Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Amiri Baraka

Against Some Bogus Types Posing as Revolutionaries (Part II)


First Published: Unity and Struggle, Vol. IV, No. 13, October 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Right Opportunism, based essentially on the superprofits of imperialism and their ability to bourgeosify large sectors of the working class, bribe others, is of course most intense in the U.S.A. since this is where most of the superprofits come to rest from imperialism’s international ripoffs. This bribery, reformism & c, gives rise to taking the easy way out, “seeking leverage” and coolin it, rather than struggling is everywhere. Certainly among the White sector of the Working class it exists, among the petit bourgeoisie it is stifling it is also to be found among the oppressed nationalities, to a lesser extent for certain, since the capitalists principal address to the oppressed nationalities has always been repression rather than reform civil rights movement notwithstanding. But out of the civil rights movement there was, to be sure, a reform consolidated petit bourgeoisie nourished on various college campuses even amidst the cries of militancy. Nourished in urban centers too, in the poverty programs, city hall bureaucracies & c, it is a form of support for-the bourgeoisie that can be made to seem intellectual, glamorous, nationalistic, hip, courageous, even funny. Now it is being attempted by some people to make opportunism, plain out reformism and copout, seem like Marxism.

We spoke before on opportunism around the question of organization. To make revolution we must build a revolutionary vanguard party, guided by the science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought. Such a party must be built on the scientific principles of organization, democratic centralism. Recent opportunism is nevertheless classic, Lenin spoke directly to it, when exposing the “opportunism in matters of organization” that the opportunists, namely the Economists and the Mensheviks (plus good of Trotsky) pushed. They did not want “an organized whole”, but “something amorphous”. These birds wanted something “heterogenous and loose” and as such, as the History of the Communist Party Soviet Union (Bolshevik) paraphrasing Lenin says, such a “party” could not be militant, subjugated by the petit bourgeois individualism and “aversion to discipline” of squabbling intellectuals it would simply bow to spontaneity, worship the rear ends of the workers, and front off for capitalism more interestingly.

But it is important that we see the connection between the opportunism in regards to organization, which is opposition to democratic centralism, that is directly connected to the right opportunism of economism and Menshevikism (petit bourgeois socialism). Economism pushes for the workers to follow a purely economic struggle between themselves and their employers in the work places, and somehow sees this narrow struggle as spontaneously delivering the workers to Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought. But “in reality”, as the History of the CPSU(B) points out, “Socialists ideology arises not from the spontaneous movement but from science”. Also such a line sees the communist party built simply by “going among the workers”. It belittles the importance of both the vanguard party and its theory, the science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought, and the overall political struggle, which must be waged as Lenin repeated over and over again in What Is To Be Done within “the sphere of relationships between all classes”. The Economists belittle political struggle and think the workers Marxist consciousness will spring into being within the narrow scope of the economic struggle. But this is the same worship of spontaneity that thinks no democratic centralist party is needed, and cries out against the “authority” that makes distinct a party from the loose “ideological influence” of intellectual study circles. These same imitation revolutionaries cry against the centralism of the democratic-centralist structure. As the Mensheviks cried out about being “cogs and wheels” and the “dictatorship of Lenin”. And their first attack is always at the centers of authority from which the centralism that contributes to party discipline emanates.

The opportunists in Lenin’s day said “that the demand for obedience to all the decisions of the party was formal and bureaucractic” and that having the minority submit to the majority was “mechanical suppression”; also that “having all party members both leaders and rank and filers ... equally observe party discipline meant establishing ’serfdom’ within the party ... that what was needed in the party was not centralism but anarchist ’autonomism’ which would permit individuals and party organizations not to obey the decisions of the party”. Lenin smacked this tendency calling it “glorification of the individualism of the intelligentsia”, and so it is. It is also as Lenin said, “amateurish”, an we are not fighting amateurs, the bourgeoisie are, if nothing else, professionals/killers, and to go at them loose, amateurish, spontaneous and subjective is to be killed. Such Right opportunism attacked the leadership C.A.P. attacked the center because it was trying to destroy centralism. Cries of “The Cult of Personality” assaulted us by the right, merely to try to weaken the influence of the center, the entire leadership, and thereby slip the other right lines and reformism across under the guise of criticism of the center. Another grim connection with the Menshevik, economist line is the classic opportunism of the second international of Western Europe, characterized by people like Bernstein whose book Evolutionary Socialism gives the whole game away. Their “freedom to criticize” which should not be confused with unity-criticism-unity which is the life blood of the Marxist-Leninist party, was a freedom to criticize the dictatorship of the proletariat and proletarian revolution in other words to cut the core out of Marxism, and give us revisionism, warmed over reformism pretending to be Marxism.

Such rightists, in their attacks, usually end up having to misquote, quote out of context, distort to try to cover their tracks. And a firm grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought is the basic weapon to defeat these bourgeois agents who thrive on and at the same time contribute to others’ unclarity. For instance, one rightist clique recently, who had been spouting Trot ideas as a left cover, but these ideas are so blatantly revisionist, complete with the bankrupt “productive forces theory” which sees the motive force of history as the tools of production plus techniques, and belittles the role of the people as the makers of history and therefore liquidates class struggle, and the role of the party and revolutionary theory, in babbling that there was a cult of personality in CAP quoted from “... Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement”. Which is a letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1963, in the thick of the opening struggle against the CPSU’s revisionism led by Nikita Krushchev and the New Czars. But these local bogus types posing as revolutionaries quote the Chinese paraphrase of Lenin but make it seem that Lenin and the Chinese are backing them up in their Cult of the Personality nonsense. But in fact the quote is this “Over the past few years, certain persons have violated Lenin’s integral teachings about the interrelationship of leaders, party, class and masses, and raised the issue of ’combating the cult of the individual’; this is erroneous and harmful, a) the masses are divided into classes, b) classes are usually led by political parties, c) political parties as a general rule, are directed by more or less stable groups, composed of the most authoritative, influential, and experienced members, who are elected to the most responsible positions and are called leaders”. The bogus types never put forward clearly that the Chinese were criticizing the anti-Stalinist revisionist Krushchevites who attacked Stalin with the cries of “cult of the individual” and “the cult of personality”, the bogus types simply quote and vaguely make it seem that they have said something intelligent, but haven’t. Of course our bogus rightists under the guise of bucking for more “democracy” (a la Mensheviks) end up in the classic cry of too much centralism that characterized Martov, Trotsky, Krushchev, Liu Shao-Chi, in relationship to Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung. We are not comparing our leadership with Lenin, Stalin, Mao in the sense of stature but as leadership under attack by revisionism, and we could add Marx-Engels attacked by Bernstein, Kautsky, Empirio criticism (see Materialism and Empirio Criticism) and revisionists of all stripes. The reason, to widen the room in which these righties have to swing. One classic righty statement by these bogus types is that “Our mastery of revolutionary ideology springs from the day to day material realities of the masses”. Hah. “Springs” is the giveaway, the true spontaneous process, the tailism of the economist worshiping the backside of the proletariat. Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought is a science that must be mastered by the party and brought to the proletariat by the party, as a leading detachment of the whole class of the proletariat, guiding that class to the seizure of state power by smashing the bourgeois state, and instituting the dictatorship of the proletariat. Our mastery of revolutionary theory does not “spring” from anywhere, it is gained through study and practice and brought to the working class from outside. Nor will it spontaneously leap into being in the workplace simply because someone is “lending the economic struggle a political character”. Marxism is what must be brought to the workers, from outside the sphere of these economic relationships “We shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for that framework is too narrow” sez Lenin, What Is To Be Done, p. 97.

The opportunism in matters of organization, i.e., opposition to democratic centralism, and a disciplined revolutionary organization, strengthens the bourgeoisie by keeping the proletariat weak. Likewise, attacks on leadership, and centralism of the organization. Also belittling the political role of the communists by feeling that simply by going into the work place (many times to absolve them of “guilt” at being petit bourgeois in a true parallel of petit bourgeois xtianity) we will build the anti-revisionist communist movement, is the same kind of tailing spontaneous process that keeps us without a revolutionary party. Though we are aware that our work is to bring the working class the science of Marxism-Leninism Mao-Tse-Tung Thought and use the work place as a basic organ of communist organization. But we quote Lenin here again,

There is nothing clever in your assertion that the Social-Democrats’ task is to lend the economic struggle itself a political character; that is only the beginning, it is not the main task of Social-Democrats.[1] For all over the world, including Russia, the police themselves often make the start in lending the economic struggle a political character,[2] and the workers themselves learn to understand whom the government supports. The “economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government,” about which you make as much fuss as if you had discovered a new America, is being waged in a host of remote spots of Russia by the workers themselves who have heard about strikes, but who have heard almost nothing about Socialism. The “activity” you want to stimulate among us workers, by advancing concrete demands promising palpable results, we are already displaying and in our everyday, petty trade union work we put forward these concrete demands, very often without any assistance whatever from the intellectuals. But such activity is not enough for us; we are not children to be fed on the thin gruel of “economic” politics alone; we want to know everything that others know, we want to learn the details of all aspects of political life and to take part actively in every single political event. In order that we may do this the intellectuals must talk to us less of what we already know, and tells us more about what we do not yet know and what we can never learn from our factory and “economic” experience, that is, you must give us political knowledge. You intellectuals can acquire this knowledge, and it is your duty to bring it to us in a hundred and a thousand times greater measure than you have done up to now; and you must bring it to us, not only in the form of arguments, pamphlets and articles which sometimes – excuse our frankness! – are rather dull, but precisely in the form of live exposures of what our government and our governing classes are doing at this very moment in all spheres of life. Just devote more zeal to carrying out this duty, and talk less about “raising the activity of the masses of the workers”! We are far more active than you think, and we are quite able to support, by open, street fighting, demands that do not promise any “palpable results” whatever! And it is not for you to “raise” our activity, because activity is precisely the thing you yourselves lack! Bow less in worship to spontaneity, and think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen! The Submission to spontaneity is more of the “easy way out” that is the hallmark of opportunism, the main danger in the communist movement.


[1] Communists, then. Now the term means reformists pretending to be Communists.

[2] The demand “to lend the economic struggle itself a political character” most strikingly expresses subservience to spontaneity in the sphere of political activity. Very often the economic struggle spontaneously assumes a political character, that is to say, without the intervention of the “revolutionary bacilli–the intelligentsia, without the intervention of the class-conscious Social-Democrats.