Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

How the Revolutionary Union Renders Lenin More Profound While Aiding the CPUSA


First Published: Proletariat, the theoretical journal of the Communist League, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Until now we had thought together with Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung that the dictatorship of the proletariat was the strategy for proletarian revolution. “Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat...This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested.”[1] And, “Consequently all work must he directed towards the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”[2]

But now the conciliators of revisionism have enlightened us that the real “Marxist” strategy for the United States of North America should be their “United Front Against Imperialism.” Of course, these conciliators go on to say that their “new” strategy is really the strategy to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat after all, just as the Soviet social-imperialists tell us that “the state of the whole people is continuing the cause of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Let us examine this nonsense. First of all, why do the revisionists and the conciliators both see the need to “improve” on Lenin by moving away from the vital “touchstone of Marxism?” Secondly, if the “united front against imperialism” is the dictatorship of the proletariat, what is the need for this new formulation? Until now the international communist movement (Lenin, Stalin, the Comintern, etc) has seen no such need.

In fact, however, there are real political reasons behind this incorrect formulation. We believe they are:

– To obscure the class basis for the social struggle and to put political consciousness primary and the class struggle secondary.
– To disperse would-be “communists” among the “people” rather than to concentrate them in the proletariat.
– To push the old infantile petty bourgeois ideology of the “new left” under the cover of “Marxism-Leninism-Mao, Tsetung Thought.”
– To argue that a stage of taking the spontaneous mass movement is necessary before a communist party can be built.

First, however, the Revolutionary Union (RU) directly attacks the Leninist concept of the tactics of the United Front. ”To think of the United Front as merely a tactic reduces it to a gimmick through which the proletariat suckers in other classes and strata.” (Red Papers II, p 9) If the conciliators got their line on the “Third World” indirectly from the CIA, their line on the United Front comes directly out of J. Edgar Hoover.[3] The RU continues, “The strategy of the United Front provides the concrete basis for determining friends from enemies. Presently, all those who unite on the basis of a minimum program – short of the overthrow of the imperialist ruling class – in opposition to monopoly imperialism – are friends of the proletariat. All those who oppose the program, side with the imperialists and are enemies of the proletariat.” (ibid, p 11)

Compare this idealist formulation with Lenin’s in Two Tactics, Stalin’s chapter on strategy and tactics in Foundations of Leninism, Mao’s Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society, etc. According to the conciliators, allies are determined and distinguished from enemies not on the basis of economic classes, as with the great teachers, but solely on the basis of political consciousness. There are millions of proletarians who are misled by the bourgeois ideologies of male supremacy, white chauvinism and anti-communism, but does this make them “enemies of the proletariat?” They are, according to the RU’s logic, just as the “progressive” bourgeois who support its united front are “friends of the proletariat.” As Stalin says, “This theory stitched together by idealistic threads refutes itself.”[4]

Or again, “Today students, fundamentally allies of the proletariat, are following the lead of the Black people’s movement against imperialism ahead of the proletariat as a whole. The vanguard role of today is being exercised by the Black proletariat. It must be recognized that the ’United Front Against Imperialism,’ weak as it is, is a fact of today and must be strengthened and extended.” (ibid, p 8) Here allies of the proletariat, i.e., students, are together with black people, regardless of class, ahead of the proletariat as a whole. This merely proves that “paper will put up with anything that is written on it.”[5]

The real reason behind this type of syndicalism and idealism was indicated in “Syndicalism Disarms the Proletariat” (People’s Tribune, Vol. 3, no. 2, p. 2): “Whites are allowed to join the groupings who pretend to study ’Marxism’ while the revolutionary blacks are sent to this or that grouping whose struggles guarantee the existence of the white ’left.’” As is well known, the RU for a long time followed the line of the Ku Klux Klan of excluding Negroes from membership. Its white chauvinism today is not quite so blatant but its syndicalist formulations carry on the work. For example, “We see real dangers in this position, especially when put forward by whites, standing outside the struggle of Black people.” (Ibid., p 12) ”It is the special duty of white communists and revolutionaries to arouse white working people to their true class interests, to an understanding of the vanguard role of black and brown people in the class struggle....” (Ibid, p 13). And finally their concept of “a mass workers’ movement with Third World leadership.” [6] The counterrevolutionary white chauvinism of this concept has already been pointed out.[7]

But this is not all. For if political ideas are primary and the class struggle is secondary then it follows that it is correct to put the question of uniting “progressive” elements from all classes (i.e., all the various social struggles) above the question of organizing the class struggle of the proletariat into a class conscious revolutionary force able to establish its dictatorship over society as a whole. Such is the basis of all the theoretical projections of our ’new left’ syndicalists. Marxism on the other hand sees the class struggle as primary and political ideas as secondary and derivative. It therefore puts forward the idea of building a political party to be the vanguard detachment of the advanced class. “We rely on the advanced class – the working class. If it takes the next five years to organize and educate that class, then we will take five years; if it takes the next fifty years then we will remain Marxist-Leninists and struggle for the next fifty years. There is only one way, one path – the path of Lenin. We have had enough experience in the past fifty years to know that petty bourgeois ’short-cuts’ only add more years and more suffering to the struggle.”[8] The proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary class. This does not mean that a class-conscious proletariat cannot lead all the toiling masses in overthrowing capitalism; on the contrary it means that in order to do so it must first become a class-conscious proletariat. This is where communists come into the picture. The proletariat needs its advanced detachment, its general staff, to firmly implant socialism in the working class movement. However, our various “friends” in the left who fear the proletariat like the plague delight in quoting What is to Be Done? out of context to the effect that communists should go among all classes of the population, and thus argue that we should disperse our forces. But unlike our “new left” theoreticians Lenin does not separate questions of strategy from concrete historical conditions. “Have we sufficient forces to be able to direct our propaganda and agitation among all classes of the population? Of course we have. Our Economists frequently are inclined to deny this. They lose sight of the gigantic progress our movement has made from approximately 1894 to 1901. Like real “khvostists” (tailists) they frequently live in the distant past, in the period of the beginning of the movement. At that time, indeed, we had astonishingly few forces, and it was perfectly natural and legitimate then to go exclusively among the workers and severely condemn any deviation from this. The whole task then was to consolidate our position in the working class.”[9] This is spelled out even more fully in the “Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats” (1898).[10] Our conciliators, on the other hand, being more concerned with the “left” than about the working class, have from the beginning dispersed their forces, sending their members to the campuses, etc. “It will be some time before very many people from student backgrounds go into working class communities. That is to be expected – we are more concerned with the orientation of the Left and what it can do as now constituted.”[11] (Emphasis ours)

But such dissipation of the energies of would-be communists and leaders of the working class is only one side of the picture. The other and more serious side is its introducing all of the petty bourgeois infantile foolishness of the “new left” into the working class. Trying to hitch its “united front against imperialism” onto the “revolutionary youth movement” of the old Students for a Democratic Society, Red Papers II states, “it will be the advanced industrial workers who will be able to grasp the revolutionary ideology that is developing in the student movement.” (!!!) (p. 5) And again, “Suffice it to say that we dissociate ourselves from any view that denies that the student movement is a component part of the revolutionary struggle of the people, that denies that it will spark other movements, that denies it is correct to continue work in the universities as well as expanding the movement to working class schools, state and community colleges and high schools; or that it is incapable of developing a revolutionary sector guided by proletarian ideology. On the contrary, it is precisely within the student movement, and more fully within the Black liberation movement that embryonic revolutionary ideology is being forged as witnessed by this convention.” (That is, the 1969 convention where SDS fell apart) “The extension of that movement to the proletariat is both necessary and inevitable.” (Red Papers II, p. 46)

The extension of THAT movement to the working class is the last thing the class needs. It already has enough confusion and vacillation within its ranks, but the “revolutionary union” is prepared to see it gets a whole lot more.

Meanwhile (speaking of confusion), we see that the RU’s united front against imperialism has been working overtime, like an overworked mule. So far it has equated itself to the spontaneous movements of the Negro people and the students and to the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as to a minimum program “short of the overthrow of the imperialist ruling class – in opposition to monopoly (?) imperialism!” As Lenin said, “When we speak of fighting opportunism, we must never forget the feature characteristic of the whole of present-day opportunism in every sphere, namely, its indefiniteness, diffuseness, elusiveness. An opportunist by his very nature always evades formulating an issue definitely and decisively, he seeks a middle course, he wriggles like a snake between two mutually exclusive points of view, trying to ’agree’ with both and to reduce his differences of opinion to petty amendments, doubts, righteous and innocent suggestions, and so on and so forth.”[12] The RU’s united front is truly a wriggling snake. It freely slithers back and forth between overthrowing the imperialists and not overthrowing them – between the dictatorship of the proletariat and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

Marxism tells us that in any process there must he a key link. So being “Marxists,” our conciliators, despite all their contradictory and confusing statements about their “strategy for proletarian revolution,” make an attempt to tell us what their key link is. “We certainly have a long way to go. The present united front is fragile, the proletariat is not united and cannot lead it, and it has not developed its representative communist party. We must develop the united front, foster working class unity and leadership in struggle and build a communist party based on Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought. And we must set about all three of these tasks simultaneously.” (NOTE: We have neither the time nor the space to deal with all of the anti-Marxist concepts listed above. We will merely note that if the reader is wondering how the key link will emerge out of these three “simultaneous” “musts,” he should have patience and read on.) “How to begin? We believe that our present best course is to link together the present main spearheads of anti-imperialist struggle and to develop the fighters in each spearhead into fighters for all. These five spearheads of struggle are:

– 1. The national liberation of Black and Mexican-American peoples and support for the democratic demands of all oppressed minorities.
– 2. Against imperialist aggression, support for colonial liberation.
– 3. Against fascism, the open terrorist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
– 4. Against the oppression and exploitation of women under imperialism.
– 5. Unite the proletariat to resist the attacks on living standards. “We will discuss each of these points separately later in the paper. We believe that they represent the present basis for the united front strategy.” (ibid, p. 8) (Emphasis ours)

Now this is at least frank – a frank admission that the united front against imperialism was just a ruse (or “gimmick?”) to cover up the RU’s various revisionist projections, the key link being the putting of the tailing the spontaneous movement above the questions of winning over the proletarian vanguard to the side of communism and party building.

But let us examine the above quote from the conciliators more thoroughly, as it gets to the essence of almost all of their anti-Leninist conceptions. None of these five points (“spearheads”) even so much as hints at Socialism. Nowhere is the working class even mentioned except in the formulation about uniting the proletariat to lead its own economic struggles (“spearhead” five), a dreary repetition of MARTYNOV. Nowhere does the working class come out as the political leader of all the toiling and suffering humanity whose historical mission it is to place capitalism on the dung heap and replace it with the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism. Instead socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat and communism are all placed on the dung heap and we are left with a stinking bourgeois reformist program as a “strategy for proletarian revolution.” The proletariat is left to carry out the economic struggle and the petty bourgeois intellectual giants of the RU are left to theorize about the dictatorship of the proletariat as if it were some kind of tea party. As the RU itself states, “UNITE THE PROLETARIAT TO RESIST THE MONOPOLY CAPITALISTSí ATTACK ON LIVING STANDARDS. We discuss this last not because we think it least important. Rather we regard it as the fulcrum for communists and the proletariat as a whole.” A more striking expression of economism could hardly be found. With a formulation like this our conciliators are clearly trying to outdo Martynov himself!

Thus, when we get right down to it, the present basis of the united front turns out to be nothing more than degrading the ”level of communists to that of the spontaneous movement, to tie all the present “spearheads” of spontaneous social motion together into a mass mess reminiscent of the heyday of the ”new left” – only this time trying to foist it on the working class: as well. The RU’s united front against imperialism – like its father, the CPUSA’s anti-monopoly coalition, both boil down to one word, POPULISM. But this is just the beginning. While constantly downplaying the importance of theory (see, for example, Red Papers I, p. 23, last two paragraphs) the RU is, unfortunately for the working class, very good at putting its own syndicalism and economistic projections into practice. And this is where the RU’s populism really starts to hurt. Take a look at any one of these conciliators’ numerous “united front” newspapers. Politically there is very little difference between these rags and those of the CPUSA. Both consistently avoid mentioning the dictatorship of the proletariat, as if it were some kind of shameful disease. For example, take the editorial of the Bay Area Worker, September 1972, which concludes by saying together with all the other liberals and revisionists, “We think that it is time to hit the Payboard and hit it hard and KEEP ON FIGHTING UNTIL IT IS ABOLISHED.” The tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism are here replaced by abolishing the payboard. Is there a difference between this and the CPUSA’s line on “Nixonomics?” Or let us take the Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee (UWOC). The RU fights to collect signatures to help liberal politicians extend unemployment benefits. Socialism? Hell no, let’s tail the liberals and maybe we can reform capitalism with “the old song about adding a kopeck to a ruble.” As Lenin put it, “’Our party, ’he (Martynov) says, turning his heaviest guns against Iskra, ’would and should have presented concrete demands to the government for legislative and administrative measures against economic exploitation, for the relief of the unemployed, for the relief of the famine-stricken, etc.’ (Rabocheye Dyelo, #10, pp. 42-3) Concrete demands for measures – does this not mean demands for social reforms? And again we ask the impartial reader, do we slander the Rabocheye Dyeloists (may I be forgiven for this clumsy expression!) when we declare them to be concealed Bernsteinists....”[13] Like Lenin we ask our impartial reader, Do we slander the RU when we call them conciliators of revisionism – the left flank guard of the CPUSA?

We give another example:

This past month our (longshore) contract was cut almost in half by the payboard. This was one of the reasons 4 of the 5 labor members walked off the board.

For the ILWU this means several things. As the WORKER goes to the press things are very uncertain. Things may change. Harry has cancelled the new agreement and is talking tough.. We may go back out. He may also un-cancel it in a few days.

The question is where to go now? If there is a strike we must make it a real strike – not just a token shut-down....” (Various economist tactics follow) “...If there isn’t a strike we must consolidate what little we’ve won....” In fact, as the “short-shoreman” admits in another article, they lost. “If we come out united and strong whatever happens we will be in shape for next year.

We must begin preparations now for 1973 – and the fight for the six-hour day.[14]

Does this tailing behind the worst labor lieutenants (like Harry Bridges) of the capitalist class in deceiving the workers and leading them down the reformist path need any further comment? Another example: “We stand solidly with our class – the working class. We face serious attacks on our livelihoods – and we are fighting back against the employing class and their politicians. The working class is the force that can lead all the people to defeat the monopolists.”[15] Vague talk like this might just as easily come from the CPUSA, or the bourgeois populist movement of the late 1800s. But, being that this quote is one of their most “political” and that not even this is good enough for us, the RU is probably wondering what we would expect from real communists: to mention (God forbid!) the dictatorship of the proletariat – in print, yet – and...to take it to the working class as well! But it is much safer – for the RU, the CPUSA and the capitalist class in general – to leave the dictatorship of the proletariat as a plaything in the hands of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals!

Finally, the conclusion of the article “Hospital Workers Move Payboard:”

Within one week we collected over 1,000 signatures of hospital workers, longshoremen, muni drivers and others, and sent them back to Washington. We demanded action.”

One week after that, the Payboard approved our contracts.

If that doesn’t prove the saying ’in unity there is strength’ we don’t know what does![16]

A better slogan than that would have been “LONG LIVE SOCIAL REFORMISM AND TOADYING TO THE BOURGEOISIE.”

We could go on but we believe this is enough. The reader of course is encouraged to check out the further projections of these conciliators for himself. We would only ask him to keep in mind what Stalin says, namely, that “To a reformist, reforms are everything, while revolutionary work is something incidental, something just to talk about, mere eyewash. That is why, with reformist tactics under the conditions of bourgeois rule, reforms are inevitably transformed into an instrument for strengthening that rule, an instrument for disintegrating the revolution.

To a revolutionary, on the contrary, the main thing is revolutionary work and not reforms; to him reforms are a by-product of the revolution.[17]

The conciliators of course justify their “strategy” (that is, watering down the line of Marxism-Leninism to the level of syndicalism, populism and economism and lowering the level of “communists” to the level of the working class) by saying that it enables them to do communist work! This is like Liu Shao-ch’i saying “Turn traitor to the Kuomintang so you can continue your revolutionary activities.” Lenin had his own ideas about communist propaganda, and they are as different as night is from day from those of the conciliators of revisionism:

Either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for humanity has not created a ’third’ ideology, and moreover in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or above-class ideology). Hence to belittle socialist ideology in. any way, to deviate from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology.”[18] And again, “Convinced that the doctrine of scientific socialism and the class struggle is the only revolutionary theory that can today serve as the banner of the revolutionary movement, the Russian Social-Democrats will exert every effort to spread this doctrine, to guard it against false interpretations and to combat every attempt to impose vaguer doctrines on the still young working class movement in Russia.”[19] And finally, in contrast to the conciliators of revisionism whose goal is merely to unite the various spontaneous spearheads of social motion, Lenin calls for ”A desperate struggle against spontaneity...”[20] Once the “united front” is used to bow to spontaneity, and as an excuse to water down communist ideology to the level of the various spontaneous movements (of the left and of the working class), the rest automatically follows.

Ultimately this leads to the “united front against imperialism” being turned into its opposite, a “united front against communism,” as was shown most clearly in the “united front” pushers including the RU forming a united front with each other (all “new left” CPUSA-spawned groups) to attack the Communist League.

Of all the things these conciliators hate about the Communist League, the thing they hate most seems to be that the Communist League takes communism actively to the working class – especially the vanguard elements from among the most exploited and oppressed sections. Perhaps this hits at a sore point in their own “communist” (???) work. Their failures in this regard are no accident, they inevitably follow from, one, downplaying the importance of revolutionary theory, and, two, from putting the question of building a mass movement above the question of building a communist party. For without revolutionary theory to guide the way, political projections and actions will always be led astray by the pull of the spontaneous movement, just as without a communist party to guide it the mass movement will always move spontaneously in those channels most acceptable to the bourgeoisie. The result can only be reformism.

Thus in contrast to the conciliators who say in defense of their own theoretical “shortcomings” (I use this word to be polite), “But we are not discouraged. We know that the program of a real revolutionary organization at any time is less important than conscientious application to serving the people; to practicing criticism and self-criticism in summing up its work; and to developing a thorough struggle against bourgeois self-interest in membership and leadership, and against opportunism in organizational affairs.” (Red Papers I, p. 3) (Emphasis ours)

Lenin says, “That is why it is quite natural that Social-Democracy as the party of the revolutionary proletariat is so solicitous of its programme, so meticulously defines its final aim long before-hand – the aim of complete liberation of the working people – and looks so jealously at any attempt to trim down this final aim; for this same reason Social-Democracy is so dogmatically strict and doctrinairly unbending in separating small, immediate, economic and political aims from the final aim. Whoever is to fight for all, for complete victory, cannot but be on the lookout lest small gains should bind one’s hands, divert one from the path, force one to forget that which is relatively far off and without which all small gains are but the vanity of vanities. On the contrary, this care for programme, this eternally critical attitude to small, gradual improvements cannot be understood by and is foreign to the bourgeois parties, even those that are the most freedom-loving and people-loving.”[21] The RU provides us with an excellent illustration, by negative example, of precisely this point.”

The RU goes on to explain why it is necessary to first build the spontaneous mass movement and how only then is it possible to build a communist party. This seems somewhat akin to changing horses in midstream – from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat – quite a trick....They say, “While the building of a Communist Party at the earliest possible time is key to building a united front, work to begin building the united front should not wait for the formation of a communist party.” First things last. “At present black and brown proletarian organizations that do have real ties with the masses can take the lead in the united front, and to some extent they already are. But in order to forge the maximum unity of the proletariat, the organizations playing a vanguard role must draw around them the largest numbers of proletarian fighters as well as basic allies from other classes and strata and unite with as many middle forces as possible on the basis of the united front program to isolate the monopoly capitalist ruling class. As the strength of the United Front grows, so will the strength of the proletariat as the more backward workers are drawn into motion by the gathering momentum of the movement. And as the workers’ movement gains impetus and more and more workers are brought into active struggle, the building of a vanguard party of the proletariat as a whole will be the order of the day.”[22]

There is so much revisionist nonsense here one hardly knows where to start. According to this foolishness our first task is to unite with, everyone we can on the basis of a vague reformist program, or “to isolate the enemy by going over to his side.” Secondly we draw in as many backward elements as we can because this will somehow strengthen the proletariat. And finally as this spontaneous revisionist process starts to snowball and the snowball gets big enough, then and only then can we build a communist party. Now that really takes the cake. The basic “idea” presented – build the mass movement and then build the party – is like deciding to build a rocket ship only after we get to Mars. History has shown that for ordinary humans this is a little difficult. But for the RU – who knows?

But before we get too far into right field (or into outer space), let us turn to two humans, Lenin and Stalin, on the question of party building.

The proletarian vanguard has been won over ideologically. That is the main thing. Without this not even the first step towards victory can be made.”[23]

The chief thing – though, of course far from everything – the chief thing, has already been achieved: the vanguard of the working class has been won over....All efforts and all attention should now be concentrated on the next step which may seem – and from a certain standpoint actually is – less fundamental, but, on the other hand, is actually closer to a practical accomplishment of the task. That step is the search for forms of the transition or the approach to the proletarian revolution.”[24]


a) to win the vanguard of the proletariat to the side of communism (i.e., build up cadres, create a Communist Party, work out the programme, the principles of tactics.) Propaganda as the chief form of activity.
b) to win the broad masses of the workers and of the toilers generally to the side of the vanguard (to bring the masses up to fighting positions.) Chief form of activity – practical action by the masses as a prelude to decisive battles.[25]

According to Lenin, without a communist party the working class cannot take even a step forward, but the RU wants to help the working class to rise in spontaneous reformist struggle (i.e., to become subordinate to the bourgeoisie) before these conciliators exert themselves to try to build a party. Besides being fascist – (hurling the leaderless and theoryless proletariat into more Wattses, Atticas, Detroits, etc, while “we” pick up the pieces afterwards), what is this nonsense except all the worst rot the RU got from the CPUSA – American Exceptionalism. According to this view the Anglo-American working class is too backward not only to grasp Marxism-Leninism but even to struggle spontaneously on its ova, and that it. needs the help of “communists” to carry on its own reformist struggles. That it is certainly too backward to understand the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism, which can only be grasped by the petty bourgeoisie, etc., etc. But even people spouting such nonsense are not exceptional to the USNA. Lenin had to deal with them as well. “Our economists including Rabocheye Dyelo were successful because they disguised themselves as uneducated workers. But the working class Social-Democrats, the working class revolutionaries (their number is growing) will indignantly reject all this talk about fighting for demands ’promising palpable results’ etc because he will understand that this is only a variation of the old song about adding a kopeck to the ruble. The working class revolutionaries will say to their councilors, or Rabochaya Mysl and Rabocheye Dyelo: You are wasting your time, gentlemen, you are interfering with excessive zeal in a job that we can manage ourselves and you are neglecting your own duties....” “...The economic struggle between the workers and, the employers and their government about which you make as much fuss as if you had made a new discovery is being carried on in all parts of Russia, even the most remote, by the workers themselves, who have heard about strikes but who have heard almost nothing about socialism...But such activity is not enough for us; we are not children to be fed on the sops of ’economic’ politics alone;...we want to learn the details of all aspects of political life and to take part actively in every political event. In order that we may do this, the intellectuals must talk to us less on what we already know and tell us more about what we do not know and what we can never learn from our factory and ’economic’ experiences...You intellectuals can acquire this knowledge and it is your duty to bring us this knowledge...Fulfill this activity with great zeal and talk less about increasing the activity of the masses of workers!...Be less subservient to spontaneity, and think more about increasing your own activity, gentlemen!”[26]

And as for all this nonsense about not being able to build a party because the mass movement is not yet advanced enough, even people putting forward this trash are not exceptional to the USNA. And thus we reply to the conciliators the same way Lenin replied to the economists: “Work for the establishment of a fighting organization.. .must be carried on under all circumstances, not matter how ’drab and peaceful’ the times may be...More than that, it is precisely in such conditions and in such periods that this work is particularly required; for it would be too late to start building such an organization in the midst of uprisings and outbreaks.”[27]

* * *

Let us consider the RU’s American Exceptionalism on the national question. Here the lines between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are clearly drawn. Imperialism stands on the basis of the most ruthless exploitation of the colonies. While the class-conscious proletariat stands for giving the most active and determined support to the workers and peasantry oppressed by his “own” imperialism. The bourgeoisie tries to hide, distort and cover up the question of its oppression of other nations, talking about religious, tribal, racial differences, etc. The class-conscious workers who have broken with opportunism on the other hand see the need to tear away such confusing cobwebs and replace them with a clear call for the independence of the oppressed nations and the right of self-determination. There are only two roads here – the road of proletarian internationalism and the bourgeois road of opportunism, revisionism and chauvinism.

Stalin long ago pointed out the key error of Anglo-American communists to be that of American Exceptionalism.[28] William Z. Foster (an opportunist, conciliator and left flank, guard of Earl Browder), who is held up as a great proletarian revolutionary by the opportunist leaders of the RU[29], replied to Stalin’s criticism by coming up with his “nation within a nation.” As a matter of fact all along the CPUSA was forced to uphold the line of Lenin, Stalin and the Comintern on the Negro Nation while all along rebelling against it, and never wanting to put it into practice. Finally, as soon as it could, it dropped any mention of its proletarian internationalist duty and reverted back to the bourgeois line of “racism.”

On this question the conciliators again take a page out of the books of their teachers – the CPUSA. Among the working class they openly push their line of “racism” while in their theoretical papers they gloss this, over with Marxist-Leninist terminology about the national question. The conciliators start out by separating “the national liberation of Black and Mexican-American peoples, and support for the democratic demands of all oppressed minorities” from “against Imperialist Aggression, support for Colonial liberation.” These are treated as two separate “spearheads” whereas in reality they both are aspects of the oppression of the colonies and semi-colonies by imperialism. Moreover, what is this foolishness about a Black nation? Does it include Africans, West Indians, and so on, as well as Negroes, or not? Is there such a thing as a white or yellow nation? But Marxism is not based on such foolishness. What is a nation? “A nation is primarily a community, a definite community of people.” “This community is not racial, nor is it tribal. The modern Italian nation was formed from Romans, Teutons, Etruscans, Greeks, Arabs, and so forth. The French nation was formed from Gauls, Romans, Britons, Teutons, and so on. The same must be said of the British, the Germans and others, who were formed into nations from people of diverse races and tribes.

Thus a nation is not racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people.[30]

Likewise, what is this nonsense about a Mexican-American (sic) nation in the Southwest? For as the RU correctly points out, “The Southwest is territory conquered from Mexico, and the land subsequently stolen from its inhabitants. The language in the countryside is Spanish. The culture and history are closely tied to Mexico.”[31] Does this not make it crystal clear that the oppressed nation is not the Southwest but Mexico itself? Or are we to call the land stolen by Russia from China, or by England from Ireland (i.e., Northern Ireland), also new nations concocted out of thin air. No, nations are products of history, not of politics.

Or again, for the unity of American Exceptionalism and blatant historical falsifications it is hard to beat the RU formulation that “Black people are an imported colonial people (!) brought to this country in chains and dispersed throughout it.(!!)”[32] (Emphasis ours) Still more, “We do recognize the responsibility of a Communist organization – and especially its white members to build support for the right of Black people and Chicanos to self-determination, the right to choose whether to be part of a single US nation or to set up separate Black and Chicano republics.

But having said that, we must also recognize that this is not a simple question. Neither Black people, nor the Mexican-Americans satisfy all four of the criteria that Stalin formulated and Marxists have recognized as the basis for a nation: common language, culture, history, economic life and territory.”[33]

Now this must be some kind of (bad) joke! The terminology might be about a nation but itís race that comes through all over.

– The would-be “party” is here divided along syndicalist lines (again based on races) with different degrees of responsibility toward the class.
– The RU’s new “nations” are political and not historical, as with Marxists.
– Stalin’s definition of a nation is paraphrased incorrectly to the point of being an outright lie.
– These “Marxists” go on to continue calling their new-fangled inventions ”nations,” while themselves arguing that according to the Marxist definition of a nation these “nations” are not nations!! They say again, ”During this period between 1850-1940” (how is this for metaphysical figures?) “the Chicano nation and the Black nation were very similar to the semi-colonial, semi-feudal nations of Asia, with the major difference that they existed within the borders of a powerful capitalist nation....”[34] These conciliators can’t seem to get anything right, so let’s go down our list again.
– Here are two “nations,” which are not really nations according to Stalin’s “four criteria,” one based on a national minority and the other on a race.
– Both still find themselves within another nation.
– We find the CPUSA’s “improvements” on Marx concerning “feudalism” in the Negro Nation. (See the Negro National Colonial Question, CL)
– Contrary to the thinking of the conciliators, semi-feudal and semi-colonial nations are not peculiar to Asia.

Finally they conclude that the Negro Nation has become dispersed (as has the Southwest) because of two changes. One, migration. Two, developing industry and the creation of a large proletariat. “This has created oppressed nations of a new type – dispersed proletarian nations.”[35] First, migration does not enter into determining a nation, whereas the concept of a stable, historically evolved community of people does. Otherwise Ireland, for example, would have ceased to be a nation long ago. Second, if industry somehow mystically destroys nations, why haven’t we heard of this before? And why haven’t the Anglo-American nation, England, Puerto Rico, etc, all overwhelmingly proletarian, all suffered the same fate? Third, nations consist of all classes, whereas for the RU the new “nations” exist not only of one race but of one class – they are proletarian nations! (Whereas the old nations, they will no doubt tell us, were “peasant” nations!!)

By all this rigamarole the conciliators prove nothing except their ability to disregard Marxism completely while tossing around “Marxist”-sounding phrases. We cannot fail to point out, finally, that the RU’s “proletarian” “dispersed” “nations” of a “new type” are nothing but a rehash of the Springer-Bauer line of cultural national autonomy. “The starting point of national autonomy is the conception of a nation as a unity of individuals without regard to definite territory.”[36] And, ”it means secondly, that the Czechs, Poles, Germans and so on, scattered over the various parts of Austria, taken personally as individuals, are to be organized into integral nations, and as such to form part of the Austrian state. In this way Austria will represent not a union of autonomous regions, but a union of autonomous nationalities constituted irrespective of territory.”[37]

From dialectical materialism back to idealism and metaphysics. From Lenin and Stalin back to Springer and Bauer – such is the motion of the conciliators on this crucially important national question. Listen: “Those who (call for independence of the Negro Nation) base themselves on a mechanical attempt to apply to black people Stalin’s criterion for what does and what does not constitute a nation. In doing so they actually play down the potential power of the Black People’s movement. They reduce the question of a black nation to mere geography.”[38]

Compared with our brilliant new innovators from the RU, we who stick to the great Marxist teachers must seem very mechanical indeed! Did not Marx and Engels call for the liberation of Ireland? Are there not Marxists today who call for the liberation of Palestine? Did not Ho Chi Minh fight all his life for the liberation of Vietnam? But according to our brilliant new theoreticians of the national question all these people made the same unfortunate error. They all reduce the national question to one of “mere geography!!” Perhaps this is because they base their theories on the real world and not on something existing in outer space someplace a million light years away. Perhaps on Mars, where we have met our conciliators before, building their spaceship, the question of “mere geography,” or stated more simply, land, does not mean the same thing as it does here on Earth – perhaps it is not the original source of all wealth, natural resources, food, etc. Perhaps these things “fall from the sky” or are “innate in the minds” of our Martian theoreticians. But here on Earth, as far as the question of “mere geography” is concerned, things are not so “airy.” As Lenin says, “The weight of emphasis in the internationalist education of the workers in the oppressing countries must necessarily consist in advocating and urging them to demand freedom of secession for oppressed countries. Without this there can be no internationalism. It is our right and our duty to treat every socialist of an oppressing nation who fails to conduct such propaganda as an imperialist and a scoundrel. This is an absolute demand, even if the chance of secession being possible and ’feasible’ before the introduction of socialism is only one in a thousand.” (Lenin and Stalin on the National Colonial Question, p 46) (We ask the reader to compare this and Stalin’s Ten Points in Foundations of Leninism to Red Papers II, p. l2, paragraph 5)

The dialectical opposition to the super-exploitation of the oppressed nations is the bribery of the working class in the imperialist countries. And here again our conciliators show up still trying to render the great Marxist teachers more profound. For example, “By proletariat we mean first and foremost, the workers in large-scale industry, who are concentrated in the factories of the monopoly capitalists. These workers must be developed as the leadership of the entire working class.” Whereas “Even the ’underemployed’ – those who work infrequently or in menial jobs such as dishwashers, maids, etc and the permanently unemployed are able to play a leading role in the revolutionary struggle, when they are forced into a more socialized situation.”[39] (Emphasis ours) According to these conciliators, socialization is everything, oppression and exploitation are nothing. The leadership of the working class is the proletariat and this is defined beforehand by these conciliators as being confined to large monopolized industries! The unorganized sweatshops apparently aren’t socialized enough to make these workers play a leading role in the revolutionary struggle! But they – the conciliators – are kind enough to grant us, however, that even the “under-employed” and the “permanently unemployed” (a new stage between the working class and the lumpen proletariat?) and the “menial workers” as well could play a leading revolutionary role if only they were more socialized! Has anyone ever seen such wretched white chauvinism and male supremacy?!

Socialization does of course play a role, but we would like to ask the conciliators of revisionism the question whether a worker with a relatively easy job in large scale industry at $5.00 an hour is going to be more revolutionary than a sweatshop worker with a back-breaking job who makes $1.65 an hour? What good does it do to see the importance of key industries but to overlook the basis of the whole question of bribery?

Being idealists, however, the conciliators overlook any economic basis of bribery. They discuss ”largeness of mind” but never the $170 a week (or more) paycheck. Skilled craftsmen, they agree, are bribed but mainly because they are put into individualistic work situations. The fact that they are making $10 and more an hour has little or nothing to do with it.[40] They defend this by talking about how the peasantry in Russia was not the main force for revolution even though it was worse off economically than the proletariat. They “forget” that Russia was a country just entering the capitalist phase of development whereas the USNA is the most developed imperialist country in the world, and that the question of bribery is a little bit different here! “Everything depends on conditions, time and place.” Peasants in Russia were small proprietors, in general, they were petty-bourgeois, not even members (save for the rural proletarians) of the working class – just as many lumpens might be worse off economically than the mass of the workers in the USNA, but are not part of the class. Within this class in the USNA there is a tremendous amount of bribery and corruption and their main basis is economic, coming from the superprofits of imperialism. As Lenin said, politics is nothing but a concentrated expression of economics. To see just the question of relations to production and not the question of earnings, as the RU does, is just as much an error as just to see the question of money and not the question of the class relationships. Marxism, however, bases its projections on the real world and the real world is dialectical. Both aspects have to be taken into account. On the one hand the bribed workers are exploited by the big capitalists and are members of the working class. On the other hand they are economically as well as socially bribed and this ties them to a certain degree economically, socially, ideologically and politically to the imperialists. Bribery and exploitation are a unity of opposites. The philistine will say that both cannot exist at the same time. But philistines are philistines. Moreover, bribery is a relative concept and just as a capitalist divides up the workers in any factory on the basis of economics – pay scale, difficulty of work, etc. – so does imperialism on a world-wide scale. Thus the worker from the USNA as a whole are bribed relative to the workers in Japan; the workers in Japan relative to the workers in Taiwan; the workers of the Anglo-American nation relative to the workers in the Negro Nation, the workers in the Negro Nation relative to the workers in Brazil or India, etc. Within the Anglo-American nation men are bribed relative to women and Anglo-American workers relative to national minority workers. The class is not a homogeneous unit economically, politically or in any other way, and this applies to levels of bribery as well. Bribery cannot be seen as an isolated concept applying to only the plumber, electrician, etc. It affects the whole class although to varying degrees in various ways and at various times in history.

Lenin clearly points out the economic basis of this bribery: “Precisely in this, to a certain extent, rests the parasitism of imperialism, rich countries buying over part of their workers, with a higher wage while engaging in the unlimited and shameless exploitation of the labor of ’cheap’ foreign workers.”[41] And, “Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletarian. Marx particularly emphasised this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism changes the situation somewhat. A privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist states lives partly at the expense of the hundreds of millions of uncivilized peoples.”[42] And lastly, “The receipt of high monopoly profits by the capitalists in one of the numerous branches of industry, in one of the numerous countries, etc, makes it economically possible for them to bribe certain sections of the workers, and for a time being a fairly considerable minority of them, and to win them to the side of the bourgeoisie...and so there is created that bond between imperialism and opportunism...”[43]

Or why, may we ask, do some workers in the USNA get $4 or $5 an hour while others get $1.65 or $2.00 an hour, while workers in Brazil get $.40? To say that workers fought for these gains is true, but haven’t the workers in the Negro Nation, Puerto Rico, India, Brazil etc fought just as hard? Why did the capitalists give in to some and not to others? This cannot be explained except on the basis of the Leninist theory of bribery and parasitism.

Marxists are dialecticians. The fact that the working class is bribed doesn’t mean that it is simply bought off and no longer revolutionary. Just as the fact that it is exploited doesn’t make it automatically revolutionary (and likewise doesn’t mean that it can’t he bribed). Those that say the class is “bought off” see one side and not the other. Those that deny that it is bribed economically and deny the real political effects this bribery has make the opposite error of seeing only the other side. Unlike the conciliators, Marxism takes both sides of this process into account.

But the RU remains stuck like glue to the highly-bribed workers; no wonder its political projections are so opportunistic. Apparently after making the supreme sacrifice of “joining” the class, they at least want to be assured of remaining among that section which is most akin to the petty bourgeoisie. Here is what they say: “...Imperialism, which creates a section of privileged workers, a labor aristocracy whose condition actually improves with the growth of imperialism, which is in fact bribed with a small part of the spoils, the super-profits of imperialism...

Faced with this situation we can do one of two things. We can realize that it will be harder in an imperialist country to build the revolutionary movement of the workers, that it will take a longer period of struggle, and the development of a really devastating crisis in the imperialist system; or we can simply decide that the workers cannot be the main, leading force in the struggle...”[44]

This is correct. Provided that one remains based in the highly bribed sections of the class, one has a choice between giving up on the class as a revolutionary force, or else can simply wait for a devastating crisis. Lenin however cuts this Gordian knot when he says, “Engels draws a distinction between the ’bourgeois labor party’ of the old trade unions, the privileged minority – and the lowest mass, the real majority and appeals to the latter, who are not infected with bourgeois respectability. This is the essence of Marxist tactics!” “And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists, to go down lower and deeper to the real masses. This is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism.”[45]

It is the hardcore proletariat, the most exploited and oppressed, the unskilled, unorganized workers in general (and the national minority and women workers in particular within the most exploited and oppressed strata) who comprise the real-majority, who are the least tied to capital and who are the most “fertile soil” for communism in the working class. And Lenin was correct, the political battle against opportunism is inseparably linked to the question of the economic division within the class itself, a division which is the result of imperialism. The revisionist CPUSA and their conciliators, the RU and Co. in the “left” have taken one side, and the real Marxist-Leninists have taken the other. It is no accident that the RU, being opportunist by their very nature, direct some of their heaviest guns against the Leninist concept of bribery. The RU spends a good deal of time (especially in Red Papers IV) lecturing about the importance of large scale industry and of the potential power of the workers in the big industries. This absolutely correct and it is furthermore precisely why the bourgeoisie tries hard to bribe precisely these workers – to win them over politically and to form fascist labor fronts.

As long as the bourgeoisie retains the economic and hence political strength to carry out this bribery it is the task of communists to go deeper down among the masses of unskilled, least bribed and most exploited and oppressed sections of the proletariat. This is where the bourgeoisie is weakest, where the basis for communism is the strongest, and we must learn how to use our strengths against their weaknesses. We must build up a base among the most exploited and oppressed and then use that base in order to move into key industries and not the other way around (which would be the only alternative aside from forgetting about the proletariat (which would he the only alternative short of leaving the proletariat out of the picture altogether.) Moreover, when moving within key industries we should rely mainly on the least-bribed sections relative to the plant as a whole. But the conciliators have a different plan and this leads them straight back into the arms of the economists.[46] “The basis of the United Front strategy, and of our understanding as Marxists, is that the ruling class will do anything it can to deprive the workers of all but the barest means of subsistence, and that in the fight against this lies the basis for linking up struggles against the monopoly capitalists, building anti-imperialist consciousness amongst the workers, and organizing and preparing the masses of working people to overthrow the ruling class.”[47] (Emphasis ours) First of all, unlike our conciliators the bourgeoisie isn’t so mechanical. It already has deprived some workers of even this bare minimum, while it will do almost anything to keep from lowering the wages of other sections of the class. Secondly, Marxists unlike the conciliators and economists do not see the economic struggle as developing itself into the political struggle. Rather we go amongst the most exploited and oppressed, and while supporting all forms of struggle concentrate on building a party.

But the conciliators of revisionism still try to tell us that the struggle for state power will develop out of the economic struggle itself. “They (the workers) are not talking about capturing state power, which completely abstract and remote to the great majority of working people. As we say in Red Papers II the question of state power ’will come to the fore in the mass movement...through the struggles led by the proletariat around the united front line and program.’”[48]

According to this the workers are not talking about state power – not because they are not yet class conscious, not because they are still misled by the bourgeoisie and their revisionists and conciliators – but simply because the question of state power is too abstract. Hence all we as “communists” have to do is organize enough people around a reformist program and the dictatorship of the proletariat will “come to the fore in the mass movement” all by itself. Don’t be fooled! Take the vital questions of the day – and the most vital are the questions of party-building and the dictatorship of the proletariat – actively to the most exploited and oppressed!


S. T.
San Francisco


[1] Lenin, State and Revolution, Lenin on Proletarian Revolution and Proletarian Dictatorship, FLP, Peking, 1960, pp 9-l0.

[2] Stalin, “Political Strategy and Tactics of Russian Communists,” Works, FLPH, Moscow, 1953, vol 5, p 81.

[3] Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Dimitrov etc. have all used united front tactics. The only place the conciliators’ line of “gimmicks” etc is to he found is in Hoover’s Masters of Deceit and similar books. A united front of course can he elevated to a strategy in a specific historical context, because strategy and tactics are relative concepts.

[4] Selections from V. I. Lenin and J. V. Stalin on the National Colonial Question, Calcutta Book House, 1970, p 71.

[5] Ibid, p 91.

[6] “’New Left’ Attacks Communist League,” People’s Tribune, vol 4, #8, p 2.

[7] See “Syndicalism Disarms the Proletariat” and “CL Response to Conciliators” (People’s Tribune) on the effects of this syndicalist and Third World nonsense on the practical class struggle.

[8] “Build a Class Party, Build a Mass Struggle,” People’s Tribune, vol 3, #3, p l0.

[9] Lenin, What is to be Done? International Publishers, NY, 1929, p l65.

[10] “Russian Social-Democracy must not dissipate its forces; it must concentrate its activity on the industrial proletariat, who are most susceptible to Social-Democratic ideas, most developed intellectually and politically, and most important by virtue of their numbers and concentration in the country’s large political centers. The creation of a durable revolutionary organization among the factory, urban workers is therefore the first and foremost urgent task confronting Social-Democracy, one from which It would be highly unwise to let ourselves be diverted at the present time. But, while recognizing the necessity of concentrating our forces on the factory workers and opposing dissipation of our forces we do not in the least wish to suggest that the Russian Social-Democrats think it inopportune to send their forces among the handicraftsmen and rural laborers, but they do not in the least intend to ignore them; they will try to enlighten the advanced workers also on questions affecting the lives of the handicraftsmen and rural laborers, so that when the workers come into contact with the more backward strata of the proletariat, they will imbue them with the ideas of the class struggle, socialism and the political tasks of Russian Social-Democracy in general and of the Russian proletariat in particular. It is impractical to send agitators among the handicraftsmen and rural laborers when there is still so much work to be done among the factory, urban workers, but in numerous cases the socialist workers come willy-nilly into contact with these people and must be able to take advantage of these opportunities and understand the general tasks of Social-Democracy. Hence, those who accuse the Russian Social-Democrats of being narrow-minded, of trying to ignore the mass of the laboring population for the sake of the factory workers are profoundly mistaken. On the contrary agitation among the advanced section of the proletariat is the surest and only way to rouse (as the movement expands) the entire Russian proletariat. The dissemination of socialism and the ideas of the class struggle among the urban workers will inevitably cause these ideas to flow in smaller and more scattered channels. This requires that these ideas take deeper root among the better prepared elements and spread through the vanguard of the Russian working class movement and of the Russian Revolution.” Lenin, “The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats,” Collected Works, Moscow, 1963, vol 2 p 331.

[11] Steve Hamilton, Red Papers. I, RU, p 29.

[12] Stalin, Selected Works, Cardinal Pub., Davis, Cal. 1971, p 240.

[13] What is to be Done?, op cit, p l43.

[14] Off the Beam, by the Short-Shoreman, Bay Area Worker, Apr 1972, p l5.

[15] “Who We Are,” Bay Area Worker, Sept 1972, p 2.

[16] Ibid, p 9.

[17] Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, FLP, Peking, 1970, p 98.

[18] What is to be Done?, op cit, pp 122-3.

[19] See footnote 10.

[20] What is to be Done?, p l24.

[21] Lenin, “Political Sophisms,” Lenin on the Revolutionary Party of a New Type, FLP, Peking, 1960, pp 9-10.

[22] Red Papers II, p 23.

[23] Lenin, “Left-wing” Communism, Progress Pub. Moscow (3 vol set), vol 3 p 408.

[24] Ibid, pp 407-8.

[25] Stalin, “Political Strategy, etc,” op cit, pp 82-3.

[26] What is to be Done?, pp 152-4.

[27] Lenin, “Where to Begin?” Int. Pub, p. l6 (no date)

[28] Stalin, 3 speeches on factionalism and American Exceptionalism in the CPUSA, Int. Pub.

[29] Red Papers IV, p 60 (compare with above footnote)

[30] Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, op cit, p 66.

[31] Red Papers II, p l2.

[32] Red Papers I, p 4.

[33] Red Papers IV, p 91.

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] Stalin, Marxism etc, op cit, p 82.

[37] Ibid, p. 80.

[38] Red Papers II, p 10.

[39] Red Papers IV p 86.

[40] Ibid, p 63.

[41] Lenin, “From a Review of the Party Programme,” Lenin on Imperialism. The Eve of the Proletarian Revolution, FLP, Peking, 1960, p l6.

[42] Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Ibid, pp ll-12.

[43] Ibid, pp 83-4.

[44] Red Papers II, p 65.

[45] Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Lenin on the Struggle Against Revisionism, Peking, 1960, p 75.

[46] See C L Labor Reports for more details.

[47] Red Papers IV, p 65.

[48] Ibid, p 17.