Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Collective

Proletarian Revolution and the Split in the Working Class


The various deviations on the question of imperialism and the split in the working class must be examined and fully understood in order for a decisive break with opportunism, reformism and revisionism to be carried out. Only by exposing the social-chauvinists who currently fetter the development of the proletarian revolution can the proletariat be organized into a communist party which will lead the revolutionary struggle against capital.

Continuous connection with the mass of workers, the ability to agitate unceasingly among them, to participate in every strike, to respond to every demand of the masses – this is the chief thing for a Communist Party, especially in such a country as England where until new participation in the socialist movement and labor movement has been confined chiefly to a narrow upper section of the workers, representatives of the labor aristocracy, largely, thoroughly and hopelessly spoiled by reformism, captives of bourgeois and imperialist prejudices. Without a struggle against this section, without the destruction of every trace of authority among the workers, without convincing the masses of the complete bourgeois corruption of this section, there can be no question of a serious communist workers’ movement. That is so for England, for France, for America, for Germany.[1]

A. Main Contradiction Within the Proletariat

What is the main contradiction which exists within the proletariat today? It is the contradiction between the upper stratum of the working class as a whole, the skilled aristocracy of labor, and the masses of oppressed and exploited working people, mainly the semi-skilled and unskilled industrial workers. This is a class question, an antagonistic contradiction, which will he resolved only by proletarian revolution. This is because the upper stratum maintains a way of life which gives it a material interest in the preservation of capitalism, in the preservation of the imperialist-nation privileges. The politics which reflect this stratum are those of fighting the effects of capitalism on the labor aristocracy, while at the same time fighting to maintain the capitalist system as a whole. This should be grasped by communists particularly at a time when the spontaneous resistance of the bribed stratum of workers is on the rise (see Appendix: City Strike). Ideologically, this takes the form of opportunism – the abandonment of principle, the concern with the immediate interests of a section of the proletariat, rather than the long-range interests of the class as a whole – and of reformism – the tying of the workers’ struggles to reforms under capitalism. We have mentioned the fact that certain workers are ’bourgeoisified’ they have a foot in the petty-bourgeoisie, and aspire to that class. Stalin speaks of the pressure of the bourgeois world outlook on the proletariat, and says of a section of the class:

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.[2]

B. CPUSA: Bourgeois Agents in the Working Class

The Communist Party USA tries to conceal exactly what Lenin said must be exposed – the opportunism which exists within the working class, and liquidates the fundamental problem of socialism. What does the CPUSA say, first of all, about the contradictions within the proletariat? They try to obscure them, and hope they’ll disappear.

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 steel-workers 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).[3]

Evidently the CPUSA considers that Stalin and Lenin, among others, were ’petty bourgeois radicals’. The CPUSA is putting forward the view that there are not really any contradictions within the proletariat, and the fundamental question of socialism, defined by Lenin as the split in the working class, is not only not fundamental, it’s not even much of a question! Representing the most ’bourgeoisified’ workers, the line of the CPUSA is a clear revisionist, opportunist one, which can be summed up as follows: the whole working class is revolutionary. Before examining their logic, it is important to point out the social composition of the CPUSA, for it reveals the material basis of their opportunism, and explains why they hold the opportunist views they do. In the 1930’s, at the height of the CPUSA’s influence among the proletariat, less than 10% of its cadre were in large-scale factories. In other words, it was not then, nor is it now, based in the most oppressed and exploited sections of the class. Gus Hall says it himself:

We do not have fully a class bent in our party. We do not have fully a working-class mentality in our party and in our leadership. That we are a working-class party does not come through, very often.[4]

It does not “come through” because it is not true. The CPUSA is based in the section of the proletariat which is most anxious to “get on in life”, and which has a material interest in protecting the capitalist system. They are based among, and are themselves, the most likely candidates for climbing out of the working class, of becoming craftsmen, independent shopkeepers, foremen, managers, supervisors, etc. The CPUSA is, in fact, the main vehicle for revisionism within the working class movement.

How is the CPUSA’s view that the whole working class is revolutionary manifested? First, in their denial of the existence of contradictions within the class, which has already been discussed. Second, the CPUSA denies Lenin’s theses on imperialism, which means the subjugation of whole nations in the drive for maximum profits. Related to this is the denial of the national question, the denial of the fact that the superprofits derived from oppressed nations and peoples are used to grant concessions to the proletariat, to bribe the upper stratum of the oppressor nation. In short, for the CPUSA there is no imperialism, no national question, no bribe, no opportunism.

Let’s examine the particular arguments. The CPUSA argues that imperialism is simply an extension of competitive capitalism, where the capitalists are able to extract more profit from inside the country due to the higher productivity of US workers and because of a policy of racial discrimination. In fact, they argue, US imperialism does not really need superprofits, although it seeks them wherever it can get them. But a study of Lenin, combined with historical experience, proves that imperialism cannot survive without maximum profits. Stalin summarizes the main features and requirements of the basic economic law of modern capitalism this way:

the securing of the maximum capitalist profit through the exploitation, ruin and impoverishment of the majority of the population of the given country, through the enslavement and systematic robbery of the peoples of other countries, especially backward countries, and lastly, through wars and militarization of the national economy, which are utilised for the obtaining of the highest profits.[5]

And, he continues:

...it would be absurd to think, in seizing colonies, subjugating peoples and engineering wars, the magnates of modern monopoly capitalism are striving to secure only the average profits. No, it is not the average profit, nor yet superprofit – which, as a rule, represents only a slight addition to the average profit – but precisely the maximum profit that is the motor of monopoly capitalism.[6]

And where must the monopoly capitalist go to find the maximum profit? To the colonies and nations where the cheapest methods of extracting a greater amount of surplus value are used. This is because the rate of profit falls in proportion to the amount of machinery invested in the production process; and since less machinery (constant capital) is invested in the oppressed nation and colonies, the rate of profit is higher than in an advanced imperialist country. The CPUSA would have us believe that the skilled worker in the US is the source of maximum profits, and not the toiling masses in the colonies. The CPUSA purposely confuses the rate of exploitation with the rate of profit. The former tends to be higher in the developed capitalist countries than in the colonies. The second is always higher in the colonies, as the organic composition of capital is lower. These superprofits from the colonies are precisely what the imperialists seek in their drive for maximum profits.

The CPUSA goes on to distort the truth by putting forth the view that the “main bulk of surplus value derived by US capitalists is from the labor of the whole US working class.” While it is true that profits from foreign countries are less than profits derived from domestic investment, the profits of the top 500 US corporations show a much greater proportion of the total profits coming from outside the US than is the case with the smaller monopoly capitalists. And it is the top 500 corporations which dominate the economy and are a good measure of the present economic system. The important point here is that the CPUSA wants to speak about profits from inside the US without addressing itself to the most important question of oppressed nations both outside and inside the US state. It wants to ’forget’ the national question outside the US, and, where it is most important to remember it, right at home, in the form of the Black Nation, Puerto Rico, and the Southwest. Lenin clearly emphasized the crucial role of communists in the oppressor nations in regard to nations oppressed by their ’own’ bourgeoisie:

In the internationalist education of the workers of the oppressor countries, emphasis must necessarily be laid on their advocating freedom for the oppressed countries to secede and their fighting for it. Without this there can be no internationalism. It is our right and duty to treat every Social-Democrat of an oppressor nation who fails to conduct such propaganda as a scoundrel and an imperial1st.[7]

To the CPUSA there is no relation between the concessions won by and granted to the US proletariat and the superprofits derived from the plunder of oppressed nations and colonies. No, the gains are all due to the workers’ struggles for them. It is true, of course, that the US working class has struggled hard and won a great many concessions from the bourgeoisie. But that is only one aspect of the question. Why is the standard of living so high, and how do we account for all the benefits enjoyed by the US proletariat relative to the oppressed peoples of the world? Can we say that the working people of other countries, who are not so privileged, have not fought as hard as we have? Or perhaps they have not fought long enough? We would hardly say this was true. And yet, this is what the CPUSA is telling the US working class. Not that there is a clear connection between superprofits derived from the oppressed nations and the ability of the bourgeoisie to make concessions to the US proletariat; in particular, to bribe the upper stratum.

The revisionist CPUSA and the reformist labor aristocracy are the principal vehicles of bourgeois ideology within the working class. It is against these social props that we direct the main blow. However, this does not mean overlooking other right opportunists and reformists, such as the Communist Labor Party (CLP), Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and October League (OL), who have limited influence in the working class compared to the CPUSA and the labor aristocracy. The errors of these groups in theory and political line differ from the CPUSA in form only; the essence, right opportunism, is the same. These deviations have been adequately dealt with elsewhere, and we will not repeat the exposures here. The MLC is in the process of writing a pamphlet exposing the CLP; other suggested readings are: ATM(M-L), Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, #3, #7, #8; LPR, Resistance, Vol. 7, #9; MLOC, Unite!, Vol. 2, #1.


[1] V.I. Lenin, On Britain, Communist Party of Great Britain edition, p. 245.

[2] J.V. Stalin, The Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist international (1926), “Sources of Contradictions Within the Party”, Stalin’s Works, Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow, Vol. 9, p. 11.

[3] George Meyers, “Features of the Working Class Movement”, Political Affairs, November, 1973.

[4] Gus Hall, quoted in “A Lame Duck in Turbulent Waters”; see ATM, “Selected Speeches Presented at Forums, 1974-1975”, p. 25.

[5] Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, op. cit. p. 39.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Lenin, “The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up”, Selections from V.I. Lenin and J.V. Stalin on National Colonial Question, Calcutta Book House, 1970, p. 46.