Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

PRRWO: Anarcho-Socialism U.S.A. Expose PRRWO’S Hustlerism!



Revisionism and opportunism in the U.S. today has, as its class basis, the labor aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie. On this, it seems that there can be no disagreement between any of the organizations in the Communist movement. But once we go beyond the phrase to the actual content of what it means, and what the implications of this particular class basis of opportunism are in the struggle against bourgeois ideology in our ranks, the differences jump out. PRRWO’s reductionist, vulgar materialist, ahistorical and opportunist line reveals itself again in their analysis of opportunism and its class basis in the ranks of the Communist movement.

For example, for years, PRRWO said that RCP’s trade union position was right economist. They got their definition of economism by mechanically transplanting it from Lenin’s WITBD and by applying it dogmatically. RCP’s overall deviation can be characterized as right; this is particularly true of their belittling of theory during the last period in the Communist movement, when theory was, and still is, the principal aspect of our party building task. But the RCP’s trade union line is actually “left” economism – anarcho-syndicalism. This “left” economist line is crystallized in RCP’s intermediate workers’ organizations (IWO).

Why, then, did PRRWO and ATM (and, for a while, ourselves too, although we changed our line and repudiated it early last year) and the rest of the revolutionary trend of the Communist movement view RCP as right economist all along, and never distinguish between right and “left” economism on different questions?? That is due to our mechanical interpretation of WITBD to not looking at the class basis of “economism.”


In Russia, the oppositional classes, those classes who advocated the toppling of the Tsarist ruling class or changing the form of its rule included the liberal bourgeoisie and peasantry, whose interests were on the side of capitalism but opposed to the feudalism of the Czar. Many of the people in the revolutionary movement were “legal Marxists”, since the Marxist movement at that time constituted a powerful anti-Czarist movement. But, as the workers’ movement under the leadership of the scientific “Marxist trend” achieved fusion with the socialist-movement (in the strikes of 1895-96), it became revolutionary and challenged the leadership of the liberal bourgeois and petty bourgeois representatives. The liberal bourgeoisie had to adapt their line to their class interests and class ideology. That was the origin of the “Credo Program” and of economism in Russia. The Credo Program and the Economists, though they waved the banner of socialism, actually wanted the workers’ movement to be only a loyal opposition, to restrict itself to economic activity while leaving political leadership – hence the seizure of state power – to themselves, the liberal bourgeoisie and their petty bourgeois fellow travellers. Their class interests were exposed again and again, on organizational questions (in the dispute over Paragraph #1 of the Rules), on the character of the party, on strategic and tactical questions (“Two Tactics of Russian Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”) and again on the organizational question of liquidationism and eventually on the question of social chauvinism. Lenin pointed out that:

there is a personal as well as ideological connection between all these forms of opportunism is an undoubted fact. It is sufficient to mention the name of the leaders of the Economists. A. Martynov, who subsequently became a Menshevik and is now a liquidator. (“The Ideological Struggle in the Working Class Movement”, LCW, Vol. 20. In Against Liquidationism, p. 275)

There was also the notorious Struve, who, among others:

were bourgeois democrats for whom the break with Narodism signified the transition from petty bourgeois (or peasant) socialism to bourgeois-liberalism, and not to proletarian socialism, as was the case with us. (Preface to the Collection of 12 years, LCW, Vol. 13)

In the U.S., the class basis for opportunism is mainly the labor aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie. There are no “bourgeois democrats” among the oppositional classes, as was the case in Russia, where it was necessary to go through a bourgeois democratic revolution, on the way to the socialist revolution. Also, there is no large peasantry in the U.S., as was the case in Russia, so the class basis for the deviations of the Narodniks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries is not as prevalent. But we do have plenty of de-classed petty bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy – those in the working class who have been bought off by the super-profits of the imperialist bourgeoisie. Today, revisionism also has the material and ideological support of one of the superpowers, the Soviet Social-Imperialists, who speculate on the interests of certain sectors of the U.S. monopoly capitalists, as well as the petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy. This additional factor gives revisionism a “strength” which it never had before.


The form of the deviation of the labor aristocracy in the working class movement is mainly trade unionism, a right form of economism. But for the petty bourgeoisie, the form can be both right (such as the OL’s trade union line of moving the trade unions to the “left” and unity with seemingly “militant” trade union misleaders) and “left” (such as the anarcho-syndicalist tendencies of the RCP. Workers also have anarcho-syndicalist tendencies, but they are spontaneous.) Only the petty bourgeoisie gives this tendency the “theoretical justification,” and develops it into a trend(for example, the intermediate workers’ organizations of RCP).

To say that the RCP’s economism is entirely the same as what Lenin described m WITBD (though in practice they do share some essential characteristics such as belittling Communist politics, worshipping spontaneous movements, absurd negation of bourgeois politics which leads to subordination to bourgeois ideology and politics, and to not educating the workers about Communism, etc.) is to fail to look at the real class basis of the deviation, and to fail to look at the corresponding class outlook guiding their practice. The RCP’s class basis is petty bourgeoisie, and their ideological basis is petty bourgeois “free will,” “if it works, do it,” impatience, and shortsightedness – not appreciating protracted work in big, powerful organizations such as trade unions, and ignorance on how we can turn them into real, properly functioning bastions for the proletariat’s struggle against capital.

It is clear that when PRRWO talks about the class basis of opportunism, their understanding doesn’t go beyond the phrase “the labor aristocracy and the petty bourgeoisie” and that they don’t grasp what is particular to this country. This is their dogmatism; they only look at the form, the letter of Marxism and reject it’s stand, viewpoint, and its methodology. Revisionism stems from non-proletarian class basis in the Communist movement. This fact is known by all, even the revisionists themselves!!

Lenin said: “Marxism is most easily, rapidly, completely and lastingly assimilated by the working class and its ideologists where large-scale industry is most developed.” (“Differences in the European Labor Movement”, LCW, Vol. 16, p. 348)

The petty bourgeoisie, labor aristocrats, and other non-proletarian elements:

assimilate only certain aspects of Marxism, only certain parts of the new world outlook, or. individual slogans and demands, being unable to make a determined break with all the traditions of the bourgeois world outlook in general and the bourgeois-democratic world outlook in particular. (Ibid)

Backed by their class interests, prejudices and sentiments, which are deep-rooted, they have the tendency to seize upon one aspect of the labor movement, elevate one-sidedness to theory, and declare mutually exclusive those tendencies or features of this movement that are a specific peculiarity of a given period, a given condition of working class activity, and they are

constantly jumping from one futile extreme to another. At one time, they explain the whole matter by asserting that evil-minded persons ’incite’ class against class (PRRWO’s version of “bourgeois ideology is always conscious, the development of revisionism is always conscious” – ed.) at another, they console themselves with the idea that the workers party is a “peaceful party of reforms.’ Both anarcho-syndicalism and reformism must be regarded as a direct product of this bourgeois world outlook and its influence. (Ibid.)

How do the representatives of the petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy in the working class movement in this country “seize upon one aspect of the labor movement, elevate one-sidedness to a theory, and declare mutually exclusive these tendencies or features of this movement that are a specific peculiarity of a given period, given condition of working class activity”? How and why do they assimilate only certain aspects of Marxism, only certain aspects of the new world outlook, or individual slogans and demands? What aspects of Marxism do they reject? What slogans have they grasped onto as substitutes? How is that conditioned by the “peculiarity of a given period?” All these questions are part of the methodology Lenin demanded Communists adhere to in undertaking this task of combating and preventing revisionism. All these questions cannot be answered by the dogmatist, formalist, “left” opportunists. They are not even capable of posing these questions!! And when genuine Communists pose these concrete and crucial questions necessary for understanding OL and RCP, they can only respond with malicious cries of “How dare you speak of zigzags of bourgeois tactics. That’s absolutizing the conditions!! How dare you talk about specific peculiarities of a given period; that’s not universal!!” And what do they substitute for concrete analysis of concrete conditions? You ask them anything concrete, like what is the difference between the RCP and OL, and all they would do is quote to you the word “economism.” And when you pursue the matter, all they would do is respond with the words, “it’s a right deviation,” with satisfaction. Bypassing all that’s concrete (the soul of Marxism) and vital in leading Communist and workers movements, these “left” opportunists, would instead give us their Trotskyite vulgar materialism, stemming from their class basis.


The notorious Trotsky also failed to understand the uneven economic and concrete history of different countries, and substituted for that understanding his line of “permanent revolution,” “exporting revolution,” etc. The right opportunist revisionists, such as Kautsky, as well as his Russian counterparts, the Mensheviks, and his Chinese counterparts, Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao, all had the same kind of vulgar materialist, economic determinist line. Kautsky and the Mensheviks advocated that, because of the economic development of Russia, they could not carry out a proletarian revolution until the bourgeois democratic revolution was fully consummated. They did not see the aspect that capitalism was already developed in Russia, and that the proletariat, although numerically small, did exist and, under correct leadership, could successfully make proletarian revolution and consolidate it (Lenin’s theory of socialism in one or a few countries). Similarly, Liu Shao-chi advocated that the new democratic revolution had to be fully consummated before going onto the socialist revolution.

PRRWO’s line is that “different ideologies imply different economic bases,” so if the economic base is capitalist, the entire superstructure must be reactionary. This shows that PRRWO has no grasp of dialectics, and their line amounts to the same vulgar materialist line as those notorious renegades of history we just talked about.

PRRWO has no grasp of the dialectics of how the particular class basis of the movement is linked to its superstructure how the economic base of capitalist society is linked to its superstructure. This vulgar materialism inevitably carries through in their methodology in their analysis of the two wings.

On the question of the class and national composition of various organizations in the Communist movement and the division of the movement into two wings, PRRWO’s “economic” determinism (vulgar materialism) and opportunism come out clearly.

First, they set up a straw man by taking something we wrote against the RCP and quoting it out of context, then blowing it up to attack us for ’vulgar materialism.” We stated:

Our movement is marked with theoretical unevenness resulting from the differing origins of the various communist forces. Working class and Third World communists often have a more solid class stand but a lower theoretical level than those communists with a petty bourgeois background. And a line that downgrades theory will most hurt those working class and Third World comrades. (WV, Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 25)

PRRWO conveniently quotes only the first sentence so they can later inflate it to look like we are reducing the Struggle in the communist movement to “groups from different origins.” After this distortion, PRRWO goes on to say:

The two wings of our movement are characterized by social origins and roots. The opportunist wing is more representative of the white upper and middle petty bourgeoisie; whereas the genuine wing is more representative of the more oppressed nationalities, working class, and lower petty bourgeoisie. (Palante, Vol. 6, #3, 1976. p. 12. Our emphasis)

Despite the verbal acrobatics they use to cover themselves by saying that “it would be vulgar materialism to just base our analysis on this,” in their journal on party building (“Party Building in the Heat of Class Struggle”) they describe the roots of the movement as follows:

Organizations like the YLP, BPP, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, reflected advanced elements from the working class and national movements. Organizations like SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) were progressive, but were composed of progressive elements of the petty bourgeoisie, providing a more fertile ground for opportunists. The former, however, were part of a developing motion to grasp Marxism-Leninism, and although they too were plagued by eclecticism, they did put forward independent socialist theories (i.e. the programs of these organizations). These could not yet be scientific socialist theories because this understanding only comes through the study of socialism as a science. SDS, on the other hand, reflected a motion bound to split up and move away from Marxism-Leninism. (last emphasis ours) (“Party Building in the Heat of Class Struggle.” PRRWO)

This position that one trend was “a developing motion to grasp ML”, while SDS was “bound to split up and move away from ML,” is sheer narrow nationalism and vulgar materialism. The petty bourgeoisie provides a more fertile ground for opportunism, but this does not mean that based on this they are automatically “bound” to move away from ML, and that because one is from an oppressed nationality or the working class one will automatically grasp ML. This economic determinist “analysis” continues in another part of their journal:

In fact, the majority of the movement, except for the organizations most riddled with petty bourgeois elements, moved forward and defeated eclecticism. (emphasis ours) (Ibid, p. 32)

And furthermore,

...But the anti-revisionist communist movement was not pure and within it were two trends in constant battle, clashing and causing a forward motion – a revolutionary trend and an opportunist one led by the RU.(emphasis ours) (Ibid, p. 32)

In what sense does PRRWO mean that the anti-revisionist movement was not “pure” (as if anything could ever be “pure”). The struggle that broke out in the National Liaison Committee at the time was over the “white petty bourgeois” character of RU’s party (see our section on organizational questions). Is this what they mean by “not pure”?

PRRWO says:

Due to the lack of theoretical clarity on many questions most especially on party building, this trend took hegemony over the movement for a long time. In fact the OL, who originally held to party building as the central task copped to RU’s 1ine, mainly because of their internal base, mainly petty bourgeois, and also because of their experience with the Trots of the Communist League (today the “C”LP)who represented the “left” line on party building. The OL also belittled theory, (emphasis, ours). (Ibid, p.32)

So this opportunist trend begins to take hegemony, to spread mainly along class lines – first affecting the petty bourgeoisie and then, aided by their own internal opportunists spreads to PRRWO.

Later in summing up the division of the movement into two, PRRWO’s line begins to show:

In fact it was the RU who was responsible for the split in the communist movement. Seeking hegemony of the bourgeois line they represent in the movement, building their organization on the basis of quantity, bringing together all the petty bourgeois elements they could muster, they developed a bureaucratic centralist apparatus – which like a big corporation could at first impress the rest of the movement which was suffering from amateurishness... (Ibid., p. 34)

Besides being an indication of a real Menshevik line (RU caused a split because it sought hegemony of an incorrect line that PRRWO initially agreed with and not because the line was incorrect period!), here PRRWO begins to give its view of the division of the movement into two – as the petty bourgeoisie being mustered by RU and the “rest of the movement”. This narrow nationalism and economic determinism become even clearer:

Their organization was in fact never a truly multi-national organization. It was mainly white and petty bourgeois because they could not link themselves up to the working class in general, and to the oppressed nationality workers in particular. They thought that oppressed nationality revolutionaries were stupid and that they could get next to us and fulfill their plan – which was to submerge our organizations, or divide us from within. And they tried.... But they found out in fact that we were not stupid, that in fact we could grasp the science of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism, and that we could in turn take the science to the masses, who they fear more than anything else. (PRRWO, “Party Building in the Heat of Class Struggle,” pp.34-35.)

There we have it: the white petty bourgeois opportunist hegemons were trying to take advantage of the oppressed nationality revolutionaries again but in the end the young David slays Goliath the philistine giant! It’s a classic tale designed to bring tears of guilt to those “white devils” and intellectuals and swell the chests of the oppressed with the warm feelings of pride and self-righteousness! But this tale surely isn’t from any Marxist classic! This is the talk of a preacher looking for an “amen” from his congregation, or the rap of a militant nationalist from our old eclectic period, standing on the street corner trashing the white radicals who think Third World people are dumb and can’t get their own “thing” together.

RCP is a chauvinist tendency. This has to be exposed. But as communists, we must draw a line of demarcation, both ideological and political. PRRWO’s “they think we’re stupid – but we’re not” line is actually a substitute for a comprehensive line of demarcation, based on narrow nationalism. This does harm to the communist and working-class movement. Because when OL comes along and thinks “we’re so smart,” and tries to “kill us with kindness,” then what are you going to do?! Comrades, this is national-philistinism. Philistines are the ones who can be “killed with kindness.” A national-philistine is one who can be “killed by” “white and petty bourgeois” saying, “You’re not so stupid, you’re smart.”


Comrades, this is why we say that PRRWO has physically entered a new period but ideologically they are still back in their eclectic period. They rely on the strength of the “old world”, playing on “gut feelings” and guilt-whipping to keep themselves together. They think in that way, they are beyond criticism. This “economic determinism” is only an attempt to perpetuate the myth to cadres within their own organization and to the rest of the communist movement that PRRWO’s “working class basis” is a sort of “guarantee” that they will not degenerate and that they have only the “white petty bourgeoisie” to blame for opportunism. So no wonder today you have the “white and petty bourgeois” opportunist wing and the revolutionary wing “more representative of the more oppressed nationalities class, and lower petty bourgeoisie”. And PRRWO wants to accuse WVO of vulgar materialism!

Their position basically denies the fact that bourgeois ideology and incorrect lines affect all classes. Taking their line to its logical conclusion, then the “C”PUSA and the “C”PSU, which were mainly composed of workers, would never have degenerated. The verdict on the revisionist Khruschev must be reversed since he had a working-class background. And Chairman Mao, Comrade Hoxha, and other leading members of the CPC and PLA would be opportunist automatically since they were all once bourgeois democrats!

A communist organization, especially in the long run, must base itself in the proletariat, since it must be the vanguard of the proletariat and composed of the most advanced elements of the proletariat. The proletariat is the most advanced class, based on the most socialized mode of production. Following from that, the proletariat is the most organized and disciplined class. The proletariat is also the most broadminded and selfless because they own nothing but their labor power compared to other classes such as small proprietors or even peasants, many of whom own some means of production.

For all these reasons, the proletarian party of a new type must base itself on this class, particularly the industrial proletariat and, in fact, must be a product of its struggle.

But this must be viewed historically. Looking at the social and class basis of organizations coming out of the oppressed nationalities, community and student movements, can any organization claim they are basically the products of proletarian struggles? Today, because of the state of fusion between the communist and working-class movements, it is the case that no organization in the country has workers as its main basis, let alone that their organizations are tempered and shaped as products of proletarian struggles. This is because most organizations are products of the spontaneous struggles of the late 60’s and early 70’s, the fire at the tree tops. They are products of national and student movements. Because these movements were multiclass, the compositions of most organizations reflect this to a greater or lesser extent. It is true, however, that most communist organizations more and more have a greater and greater proportion of advanced workers and comrades with working class backgrounds.

As Chairman Mao put it, “Revisionism is one form of bourgeois ideology” within the communist movement. It has profound class roots and is accentuated by that. The proletariat is connected by thousands of transitional links with its “neighbor”, the petty bourgeoisie, labor aristocracy as well as other intermediate classes and strata. And bourgeois ideology affects all classes, the proletariat included. This historically means that revisionism and opportunism within the communist movement as a whole, as a movement, is inevitable. This doesn’t mean, however, that every comrade who is white or comes from a petty bourgeois background will turn opportunist. Comrades from petty bourgeois backgrounds do carry more bourgeois ideological baggage and do have to get rid of more petty bourgeois aspirations conditioned during upbringing, and influences from their petty bourgeois schooling, where they are affected by that prisonhouse of bourgeois careerism, among other things. But vigilance about this ideological baggage and a conscious attempt to change them in the thick of class struggle, in the context of revolutionary practice to change the objective world, can turn a bad thing into a good thing.

Comrades from proletarian backgrounds have a more favorable basis to transform, to assimilate the world outlook of MLMTTT. But again, this individual basis is no guarantee. If class background were a guarantee, as we said before, then certainly the “C”PSU and “C”PUSA would never have degenerated.

Those who pimp off their working class background, sell their skin color and display it as proof of a correct line, are sure to degenerate. They automatically liquidate meticulous ideological work which is a must for every comrade from any class background. As chairman Mao put it, a place where the broom doesn’t regularly sweep will automatically accumulate dust. This especially applies to the question of ideological remoulding in bourgeois society. Chairman Mao teaches us to be prudent, prevent rashness and be modest, on ideological questions especially.

Lenin correctly laid out this position on the class basis and correctness of the party in his speech at the Third Communist International on “Affiliation to the British Labor Party.” He said:

Of course, most of the Labour Party’s members are working men. However, whether or not a party is really a political party of the workers does not depend solely upon a membership of workers but also upon the men that lead it, and the content of its actions and its political tactics. Only this latter determines whether we really have before us a political party of the proletariat. Regarded from this, the only correct, point of view, the Labour Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that...

This is a far cry from PRRWO’s position. This is a far cry from PRRWO’s determinism that people coming out of SDS are bound to degenerate!!! Why is PRRWO pushing such a line? Here, comrades, they are using the “strength of the old world”– narrow nationalism–a bourgeois trend of thought, which has wide appeal among comrades, particularly those of oppressed nationalities and others in the communist movement who are not yet able to distinguish lines. This becomes a substitute for a principled line of demarcation based on proletarian outlook.