Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Michael A. Miller

Against Revisionism


The Contradiction Between the Vanguard and the Masses

The theory of the mass line is part of the general theory of the proletarian revolution. The theory of the mass line explains the relation between the organization of revolutionaries–the vanguard–and the masses of revolutionary people. It is a guide to the correct handling of this contradiction, the contradiction between the vanguard and the masses. It cannot be understood in any other way. It can only be understood and applied by those who have already accepted the party principle–the fundamental Marxist-Leninist idea of the organization of revolutionaries– which theory is explained in What Is To Be Done?

In order to illustrate this we have to study carefully Mao Tsetung’s writings on the mass line.[78]

For over twenty years our Party has carried on mass work every day, and for the past dozen years it has talked about the mass line every day. We have always maintained that the revolution must rely on the masses of the people, on everybody’s taking a hand, and have opposed relying merely on a few persons issuing orders. The mass line, however, is still not being thoroughly carried out in the work of some comrades; they still rely solely on a handful of people working in solitude. One reason is that, whatever they do, they are always reluctant to explain it to the people they lead and that they do not understand why or how to give play to the initiative and creative energy of those they lead. Subjectively, they too want everyone to take a hand in the work, but they do not let other people know what is to be done or how to do it.

That being the case, how can everyone be expected to get moving and how can anything be done well? To solve this problem the basic thing is, of course, to carry out ideological education on the mass line, but at the same time we must teach these comrades many concrete methods of work. [pp. 122-123]

How can this make sense unless Mao is talking about an organization of revolutionaries resolving the contradiction between themselves and the masses? Not only does it not make any sense without reference to the organization; even more, it makes no sense unless we understand that Mao is referring not to a small and weak party but a relatively large and powerful party. In fact these words were spoken by Mao only a year before the victory of the revolution, in 1948. Thus Mao was addressing himself to a Party which had already achieved the position of being the recognized leader of the masses in their revolutionary struggle. In those conditions generally, and in the particular conditions of China, we can understand how the view could arise that the organization alone was the revolution, was the force that would overthrow the reactionaries who were in power. Mao was addressing himself to an extremely large and powerful organization of revolutionaries and saying that even with such a force the mass line must be followed.

To link oneself with the masses, one must act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses. All work done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned. It often happens that objectively the masses need a certain change, but subjectively they are not yet conscious of the need, not yet willing or determined to make the change. In such cases, we should wait patiently. We should not make the change until, through our work, most of the masses have become conscious of the need and are willing and determined to carry it out. Otherwise we shall isolate ourselves from the masses. Unless they are conscious and willing, any kind of work that requires their participation will turn out to be a mere formality and will fail. . . . There are two principles here: one is the actual needs of the masses rather than what we fancy they need, and the other is the wishes of the masses, who must make up their own minds instead of our making up their minds for them. [pp. 124-125]

If we go ahead and carry out a change which requires the participation of the masses without their determination and consciousness, the change will be a mere formality, not really thorough and deep, and most likely it will not be long lasting. Now how are we to understand this quotation? What Mao is saying is completely absurd unless we assume that it was possible to make such a change without the participation of the masses, a change which in fact required their participation, but could be done without it.

Not only does this presuppose a party, not only does it presuppose that the party is relatively strong and not weak; not only does it presuppose that the Party is the recognized leader of the masses, but more, that the organization has power. The quotation is taken from “The United Front in Cultural Work,” an article dealing with the relations between the Party and the masses in the liberated areas. The Party had power, though shared with non-communists and the power was based on the new-democratic and not socialist revolution. Thus, the cultural work had to conform to the needs of that revolution, and not run ahead of the masses.

How is it possible for people to be so misguided, so abysmally careless, so stupid as to think that this applies to a situation in which there is no party? Are we to wait until most of the masses accept the party before we set about organizing it? Obviously there would never be a party. Is it possible that people who got to the chapter on the mass line failed to notice the very first quotation in the Red Book which says that “the force at the core leading our cause forward” is the Communist Party? Or the quotation immediately following:

If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party built on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people in defeating imperialism and its running dogs. [pp. 1-2]

“It is impossible” . . . one would think that this leaves little room for doubt.

It is easy to see how, in the circumstances of the new-democratic revolution, in the liberated areas where the Party held political power, a “left” tendency would develop. But this is far from our situation. If we want to take seriously Mao’s writings on the mass line we should take seriously his writings on the right-opportunist deviation from the mass line:

The present upsurge of the peasant movement is a colossal event. In a very short time, in China’s central, southern and northern provinces, several hundred million peasants will rise like a mighty storm, like a hurricane, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to hold it back. . . . Every revolutionary party and every revolutionary comrade will be put to the test, to be accepted or rejected as they decide. There are three alternatives. To march at their head and lead them? To trail behind them, gesticulating and criticizing? Or to stand in their way and oppose them? Every Chinese is free to choose, but events will force you to make the choice quickly, [pp. 119-120]

This quote, from 1927, shows that Mao was not very concerned that the Party would get too far ahead of the masses. Although it was a possible development, given the actual conditions it was not a practical concern. In 1927 the Party was relatively weak; it was lagging behind the spontaneous movement of the masses. What concerned Mao was that a revolutionary situation was coming into being and the revolutionary leaders were ideologically and organizationally unprepared to meet the challenge–precisely the conditions in which Lenin wrote What Is To Be Done?

A similar situation occurred in 1955, during the socialist movement in the countryside. Because of the tailist line of Liu Shao Chi, the line of encouraging capitalist development, Mao once again felt that the revolutionaries were unprepared to lead the spontaneous movement of the masses.

The masses have a potentially inexhaustible enthusiasm for socialism. Those who can only follow the old routine in a revolutionary period are utterly incapable of seeing this enthusiasm ....

Now we can discuss exactly how the mass line is implemented. This is explained on pages 128 and 129:

[the party should] Take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them . . .

In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily “from the masses, to the masses.” This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own ....

We [the party] should go to the masses and learn from them, synthesize their experience into better, articulated principles and methods, then do propaganda among the masses, and call upon them to put these principles and methods into practice so as to solve their problems and help them achieve liberation and happiness.

What are the needs of the masses? How do we base ourselves on the masses’ actual needs, and not what we fancy they need? Of course, anyone could go door to door and ascertain that millions of individuals want more and better and that these demands are consciously articulated by these millions of people. If we ask each individual not what he or she in particular needs, but what the people in general need, again we would find that the demands for more and better can be readily spelled out in detail. More and better. More and better what? More and better under capitalism, which means more and better relative to more oppressed individuals or sections of the masses, which means more and better capitalism. This is where the petty-bourgeois ideologists stop: this is what they fancy the masses need. But what are the more advanced demands? What are the demands which represent the whole class, which express the ideas of the masses all at once?

An end to poverty. That’s one encompassing demand. When the “poor peoples’ march” took place, the masses did not simply plead for a better deal. They asked the question: Why should there be poor people in this rich country?” Quite a question, a question which expresses a naive understanding of the fettering of the forces of production by capitalist relations. They spoke of the “right” not to be poor and of the “right” to a job. In capitalism there is no such right. This is no longer the struggle for bourgeois democratic rights, since the right to have a job would mean that it would be illegal for a worker to be unemployed. But the production of a reserve army of labor is part of the capitalist mode of production. The right to a job is incompatible with the foundations of capitalism, as is the right not to be poor.

An end to racism and national oppression. Not simply the right to vote, the right to move wherever one’s income allows, but an end to discrimination. The struggle of the Negro people passed from civil rights to national self-determination, all without the leadership of a communist party. The struggle for community control, for land, for political power of the oppressed nationality, are all expressions of embryonic consciousness of imperialism and the national and colonial question. Similarly with the movement for women’s liberation: no longer simply a struggle for suffrage or for bourgeois equality, but the demand for an end to male supremacy.

An end to imperialist war. Were the soldiers demanding a better deal for themselves or were they demanding an end to an imperialist armed force? Were there not mass desertions, mass draft resistance, refusal to fight “the enemy.” fraggings and weren’t the stockades filled with rebellious soldiers? The ruling class, a class which depends for its existence on aggression, on the subjugation of whole nations, a class which cannot, in the final analysis, concede peaceful relations with other states, is losing its effective command of an armed force.

An end to poverty, war, racism, male supremacy. Aren’t these the mass movements before our very eyes? These are expressed needs, needs which the masses feel, of which they are conscious. If we simply express these demands in positive form they are: for a planned economy and full employment, for peaceful relations between states, for self-determination of the oppressed nations and for the emancipation of women. And what is this if not the scattered and unsystematic expression by the working masses of their desire, of their potentially inexhaustible enthusiasm, for socialism? Socialism is the concentration of the masses’ own demands. Of this we should have no doubt. Nor can we doubt for a moment that Marxism-Leninism is the scientific weapon without which all the desire, all the “socialist” sentiments and theories arrive back at capitalism.

Socialism is the concentration of the masses demands. And this could not be otherwise given the objective character of the period in which we live–the eve of proletarian revolution, where the objective contradictions in the mode of production of capitalism have developed to the point of transition to socialism. The rise of the mass movement of the sixties proves this beyond question.

In addition to the features of the mass movement already mentioned we must add two more extremely significant features, both coming directly from the masses as a result of the absence of a vanguard. One, directly out of the mass movement came a spontaneously revolutionary party, the Black Panther Party, which originally organizing independently of revisionism, popularized the slogans and general attitude of revolution. That party was not intended to represent the proletarian class, though many revolutionaries mistook it, in desperation, for just that. Second, directly out of the mass movement came armed struggle, which became a part of the spontaneous movement for the first time. (Here we are speaking not of individual terrorism, which has existed for a long time, and is a separate problem, but the element of mass uprisings.)

That the mass movement is a most important phenomenon is a fact not to be disputed. But the crux of the matter is, how is one to understand the statement that the mass working-class movement will “determine the tasks?” It may be interpreted in one of two ways. Either it means bowing to the spontaneity of this movement, i.e., reducing the role of Social-Democracy to mere subservience to the working-class movement as such ... or it means that the mass movement places before us new theoretical, political, and organizational tasks, far more complicated than those that might have satisfied us in the period before the rise of the mass movement.[79]

The movement of the sixties was new, most importantly, in that it made a decisive break with revisionism, and that is precisely the connection with new political, organizational, theoretical tasks, the task of organizing a Marxist-Leninist party. Until this first step is taken, there can be no talk of carrying out the mass line in any systematic way, in any effective way which would result in a qualitative change in the mass movement, in a revolutionary mass movement.

This does not mean that the mass line is inapplicable until the party exists. The contradiction between the vanguard and the masses exists even with the formation of a communist core group at a factory or a communist collective in a city. An individual who believes in communism may enter the mass movement as an activist and add a certain quantity to it, but in no sense should this be taken as an application of the mass line. On the other hand, a communist collective may withdraw from mass work in order to study Marxism-Leninism and determine their strategic and tactical line and this, in certain conditions, can be a correct application of the mass line. If their strategic and tactical line is not related to the problem of how to transform autonomous and isolated collectives into a unified national party, and is instead concerned with improving their mass work, then the organi¬zation is undermining its own foundation in scientific social¬ism, and is violating not only the mass line but Marxism generally.

The revisionists, and their opportunist followers do not apply the Marxist-Leninist conception of the mass line. Instead of recognizing socialism and the revolutionary men¬tality as the concentration of the masses’ demands, as the most advanced mass consciousness, they apply a stages theory of spontaneity and expend their energies in quantitative intensification of the separate movements along with the call to link them up.

Why do they do this? Why do they surrender principle and appeal to the aspect in the proletariat of striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie? For what temporary gain are they willing to do this? For the “gain” of an advance in their positions of leadership of the spontaneous movement; because they are in a hurry to lead the mass movement and at the same time do not want to place themselves at any moment in opposition to it. The spreading of communist propaganda and agitation is practically guaranteed to be rejected by the majority whereas the adherents to this type of literature are a small minority. Therefore, they would say, we have to go in stages, from the united front type literature to communist literature.

This conception of the masses and the spontaneous movement does not accord with dialectical materialism or with Lenin’s theory of imperialism. Lenin’s theory of imperialism teaches that there is a contradiction between the upper stratum of the labor aristocracy and “bourgeoisified workers” on the one hand, and the most oppressed and exploited masses of workers on the other hand. The theory of the dialectical relation between spontaneity and consciousness teaches that there is always a relatively advanced and a relatively backward section of the workers, and a large middle section who reconcile the two poles into a temporary unity. Thus, in order to grasp and correctly apply the mass line, it is necessary to grasp the objective, material contradictions within the masses. We know that in the main, one’s objective class position determines one’s social consciousness, one’s subjective consciousness in relation to revolution. Mao Tsetung analyzed the contradictions among the people on many occasions beginning with his Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society.

Contradictions in the Proletariat

The starting point for an analysis of classes and, based on this analysis, an analysis of the contradictions within the class is The Communist Manifesto. By the definitions given in that document we understand that the development of capitalism into its monopoly stages has essentially proletarianized the population, deprived 90% of the population of independent means of production and economically forced these 90% of the population to live by means of working for someone else.

Approximately 10% of the population is bourgeois, 90% of those being petty-bourgeois who themselves work. We are not concerned here in addressing ourselves to Bernsteinian theories of new middle classes, new working classes, etc. Now, of all the contradictions existing within these 90% of the population who are sellers of labor-power and their families, what is the principal contradiction? It is between the upper stratum of the working class as a whole, mainly the skilled aristocracy of manual and mental labor, and the masses of oppressed and exploited working class people, mainly the semi-skilled and unskilled industrial workers.[80]

The contradiction between the masses of proletarians and the upper stratum of the labor aristocracy is a class contradiction, which only proletarian revolution is going to resolve. That is because the upper stratum maintains a mode of life which gives them a material interest in the preservation of capitalism, in the preservation of oppressor, dominant imperialist nation privileges. In the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Soviet Union, there is a material basis for the outlook of social-reformism. The politics reflecting the economic existence of this stratum is to fight against the effects of the capitalist system on themselves while fighting to maintain the capitalist system as a whole. Ideologically, this takes the form of opportunism–the complete abandonment of principle, the blending of liberalism and socialism. Its highest theoretical expression is an attack on Marxism from within the Marxist movement–revisionism.

How can it be that workers maintain a mode of life which gives them a material interest in the preservation of capitalism? Because they are bourgeoisified workers, bourgeoisified not only in the sense that they cherish bourgeois democratic prejudices, but in the sense that they have a toe, or two toes, or a foot in the petty-bourgeoisie, and are aspiring to that class and have some possibility of realizing their aspiration. There are millions of such working class families in the U.S., families who mainly depend for their survival on wages, but who also have been able to accumulate income-producing private property, capital in small amounts, or who have been able to supplement their income by the sale of the product of their skilled labor, instead of being restricted to the sale of their labor-power.

It is a fact that there has been massive proletarianization of the petty-bourgeoisie, in the sense that millions of people no longer own their own farms and small businesses; instead they, or their children now work for large corporations. But when this fact is pointed out, it also must be pointed out that they represent a recently proletarianized stratum who retain, in their family background, their education, their trust funds, etc., the objective marks of the petty-bourgeoisie.

It is precisely these fluctuating strata–proletarians becoming petty-bourgeois and petty-bourgeois becoming proletarianized, which is responsible for carrying the ideology of the bourgeoisie into the ranks of the proletariat. Stalin, in speaking on the sources of contradictions within the proletarian party sums up Lenin’s class analysis of revisionism scientifically. The source, Stalin said, lies in two circumstances–the pressure of the bourgeoisie on the proletariat, and the existence of strata within the proletariat who are “in one way or another connected with bourgeois society.” Thus Stalin speaks to the external condition, the pressure of the bourgeois world outlook on the proletarian class, and the [internal contradiction, the basis of the phenomenon, which makes possible its penetration into the proletariat. “I think that the proletariat, as a class, can be divided into three strata.”

One stratum is the main mass of the proletariat, its core, its permanent part, the mass of “pure-blooded” proletarians, who have long broken off connection with the capitalist class. This stratum of the proletariat is the most reliable bulwark of Marxism.

The second stratum consists of newcomers from non-proletarian classes–from the peasantry, the petty-bourgeoisie or the intelligentsia. These are former members of other classes who have only recently merged with the proletariat and have brought with them into the working class their customs, their habits, their waverings and their vacillations. This stratum constitutes the most favorable soil for all sorts of anarchist, semi-anarchist and “ultra-left” groups.

The third stratum, lastly, consists of the labor aristocracy, the upper stratum of the working class, the most well-to-do portion of the proletariat, with its propensity for compromise with the bourgeoisie, its predominant inclination to adapt itself to the powers that be, and its anxiety to “get on in life.” This stratum constitutes the most favorable soil for outright reformists and opportunists.[81]

Having already cited many references from the teachers by positive example, we can not turn to the best teachers by negative example. The CPUSA paved the way for all other groups. The revisionists within the CP have always tried to obscure contradictions within the class, and the revisionists have dominated CP policy for practically its entire history. Representing the most bourgeoisified workers, the line of the CPUSA evolved into a clear right-opportunist theory of the working class. Their view can be summed up: contradictions within the class are insignificant, the whole working class is revolutionary.

In order to show this, it is only necessary to take a close look at a recent pamphlet by the CP, called “The Working Class and the Class Struggle in the United States” (Political Affairs, Nov. 1973). Here is a collection of papers, speeches, etc., presented at a party conference in 1973, about a dozen in all, not one of which makes a single reference to Lenin’s theory of the split in the working class.

Henry Winston opened up the conference by saying:

It is good that the starting point of the discussion is a rejection of concepts which state in essence that our working class is a reactionary mass. The conference is an answer to the Marcuses, the Sweezys and the Garaudy-type revisionists who have written off the working class–and especially the U.S. working class–as a revolutionary force.

Winston doesn’t address himself to Lenin’s theory of imperialism and its effect on the working class.

Then Hy Lumer asks, “What is The Working Class?” He asserts that the Communist Manifesto remains “as valid today as when it was written.” Hy Lumer doesn’t seem to think that Lenin’s theory of imperialism and its effect on the working class in the imperialist country has any bearing on the subject or would indicate any development of thinking from the time of the Communist Manifesto. He also conducts struggle against “revisionism,” saying that various anti-Marxist theories attempt to prove the working class to be “non-existent, obsolete or inconsequential.” He criticizes Marcuse, Galbraith, C. Wright Mills, etc. Underlying all this, says Lumer, is “what may be described as a rather fuzzy conception of the meaning of class.” And Mr. Lumer clears up all this fuzziness by including all the wage and salary earners, who have a “middle class appearance,” in the proletariat.

What he doesn’t mention is that a good section of these workers actually have a foot in the petty-bourgeoisie by virtue of their ability to accumulate some small capital and therefore live in part from that income. What he forgets to mention is that a good section of these workers maintain close social and political ties with the petty-bourgeoisie by virtue of their special education and training, their high salaries, their ability to pay for services performed by oppressed and exploited proletarians (restaurants, laundry, domestic help, etc.) In other words, he has omitted any possible bourgeoisification of any workers. There is no mention by Hy Lumer of Lenin’s theory of imperialism.

Barry Cohen spoke on “Changes in the Composition of the Working Class.” He also takes his definition from the Communist Manifesto. (Poor Marx and Engels!) Cohen states:

We have already seen from the last paper that there are no grounds for assigning the bulk of clerical, professional, sales and service workers, who in their overwhelming majority are salaried workers, to any class but the working class. But it is legitimate to ask, what role do they play in the working class? How is their social position being modified? What is the significance of their growth?

Unfortunately, Mr. Cohen never answers his own good questions. As for any effect imperialism has on the working class in the imperialist country, we are only told that monopoly capital increases the proletariat. He states that it especially increases the white collar section because there are “growing requirements for provision of services and social administration created by modern conditions of production.” Another reason he gives for the increase in the white collar section is that there is rapid expansion in those “branches of private industry which rely heavily and often predominantly on these types of labor. This applies especially to the wholesale and retail trade industries and to finance, banking and services.” The third reason given for the growth of this white collar proletariat is the scientific-technological revolution.

When Cohen speaks about the expansion of the state apparatus, he is not concerned about this question from the point of view of revolution, only from the point of view of how many more workers he can count. So he describes extreme political and governmental decay as ”social services” necessitated by the advance in the means of production. When he describes the growth of non-productive industries he is not concerned with this as a reflection of the parasitism of imperialism. For Mr. Cohen there is no split in the working class, the whole class is revolutionary.

Alva Buxembaum tells us about “The Status of Women Workers.” She does not mention any particular effect imperialism has on the women workers except that “modern capitalism” recruits more women into the work force and provides (a “new feature”) “the material basis for ending male supremacy.” She speaks of the struggle against male supremacy but there is no mention of any struggle against opportunism in the proletariat, there is no mention of any bourgeoisified workers. She assumes, for example, that the rise in two-income families is entirely attributable to economic necessity and has no possible relation to any means of petty-bourgeois accumulation in some working class families.

In this article as well as the others, there is no class struggle within the proletarian movement, there is no struggle by the revolutionary proletariat against its reformist tendencies. Moreover, the two are made to appear as the same: ”the working class struggle for existence and survival, for emancipation from exploitation, requires a new outlook of cooperative, equal partnerships in work, in struggle and in all relationships between men and women.” Since when is the struggle for survival equal and synonymous with the struggle for emancipation? Lenin was quite clear that these represented two tendencies within the working class movement from its inception. The first is based in spontaneity, the second in consciousness. As a revolutionary situation approaches, the struggle must become a struggle for emancipation in order for the class to survive. If the class is not conscious of this then it doesn’t survive, a part is wiped out and the struggle begins again with the exploiting class ruling more firmly and with more stability than before. The bowing to spontaneity is the surest way to confusion, the surest way to deprive the class of consciousness. Thus, here one of the leaders of the CPUSA delivers the theoretical quintessence of revisionism: the struggle for emancipation IS the struggle for survival, the movement is everything and takes care of the final aim.

Jarvis Tyner took up the subject of “Youth and the Working Class.” The subject of imperialism doesn’t come up, apparently having nothing to do with either youth or the working class. Except that monopoly capitalism makes more possible the formation of an anti-monopoly coalition.

Donna Ristorucci addressed herself to the “Changing Status of Intellectuals.” How is their status changing? She says that they’re becoming more and more working class, but still remain a “distinct stratum.” Between the intellectuals and the workers there is a “convergence of interests.” Anti-monopoly interests. Interestingly, this one essay calls for ideological struggle against non-proletarian tendencies in the class. The intellectuals are singled out “because of their education and class backgrounds.” “There must be constant ideological battle against individualism, elitism, reformism and tendencies towards ultra-leftism and anarchism.”

Why this single exception to the rule of no ideological struggle against opportunism in the class? It can only be for the purpose of keeping the workers ignorant by equating theoretical struggle against revisionism with intellectualism. If an intellectual should quote from Lenin in an effort to expose the reformist line, the party leaders will explain this “deviation,” this “leftism,” on the basis of the education and class background of the individual.

Now we come to Victor Perlo, long time expert in economics for the party. Analyzing the “Economic Conditions of Black Workers,” Perlo immediately takes up the question of superprofits.

For this is what racism is all about–the drive of capital to maintain and extend its privileges won from the slavocracy, the “right” to superprofits from the extra exploitation of Black workers.

Perlo goes on and gives James Jackson credit

for the formulation that capitalism does not need superprofits of racism in order to exist. Certainly, it seeks such superprofits wherever it can get them. But after all, the main bulk of surplus value derived by U.S. capitalists is from the labor of the whole U.S. working class. Deprived of superprofits, capitalism would be weakened economically and even more politically.

Now here we have some clever arguments. First imperialism is made to seem not a system of the oppression of nations, but simply an extension of competitive capitalism, where the capitalists are able to extract more surplus value from inside a country by a policy of racial discrimination. Even more, capitalism has existed without such superexploitation and so it is no more than a policy preferred by some bourgeois. But the drive for superprofits is actually one of the essential features of imperialism. Imperialism cannot survive without superprofits and therefore if we are talking about U.S. capitalism, and not the capitalism of some economically backward nation, then superprofits, and the subjugation of whole nations as a condition for it, both are an indispensable condition for the existence of capitalism.

“But after all,” says Perlo, most of the surplus value is derived from U.S. workers. What’s wrong with this? First, while the profits from foreign countries are a small part of the total profits made by U.S. capitalists, the profits of the 500 top corporations show a much greater proportion of the total profits coming from outside the U.S. than the smaller capitalists. And it is the top 500 corporations which are a good measure of the present economic system. Still, the profits coming from outside are smaller than that made inside. But, and this is the second error of the argument, to speak of the profits from inside the U.S. without reference to oppressed nations inside the boundaries of the U.S. state, is to “forget” the national and colonial question where it is most important to remember it, where it most hits home.

All this is to keep the struggle confined within the limits of more “gains”. “But gains can be won,” Perlo says.

Owing to the struggles of the working class and the oppressed peoples, owing to the exemplary value of achievements in socialist countries, many particular things have changed for the better in capitalist countries. Many concessions have been won, even as other features have worsened, even as contradictions have deepened.

To Perlo there is no relation between the concessions won and the superprofits, there is no reference to Lenin or anything he might have had to say on the subject, which was plenty. The gains are due to the workers’ struggle for them. Should any worker wonder why we have such a high standard of living and all the fringe benefits which workers from oppressed countries do not have, that worker should be told it’s because we fought for those concessions and the foreign workers haven’t fought, or haven’t fought hard enough or long enough or in some way effectively enough. Don’t tell that worker the truth, as Lenin obviously saw it, that there is clearly a connection between superprofits and concessions. Don’t tell that worker that the imperialist bourgeoisie shoots some workers down in the streets to eliminate their struggle and keep their wages at starvation level and simultaneously bribes other workers with the extra profit made.

Perlo’s aim is to keep the struggle within the confines of the spontaneous movement. He stretches the struggle against racism into the struggle for socialism.

Deprived of superprofits, capitalism would be weakened economically and even more politically. The achievement of substantial economic equality would facilitate the political unification of the working class, the development within it of a class consciousness and an awareness of the need to fight for socialism.

There is no objective basis, no material basis, according to Perlo, for workers to support the policy of discrimination. In other words, there is no opportunist tendency in the class. “... the self interest of the entire working class lies in true internationalism, in the fight against racism.” The whole working class is revolutionary and the economic organizations of the class, the unions, can be converted into the “decisive organized center in the struggle to eliminate racist discrimination.”

And so goes the entire pamphlet. Roscoe Proctor speaks about the ”Superexploitation of Black Workers” and mentions no effect this might have on white workers, there is no national question, no imperialism, no bribe, no opportunism beyond a false subjective consciousness. Lorenzo Torres writes, on the subject of “Chicano Workers,” that “Mexican workers are paid as little as 15-20 cents an hour” and the corporations that hire them “receive tremendous tax breaks in addition to tremendous savings on wages. But U.S. workers–union or non-union–gain nothing. In fact, they stand in danger of losing their own jobs because of the threat of runaway shops.” In other words, it’s in the capitalist interest of U.S. workers to struggle against this “policy of U.S. imperialism–designed to annex the whole of Mexico into the U.S. economy.” Jose Ristorucci is the only party spokesman to raise the slogan of independence for Puerto Rico and calls for an increase in internal party education about the national and colonial question.

Finally, George Meyers, in “Features of the Working Class Movement,” addresses himself to the question of the labor aristocracy. It turns out after all that this whole matter has been blown up too much, and really it’s rather insignificant.

Much of the confusion over the question of the “aristocracy of labor” injected by Marcuse and other petty-bourgeois radicals has been pretty well cleared up by life itself. It is rather difficult these days to put auto and steelworkers in that category. Workers who can be defined as part of the “aristocracy of labor”–and I would define them as those who can write their own ticket–have always been small in number and are growing even smaller (unless we want to put the trade union officialdom in that category), [emphasis added]

Was Lenin a “petty-bourgeois radical?”

And who are these workers who can “write their own ticket?”–Elizabeth Taylor? Hank Aaron?

To cap the whole conference, Gus Hall concludes by rendering the old economists more profound. Speaking of a contemporary “historic ideological transition,” he states:

This mass shift is a process which takes place step by step. It’s not something that comes out of the blue; it is a step-by-step process. First there is the process of masses beginning to have questions about capitalism, questions about its ability to rule and continue as of old. Then there is disillusionment, dropping the illusions that capitalism is everything positive. And finally there is the conviction that capitalism cannot continue and that it is a negative force. That process is now going on. And in that process there is the beginning of seeing the working class as a replacement, as the class that will lead society to the next higher stages.[82]

That is how the CPUSA liquidates the fundamental problem of modern socialism. That is how they cover up what Lenin said had to be exposed, how they conceal what is supposed to be revealed to the revolutionary workers, and therefore how they actually side with that which Lenin said had to be combatted.

What the CPUSA tries so hard to conceal is our bounden duty to reveal. Yet the “anti-revisionist” organizations failed completely to do this. Progressive Labor Party differed from the CPUSA only in that they launched stronger attacks on the trade union leadership for not getting more concessions. PL always took the right-opportunist view that the whole working class is revolutionary and based their strategy on economic self-interest leading to socialist consciousness. Continuing the line of PL is the New Voice which argues that the bribe theory is a bourgeois theory, sham Marxism, and that if we say that there is a split in the working class between social-reformist and revolutionary wings, then we might as well say that there is no material basis for the working class to lead the socialist revolution.[83] They give us two choices: either the whole working class is revolutionary or it is not revolutionary.

PL never made a class analysis of what went wrong with the CP. They looked in many places but they never analyzed the internal contradictions in the proletariat at home, and it was only that analysis which could explain revisionism fully and deeply. They contributed much in the way of criticizing bad policies, but they never traced the policies to their class roots in the upper stratum of the proletariat. Thus they took the history of the CPUSA as mainly a teacher by positive example.

The RU began with the same kind of adoption of the negative CP heritage. The RU also criticized bad policies of the CP and also made it appear that this was the result entirely of outside pressures on the class which itself was pure. The long-standing and persistent line of hiding Lenin’s theory from the workers continued to dominate even the groups who were criticizing revisionism. This line, which essentially amounted to criticizing revisionism while hiding the theory which explains what revisionism is and what causes it, provided a cover for a different tendency which was already developing in “opposition” to the old revisionism of the CPUSA–the “new working class” or “new middle class” theories emanating directly from the intelligentsia within the state apparatus. In turn, members of these educated strata put forth the view, in opposition to “the workers are revolutionary,” the view that “the workers are reactionary.”

Of course there are conditions in which the whole working class is revolutionary. Mao Tsetung said of the Chinese workers:

since there is no economic basis for social reformism in colonial and semi-colonial China as there is in Europe, the whole proletariat, with the exception of a few scabs, is most revolutionary.[84]

This is probably the only reference in Mao’s writings to this question. Yet he states quite clearly, by inference, that there is a section in the European, and we are to understand also the U.S., proletariat which is social-reformist and not revolutionary. Is it significant that Mao has not said a great deal on the subject? Is it correct? And should we follow that example? The significance lies in the principle of proletarian internationalism as expressed by Mao in his article “In Memory of Norman Bethune”:

What kind of spirit is this that makes a foreigner adopt the cause of the Chinese people’s liberation as his own? It is the spirit of internationalism, the spirit of communism, from which every Chinese Communist must learn. Leninism teaches that the world revolution can only succeed if the proletariat of the capitalist countries supports the struggle for liberation of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples and if the proletariat of the colonies and semi-colonies supports that of the proletariat of the capitalist countries. Comrade Bethune put this Leninist line into practice. We Chinese Communists must also follow this line in our practice. We must unite with the proletariat of all the capitalist countries, with the proletariat of Japan, Britain, the United States, Germany, Italy and all other capitalist countries, before it is possible to overthrow imperialism, to liberate our nation and people, and to liberate the other nations and peoples of the world. This is our internationalism, the internationalism with which we oppose both narrow nationalism and narrow patriotism, [emphasis added to that part of the quote which is left out of the little red book of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung.][85]

As the representative of the oppressed nation, as the representative of the national liberation struggles and the international united front against imperialism, it is a correct application of proletarian internationalism to not criticize a section of the proletariat in the imperialist country, for this would tend to strengthen nationalism and divide the proletarian classes. Mao is quite aware that when a relatively well-paid section of the class in an imperialist country is striking for their own economic interest, they are not conscious of unity with the Chinese people, Vietnamese people, etc. Still on the other side there is consciousness of this unity; the Chinese and Vietnamese support these struggles, publicize them in their countries and do not say: ’these U.S. workers are only striking for their own gain and they do not care a damn about our struggle.’ The CCP was well aware that the Japanese imperialists couldn’t attack and maintain an army in China without some substantial support or “benevolent neutrality” of sections of the Japanese workers. Yet he said, “we should unite with the Japanese workers.”

But our task is not the same. Our proletariat is not entirely revolutionary. One section is social-reformist, which, as the crisis becomes more acute ripens into social-imperialism, and finally into fascism. For now the point is that in order for us to fulfill our internationalist responsibility, we have to unite with the national liberation movement, we have to expose our bourgeoisified stratum and break its influence on the masses of workers, particularly on the oppressed and exploited industrial workers. If we don’t do this, if we just simply “unite with all the workers” then we provoke two related reactions. One is nationalism–that the workers of the oppressor country are untrustworthy and can’t be united with–and the other is “lumpenism” which is that those who work can’t be united with which takes the workers as a whole as a labor aristocracy. These two related ideas form a unity in opposition to the theory of the whole working class as a revolutionary force. The two theories, that the workers are revolutionary and that the workers are reactionary, form a unity in opposition to Marxism in that both neglect and blur over the contradiction inside the proletariat.

The clearest expression of this dialectical relation appeared in the form of a kind of debate between the Panthers and the CP. It was Eldridge Cleaver who first advanced the non-nationalist, lumpen vanguard theory in his pamphlet “The Ideology of the Black Panther Party.” That the party leaders as a whole did not agree with this theory is less important than the actual impact of Cleaver’s main thesis which is mostly underestimated. What did Cleaver say? He said that the main contradiction in the proletariat is between the employed and unemployed. Those working, in general represented the right wing of the class, while those deprived not only of means of production but even of the ability to compete as a labor-power seller represented, in general the left wing of the class. Attached to this contradiction, and subordinate to it, is the contradiction within the “working class” between Black and white, and the contradiction within the “lumpenproletariat” between Black and white. The CP was assumed to be representative of the advanced section of the working part of the class, an appropriate political form for the right-wing of the class as a whole. The Panthers, said Cleaver, would represent the left-wing of the class as a whole, the non-working part of the class as a whole. Who did Cleaver define as the “Lumpen?” Cleaver actually included the entire relative surplus population, and he would have done well to quote from Capital on the subject.[86] He also included the lumpen-criminal element, turning the familiar anti-working class theme into a positive trait: they’d rather rip-off than work.

So Cleaver told the relative surplus population, this vast impoverished army, to regard the workers antagonistically. He told them to regard having a job and being exploited your whole life through as a privilege. And, indeed, in the extreme decay of imperialist society, it appears as just that. He told the workers that they were adequately represented by the CP and at the same time that they were objectively enemies of the revolution. Thus did Cleaver perform a valuable service to the imperialists, who have long told the industrial workers that the impoverished sections were out to get their jobs and their money for welfare, and told the latter that the whole working class is reactionary.

The CP was informed enough to tell Cleaver and the Panthers that they were revising a principle of Marxism (look who’s talking!) by denying the revolutionary character of the industrial workers. But they never could convince the most revolutionary of the Panthers that there was not an antagonistic contradiction, a contradiction in class interests within the proletariat as a whole, a contradiction necessitating a different party to represent the revolutionary wing of the class. And in this, those who would not be convinced were right. Lenin made that absolutely clear in his writings on the subject. But Lenin’s writings were absent from the debate.

Lenin’s writings were also absent from the debate between RU and Weatherman. And in all the polemics between the RU and “The Franklin Group” (which later became a big part of the Venceremos organization), much of which was concerned with the question of who is revolutionary in the proletariat, there was almost no reference to Lenin’s analysis of the split in socialism.[87] Again the “left” opportunist line opened up a box full of potential Leninist analysis, while the right-opportunist mainly attempted to hide Lenin and keep the box closed. Unfortunately, Venceremos didn’t feel the obligation to justify its thinking on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, following Cleaver’s (lumpen-vanguard) method as well as theory. It never outgrew its infantilism. As for the RU, and their (unwanted) offspring, the O.L., we shall return to show that their understanding of the split in the working class is very much connected to their conception of “the advanced worker.”

The Advanced Workers

The theory of the mass line teaches that wherever the masses are to be found they are always divisable into relatively active, neutral and passive. It is a part of the overall relation between spontaneity and consciousness. Lenin wrote about “advanced,” “average,” and “backward” workers; Mao wrote about “active supporters, opponents and neutrals” and in other writings as “the relatively active, the intermediate and relatively backward.” The question is, advanced in relation to what? active supporters of what? relatively active doing what?

When Mao used the term “active supporters” (in 1949) he meant those who actively supported the policy of the Communist Party. When he said, in 1943 “the relatively active,” he meant relatively active fighting the Japanese and striving for national liberation, New Democracy and the seizure of state power to accomplish this end.[88] In other words, advanced means advanced in relation to consciousness of the objective position of the class and its historic mission. It means advanced in relation to the concrete revolutionary tasks at hand. Here is Lenin on the “advanced worker”:

The history of the working-class movement in all countries shows that the better-situated strata of the working class respond to the ideas of socialism more rapidly and more easily. From among these come, in the main, the advanced workers that every working-class movement brings to the fore, those who can win the confidence of the laboring masses, who devote themselves entirely to the education and organization of the proletariat, who accept socialism consciously, and who even elaborate independent socialist theories. Every viable working-class movement has brought to the fore such working-class leaders, its own Proudhons, Vaillants, Weitlings, and Bebels. And our Russian working-class movement promises not to lag behind the European movement in this respect. At a time when educated society is losing interest in honest, illegal literature, an impassioned desire for knowledge and for socialism is growing among the workers, real heroes are coming to the fore from amongst the workers, who, despite their wretched living conditions, despite the stultifying penal servitude of factory labor, possess so much character and will-power that they study, study, study, and turn themselves into conscious Social-Democrats–“the working-class intelligentsia.” This ”working-class intelligentsia” already exists in Russia, and we must make every effort to ensure that its ranks are regularly reinforced, that its lofty mental requirements are met and that leaders of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party come from its ranks. The newspaper that wants to become the organ of all Russian Social-Democrats must, therefore, be at the level of the advanced workers; not only must it not lower its level artificially, but, on the contrary, it must raise it constantly, it must follow up all the tactical, political, and theoretical problems of world Social-Democracy. Only then will the demands of the working-class intelligentsia be met, and it itself will take the cause of the Russian workers, and consequently, the cause of the Russian revolution, into its own hands.[89]

The existence of such a phenomenon is of course conditional on the spontaneous practical experience of the proletariat. It appears as the proletariat enters the rational stage of cognition. From that time forward there exists within the proletariat, within the working masses as a whole, a contradictory attitude–subjective position–in relation to consciousness of the objective conditions, in relation to the ideas characteristic of the advanced class.

An advanced worker, in the period of the beginnings of the development of a party, wants to become a professional revolutionary, wants to become a trained specialist in the skills of revolution, wants especially to become a “social-scientist”–a revolutionary theorist–so as to correctly analyze concrete conditions and accelerate the pace of revolution. The advanced worker already knows that the class is exploited and oppressed, already knows that through united struggle a concession can be won, already knows that ultimately (whenever that is) revolution and socialism (whatever it means) will end exploitation and oppression. The advanced worker wants to know everything there is to know about the theory of the class struggle and proletarian revolution. The advanced worker does not understand and will never understand the unwillingness of the revolutionary intellectuals to bring this knowledge, except as a manifestation of petty-bourgeois egoism, sectarianism, the reluctance to entrust the revolution to workers. To appeal to the workers to unite and fight for better conditions under capitalism is to appeal to the backward aspect of proletarian consciousness.

Our economists .. . were successful because they adapted themselves to the backward workers. But the Social-Democratic worker, the revolutionary worker (and the number of such workers is growing) will indignantly reject all this talk about struggle for demands “promising palpable results,” etc., because he will understand that this is only a variation of the old song about adding a kopek to the ruble.

Such a worker, Lenin says, “will say to his counsellors”:

You are busying yourselves in vain, gentlemen, and shirking your proper duties, by meddling with such excessive zeal in a job that we can very well manage ourselves. . . . The “activity” you want to stimulate among us workers, by advancing concrete demands that promise palpable results, we are already displaying and in our everyday, limited 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 tell us more about what we do not yet know and what we can never learn from our factory and “economic” experience, namely, political knowledge.. . . Devote more zeal to carrying out this duty and talk less about “raising the activity of the working masses.”. . . It is not for you to “raise” our activity, because activity is precisely the thing you yourselves lack. Bow less in subservience to spontaneity, and think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen![90]

How many times have our ”Marxists” read this section from What Is To Be Done?, and yet they never tire of talking about raising the level of the mass struggle as a prerequisite to the raising of their own level!

Lenin said that the advanced workers generally come from among the “better situated” of the working class. What does this mean? For Lenin it was related to literacy more than anything else. Generally speaking, in Russia at the turn of the century, only a small minority of the urban working class, which itself was a small minority of the population, could read and write. Having recently come off the land, these workers could not only make comparisons with peasant conditions and with ruling class conditions but had already gained some indirect knowledge through the printed word. Varying experience and varying subjective initiative had already produced “natural” leaders from the class, those who at the particular time and given the particular conditions, were the most capable of carrying out the theoretical and practical tasks of revolutionary politics. Of course, this also made them the most able to carry out any kind of politics, given the motivation. The workers Lenin was talking about were those whose class stand was unshakable.

At the time this small number of workers was developing in Russia, at the time that the class was entering the rational stage of consciousness, there was already a group of Russian Marxists who saw it as their duty to spread Marxism among the workers, primarily, if not entirely, among the industrial workers. They tried to win these advanced workers to the cause of proletarian revolution, to raise the level of their consciousness to the science of Marxism. Lenin had to fight a constant battle to see that this was done. Against him were those who saw it as their task to motivate the advanced workers to become petty-bourgeois politicians, to raise the spontaneous economic struggle to the level of bourgeois politics. And among the better situated are those who have the greatest possibility of climbing out of the class, of becoming, in actual fact, craftsmen, independent shopkeepers, or at least, landing soft and authoritative jobs as foremen, managers, supervisors, etc. Among the best situated are the labor aristocracy and other favored workers.

In the imperialist countries, the bourgeoisie was able to buy off the most capable leaders and transform them into professional trade-unionists, politicians, journalists, business agents, insurance agents, and in general into all-round agents of the bourgeoisie in the working class movement. In the trade union movement in the U.S., as well ?s other imperialist countries, there is plenty of money around for high salaries, soft jobs, expense accounts, kickbacks, dividends, and straight-out bribes, especially to those who renounce the revolutionary road. For those who don’t there is the stick.

So where do we look for advanced workers? If we understand how and why the class is split, then it surely follows, just as Lenin said, that we have to go down deeper into the class, we have to move away from the bourgeoisified workers and move toward the most oppressed and exploited workers.

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 by “bourgeois respectability.” This is the essence of Marxist tactics!

Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the “defenders of the fatherland” in the imperialist war represent only a minority. 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.[91]

Needless to say, people who manage to miss the “fundamental question” of our movement and therefore never get to the “economic and political essence” of our society can not be expected to understand the “whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism.” The struggle is one of whether we want to root the party in the strata of the proletariat who “are in one way or another connected with bourgeois society” or in the stratum which has “long broken off connection with the capitalist class.” And it is really no more complicated than that.

The CP does not offer much in the way of theoretical literature on the advanced worker or anything else in relation to Marxism-Leninism, but their theory can be revealed by their general propaganda, program, and practice. The CP understands imperialist society as divided into relatively progressive and relatively reactionary tendencies. The good aspect is that imperialism is gradually reforming itself into socialism, into a haven of democracy for the workers and the realization of the ideals of social equality and peace. The majority of the masses in general support the general movement to reform imperialism and, organized, can pressure the ruling class into concessions which actually increase the people’s ability to reform imperialism into socialism (i.e., actually undermine the power of monopoly capital). Then there is the bad aspect: the presently most powerful elements in the ruling class are reactionary and are constantly threatening a setback, constantly putting in jeopardy the gains won and the gains about to be won. This eternal quantitative movement under the rule of the bourgeoisie gradually, eventually, ends in the bourgeoisie committing suicide presumably as a result of psychological torment brought on by the pressure of the masses.

So the CP objectively throws the net as wide as possible. The advanced workers are those who are not anti-communist, not racist, not anti-movement. They do not conceive of an advanced worker in the way that Lenin did–those who are for communism and revolution–since that is not the question they are dealing with. They are dealing with the struggle for better conditions, a reform of capitalism; with the struggle for equal opportunity, a reform in the U.S. capitalist system; with the struggle for democratic rights, a reform in the U.S. capitalist system; with the struggle for a free marketplace of ideas, etc., etc. So that the CP’s idea of an advanced worker is one who tends to push the imperialist bourgeoisie in that direction instead of in the opposite, reactionary direction. This is exactly the political prejudice of the bourgeoisie brought into the ranks of the workers. The bourgeoisie defines politics as contradictions within the ruling class, the struggle within the ruling class on various issues affecting the society as a whole, and on which they sometimes, in cases of secondary contradictions, encourage the masses to give their opinions.

The RU and OL perpetuate the same error as the CPUSA. They are supposed to be big critics of revisionism and right-opportunism, but here is where they get the most fierce in struggle against “leftism.” Here is where they attack Lenin; where they caution against dogmatism, against too much theory, against putting the party first. Both the RU and OL caution against accepting Lenin’s view of the advanced worker. Just when people are beginning to study Lenin and find out that communist propaganda and agitation is supposed to be directed always to the advanced workers, (the workers who are already in favor of revolution and are searching for revolutionary ideas, theories, plans, programs); just when Leninism should have scored a big victory over revisionism, the RU and OL come forward to say that an advanced worker is not necessarily the one who digs Marxism and communism! And this turns out to be, for both organizations, only one part of a larger argument which says, in effect, the party doesn’t necessarily have to be built from those who adhere strictly to Marxism and communism. The argument on the advanced worker (without any reference to Lenin) is, in both cases, in the context of opposition to the party principle. Is this an exaggeration?

Here is the RU in 1972, polemicizing against the tendency of “ultra-leftism”:

The most important thing we want to emphasize is that this unified general staff can only be created through active participation in class struggle. It cannot be created, as the groups referred to earlier seem to think, by theoretical debates or, as some of these groups have done, by simply declaring themselves to be the Party or the sole basis of the Party. For the most part, the activity of these groups in any particular struggle is to relate to it by giving advice instead of diving into the fray. Because their concentration on their single objective of forming the Party prevents them from learning the struggle, their advice tends to be thoroughly defeatist to the strugglers, telling them in effect that their struggles are useless, are bound to be sold out and liquidated, and that they ought to be struggling only for a Party to lead them to the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism.

They have read Mao and, accepting the correct thesis that any group is divisible into advanced, middle, and backward elements, they decide, correctly, to first focus on the advanced workers. The catch lies in who they consider advanced. In general, their idea is that an advanced worker is one who accepts a piece of communist propaganda and says, “right on!”

Our conception is quite different. To us, the advanced worker is one who has the respect of fellow workers, to whom they come when they are in trouble and need to discuss their problems, whom they rally around when they face a collective problem, and who provides leadership in struggle ...[92]

And here is the OL, 1973

Certain of the groups who have taken an ultra-“leftist” course have isolated the tasks of party-building from work within the mass movement of the people. To them, building a party is the task of a handful of intellectuals, working in isolation from the masses. They argue that “the mass movement is meaningless without the leadership of the party.” They have no faith in the people’s ability to learn through the struggle and so they participate in mass work for the sole purpose of “winning the handful of advanced workers” to their organization.

The OL continues, quoting the Chinese Communist Party’s appeal to the CPUSA in 1963 to build a united front against imperialism and its policies, and says that these ultra-“leftist” groups are opposed to the united front. But then they pull a quick switch from the united front against imperialism, to trade union work. They say that in practice we are only concerned with building our own organizations. Instead of what? “Instead of pushing forward the work of the plants of organizing strikes, working in the unions and building up the caucuses and other rank-and-file movements.”

They isolate themselves from the real advanced workers, not necessarily the ones that will come right out and join a Marxist study group, but the real leaders of the working class who emerge through the course of struggle.[93]

Is it not clear that both these organizations are appealing to the militant trade unionist? The RU defines an advanced worker as one who is leading the struggle which the masses of workers (at a particular workplace) relate to, the immediate economic struggle, the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, spontaneous struggle against the capitalist. Without a communist party, without communism entering the picture ideologically, the workers spontaneously gravitate towards trade unionism, towards bourgeois trade union politics. The OL has the identical conception. What their line comes down to is this: the advanced worker (the basic individual unit of the vanguard party) represents not the consciousness of the proletarian struggle for emancipation but rather spontaneous leadership of the struggle for better conditions. Is it an exaggeration if we say that it is precisely the struggle to get on in life which is used as an example of united front work (and not the united front against imperialism)? Is it not precisely the struggle to get on in life which is being posed as against the lofty ideals of Marxism. Is this not philistine?

What all this shows, again, is that the petty-bourgeois revolutionists, these ultra-left radicals who call themselves the “young communist movement.” are opportunist in their objective practice. They are speculating on the backward aspects of the proletariat, a backwardness which is strengthened by the influence of the tactically powerful labor-aristocracy. They actually appeal to, encourage and incite the aspect of philistinism, the anxiety to get on in life. While the upper stratum has the propensity to compromise with the bourgeoisie, the OL and RU have the propensity to compromise with this mentality; while the upper stratum has a predominant inclination to adapt itself to the powers that be, the OL and RU adapt to this mentality. Thus, not only are they doing nothing to combat the influence of opportunism in the working class, they are actually guaranteeing its increased influence.

Wherein, then lies the anti-revisionism of these organizations? In every concrete way they are evidently conciliators of revisionism, but there is one bit of substance to their anti-revisionist title (besides support of China against the USSR–literally a nationalistic defense, encompassing all sorts of combinations of anti-Soviet/anti-communist views). The one bit of substance is their critique of the theory of peaceful transition. It appears as though they have a correct proletarian attitude towards the bourgeoisie, in particular the bourgeois state, along with an incorrect, bourgeois attitude towards the proletariat, in particular the proletarian party. This is combining two contradictions into one. Either a bourgeois conception of both classes wins out, or a proletarian conception of both classes wins out. In the beginning stages of the struggle, the attitude towards the proletariat is decisive and determines the character of the contradiction; based on the correct attitude towards the proletariat (carrying out the Marxist-Leninist mass line), as the revolution matures, and especially when a revolutionary situation emerges, the attitude towards the bourgeoisie, towards the bourgeois state, becomes decisive. The reason why the OL and RU now, and the CPUSA for many years, could have a “revolutionary” attitude towards the bourgeois state is because it remained, and remains, a relatively abstract question.

Any serious examination of the press of these organizations will show that it is not right-opportunism, not the revisionist CPUSA, that makes them feel class hatred. It is not the influence of modern revisionism in the party building movement which concerns them. The influence they are concerned about and to which they devote so much space to vent their class hatred, is “leftism,” is the groups and organizations who are primarily concerned with the building of a party, with the spreading of communist propaganda and agitation, with propaganda circles, study groups, etc. It is those “leftist” elements which the petty-bourgeois leftists seek to exorcise and isolate from the advanced workers. And that is the irony, that despite their efforts to appeal to the masses, it is the advanced workers after all who temporarily will be attracted to the petty-bourgeois radical press.

Whether OL removes the hammer and sickle from its masthead or leaves it on, whether there is a multi-national fist or portraits of Marx through Mao, still the only workers who are going to take an interest in this type of propaganda are the relatively advanced workers, those interested in revolutionary views. The great majority of workers, including many advanced workers, will continue to take militant trade unionism, anti-war activism, nationalism, feminism, etc., etc., as generally speaking, manifestations of communist and revolutionary consciousness. Most of them will dismiss it as “communist” propaganda and a few will be interested to see what the “communists” have to say. They will take it to be a manifestation of communist and revolutionary consciousness–and they will be right, in the sense that the people behind the propaganda believe this to be practice objectively leading to revolution. But the propaganda and agitation is reform oriented; it gives the impression that the immediate struggle to reform the system is paramount. But these are not naive reformers, no, they are reformats, “communists” masquerading as reformers. Thus the advanced workers, if they are won to these organizations, are won to the idea of masquerading as reformers supposedly in order to prepare the ground for revolutionary work. They are transformed from advanced workers into opportunists– and that is the general purpose, function and result of the revisionist party and all the conciliators.


[78] from the little “Red Book” Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1972, pp. 118-33. The quotes are followed by the original source including the date of writing.

[79] WITBD?*, LCW, 5:389-90

[80] This is not intended as an analysis of classes, only a generalization of certain features of the relation between the classes. Some will complain about the inclusion of the professional and technical workers in the proletariat. Are they petty-bourgeois or proletarian? The confusion over the class nature of this stratum is no accident; they are proletarian in that, owning no means of production of their own, they cannot sell anything but their own labor-power, skilled as it is; they are petty-bourgeois in that they are paid sufficient to accumulate some property and live in part off of that income. The same is true of the aristocracy of manual labor, the construction craftsmen.

[81] The Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, (1926), “Sources of Contradictions Within the Party,” SW, 9:9-11

[82] “The Working Class and the Class Struggle in the United States,” Political Affairs, November, 1973, Hyman Lumer, Editor. Thus it is indisputable that the CPSU and the CPUSA have taken the liberty to revise Lenin’s contribution to political economy. One more significant revision must be mentioned. In the widely used text by John Eaton (Political Economy, A Marxist Textbook, International Publishers, N.Y., New Revised Edition–U.S.–1966) there is no mention of the split in the working class in the chapter on imperialism (182-204). But in the original version of the book (International Publishers, N.Y., 1949, Eaton quoted Lenin on parasitism and added: “A section of the working class–an upper stratum that is sometimes described as the labor aristocracy–shares to a substantial extent in the fruits of imperialism and tends therefore to identify its interests with those of the capitalist class. Imperialist exploitation provides in this way the economic basis of the opportunist right-wing trend in the labor movement, for whose political influence the working class has had to pay a very heavy price.” (pp. 152-53)

[83] “Imperialism Today,” The New Voice, pamphlet published in December 1973, and the June 17, 1974 issue of the same newsletter. Insisting that the “bribe theory” is “sham Marxism,” and failing to correct this error after several months of discussions and polemics, the New Voice was expelled from the Continuations Committee calling the Congress of North American Marxist-Leninists. At the Continuations Committee Forum on Imperialism, they showed up and argued their point. After hearing a score of quotes and excerpts from Lenin they walked out.

[84] The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party (December 1939), MSW, 2:324

[85] Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, op. cit. Since the content is actually undisturbed, and other quotations in the same section have the same political message, the purpose of leaving out those particular words could only be for one purpose–to make it appear that this idea is Mao’s. In fact, not only does Mao say this is the teaching of Lenin, the footnote in the Selected Works refers to Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism. Whereas Mao was summarizing and explaining a fundamental idea of Marxism-Leninism, Lin Piao presents it as a Peculiarity of “Mao Tsetung Thought.”

[86] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow, (no date), Chapter 25, “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,” pp. 640-44. Cleaver’s short essay, The Ideology of the Black Panther Party was published by the BPP as a separate pamphlet in 1970.

[87] “Proletarian Revolution Vs. Revolutionary Adventurism,” Red Papers 4 by the R.U., 1971. To sum up this complex set of dialectical relations: Marxism reveals the contradiction within the proletariat. The bourgeois opposite is to obscure this contradiction. Obscuring the contradiction divides into two: 1) the whole class is revolutionary. This divides into left (PL, New Voice) and right (CP, RU, OL). 2) The whole class is non-revolutionary. This divides into left (Weatherman, Venceremos, nationalist groups) and right (“new working class” etc.). Only two organizations have made a point of Lenin’s theory of imperialism and the split in the working class. One, the Liberation Support Movement (LSM) approaches the problem from the standpoint of radical bourgeois democracy, and concludes that the U.S. proletariat can’t organize a communist party and the only thing to do is organize support for national liberation struggles. The other is the Communist League which has insisted on building the party on the basis of the most oppressed and exploited workers.

[88] Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, op. cit., in the section on “The Mass Line.”

[89] A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy LCW, 4:280-81, and to the end of the article–285. The “broad stratum of average workers,” Lenin says, are also for socialism and revolution, “and differ from the preceding stratum only in that they cannot become fully independent leaders of the Social-Democratic working class movement. The average worker will not understand some of the articles in a newspaper that aims to be the organ of the Party, he will not be able to get a full grasp of an intricate theoretical or practical problem. This does not at all mean that the newspaper must lower itself to the level of the mass of its readers. The newspaper, on the contrary, must raise their level and help promote advanced workers from the middle stratum of workers.” As for the backward workers, Lenin says “it is quite possible that a socialist newspaper will be completely or well-nigh incomprehensible to them . . . but it would be absurd to conclude from this that the newspaper of the Social-Democrats should adapt itself to the lowest possible level of the workers. The only thing that follows from this is that different forms of agitation and propaganda must be brought to bear on these strata–pamphlets written in more popular language, oral agitation, and chiefly–leaflets on local events.” The backward workers “may even become demoralized by such calumnies as that the founders of Russian Social-Democracy only want to use the workers to overthrow the autocracy, by invitations to confine themselves to the restoration of holidays and to craft unions, with no concern for the final aims of socialism and the immediate tasks of the political struggle.” “To reduce the entire movement to the interests of the moment means to speculate on the backward condition of the workers, means to cater to their worst inclinations. It means artificially to break the link between the working-class movement and socialism ...”

[90] WITBD?*, LCW, 5:415-17

[91] Imperialism and the Split in Socialism*, LCW, 23:120

[92] “National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.,” Red Papers 5, R.U., 1972, pp. 7-8

[93] Party Building in the U.S., O.L., 1973, pp. 10-11. The OL begins its attack on “leftism” with the quote from Stalin on the three strata. But it never applies Stalin’s theory to the right-opportunist labor-aristocracy stratum. In pinpointing petty-bourgeois leftism as a danger to the communist movement, they are correct, only they don’t realize that they are identifying their own, the RU’s, and many other groups class basis at the present time. The class background of the “young communist movement” is decidedly just those Stalin mentions –newcomers to the proletariat from non-proletarian classes. And their “leftism” is quite evident in their press, quite evident in their clumsy application of “Left”-Wing Communism... Both newspapers are mainly agitational, precisely in the sense of carrying the message: here is an example of concrete oppression and resistance; the oppressors in the final analysis are weak; fight back and win a victory. That is precisely in the sense that the economists understood agitation–as appealing to activity as opposed to armchair education (see IIIB of WITBD). Their front pages are devoted to this type of “united front” (it is a united front with the politically most backward, reformist mentality, of the class) reportage. And they deliberately sensationalize the news: we are forced to translate into concrete reality the intentionally distorted headlines–“Mass Protests Sweep the Country” means twenty demonstrations totalling 10,000 people, “Workers Take the Lead” means a few workers were there and they held the banner “leading” the demonstration. Even more ridiculous is that while they are trying to give the impression of great numbers, they don’t report on events led by other organizations. So that, we can pick up The Call and read about the masses pounding fiercely at the doors of the ruling class and they don’t even report PL’s demonstrations or the CP’s demonstrations. Then we pick up Challenge and learn that the workers are about to swallow the bosses whole and they don’t report the OL/RU or the CP demonstration. Any look at the People’s World will prove who is the past master at this kind of “communist” deception. In short, the petty-bourgeois leftist press is unreliable and subjective, full of wishful thinking combined with bluff, and completely sectarian–mainly concerned with establishing one or another organization as the main reflector and representative of a mass movement (and thus, “in the lead”). As for their “communism,” it is armchair-type propaganda they are forced into because of the existence of real communist groups, and it is totally separated from the news and views of the mass movement.