party – and to rally the most advanced men and women workers who must lead this fight to build the party.
Largely because the majority of its members are petty-bourgeois there are many petty-bourgeois characteristics to be found within the Marxist-Leninist movement. Intellectualism is one of these characteristics.
Intellectualism as defined by the Party of Labour of Albania is:
A totality of concepts and practices of the oppressor and exploiting classes about work, which overrate mental work and the intellegentsia and underrate work directly in production and the people engaged in such work so that the minority will preserve its rule and privileges over the majority. (Albania Today, No. 5(24) 1975. 1 September-October 1975)
Intellectualism separates theory from practice, underestimates the importance of practice and leads to abstract debates which lack a precise political objective. Intellectualism is an ideological error which puts a fundamental principle of Marxism-Leninism into question – the unity of theory and practice.
As long as it wants to maintain its power the bourgeoisie needs intellectuals to develop and spread its concepts and practices. They work to convince the working masses that the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia which serves it have the right and duty to lead society and the right to exploit the working masses.
How many times have we heard people say that bosses have the right to be rich, the right to be owners and that it is natural since they are smarter than workers, since they worked harder, since they have more education that management should be their concern... etc.
In order to maintain its privileged position in capitalist society the bourgeoisie uses these ideas to justify the fact that the working masses should be content to take orders, to produce and to submit to the “leaders” of society. “Those who think, manage and those who produce, follow” – this has been the essence of ruling class ideology since class society first began.
Those who suffer from this sickness of intellectualism aren’t in touch with reality but rather with the abstractions of reality – its symbols. That’s why people who are affected by intellectualism can’t make a concrete analysis of a concrete situation – they are completely idealistic in their analyses.
Intellectualism puts forward the idea that the individual is “above” classes and untouched by class interests. It asserts thai all social acts do not correspond to class interests but are determined by personal judgement and knowledge, by “genius”. People who suffer from this disease think they are the “center of the universe”, the supreme force of order.
The source of intellectualist concepts lies in a disdain for the working class and for revolutionary practice.
This contempt for the working class is not always presented in a clear and open fashion. It is often disguised by lengthy sentences which in the final analysis refuse to recognize the leadership role of the working class.
Let’s look at a few examples. Within the Marxist-Leninist movement many comrades with petty-bourgeois intellectual backgrounds have trouble working out concretely how to rally workers to a communist organization. For those who suffer from intellectualism and its idealistic concepts, Marxism-Leninism is not a concrete guide to action and something which affects the masses in their day-to-day life, but merely a theory.
Petty-bourgeois intellectuals build such a gap between the workers’ movement and socialism that they jump to the conclusion that it will take years before workers are capable of fighting for the socialist revolution in a conscious way. As far as they are concerned workers are not as “educated” as they are.
Petty-bourgeois intellectuals fundamentally believe that they are more capable of making the revolution than the working class. These intellectuals think they are the conductors of the revolution and the working class the followers.
These intellectual concepts take the form of right opportunist practice. Those who suffer from intellectualism don’t do a lot of political agitation among the masses because they think that economic agitation is more accessible to the masses, and that it’s necessary to take care of the daily needs of the masses.
What they don’t understand is that the only way to really take care of the masses is to show them the way out of the capitalist yoke. This means to teach them the science of Marxism-Leninism, to guide the struggle for socialism.
Certain comrades with petty-bourgeois intellectual backgrounds have often justified this lack of work among the masses with theories which try to prove that the masses are “backward”, don’t understand anything, and are against communism or at least aren’t ready for it yet.
Their work aimed at the working class is reduced to propaganda and to nothing but meetings to study theory. For them, it is all a question of a few magic formulas, with concrete action having no place in communist education: they have a real disdain for all involvement in practical struggles.
Intellectualism is an ideological sickness which finds its source in intense subjectivism. A few of our comrades who suffered from this sickness developed a very negative attitude towards their work among the working class.
They started to see nothing but the negative side of communist organizational work and started to spread their pessimism to their fellow comrades. Intellectualists start to put into question the correctness of the political line which they think they’ve assimilated well.
They’ve read the line several times, studied it attentively and often consulted it but have never been able to put it into practice, instead of questioning their own weaknesses, intellectuals show their individualism by putting forward that if they can’t apply the line then no one can. They arrive at the conclusion that the line itself is incorrect.
The intellectualist despises and fears practical duties, the difficult day-to-day responsibilities of an activist. He lacks dedication. He seeks to build himself a comfortable nest in the organization and to reduce political work to a peaceful nine-to-five job and a few calm meetings. And he even ends up rejecting that!
Intellectualists are driven by their disdain for the working class to consider their duties and responsibilities in a communist organization as their business and no one else’s. They become presumptuous, arrogant and arouse servility among the other comrades and among the masses. Such attitudes lead directly to bureaucracy. They lead directly to the creation of a new class of bosses – to revisionism.
Several things have to be done in order to win the struggle against intellectualism.
First of all the study of Marxism-Leninism must be stepped up. But this study should not be seen as a futile intellectual exercise. The study of the classics must be done correctly. Theory must be studied in order to solve practical problems, to draw up correct work plans, in fact to plan strategies and tactics. Marxist-Leninist theory must serve as a guide for socialist revolution.
Secondly. we must assure that the ranks of the Marxist-Leninist movement are reinforced by rallying and promoting worker comrades. Our task is the building of a proletarian party and in the words of comrade Enver Hoxha:
We must not have our minds filled with the idea that the people who come to leadership must be able to speak like orators, write like authors, and also have the knowledge of the most learned professors. Life proves that when the worker takes the hammer in hand becomes a carpenter. And likewise, by bringing him to leadership, he will learn how to lead well and become a leader. The “worry” of some people that by bringing workers into the leadership, it may be weakened and the work harmed, stems from a mentality which is not of the working class, but from intellectualist arrogance which underrates the great managerial, organizational, and leading capacities of the working class. (Albania Today, p. 20)
Thirdly, intellectuals must transform themselves into servants of the people. They must be aware of their weaknesses and struggle resolutely against them. The masses must be their teacher. As Mao Tsetung says:
But the intellectuals often tend to be subjective and individualistic, impractical in their thinking and irresolute in action until they have thrown themselves heart and soul into mass revolutionary struggles, or made up their minds to serve the interests of the masses and become one with them. Hence although the mass of revolutionary intellectuals in China can play a vanguard role or serve as a link with the masses, not all of them will remain revolutionaries to the end. Some will drop out of the revolutionary ranks at critical moments and become passive, while a few may even become enemies of the revolution. The intellectuals can overcome their shortcomings only in mass struggles over a long period. (Selected Works of Mao Tsetung. Volume II. p. 322)
Intellectualism is nothing but a masked form of right opportunism. We must use Marxism-Leninism as an indispensable tool in our struggle against all forms, both masked and open, of right opportunism within the Marxist-Leninist and the workers’ movements. Because it is only by struggling against right opportunism in a consistent way that the victory ef the Canadian proletarian revolution will be assured.