Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Revolutionary Strategy in the U.S.

Revolutionary Strategy in the U.S.

–Text of speech given March 1976 in the San Francisco Bay Area

Good evening, comrades and friends. In order to solve the problem of strategy, we must know what kind of revolution a society needs, why this revolution has not occurred yet, and how to speed up as much as possible the coming of this revolution, but more, our preparation for it. These are the component parts of the overall problem of strategy for a revolution in the United States.

The kind of revolution that a society needs depends on the classes in it. The first thing that revolutionaries must do is to make a class analysis of their society. This is what Marx and Engels did, this is what Lenin and Stalin did, and this is what Mao did. What are the classes in the United States?

There are three classes in the United States: one, a numerically small but economically and politically powerful capitalist class; two, a petty bourgeoisie that is small both in numbers and power; and three, a working class which is the overwhelming majority of the population and both the leading and main revolutionary force. The capitalist class consists of all those who derive their income from the ownership of the means of production on which others are employed–factories, shops, offices, and farms. The petty producers consist of those who own and operate their means of production. Small farmers and independent truckers are examples. The working class consists of all those who must get their income by offering their ability to work the means of production of others for a wage or salary. These are the typical classes of a capitalist society. In the United States today, a monopoly capitalist society, over 90 percent of the people are working class, one or two percent are capitalists, and around seven percent are petty producers. The process of polarization into workers and capitalists has gone very far. The petty producers are few, and their economic and political importance is not large.

In such a capitalist society, the solution to the oppression and exploitation of the working class is socialism, the ownership of the factories, mines, fields and shops by the state of the working class, the dictatorship of the proletariat. When the working class smashes the capitalist state and sets itself up as the ruling class with its own state machine, it runs the economy for its own needs and does away with profit for private individuals and their corporations. This opens the way to increased production, production for the needs of the people, care of the environment, and an end to unemployment, inflation, economic crisis, and war. This revolution in the case of the U.S. will also smash imperialism, monopoly capitalism, doing away with colonial oppression and contention with other imperialist powers, like the Soviet social-imperialists. The kind of revolution we need is a socialist revolution.

This is different than the revolution in China, for example, where the economic problem was not capitalism but semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism. There the revolution needed was a new democratic revolution, whose economic policy was not socialism but the smashing of landlordism and the program of land to the tiller. The Chinese fought 25 years for such a new democratic revolution under the leadership of the working class and its Communist Party, which subsequently led and is leading the struggle to build socialism.

Why hasn’t there been a socialist revolution in this country? The basic problem is the class consciousness of the working class. The ruling capitalist class has two very powerful sets of tools to oppose the spread of class consciousness and action based on it–fraud and force. Force is exercised by the capitalist state to suppress all working class action that goes too far for the capitalists. But their more powerful long term weapon against revolution is fraud–the whole collection of institutions and ideas to fill the minds of the working class with misconceptions of capitalist society, of the workers’ own interests, and of how to change society.

This fraud is some form of ideology, and it can only be bourgeois ideology. In particular, the fraud pushed by the capitalists is often petty bourgeois ideology, the outlook of the small businessman, the producer who works on a small scale, and who wants a government and economy suited to himself and his kind. He is an individualist; he is going to “go it alone.” The petty bourgeois thinker is not aware of classes, or he doesn’t think they are that important compared to individuals. We have a situation in which the petty producers are a small class numerically and economically, but in which workers have been taught many different ideas that are basically petty bourgeois. While the petty producers are a small class, there is still plenty of room in capitalist society for petty bourgeois ideas, and the capitalists insure that such ideas are very widespread, both in conservative and liberal as well as radical varieties. For example, myths about free enterprise are petty bourgeois.

So is the hippie reflection of the same idea, the philosophy of “do your own thing” and let me do mine, let me exploit other people if I can do it. Existentialism, pluralism, Freudianism and a herd of other fashionable “isms” are petty bourgeois. They start with the isolated individual and build their philosophy and ethics, their political theory, and their psychology from the idea of the individual. The working class outlook, Marxism-Leninism, always starts from the classes in a society, and it interprets everything in social life and inner life from this perspective.

But it would be a mistake to classify workers as petty bourgeois because they currently hold petty bourgeois ideas. The petty bourgeoisie wants and needs a small-scale, individual economy, and this is what it must be given in the first place. The petty bourgeoisie was very large in China, and the Communist Party of China met their demands for individual plots of land free from landlord exploitation. Such a program would be ridiculous in the United States. How can you divide up a factory among its workers? The problem in the United States is to show working class people their true interests, to overcome petty bourgeois ideas, and to welcome the worker who joins the working class struggle.

If force and fraud are the two weapons of the capitalists, it is clear what we must do to speed up the socialist revolution. We have to overcome fraud with class consciousness and create the working class force that can defeat the force of the capitalists. The organization that does this is the communist party following Marxism-Leninism. This party must do the job of making the workers’ struggles the party’s struggles, and making the party’s outlook the workers’ outlook. This is the way to unite the Marxist-Leninist outlook and strategy with the working class. This is the way to spread class consciousness in the course of many struggles. The fundamental duty of the party is to spread class consciousness, particularly on the basic tasks of revolution–smashing the capitalist state and building the working class state. At each phase, those who become class conscious will want to work for the revolution, and the communist party organizes them. In this way, it prepares itself to lead the working class in a socialist revolution.

The basic strategy for revolution in the U.S., therefore, is to recognize that the enemy is capitalism and the goal is socialism, and to practice the policy of making the workers’ struggles the party’s struggles and making the party’s outlook the workers’ outlook.

This is a protracted strategy for revolution. Why? Because the party cannot create a revolutionary situation by its work alone. Revolutionary situations arise independently of the will of the party and even of one class. Objective factors, basically the contradictions in capitalist economy, create revolutionary situations. Wars, deep depressions, and tangled combinations of both on an international scale lead to revolutionary situations in certain countries at certain times. This is especially true of highly industrialized capitalist countries.

In a revolutionary situation, when the ruling class is unsure what to do and the working class has been aroused to question the capitalist system itself, the party must already have been built. It must have the leadership of the active workers, and its understanding of the state and revolution, of the impossibility of peaceful transition and taking over the old state for oneself, must already be deeply rooted. If such a Marxist-Leninist communist party exists, it can lead the working class to successful revolution, as the Bolsheviks did in October 1917 in Russia.

So far, we have said a little about class analysis and the revolutionary strategy for a capitalist country like the United States. Are communists in the U.S. agreed on this strategy? No, unfortunately they are not. In particular, there is a wrong strategy which is proposed in place of the strategy of protracted spreading of class consciousness in struggles to prepare for socialist revolution. This other strategy is the so-called strategy of the united front against imperialism. We have to examine this catchword of the day. We will take the example of this strategy as advocated by the October League, which will soon rename itself a party. In its constitution the OL writes:

The strategy for revolution in the United States is the united front against imperialism, that is, uniting all whose interests stand against the monopoly capitalists–their common enemy.

This is described as a “broad united front built on a revolutionary alliance.” Let us see how this strategy pretends to solve the component problems of analyzing what kind of revolution a society needs, why it has not occurred yet, and how to speed it and our preparation for it up.

The OL is not noted for making a class analysis of United States society. The talk about a united front, a broad united front at that, implies a sizeable class other than the working class. The OL apparently thinks that there are many working people who are not working class. The only such people there can be in a capitalist society are petty producers, people who work with means of production they own themselves. But the petty producers are a small class. The OL is talking about something that does not exist. If we turn to the so-called Revolutionary Communist Party, or RCP, which also advocates the united front against imperialism, we find that they come right out and erroneously classify many workers as petty bourgeois. Anyone who reads their long party program can find this out. For example, many government workers, who like all workers have to earn their income by selling the ability to work for a wage or salary, are classified out of the working class by the RCP. The October League is more slippery. It avoids making any class analysis. This trick works until communists remember that all Marxist-Leninists, from Marx onward, begin by making a class analysis of their society.

There is a broad alliance that makes up this united front which the October League talks about. The OL says:

At the core of this broad united front is the revolutionary alliance of the general workers movement, which is multinational, and the oppressed nationalities, their most reliable ally.

What does this mean? It means one of two things. It may mean that the OL is keeping all black people, who make up 90 percent of the minorities in this country, out of the working class. This would be outright splitting, splitting of black and white workers. Even more than white people, the black people are overwhelmingly working class, well over 90 percent. It will not do to split black and white workers in order to pretend to ally them again. There is one working class in this country, and it does not have a broad united front against imperialism with itself.

What the OL says may mean something else. It may mean that the working class has to ally with the nonworkers in so-called oppressed nationalities. In other words, the working class has a united front against imperialism with the black bourgeoisie. This appears to be what the OL says and practices about the united front against imperialism. In Boston, for example, the October League has allied with the black bourgeoisie objectively in favor of forced busing, selling out the unity of the working class and attacking white workers. While they do this, the RCP does it from the other end, supporting the stand of ROAR. Neither follower of the “united front against imperialism” has united the working class to oppose the capitalist tactic of diverting anger into the issue of forced busing. Neither has led the struggle against the capitalist onslaught on the education of Boston working-class children, giving priority to the schools in the worst plight. The schools are getting less funds, fewer teachers and bigger class sizes while the OL and the RCP help the capitalists split the working class over the issue of forced busing.

But if the OL is building a broad united front against imperialism with the black bourgeoisie, it has sold out the goal of socialist revolution. No bourgeoisie wants socialism. On a world scale, there is a united front against imperialism. It allows new democracy, and even old democracy, in Third World countries as long as blows against imperialism are struck. The world united front against imperialism is not a strategy for socialist revolution within many countries. Socialist revolution immediately in the Third World is a Trotskyite slogan. The united front against imperialism implies a two-stage revolution. Either the OL adheres to socialism and the united front against imperialism in the United States, which is contradictory and actually anti-socialist, or it adheres only to the united front against imperialism and not at all to socialist revolution in the United States. By advancing the slogan of supposedly uniting the working class and other classes for a broad united front against imperialism, the October League is only showing that it does not really advocate socialism. This is because it does not know how to make a class analysis of the United States.

There is still a third possibility. By a united front against imperialism, the OL may desire unity of the working class for a reform goal, like the united front against fascism which communist parties called for in Europe in the 1930’s. But what reform of imperialism could this be? Imperialism cannot be reformed; it must be smashed by revolution. Fascism could have been and was ended in some countries which unfortunately did not proceed to socialism. If the OL takes the line of reforming imperialism, it is copying the revisionist Communist Party of the USA and its united front against monopoly. This is postponing socialism. Any way we look at it, the united front against imperialism in a country that needs a socialist revolution opposes socialism. It divides the working class, or it asks the working class to ally with a bourgeoisie for something less than socialism, or it introduces a new anti-monopoly stage before there can be a socialist revolution. The united front against imperialism is not a strategy for socialism; in the U.S.; it is objectively anti-revolutionary.

Of course, no one is ruling out alliances with petty producers which may become possible, for example with small farmers or independent truckers. But these are not fundamental strategic alliances. Nor is anyone ruling out struggles against aggression by the U.S. imperialists. But none of this can replace the strategy for socialist revolution and give us a long term perspective.

Why hasn’t there been a revolution in the United States and what can we do to speed it up and prepare for it? The OL does not really know. It has no understanding of the crisis and the revolutionary situation for which we must prepare with a protracted strategy. Instead, the OL has a different style of work. It does not distinguish between revolutionary and non-revolutionary situations, except in a quantitative way, by the amount of militant struggle that is going on. It is no different than the RCP in this regard. The OL’s practical implementation of a united front against imperialism consists of supporting and trying to increase the amount of militant struggle going on. The only goal that is implied by such a strategy is the belief that various reform struggles will keep on growing, if we work hard enough, and they will finally topple the capitalists. The OL’s style of work, therefore, is to tail after all spontaneous struggle, to cheer it on and to forget about the spreading of class consciousness, of Marxist-Leninist ideology. In fact, it opposes the spreading of Marxism-Leninism. The party practically disappears in the work of the October League; it is replaced by a lot of support for spontaneous struggle. In organizational terms, the party, for the OL, merely helps to link up various organizations of mass struggle, such as its local fight-back committees. It recruits out of these struggles, but only to send recruits to do some more support work for reform struggles. The amount and level of education performed by the OL is very little and very low.

We can see this by the lack of Marxism-Leninism in its newspaper, and by its failure to make a class analysis. We can see by the fact that only in the autumn of 1975, after several years of existence as an organization, did the OL report a cadre school to read The State and Revolution. Apparently, the OL does not know that this book by Lenin is the fundamental work on politics that Marxist-Leninists must understand, and does not have all its cadre read it during their probationary period. We can see the lack of work done by the OL publicly to spread class consciousness in the1 course of struggles. It simply reports them. True, it knows how to reprint stories from China and how to mouth some slogans and terms it has heard, but any examination of specifics shows a low level of understanding, as in the example of the slogan of a united front against imperialism. The OL bows to spontaneity and opposes class consciousness. The Party should be the union of Marxism-Leninism and the working class. For the OL, it is a means of keeping them apart.

We have contrasted the revolutionary strategy given in the slogan, Make the workers’ struggles the party’s struggles, Make the party’s outlook the workers’ outlook, with the so-called strategy of the united front against imperialism. One makes a correct class analysis; the other does not. One defines the goal as socialism and working-class revolution; the other opposes socialism. One gives us an outlook for protracted struggle and building the party; the other ignores revolutionary education and organization.

Now let us consider a crucial example of how this all works out today around a major social issue. Let us look a little more closely at the work of the October League in response to the economic crisis First, has the OL made available to the working class a Marxist-Leninist analysis of the crisis and why it occurred, so that workers can understand that capitalism inevitably has such crises and that only socialism can do away with crises and unemployment? Despite its wealth and its conferences in fancy Chicago hotels, the OL has issued no pamphlet on the question. The New Voice in its newspaper has printed a whole series of articles on the crisis, how it happened, and what must be done. We will soon issue a pamphlet based on the most important of these articles.

In its newspaper articles, the OL has explained the crisis as a crisis of too little consumption. It says that because workers are exploited and their wages are so low, goods are not sold, and so production and employment decline. But why, then, are there sometimes crises and sometimes not? Aren’t the workers always exploited and paid less than the value of the product they make? Yet sometimes capitalism booms and sometimes business is paralyzed. The unceasing exploitation of workers is a fact of capitalism, but it cannot explain economic crises.

What is the remedy suggested by such an analysis? It is to raise wages so that buying power will increase. That is, business can recover and profits can increase by increasing workers’ wages, at least to some degree. This is a line of class collaboration. It is the line of the liberals and the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class. They are always saying that the capitalists or their tool, the federal government, should give the workers money to stimulate the economy. Of course, it never happens that way. Capitalists know their class interest and are not listening to the liberals, the labor bureaucrats, or the October League. The fundamental illusion of this theory of under-consumptionism is that capitalism exists to produce for the workers. The real fact is that, whether there is a crisis or a boom, most production goes for the capitalists, and the workers get only what they need for survival and have extracted from the capitalists in bitter struggle. The capitalists get the maintenance and increase of their capital in the form of plant and equipment investment, their luxury consumption, and increase of military means to protect their system and contend with other imperialists. Anyone who thinks for a minute can see that the OL explanation of the crisis is absurd. And this garbage is peddled under the name of Marxism-Leninism.

Crises are caused by the capitalist drive for profit, the anarchy of production under capitalism, and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. All these are absent in China and other socialist countries. But workers in China do not get wages equal to the value of their production; the working class as a whole saves and invests. Still, the market clears, prosperity is continuous and growing, and there is no crisis. The OL covers up the nature of capitalism and tells workers something silly when it tries to explain crises by looking at the level of wages.

How shall the crisis be fought? The OL came out with a line that did not fight the crisis but capitulated to it, namely, the line of pushing super-seniority in the face of layoffs. This meant capitulating to layoffs and setting workers to fighting with each other over schemes to assign arbitrary seniority points to pass the buck to the next worker. It meant handing the employers a weapon to control the workers, because the strict seniority system is the trade union answer to arbitrary control by the boss. As in so much of its work, the OL twisted a situation for class struggle into a plan to split the working class on the issues of skin color and sex.

Organizationally, the OL has decided that there must a mass struggle against the crisis, and so it organized a national fight-back conference. There should be a mass organization to fight the crisis. It should be open to all workers who want to fight this crisis, regardless of their views about capitalism. Communists should lead such an organization, and there should be freedom within it for a communist party to present its views about the fundamental nature and solution to economic crises. Instead, the OL is trying to give us an organization that follows its theory of the spontaneous building of militancy into revolution. On the one hand, it dictates that its fight-back organization has an “anti-capitalist orientation,” which is exclusionary for a mass organization. It is also a phony claim to being anti-capitalist, since even the OL, let alone its mass organization, does not know what views to put forward on the crisis to attack capitalism. On the other hand, the OL liquidates any real presence of Marxism-Leninism within such a movement in its desire to accumulate numbers under the banner of the organization. This is impossible. We few communists cannot create mass movements. We can only be available to devote our political leadership to such a movement. And when the working class decides to struggle harder against the crisis, it will accept communist political leadership of a non-exclusionary mass organization. There is no need, and great harm, to be done in hiding our fundamental analysis and solution as a communist party. As we have seen, the OL does not know this analysis of the reasons for the crisis. Its overall approach to the crisis is anti-Marxist-Leninist, anti-communist, and a great harm to the working class.

This examination of the application of the revolutionary strategy to the economic crisis and the non-revolutionary work of a sham communist group concludes this talk. There are going to be many more issues like the economic crisis and forced busing before there is a socialist revolution. In each of them, agitation, propaganda and tactics must be the correct ones. The correct strategy is to aim for socialist revolution and follow the policy of making each struggle of the workers the struggle of the party and to spread class consciousness by making the party’s outlook the workers’ outlook in every form of propaganda and agitation, public and private. The correct strategy is socialist revolution, not a united front against imperialism. It is a protracted strategy that prepares for a revolutionary situation. It is not a strategy of tailing after spontaneous struggles and hoping to build them into a string of movements that will become a revolutionary situation by the will of the Party and active workers alone.

The struggle for the party is a struggle for the protracted strategy of socialist revolution. We must unite around this strategy and no other. That is what The New Voice is working for. That is the basis on which we will unite with other organizations, groups, and persons, whom we invite to do this. If we do unite around the revolutionary strategy, the party will be founded and will make rapid progress. If we take a longer time to do this, then there will be a longer period of sterile, opportunist phrasemongering, with lots of self-congratulating words in newspapers like The Call and Revolution but no real Marxism-Leninism. It is to unite communists, unite advanced workers, and begin to take real steps forward that we advance our slogans: