The Bolshevik Union has written much about In Struggle’s economism. In Struggle has had little to say about this except to respond with the traditional economist garbage when confronted with Leninism. For In Struggle, if we base ourselves on the Leninist understanding that Marxism-Leninism is introduced to the working class from outside, then we are against building links with the masses or against intervening in immediate struggles. For In Struggle, if at the same time we emphasize revolutionary theory as the necessary condition for a revolutionary movement, we are for building the party “between four walls” “far away from the class struggle” (i.e. strikes), we are a group of “library rats” who “spend their time studying Lenin’s 45 volumes.” And if we are against reformism and economist confusion over the difference between the struggle for reforms and revolutionary struggle, then we have “utter contempt for the masses” and we “spit on the masses’ movement of resistance.”
Lenin said of the young Russian communist movement: “... Our movement is indeed in its infancy, and in order that it may grow up more quickly, it must become infected with INTOLERANCE against those who retard its growth by their subservience to spontaneity.” (What Is To Be Done, Peking, p. 51)
In other words, the Bolshevik Union is entirely correct in showing a profound disgust and impatience with the economists who parade as god’s gift to the proletariat because their only talent is sniffing out the spontaneous struggles of the masses and tailing after them. They try to pretend that they are just trying to give the proletariat a helping hand but all the while they are saying: – look how well we tail you, look how we support you. Because we are so good at tailing and because we are so articulate and good at printing leaflets and organizational things, isn’t it obvious we should be your leaders?
Now, according to Gagnonism, and according to economism in general, the proletariat is abysmally stupid. It is supposed to answer yes to this question! According to Gagnonism, proletarians are simple folk. They have strong bodies and are good at physical labour but they are not too bright. The sight of a pack of new-style “worker priests” lapping at their heels is supposed to win them over to something labelled by Gagnonism as “revolution.”
What is this “revolution”?
First of all, how do pseudo-socialist currents arise in society? Engels observed of an early group of opportunists:
The Fabians here in London are a band of careerists who have understanding enough to realise the inevitability of the social revolution, but who could not possibly entrust this gigantic task to the raw proletariat alone, and are therefore kind enough to set themselves at the head. Fear of the revolution is their fundamental principle. (“Engels to F. A. Sorge in Hoboken”, London, Jan. 18, 1893, in Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow 1965, p. 453)
Why is their “fear of the revolution ... their fundamental principle” and yet in some cases (e.g., Gagnonism) they talk of “revolution” and parade as “revolutionaries”?
Let us remember that Gagnonism has its roots in terrorism. (Gagnon was one of the main “theorists” and leaders of the FLQ). Thus Gagnonism came ready-made with a revolutionary vocabulary. But terrorism (which seems to be “super”revolutionary) and economism (which “forgets” the revolution) have a common root: the worship of spontaneity.
What is there in common between economism and terrorism? (title of a section) . . . Speaking generally, however, there is not an accidental, but a necessary, inherent connection between the two, of which we shall have need to speak later, and which must be mentioned here in connection with the question of educating for revolutionary activity. The Economists and the present-day terrorists have one common root, namely, subservience to spontaneity ... At first sight, our assertion may appear paradoxical, so great is the difference between those who stress the “drab everyday struggle” and those who call for the most self-sacrificing struggle of individuals. But this is no paradox. The Economists and the terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity;. .. Calls for terror and calls to lend the economic struggle itself a political character are merely two different forms of evading the most pressing duty now resting upon Russian revolutionaries, namely, the organization of comprehensive political agitation.... Both the terrorists and the Economists underestimate the revolutionary activity of the masses... whereas the one group goes out in search of artificial “excitants”, the other talks about “concrete demands”. But both fail to devote sufficient attention to the development of their own activity in political agitation and in the organisation of political exposures. And no other work can serve as a substitute for this task either at the present time or at any other. (“WhatIs To Be Done?”, LCW 5:417-21)
This refusal to understand the revolutionary capacities of the masses is real contempt for the masses. What all spontaneists, terrorists and economists do not understand is that the revolution is made through consciousness – that in the revolution the proletariat organises itself as a class with its party and that it is this that allows it to make revolution. For spontaneists, history works differently. It is a great machine where things happen spontaneously, automatically, and the masses are blind. And when spontaneists are not merely backward (as in the case of some ex-terrorists who can learn the real revolutionary path), when they are opportunists who pass over Marxism-Leninism for example to go straight from terrorism to economism, it becomes clear that they are not interested in revolution itself but that, as good careerists, they are only interested in coming out on top in the social upheavals that they are able to perceive as inevitable. Thus they sniff out “where the action is”, try to find the agents of this change that will come in society, and seek leadership over this force. They will use bombs if this seems to be the most impressive thing, or they will become the biggest strikers with the biggest pickets if that seems on the order of the day. Inevitably, even if at first their intentions are “only” petty-bourgeois careerism, they must become agents of the bourgeoisie whose “fear of the revolution is their fundamental principle”, because their ends can only be accomplished by obstructing the process of the development of real proletarian leadership.
Spontaneism stands diametrically opposed to Marxism-Leninism, to scientific socialism. Its contempt for theory is part and parcel of its contempt for the masses. Unable to understand history and unable to understand how the proletariat becomes conscious in preparing and making revolution, the spontaneists see only the struggle the proletariat is presently engaged in (the struggle for reforms) as real and important. They idealize this struggle for reforms and thus put forward reformism.
So we see here in general how economism, in this case Gagnonism, spits on the masses. In its “definitive demarcation” against the Bolshevik Union, In Struggle writes that the Bolshevik Union “. . . proved once again its utter contempt for the masses.” One of the reasons given is that we are supposedly “calling the workers’ fight against the wage controls reformist.” (no. 89, p. 13)
Let us be clear about what the Bolshevik Union’s position is on the struggle against the wage controls, and what the relationship is between the struggle for reforms and the struggle for revolution.
First of all, the Bolshevik Union firmly supports all just struggles for reforms and we support the struggles of workers against the Trudeau law. Furthermore, we intervene in these struggles to the limit of our capacity to put forward a communist point of view (as we did last October 14 and are doing on this October 14). We have never called the struggle of workers against the Trudeau law “reformist” and we have never confused the just defensive struggles of the proletariat with reformism. What we have said is that this struggle is a struggle for a reform. What we have refused to do is to make support for these struggles for reforms our principal activity because this is exactly what reformism is. Instead, what we have done is to explain that if workers do not go beyond the defensive struggle for reforms to take up the offensive struggle for revolution they will fall into or remain under the leadership of reformism.
In the past we have said, with Lenin, that we want to divert the struggle for reforms to the struggle for revolution. But contrary to In Struggle’s interpretation of this, this was never meant by us, or Lenin, to mean that the proletariat should stop struggling for reforms and, somehow, only struggle for revolution. What does it mean to divert the struggle for reforms into the struggle for revolution? This is done by providing a revolutionary framework for reforms, i.e., by building a communist leadership (the party) with a revolutionary strategy that can assure revolutionary tactics in all struggles.
And the main “diverting” that takes place is the education of the proletariat away from reformism, the view that the struggle for reforms is already the necessary struggle or the struggle that leads to a fundamental transformation of society (revolution), that it is already class struggle, that the main task is to continue in the same path rather than to bring about something that is different, also, something revolutionary.
Gagnonism is there to say just the opposite, to make the defensive struggles and the support of communists for them the thing that is key. And if in rallying the advanced workers the Bolshevik Union stresses in its interventions in the masses that the development of theory and the strategy for revolution are principal at this time as a necessary condition for being able at a later time, in the second stage of building the party, to provide consistent communist leadership in everyday struggles in a revolutionary way, Gagnonism is there to call this “spitting on the masses’ movement of resistance.”
Gagnonism also takes our emphasis on the rallying of advanced workers and our refusal to lower our propaganda and agitation to the lowest common denominator as a form of spitting on the masses.
This is a direct attack on Marxism-Leninism. It should be clear that at a time when the principal task is the building of the party and inseparable from this the rallying of the vanguard, to “care” mainly about the vanguard (the advanced workers) is the best way to “care” about the revolution and the masses. This always and everywhere will be the attack of economism against Leninism. Their whole approach is “gazing with awe upon the posteriors of the proletariat” and they think that the proletariat will in turn admire their posteriors and turn away from those who try to develop a stratum of working class communist leaders.
It is only economists, opportunists, who consider a revolutionary view of reforms and of how to build a revolutionary and not a reformist party, the same thing as “spitting” on the masses. This is because reforms, and not revolution, is their whole business. This is because they despise revolution. When communists put forward revolution not just as a word but with a revolutionary analysis that sheds a proper light on reforms and thus struggle against opportunism, these opportunists know instantly that it is they we are spitting on. And since they identify their interests with the masses, having “dedicated” their lives to tailing and controling them, they conclude we must be spitting on the masses too!
As communists, the Bolshevik Union knows just who to spit on. There is a long history in the international communist movement that teaches us how to recognize opportunists. And it is our sworn duty to teach these lessons to the proletariat. Gagnonism concerns itself with the Bolshevik Union’s so-called “contempt for the masses” but someday it will have to confront the contempt of the masses.
But let us go more deeply into this question of who spits on the masses, and the question of the immediate struggle of the proletariat. In doing so we will find that In Struggle and one other large economist group of so-called “Marxist-Leninists”, the League, spit on the masses not only in terms of its revolutionary long-term interests, but also in terms of its short-term interests in reforms. Because of their hegemony seeking over the working class movement they inevitably become traitors even to the immediate interests of the masses.
Recently we have seen the League do the bosses’ work by trying to convince the workers at Robin Hood that their loss of jobs, mutilated bodies and non-existant monetary gain was a great victory for the working class (see The Forge no. 18, p. 16). Even most bourgeois newspapers were more open about Robin Hood’s treachery in closing down half its operation, than was The Forge. Rather than taking this strike as a classic example of why a merely defensive struggle of the proletariat is a losing battle in the long run, rather than explaining on this concrete basis why a party and the revolution are becoming desperate necessities, the League calls for more of the same to tail behind. And the combination of more “great victories” like this, with the League mouthing “class struggle” once in a while, will change the world! The League needs such “great victories” in order to gain publicity for itself and parade as the best defenders of the immediate interests of the proletariat. And it ends up doing its best to hide the fact that the immediate interests of the proletariat are not to get shot, not to get laid off, and not to have wages rolled back – for nothing.
There is only one thing that can insure that the experience of this strike was for something – and that is a communist education that makes such strikes part of the proletarian learning experience (in the revolution), part of their class memory. And as Lenin pointed out in What Is To Be Done?, this can only be done with a communist party and in the final analysis only an authentic communist party with a strategy for revolution can insure that such defeats are turned into victories by putting them in the context of the overall struggle for victory in the revolution.
In Struggle’s treason to the immediate interests of the proletariat are less spectacular but just as profound. Here we have the case of the ADDS, an organization of welfare recipients that recently had a “day of study” where the expulsion of the League was talked about. In the past, one local dominated by League members has been expelled, and the League is well-known for its anti-democratic stands and hegemony-seeking.
The Bolshevik Union distributed a leaflet, and one of the points that we made was that it was not only the right but also the duty of a democratic organization to expel anti-democratic forces. In this leaflet we were truly acting as the best defenders of both the short term and the long term interests of the proletariat, i.e., long term because we did propaganda explaining the need for a party and revolution for welfare recipients and short term because we explained the need for welfare recipients to protect and strengthen their organization which permits them to defend their immediate interests.
But In Struggle distributed a leaflet, too. In this leaflet In Struggle calls on ADDS not to expel the League because this would be the same thing as “using the methods of the League.” That is to say, it would be anti-democratic for a democratic organization to expel those who want to wreck it using anti-democratic means! Welfare recipients have often made the point, as In Struggle well knows, that they are not anti-communists. They are against the League because it concretely threatens the existence of ADDS. But this means nothing to In Struggle. In Struggle will score points against the League about destroying SOS Daycare, but it will not take a stand to prevent this from happening to ADDS. The reason is that In Struggle does not really care about the immediate interests of the masses. Instead, in its leaflet In Struggle takes up the League’s slanders against welfare recipients and implies that the masses of welfare recipients want to expel the League because the League is communist! But more: In Struggle goes further in its slander and actually says that “the expulsion of the League would lead to playing the same game as the Union bosses!”
To top off this incredible contemptible nonsense, In Struggle continues by saying that to expel the League would be “using the same methods as the bourgeoisie.” The logic of In Struggle is irrefutable: the League, the bourgeoisie and the Union bosses are all allowed to use certain methods to attack the proletariat, but the proletariat is not supposed to use these methods against them! No, don’t expel anti-democratic elements from democratic organizations! No, don’t expel traitorous union bosses from your unions! And, finally, the only conclusion, don’t expel the bourgeoisie from the running of society! This would be to use their methods! We will take this occasion to point out that there is one very find method that the proletariat has learned from the bourgeoisie – that is the dictatorship of one class over another. The proletariat fully intends to use this method against the bourgeoisie.
Why does In Struggle rush to the defence of the League, spitting on the needs of welfare recipients to build a strong organization free from the subversion of what In Struggle admits are anti-democratic elements (but nonetheless “communists”). It is because, being opportunist hegemony-seekers, In Struggle has not the slightest interest in the immediate interests of the particular part of the working class that finds itself in ADDS. Opportunism naturally orients itself towards the labour aristocracy, and welfare recipients are far away from this. This indifference converges with two other things: (l)In Struggle’s famous “desire for unity” with the League takes precedence over the needs of welfare recipients, and demanding the expulsion of the League might have triggered a “clan war” between these two opportunists sects. (2) In Struggle needs to defend the “right” of phony communists to seek hegemony freely over the workers’ struggles and organizations.
There is one further aspect to In Struggle’s contempt for the masses of ADDS and its betrayal of even the immediate interests of the proletariat. This is its insistence that the struggle against the Trudeau law as the “knot” of all struggles (for reforms, for revolution, as you like) at this time. Its indifference to the struggles of welfare recipients is a reflection of this position, that singles out one reform (much the way real communists must single out the revolution) as being “more important” than other reforms. At one point the League proposed in ADDS that ADDS “recognize the leadership of the proletariat.” What the League mant by this was that ADDS should recognize support for the strikes of employed workers as being more important than the struggles of unemployed workers. In Struggle has basically the same position when in its leaflet it explains that In Struggle “distinguishes itself by leading the struggle against Bill C-73.” It calls on welfare recipients to join in this struggle on October 14 and it says that in this “unified” struggle “ADDS will obtain its demands from the bourgeois state”!
The Bolshevik Union is in complete agreement with the support of ADDS for workers struggling against the Trudeau law. But we would never make this principal, and what is more, doing propaganda and agitation for the reverse kind of support is inseparable from this. But In Struggle does not understand that Communists do not see the struggle for reforms as the path of revolution, and do not make up a strategy on this basis, singling out one reform as the main content of communist revolutionary activity. Instead, communists take each and every manifestation of struggle as an opportunity to educate the proletariat in the workings of the bourgeoisie and society as a whole. They know that it is the consciousness of the proletariat, its constitution into a class for itself, that is the real threat to the bourgeoisie, not its spontaneous reaction in the struggle for reforms.
In Struggle’s whole strategy and tactics is based on the spontaneous reaction against the Trudeau law. Rather than communist propaganda and agitation, In Struggle’s whole thrust in the working class is based on its “Economist Manifesto” and its spectacularly unsuccessful “struggle commitees” that workers instinctively reject as useless even for their immediate struggles .In Struggle’s avowed aim is to build a “party” in the midst of these struggles, on the “terrain” of this struggle. That is to say, its avowed aim is the creation of one vast CSLO from Halifax to Vancouver!
But In Struggle, like the League, is only seeking hegemony over the working class. What is important is support for its projects, publicity, even if it means playing off one section of the proletariat against another, in order to appear to be the “best defenders” of the proletariat.
It is In Struggle and the League, and not the Bolshevik Union, that are really those who have “utter contempt for the masses”, who “spit on the masses struggles of resistance.” And it is Gagnonism that deserves to be spit on and will be spit on by the masses.
We are in the period of the rallying of the vanguard, the cream of the most progressive and only truly revolutionary class in our society. But, to carry the analogy further, there is something else that rises to the top in society, besides the cream, as a revolutionary movement develops. This something else is the scum, which represents the labour aristocracy and the class interests of the petty-bourgeoisie. Gagnonism is a good example of this scum. Just as workers must learn to recognize the cream, their leadership, the vanguard of the proletariat, they must learn to recognize the scum, the careerists, the false leaders, the opportunists.